We get tips. Lots of them. Sometimes Gawker features editor Tom Scocca responds to them. These conversations are memorialized here in an occasional feature we call Tom Tips Back. In a special treat, today's correspondence was initiated by Tom himself, in a Tip directed at Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank. Last week, after the vindication of Gawker's initial reporting on the existence of a video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, Cruickshank wrote that the revelation was the result of "work of a scale and seriousness that can only be undertaken successfully by what is now called 'the mainstream media,'" and that unnamed "others lack the resources, the experience and the credibility to call a senior official to account."
Dear Mr. Cruickshank,
You know one reason why the Ford people were able to keep calling the Star's coverage a pack of lies for so long? Because from day one, your paper selfishly, gutlessly, and above all stupidly tried to cover up the fact that Gawker had already reported the existence of the video.
You had independent corroboration, and you were too small-minded and churlish to accept it. It was more important for the Star to trumpet a fake exclusive than to make the case against a corrupt mayor.
And now you praise your paper's solitary, courageous truth-telling. You are a sanctimonious fraud.
I’ve passed your note on to the editor in chief.
I thought your story was terrific.
But you operate in a very different legal environment than we . You had very little at stake in publishing your story.
Our assets sit in Toronto, Canada. Our legal jurisdiction doesn’t recognize any distinction between reporting on public figures and regular folks. None of your protections.
We had real skin the game as well as a large number of feet on the street. You broke a great story from a foreign country for which you bore almost no potential accountability should it have proven to be untrue. Nice to be you in such circumstances.
I'm not sure your risk-benefit calculations are exactly right. If we enjoyed fewer legal protections, we also had considerably less to gain than a Canadian publication by doing the story. Nor am I sure that the fact that our one reporter beat your "large number of feet" really redounds to the Star's credit.
At any rate, if you did think Gawker's work in breaking the story was terrific, it might have behooved you to have said so in your summing up. That was your byline, not the editor in chief's.
I think it's easy to misunderstand what you refer to as a risk-benefit calculation when you have no risk — only benefit. We had already written about the mayor's public intoxication and the unsavoury nature of his playmates before we, and later you, learned of the existence of the video. We were also, already defending a law suit launched by the mayor. So, weren't fumbling with our abacuses trying to compute whether we should publish the video story. We were just continuing with our reporting so that we could get it to the public in the strongest version possible.
You didn't decide to publish the story of the video because you'd cautiously and thoughtfully worked it into the strongest version you could come up with. You published the story when you did because John Cook had beaten you to it—and, while beating you, he supplied a template, which the Star hastily copied, for how to a story could be written without possession of the video.
It appears to make you feel better to emphasize that your reporters had seen the video before John had. I don't know why. Your job is to inform the public, not to sit around impotently wondering how to eventually go about informing the public.
And nothing in these notes comes close to explaining or justifying your decision to try to leave John and Gawker out of your history of the Rob Ford video scandal. It wasn't just rude and petty of you—it was also, as John has pointed out on Twitter, factually inaccurate. You claimed that the Toronto police said that the Star's coverage had precipitated the investigation. The Toronto police did not say that. They did, however, specifically credit Gawker in the first sentence of their account of the investigation.
You obviously lack the courage or integrity to give Gawker the credit you owe us. But do you have the honesty to at least give the Star's readers a correction of your error?
I mistakenly sent you a shard of an email yesterday without any background on why the tape went on the market etc.
You are certainly right that we couldn't have published the story John Cook did, when he did. And we were able to go ahead with our piece on the crack tape when we did because Gawker's piece published in a foreign country became available here in ours.
I love all the stuff about "beat you" etc. It has such a virile ring of 1980s news papering.
I'll address all of this in a column next week.
My son in Chicago tells me your Mr. Cook's latest investigative piece was 10 Reasons I'm a prick.
Interesting choice of disparagement. More manly journalism, I expect.
I'll send you the column when I'm done.
Sent from my iPad
I wouldn't bother reading too much into a rather mild Old English vulgarity. We are a plainspoken people down here. It's not that the Canadian mode is unintelligible to us—if anything, you seem less able to parse your own pieties than we are—but it's a headache to hold that pose. Sometimes the most useful response to a high-toned and long-winded insult is a crude and concise one.
At any rate, when we get past our concerns about whose style is more offensive to whom, you are saying that the Star had to report on the Ford video more slowly than Gawker did because your paper was hampered by concerns about negotiating local laws and protecting its assets. This is a rather different line of argument than your public one about the strength and power of a traditional newspaper.
And of course your claim about the Star's singular indispensability to the case remains untrue, as a matter of basic fact, and particularly when you attribute it to the Toronto police.
Please do send along a copy of your column and any factual correction you may decide to make. I'd read it online, but I'm afraid I'm near the limit of the Star's paywall this month.
I'll get at my version of the issues and my apology for failing to acknowledge Gawker's important role in prompting the timing of the Canadian reporting in my column.
We have a grasp of Old English here too. You've read the reporting about our Mayor so you should know.
But we encourage our children to leave it behind in the playground. Some never do.
Yeah, down here we teach our kids not to grab stuff that isn't theirs.
Don't think we quite did that. The tape came on the market as a result of our Ford at Garrison Ball piece that long predated your brief appearance on the scene. And Siad came to us because Ford was already suing us for an investigative story from two years before. So he knew we were interested. [Ed note: If Mohamed Siad, the alleged crack dealer who had possession of the video, which he showed to Cook and to two Toronto Star reporters, ever directly "came to" the Star, that's a previously unreported development. The Star has thus far only reported that an unnamed "broker" approached the paper.]
So I'm sorry you're feelings are hurt and all but you weren't here for the start, you're not here now and you won't be here when we finally have a new mayor in our City Hall.
You desperately insist that you get credit for Toronto journalism but you haven't been involved with any of the heavy lifting.
The truth came out this week because of the months we've spent in court and the pressure we've put on the police chief.
If you really want to help we can work together and try to get the crooks out of office. Otherwise, I'll write my piece, apologize for forgetting about your brief excursion to this country, and get back to work.
Yes, you've already emphasized all the hard work and heavy labor and invaluable Toronto-journalism expertise you put into not publishing the story. As my daddy used to say, "If the dog hadn't stopped to take a shit, he woulda caught the rabbit." Good luck with your column.
We got the rabbit this week.
This has been Tom Tips Back.