May 1, 2014

The Globe and Mail | Gawker

The Globe and Mail paid $10,000 for still images from the latest video that shows Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, smoking what a drug dealer described to the newspaper as crack cocaine.

This time, Gawker didn’t break the news, but they did run the photos and they got them for free. Editor-in-chief Max Read details how he got those photos in a story published Wednesday night.

“We haven’t paid Jermaine’s friend anything,” Read wrote Poynter in an email. “He emailed again this morning to say that the video was still in his possession and still for sale, but obviously its value has gone down a bit.”

Gawker did make the front of the Toronto Star on Thursday, however. Formerly the news home of reporter Robyn Doolittle, who broke the story for The Globe and Mail, the Star ran this as their front on Thursday.

On Thursday, Globe and Mail editor-in-chief David Walmsley wrote about why the newspaper decided to pay for the images.

In this instance, The Globe was offered the opportunity to buy still images from these videos by an admitted drug dealer. This is not our normal practice. But in this instance, The Globe felt it was a matter of public interest, and that readers needed to see what our reporters watched and reported on. We paid $10,000 for a series of photographs. Toronto is the financial capital of this G8 country and the sixth-biggest government in Canada. Paralysis in Toronto is bad for the country. The mayor is supposed to be the guardian of his city. The photographs we published are a price worth paying.

The Globe and Mail published those images, which you can find here, on Wednesday. Since, Ford has announced he’ll take a leave of absence to seek treatment. Wednesday’s story from The Globe and Mail was written by Greg McArthur and Doolittle.

Doolittle was approached at the Star with that first video, as was John Cook, who was then at Gawker. The seller of that video, Doolittle told Poynter last year, wanted $100,000. The Star said no, and Gawker broke the story without the video.

Read was also approached with the latest video, reportedly filmed on Saturday night. But the dealer selling the video didn’t ask for $10,000. He wanted another “charity drive,” Read wrote, similar to the money raised by Gawker last year to buy the Ford video, which ended up going to a number of organizations after the people who made the offer disappeared.

In short, the two couldn’t reach an agreement, the dealer asked Read to hold off, and then:

About eight hours later, Twitter began rumbling about new breaking Rob Ford news. Robyn Doolittle, Canada’s star reporter on the Rob Ford crack beat, had seen a tape. Soon the Globe and Mail published its story: “Rob Ford takes leave as new drug video emerges.” At the top was one of Jermaine’s screenshots. He claimed via text that the Globe and Mail had paid him $10,000 for the stills, a fact the Globe and Mail has since confirmed.

Here’s The Globe and Mail’s front page, from Newseum, on Thursday:

Hat tip: Neetzan Zimmerman

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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