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Making Sense of Toronto's Crack Smoking Mayor

Nov 10, 2013

Credit toronto.ca

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has finally admitted what has been rumored for months. That he has, at least, tried crack cocaine.

His excuse? He was in a drunken stupor.

And, the first thing Mayor Ford did after admitting to crack cocaine use was to announce he will be running for re-election.

As far as political scandals go, this is a pretty weird one.

But the way this scandal broke in the media is a little out-of-the-ordinary, too.

"Back in May, Gawker, a New York-based website, put up a story that said the Toronto mayor smokes crack," explained Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project." "Two of their reporters described seeing a video in which the mayor smoked crack. But they didn't have the video to publish."

And, that's when reporting on the crack smoking mayor took a bizarre turn.

"They started a 'Kickstarter' campaign which they called 'Crackstarter' to get the public to raise the money to buy this video from this nefarious character who was trying to sell it," McBride said. "A lot of us in journalism were sort of looking sideways at Gawker and saying really, you're going to turn to the audience to buy some smarmy video of a politician smoking crack?"

Gawker never bought the video.

But the Toronto police department started an investigation of its own and stumbled across a video which the police chief says does show Mayor Ford smoking crack.

When the police chief made that revelation, Mayor Ford fessed up.

And Gawker --  whose slogan is "Today's Gossip is Tomorrow's News" -- was proven right.

McBride pointed out this isn't the first time a gossip rag has broken big news.

"We have never been able to write off gossip rags as trash purveyors," McBride explained. "If you recall, the National Enquirer was the news organization that broke the scandal about John Edwards."