2012 Hero: Daniel Dale
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2012 Hero: Daniel Dale

Nominated for: staying professional, even when the mayor couldn't.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

Daniel Dale is used to getting bylines as an urban affairs reporter at the Toronto Star. This year he made headlines after a bizarre altercation with Mayor Rob Ford.

Dale alleged that the mayor ran at him with a “cocked fist,” before essentially robbing him of his telephone and voice recorder. The confrontation took place near Ford’s Etobicoke home, where Dale was gathering information about a piece of parkland the mayor was trying to purchase from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

The incident crystallized a number of prominent themes of Mayor Ford’s term in office, including his ongoing feud with the Star and his tendency to perceive media presence as a threat. Shortly after the incident, Ford’s political allies, including his brother, Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 1, Etobicoke North), took to the air to accuse Dale of harassment and trespassing. The mayor even threatened to boycott any media scrum that included Dale.

Dale maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, and police didn’t charge him after completing an investigation. But beyond questions about his behaviour before the confrontation, Dale also had to deal with criticism of his apparently less-than-macho decision to run away when the mayor came rushing toward him. NOW magazine writer Josuha Errett described Dale’s account of the events as “self-righteous,” and contended that the award-winning journalist may not be fit for work in the industry, where “hostile subjects” are a fact of life.

That Sunday, on the mayor’s weekly radio show, Toronto Sun contributor David Menzies went further. He accused the Star of sending “their most effeminate reporter” to bait Ford into a confrontation that would evoke sympathy for Dale. Still others suggested, half jokingly, that Dale should have taken whatever abuse the mayor may have been prepared to dish out, in the hopes that Ford would be charged with assault and removed from his post.

Through it all, Dale remained professional and seemingly unfazed by the criticism. He continued to do his job, even when it involved covering Ford. Among his many contributions to local news this year, Dale and his colleagues relentlessly pursued allegations that mayor Ford had been using City resources to help coach his high school football teams.

Dale later said of the encounter, “I’m not at all ashamed to say it…I was scared.” While he disputed the mayor’s recollection of the incident, he said he hoped that his future interactions with Ford might be as “courteous and mutually respectful” as they’d been before that fateful evening. As we noted in the aftermath of the confrontation, those who questioned Dale’s masculinity suggested he should have stayed and fought. If he had, the public would likely have been a lot less informed about city issues in 2012.

See the other nominees who are Standing Their Ground:

Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean

Grace under fire.
  The Globe and Mail‘s Paywall

Reminding us that journalism costs money to make.
  Alice Moran

Speaking up when she didn’t need to.

  Captain John

Keeping the waterfront interesting, and keeping his dream alive.

Cast Your Ballot