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Rob Ford coverage explodes in new media era

U of T journalism expert Jeffrey Dvorkin explains symbiotic print and online coverage of the potential scandal

(photo by West Annex News via Flickr)

Toronto police announced their possession of a video allegedly showing Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine on Thursday.

News and analysis erupted from traditional media outlets and social media commenters alike as Police Chief Bill Blair and Ford himself hosted media conferences in quick succession.

It was an electrifying moment for media. But their manner of reporting on the story revealed as much about the new era of news as it did about the city's attitude towards its mayor.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, a former vice-president of news for National Public Radio and former managing editor with CBC Radio, is lecturer and director of the journalism program at University of Toronto Scarborough and executive director of the News Ombudsman Organization.

He explained how the Ford scandal has clarifed a new relationship between online and print media for U of T News.

Did anything surprise you in regards to coverage of the Ford story yesterday?
It was a great piece of investigative journalism—among the best I've seen in my career. The role of social media was also key to the story. And we can't imagine the pressures that news management were under. They didn't blink and had their reporters' backs all the way.

What does it say about print papers, a format that otherwise appears to be dying off, that there was demand for physical ‘special editions’?
Print media are the sense-makers of modern media. The newspapers reasserted their value at a time when many in the digital environment were writing them out of the scene.

Lots of people were glued to their Twitter feeds or refreshing online news stories during the Blair and Ford press conferences rather than watching on TV or listening on the radio. What did the nature of yesterday’s coverage suggest about the changing role of online news?
There may be a new sense of partnership emerging: the digital environment is now the sharp end of the media lance. And traditional media are now more useful to citizens by being able to place events in context.

What do you expect to see from the media in the coming weeks? 
Hard to predict. The story is not over yet. Mayor Ford is under a lot of pressure and the question is can he handle it? Or will other oddities begin to emerge? Stay tuned!