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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Money, Newspaper Wars and Rob Ford

The Globe and Mail says it paid $10,000 for the latest Rob Ford photos.

The new editor-in-chief, David Walmsley, fresh from his role leading CBC TV News,
stated why this was necessary.

I agree that this story has legs and in this highly competitive media market, any local news organization has to do what it must to hold Rob Ford to account. But was it worth 10 grand?

Walmsley is an excellent journalist with good news judgment. The Globe will benefit from his presence, just as the CBC is already feeling his absence. And the Globe, as a privately owned media company, has more freedom to operate than does the cash-strapped CBC.

(As an aside, imagine the reaction if the CBC had been offered the latest Ford photos and paid for them with public funds!)

Not only has Walmsley got the best scoop in town, but recently, he managed to get three of the Toronto Star's best reporters to jump ship and join him on Front Street West. One is Robyn Doolittle. She first broke the "Ford Smokes Crack" story a year ago. Evidently, she used her contacts to advance the story for the benefit of the Globe. This story has got the Toronto media's competitive juices flowing!

Ford has admitted he has an alcohol problem (no mention of drugs - yet). He will "take a leave of absence" as mayor and will "seek help."

But the Toronto media is in denial that it has a cash-for-news problem. Quite the opposite. In this competitive environment, any hesitancy about paying for news is gone.

Social media has changed all that.  Someone with a cellphone camera knew exactly what he or she was doing when Rob Ford naively thought he could smoke, drink and "dis" his opponents with impunity.

The Globe says spending $10,000 for this story was worth it. A year ago, the price quoted to the Toronto Star was $100,000.  The Star's editor, Michael Cooke said it was too much and he wouldn't pay.

A year later, the price has dropped and the marketplace of ideas has passed judgment on what this story is worth.

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