If anyone - member of the media or not - is considering coming to the edge of my property at dusk to take cell phone photographs, he or she can expect a confrontation.
A confrontation probably similar to the one Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale faced when he went to the periphery of Rob Ford's estate on Wednesday. (I don't have any campaign shirts, so that detail might change.)
That's another way of saying I think Ford did what any reasonable person would do in that situation.
Whether or not Dale was on Ford's actual property is immaterial to me. It may be crucial in the court of law, but in the court of public opinion, Ford was (for once) in the right.
Anyway you look at it, there was a man in the partially wooded area outside Ford's house. That right there is enough to investigate and, yes, I think become defensive. That Dale did not actually have his foot on the mayor's property doesn't matter. The perceived threat was there.
It's true the Star went to the mayor's house to add to an important story on Ford's attempted purchase of a parcel of land next to his property. But there are quite a few details here that don't work in the newspaper's favour.
First. There was no reason to show up unannounced. This was not supposed to be "gotcha journalism." Since it was legal and above board, the professional approach would be to let the mayor's handlers know in advance.
Second. Does the Star not have photographers? Why is a reporter going to take a picture of a piece of land with a Blackberry late in the day in bad light? He could have gone during the day when the mayor wasn't home, or when he could be identified by neighbours as non-threatening. Makes me suspect he was trying to catch the mayor doing something untoward.
Third. If he was going there to take photos, why would he not charge his phone?
Fourth. If this event made a seasoned reporter "more frightened than [he] can remember", as Dale so self-righteously recounted, perhaps he should be looking for a new line of work. Confrontations like this one can and do happen, especially when reporting on contentious issues with sometimes hostile subjects.
Of course I give credence to the argument that Ford is an elected official, held to high standards of behaviour and even higher levels of scrutiny, and he shouldn't have personally confronted Dale. Or that he should've recognized Dale from City Hall, and that he was doing a legitimate story, and brushed it off.
But again, imagine someone creeping around your house at sunset, looking into your yard. What would you do?