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Media empires in a bidding war over Toronto mayor’s alleged crack-smoking video

Did Toronto mayor Rob Ford get caught on video smoking crack? Depends on who’s shelling out six figures.


Lorraine Murphy


Did Toronto mayor Rob Ford get caught on video smoking crack? Depends on who’s shelling out six figures.

Gawker says yes, and even sent its editor-in-chief from New York to Toronto to meet with a tipster there and watch the tape. Other news outlets say “alleged,” and “appears,” including journalists from the Toronto Star who got a sneak peek.

In case you don’t know Rob Ford, this is a fairly representative Rob Ford video.

The rest of us may never know what this newly discovered video holds unless somebody ponies up the six figures that the video’s owners are demanding. Ford himself has hurriedly scheduled an announcement for just after 3pm, but the nation cannot wait for answers. In true Canadian barn-raising tradition, a trail of crowdfunding initiatives have sprouted like mushrooms in Rob Ford’s seamy wake.

The Star reports:

The Somali man who approached the Star said his two associates (one had been present when the video was made and had done the filming) wanted “six figures for the video.” At another point he said they had originally wanted $1 million, but he had convinced them to lower the price. Asked why they were selling the video, the Somali man said he wanted to make a change in his life and use the money to move out west to Calgary.

The Star did not pay money and did not obtain a copy of the video.

Gawker says that the sales agent for the video claimed an unspecified Canadian outlet had offered $40,000, but that the seller had refused, and the asking price was indeed six figures. Update: Now it’s raising $200,000 in a “Crackstarter” campaign to buy and publish the video.

Then Vice, once a humble Canuck zine, now a publishing juggernaut, took to Twitter to issue its hipster armies a call to action.

let your friends @vicecanada know if you wanna pitch in on a certain video tape

— Patrick McGuire (@patrickmcguire) May 17, 2013

But it’s not like Canadians to leave things to Big Business, even if that business is blogging. We turned to Indiegogo, the “Canadian Kickstarter,” asking a nation of neighbors for spare Loonies, Toonies, and now-obsolete pennies, all for the good cause of humiliating a prominent public figure. 

Canada, you make me so proud. Our vast reserves of passive-aggressive schadenfreude are infinitely renewable resources. 

Within three hours of the news hitting the wire, there were five separate Indiegogo crowdsourcing initiatives chasing the money to chase the video to chase the mayor who, allegedly, chased the crack.

Full disclosure: one of those Indiegogo fundraisers is mine. You can tell it’s mine because it is the most amusing and the least lucrative. 

Another is run by the Province Newspaper out of Vancouver, one of the largest daily papers in the country. Ford is roundly loathed within his own city, and Toronto is roundly loathed within Vancouver, so it’s no wonder that theirs is the most successful venture (at a whopping $654 and counting). They’ve put their stamp on this by liberally sprinkling the word “alleged” throughout. Parent company Postmedia’s $14.2 million loss in the last quarter has driven a once-proud organization to the handout business. 

In second place, at $602, is the campaign by Kerry Morrison of Endloop Mobile and Chris Breikss of 6S Marketing, a firm that designs digital campaigns for clients, among other things. These clever fellows have a unique angle: 

Guys to be clear, we’re going to make some kind of positive endeavour from this asshat mayor of ours. Money will go to charity. #robford

— kerry morrison (@kmore) May 17, 2013

If they don’t get the tape—and they don’t expect to—all the money they raise goes to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Bobbie McPhee, listing him/herself only as “concerned citizens of Toronto,” has raised an impressive $141 from only two donors.

If none of the crowdsourcing efforts is successful, it’ll likely come down to a bidding war between Vice and Gawker, both deep-pocketed organizations. Gawker, at least, has never been too demure to whip out its wallet in pursuit of a story. The dark horse in the negotiations is the police force, who may pull the plaid shirts and watch caps on over their uniforms and pretend to be a rival news organization, or who may simply gallop into the suburban neighborhood pinpointed by The Star and begin rounding up likely parties on general principles. However it goes down, it isn’t going to be cheap to get rid of Rob Ford.

If he denies it, and he will, demand a blood test. We’re his employers, after all. #topoli

— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) May 17, 2013

O Toronto, can you spare a Loonie? Why not? You voted for one.

Photo via ashtonpal/Flickr

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