Toronto city staffers trash NOW’s near-nude Rob Ford issue

NOW magazine considers legal action: Updated  04/01 @ 5:35 p.m.

It didn’t take long for Toronto city staffers to react after copies of NOW Magazine‘s March 31st edition, featuring a nearly-naked photoshopped Rob Ford, hit Toronto City Hall newsstands. At 9:04, custodial service supervisor Lorraine Pickett sent an email reading: “I have a request from the Mayor’s office to remove all NOW newspapers from all City of Toronto locations/facilities ASAP.”

Unsurprisingly, the move didn’t go over well with NOW CEO and editor Alice Klein. “We are outraged,” Klein said in a release. “Rob Ford does not want Torontonians to know the naked truth.” NOW editor/publisher Michael Hollett added his own vitriol: “The last mayor that tried to ban NOW Magazine was Mel Lastman and how well did his administration work out?”

NOW editors weren’t the only ones questioning City Hall’s decision. Once news of the ban broke, it broke big. “Good job, Office of the Mayor,” wrote Gawker editor Maureen O’Connor, “You just turned a mildly embarrassing local event into an international story about freedom of the press, thereby giving bloggers worldwide an excuse to republish the pictures that so offended you.”  

Indeed, when the Mayor’s office reversed it decision to can NOW hours later, blaming the misstep on a “miscommunication”, nobody seemed to care. The damage, as they say, was done.

As could be expected, copies of Enzo DiMatteo’s story about Ford’s “Naked Ambition” — alongside the pictures in question, Ford’s head photoshopped onto an actor’s body wearing underwear on the cover and a, uh, can of gravy inside — flew off the stands elsewhere in the city.

And, with equal energy, reporters across the country were worrying about freedom of the press — despite Ford spokesperson Adrienne Batra’s assurances to the Toronto Star that “By no means was there any directive from the Mayor’s office to censor anybody.”

Hollett later told J-Source that NOW‘s web traffic spiked more than 150 per cent of its (previous) highest daily total Thursday. “The story’s all over … it’s been wild.” When asked if the publication was considering legal action, he answered: “Definitely. You can’t steal our stuff and destroy it — that’s pretty basic.”

Hollett also added that he doesn’t buy Batra’s comment to the Star that Ford was taking everything with a large grain of salt. “They tried to do this secretly,” he says, “And then someone leaked the email [to us.]” Ford’s amusement? says Hollet. Likely feigned.

But not everybody fully sympathizes with NOW. The alt-news weekly received plenty of heavy criticism from readers and journalists alike for picking on the mayor’s weight. In a podcast discussion, National Post national editor Rob Roberts said journalists should leave the mayor’s weight out of any political commentary or editorial:

“On behalf of fat guys everywhere, I’m tired that part of the left has decided that you can attack Rob Ford based on the fact that he’s fat. They do it with a certain amount of impunity and every kind of snickers. And it’s unbecoming.”

Hollett has responded to criticism by saying that Ford has already played the weight card, previously charactizing himself as “300 pounds of fun.”