Rob Ford’s invitation-only news conference sparks controversy
Mayor Rob Ford’s first official address after his return from rehab is invitation-only and excludes some members of the press gallery.
Mayor Rob Ford will be back on the job in Toronto Monday, but he’s causing controversy even before his return.
Ford has sparked criticism from the city and media by making his first official address following his return from rehab an invitation-only affair, leaving out members of the city hall press gallery, including its president.
According to Ford’s communications director Amin Massoudi, not all media are welcome because “there’s a restricted amount of space available in the office.”
Among those not invited to the 3:30 p.m. event in the mayor’s protocol office are reporters from national wire service The Canadian Press, Now Magazine and Toronto Community News.
Limited press conference attendance is the latest twist in a rocky relationship Ford has had with the media.
But, Massoudi maintains the mayor’s office has done a “good job” of selecting press gallery members from all mediums.
However, the narrow protocol office only holds about 25 people, leaving many forced to watch the press conference from broadcasts or the city’s audio feed.
When asked whether they considered or would consider another space that could fit everyone, Massoudi said, “The space has been chosen. The mayor wants to speak inside of his office to the residents of Toronto and that is what he will be doing.”
In a rare act of criticism from the city, spokesperson Wynna Brown said the member’s lounge, which is available Monday afternoon, can “accommodate more people and is a more appropriate venue.”
She said, “From a city point of view, this is not reflective of the approach or the collaborative relationships we have and value with members of the media, particularly our colleagues in the city hall press gallery.”
Jonathan Goldsbie, a Now Magazine reporter who was left off the invite list, said Ford’s office is using the room’s capacity and fire codes as a “legally forced exclusion of people.”
“There’s no reason it has to be in that specific location as opposed to the member’s lounge, the council chambers, either committee room or anywhere else at city hall, which has a great number of very large spaces, which are conducive to press conferences,” he said. “The decision to hold it in the protocol lounge is an entirely arbitrary one that offers no tangible benefit to the mayor or his staff.”
When an invite to the press conference first went out on Thursday, Goldsbie said he felt “shock, anger, frustration and momentarily, disbelief.”
“It struck me as monumentally disrespectful,” he said about being excluded from the press conference.
David Nickle, president of the city hall press gallery and a reporter for the Torstar Corp.-owned Toronto Community News, said he was “surprised and dismayed” to hear about the limited guest list. He likened the press conference selectiveness to the 2011 period when the Star was purposefully omitted from official notices sent out by Ford’s office.
He said the mayor has often limited the media’s access, but news conference exclusion is a new tactic.
“This is the first time that they have done a news conference, at least to my memory, that has deliberately kept anybody out,” Nickle said. “I feel the mayor should be facing all the Toronto media that are interested in hearing him.”
Nickle’s attempts to contact the mayor’s office and ask for the press conference to be moved to a bigger space have gone unanswered.
Those media members who were invited have already been told that Ford will not be taking any questions at the event.