So there’s a pretty polarized debate happening in a dozen places or so about Daniel Dale and his evening investigation which resulted in Rob Ford charging him and threatening him with a clenched fist.
One side claims that the Star is out to get Ford and sent the reporter to provoke him. They say that the reporter had no right to be behind Ford’s house and that he was going “too far”.
The other side says that Ford over reacted to the situation and looked stupid rushing out to confront someone, threatening a person who was supposedly following up on a story about a possible land purchase by Ford from the Conservation Authority.
Personally, looking at the facts that are available, I have to put in my lot with the latter interpretation.
1. When trying to figure out who’s telling the truth, one of the first things you do is look at the source. Ford has a long history of unstable and controversial behavior which extends much farther back than his election to the mayoralty. Dale, it seems, won a major newspaper award last week and is not a hack reporter, but rather a respected international one who regularly deals with hard news. Even if The Star were trying to smear Ford, I’m not sure they’d be trying to do it with one of their first string reporters.
2. Dale was on public property. Even Ford refers to him being several meters away from his fence. Only the neighbor claims that he was at the fence looking into the yard. (And that’s according to Ford. It seems that in a follow up with the neighbor, he says that he never said any such thing.) To the best of my knowledge, there is no law against being on public property, even if you are taking pictures of people’s fences.
3. The reporter was there, he says, to investigate a very viable story. Given the past shadiness of the Ford family regarding land deals, hearing that the mayor wants to purchase an adjoining piece of land from the Conservation Authority gives one reason to pause and question. It’s a valid story. Ford claims that he wants the land in order to construct a better security fence. Aside from the laugh-ability of that motive, why does he need extra land in order to accomplish that? Hence the need for Dale to take pictures of the fence. An investigative reporter needs to investigate. As one commenter put it, “What would Lois Lane have done?”
4. Ford claims that he felt threatened because it was dark, and yet both parties agree on the time of the incident, which happens to be well before sunset.
5. There’s a video of the whole thing. Not only was Dale’s cell phone turned over to the police, but there are surveillance cameras situated to capture the whole event. Will we ever see either? I sincerely doubt it. They will go to the same dark storage area as did the recordings of Ford’s infamous 911 abuse call. If the reporter deserves to be condemned, fine; release the tapes to prove it. However if the tapes justify the leveling of charges against a mayor, or even just makes him look like a fool, they’ll be burred instantly.
And what about the land purchase issue? That’s probably the real meat in all of this. It may even be that Ford is trying to muddy the water to avoid more scrutiny of that issue. If so, then Dale has done his job. I’d rather have a press that pushes a little too hard than one that is complacent and doesn’t scrutinize our politicians thoroughly or aggressively enough.
The CBC reported Ford claiming that he discussed with his family whether or not he should step down. Or so he says. It sounds like just another note in an orchestrated “poor me” campaign. Even though the man is an embarrassment to the city of Toronto, if he were the victim of unfair media attacks, I would defend him. But most of the time, and in most meaningful ways, these are not unfair attacks.