2014 Villain: Joe Warmington
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2014 Villain: Joe Warmington

Nominated for: prioritizing access to the mayor over journalism in the public interest.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the people, places, things, and ideas that have had the most positive and negative impacts on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 5 p.m. on December 30. At noon on December 31, we’ll reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

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Joe Warmington is many things.

He is a stalwart Ford-defender.

He is a master of the one-sentence paragraph.

He is a fedora enthusiast.

He is not, however, a responsible journalist.

Over the past couple of years, Warmington has enjoyed unparalleled access to Rob and Doug Ford at a time when there were an unprecedented number of questions to be asked about subjects ranging from the mayor’s bigotry and policies to criminal associations, drunk driving, and dishonesty.

There was a crucial opportunity here to fight for the little guy and ask the mayor of Toronto questions in the public interest.

But Warmington didn’t do that.

Instead, he became what amounted to a mayoral stenographer reduced to transcribing quotes from Ford, and adding a few supportive observations of his own for good measure.

His hagiographic urges were so strong that when Rob Ford went on Jimmy Kimmel, he wrote a column in the Sun praising the mayor’s appearance—despite the fact that it had not yet occurred.

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

By giving the Fords a pass on their shortcomings while lending them apparent journalistic support, Warmington enabled their misbehaviour and eroded public trust in journalists who conduct themselves with more integrity.

The self-described “Scrawler” defends his actions by saying that he gets the access because he calls the mayor and that he doesn’t need to strive for a balanced perspective because he’s a columnist, not a reporter.

He adds that other journalists piggyback off of the material he is able to get from the Fords—but overlooks the fact that their articles provide the context, analysis, and fact-checking conspicuously absent from his own columns.

The Rob Ford mayoralty had more than its share of shortcomings.

But we should not forget the role the media played, or the fact that the journalists best positioned to hold the Fords accountable for their actions failed to do so.

No one more fully embodies this failure than Joe Warmington.

We can only hope that as the Fords’ influence over the public discourse wanes, so too will Warmington’s—and that we’ll finally be able to see the Scrawler out.