Mayor’s brother bemoans Star’s “ruthlessness”

In the midst of a battle over reporters’ ease of access to Toronto City Hall, Mayor Rob Ford’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, has accused the Toronto Star of being “ruthless” in its reporting. The paper’s offences apparently include filing too many access to information requests and “stalking” the Ford brothers’ 76-year-old mother.

The Star’s version of that incident is that during the mayoral campaign, reporter Robyn Doolittle was working on a profile of Ford. While in Etobicoke, she spotted a Jaguar covered with “Ford for Mayor” decals. She went to speak to the driver, and at that time discovered she was Ford’s mother.

“If you run for mayor while your family’s doing business with the city, you’ve put them in the spotlight,” commented Paul Knox, a professor at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism and former member of the board of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. “Reporters looking into it aren’t being ruthless – they’re just doing their jobs.”

As for access to information requests, Star spokesman Bob Hepburn told the National Post the paper filed such requests to obtain copies of the mayor’s public  itinerary because the mayor’s communications team refused to provide that information. Former Mayor David Miller’s office released a basic itinerary every week, the Star reported.

“There’s no such thing as too much access to information,” Knox said. “Why don’t governments routinely release the information they collect at public expense about the people who elect them? If they did, reporters wouldn’t have to file so many access requests.”

Writing about the Ford administration’s secretiveness in The Globe and Mail, columnist Marcus Gee asks: “What kind of mayor makes his schedule a state secret? How can he be accountable if he never answers questions? Is he afraid of something?”

Gee also noted that the mayor has refused to speak to reporters from the Star since it ran a story about a conflict with a young football player that allegedly led to his dismissal from a coaching position with the Toronto District School Board in 2001.

As J-Source previously reported, the administration has suggested it may make city hall reporters sign in and be escorted to councillors’ offices in order to talk to them. Members of the public are currently required to sign in when visiting the building. David Nickle, president of the press gallery, wrote in a letter to the city’s government management committee – quoted in the Post  –  that this policy would create difficulties for the media. Referring to complaints from council members about reporters waiting outside their offices in hopes of obtaining comments for a story, he wrote: “It is the gallery’s view that those journalists have been fulfilling their proper professional roles in doing so, seeking clarification on matters of public interest.”