(CUP) - Over a decade ago, in rural Forest, Ont., Robyn Doolittle
walked into her
Grade 11 English class ready to pick a fight.
was wearing a winter hat - contrary to her
school's dress code - because she'd been told that women were allowed to wear hats indoors.
teacher asked her
to remove her
hat, and jokingly told her
that women could only wear them inside if they had matching gloves.
showed up the next day, gloves in hand.
teacher once again asked her
to take off her
held up her
was like, 'Why are you doing that?' And I didn't really have a good answer," Doolittle
"I like to poke things, I guess."
It's been more than 10 years since the glove incident and Robyn Doolittle, now a reporter for the Toronto Star, is still poking things.
The first 10 months of her new position was focused on the mayoral election, which Doolittle
says became fascinating after Ford
entered the race.
A number of gaffs, including public drunkenness and domestic disputes, would lead Doolittle
to pen a story in December 2011 about a series of 911 calls made from the Ford home.
By March 17, 2012, St. Patrick's Day, she
started to receive tips about an incident involving the mayor that had taken place at The Esplanade's Bier Markt, a popular downtown bar.
A year later, in March 2013, Ford
was asked to leave the Garrison Ball, a military ball featuring a number of prominent local figures, and Doolittle
ran a story breaking down the mayor's alleged substance abuse.
"And then about a week later someone phoned and said, 'I have a video that you should see,'" Doolittle
Doolittle and the Star's investigations editor Kevin Donovan's story about a video being shopped around the city of the mayor appearing to smoke crack cocaine while making homophobic and racial slurs divided the city and spawned truckloads of outrage.
It was one of the largest stories in Toronto's
recent history, and Doolittle
was right in the middle of it.
Journalism was a backup plan for Doolittle
, who had never considered a career in reporting.
aspirations were on the stage.
When the time came to consider prospective universities, she chose Ryerson for its theatre program but she decided to also look at journalism.
Just in case.
In order to fulfill portfolio requirements, Doolittle
had to get published examples of work.
turned to her
local paper, and eventually to the Sarnia Observer, where she
asked for a meeting with the editor-in-chief and got it - along with a column in the newly minted teen page.
"I wrote a lot of stupid things," Doolittle
"I think there was something like a take down of Britney Spears, which is kind of ridiculous because I love Britney Spears.
I was just trying to be contrarian."
Somehow, though, Doolittle
found herself falling in love with journalism, a career she'd never envisioned for herself.
She'd grown up questioning rules and authority and finally she'd found a career that would not just let her
do it, but encouraged it.
finally applied to schools, she
didn't apply to Ryerson's
theatre program - just journalism.
would go on to work at The Eyeopener
for three years, including a year as editor-in-chief, and take a series of internships at the Star, which eventually led to a full-time job.
"Suddenly it was like it all clicked.
This is what I want to do," she
"I think that Blair coming forward and saying he
has the video was a victory for journalism," Doolittle
Huddled outside the studio, in the throng of reporters waiting to speak to the Fords after the show, Doolittle
continues to doggedly follow the story she
helped to break.
, like many other reporters in the city, hopes to get a response out of the Ford brothers after they exit the studio.
does not feel vindicated, but it's hard to miss a hint of pride in her
Though Ford's approval rating actually went up five points after Blair's announcement, Doolittle
sources on the mayor's team have confided in the past that it would be very difficult to re-elect the mayor if the video does become public.
"I think certainly his
chances at re-election, it would stand to reason, [are lower]," Doolittle
It hasn't been an easy road to get to this point for Doolittle
Following enormous backlash from the crack scandal, she
was placed under immense pressure by swarms of supporters from Ford Nation.
"I think it's safe to say that over the last six months, it's been challenging for sure," she
"And I'm not complaining because a big part of it comes with the job.
I guess it would be accurate to say I've received hundreds and hundreds of letters of hate mail."
One such letter, artfully crafted on a small note adorned with a red cardinal in carefully-printed cursive has, in an ironic twist of fate, been framed by Doolittle
thought it was beautiful despite its message, which included the words, "How do you sleep at night?
The criticism Doolittle takes the most to heart, she
says, are attacks based on her
gender and appearance.
A column in the Huffington Post by Mark Hasiuk published shortly after the crack story broke made careful note of Doolittle's
"alabaster skin" and, she
says, it strived to discredit her
based on her
appearance rather than her
It also made no mention of Donovan's role in the story.
"The one thing that really bothers me [are these attacks]," Doolittle
"And that is when it gets very challenging to; that's when it's difficult to not get angry … It's not like it's hurting my feelings.
I just, I get angry.
I get angry that that opinion is so prevalent."
has spent four-and-a-half years at city hall, and though she
plans to stay there through the October 2014 elections, she
admits that she
wouldn't be opposed to a change of scenery.
"I have no idea [what's next], to be honest," she
"I think it's good to not start being there as long as the wallpaper."
, a woman who initially did not even want to pursue journalism, continues to live without concrete plans.
But given her
track record, it's safe to say that she'll continue to poke things for the foreseeable future.
Written by The Cadre
November 7, 2013
Tagged feature, cup wire, Robyn Doolittle