In retrospect, it seems ridiculous to think that our major metropolitan city was an international laughingstock because our “300 pounds of fun” mayor was smoking crack cocaine.
But, it happened, and we’re here to talk about Crazytown – investigative reporter Robyn Doolittle’s attempt to lay out her coverage of said mayor, Rob Ford, in one book.
Reviewing this one was tough. Writing a compelling narrative about Ford isn’t difficult, because his antics really did write themselves. That said, the book has a real sloppy, unfinished quality that makes the earlier chapters a real slog. For example, page 62 of the first edition details the results of the same election twice in two different paragraphs.
This, and many other editing oversights are almost definitely due to the book’s extremely speedy turnaround time of only three months. Why the tight publishing timeframe? Almost definitely because publishing it quickly would give Torontonians enough time to read it before an upcoming election in which Ford was supposed to run for another term as mayor.
But that’s the thing about publishing a book about a story that isn’t done – things can change. In the eight months after Crazy Town was released, more videos of a drugged-up Ford would be released and he would take a leave of absence, drop out of the mayoral election, and reveal a diagnosis of the cancer that would eventually claim his life. Those details might not be key to the scandal, but this is supposed to be the “Rob Ford Story”, after all.
On that note, the book has a lot of fluff about Doolittle’s actions at the time. Following the story of an investigative journalist is interesting, but it means that the title belies the book’s actual purpose. Crazy Town isn’t “the Rob Ford story”, it’s the story of Doolittle reporting on Ford during part of his drug scandal. The book could have been so much more – a dive into the culture around Ford Nation, a look at the political interplay of the councillors who took over city council at the time, or maybe an exploration of what it means for Canada that we let this slide for so long.
Crazy Town, while compelling, just isn’t the gritty, hard-hitting exposé on Rob Ford that Toronto deserves.
– Toronto police were independently tracking the video of Ford smoking crack, and they quietly recovered it as part of an unrelated bust. By the time they revealed they had it, something like 40% of the city was already primed to believe that Ford was being unfairly attacked, and that he could do no wrong. This was, in part, due to the frequent city hall coverage by Doolittle and the Star, even by her own admission. So, the reveal of the video potentially had less of an effect than it could/should have. I’m not saying that Doolittle’s journalism ultimately hurt her cause, although the thought is crossing my mind. She was definitely doing her job – reporting on newsworthy facts related to the mayor – and digging up dirt that seemingly had no end. That said, I wonder what would have happened if police had retrieved the video in a climate where Toronto wasn’t so conditioned to defend our embattled ex-mayor at the drop of a hat.
– Look forward to an upcoming movie about the Rob Ford scandal, with the role of the author being portrayed as male instead of female. How fitting that a story about Ford should be made by people who don’t particularly care to tell a woman’s story.