CTV reporter Austin Delaney on covering the Rob Ford affair and why he loves Richmond Hill

“These are serious allegations,” says CTV reporter Austin Delaney to an evasive Mayor Rob Ford. “The people of Toronto want to know if you’ve been involved with crack cocaine,” presses Delaney, six days after Gawker lobbed the original crack allegations.

That brisk May morning, Delaney and his cameraman attempted to wrangle a comment from Mayor Rob Ford on the then-breaking “Crackgate” scandal.

After first trying to get a statement from the media-disdaining mayor and having a black Escalade door slammed in his face, Delaney and his cameraman followed Ford a short ways down the road to the now notorious Etobicoke gas station. Keep in mind this is this same Scarlett Road Esso station where Sandro Lisi had been filmed giving the mayor a mysterious brown-bagged package.

Delaney approaches Ford as he orders a Tim Hortons coffee, pushing the same line of crack-related questions. “People want just a response to it, sir. A response to something,” says Delaney as a Ford staffer tries to intercept his line of questioning. Finally, the often red-faced mayor bites but offers no substantive answers. Instead, he dances around the issues, poking fun at Delaney’s persistence, “Got your sleeping bag? You got your pillow outside?”

Delaney reflects on the two-minute piece with pride, “He just keeps stumbling around, making jokes. It was just a great piece.”

There’s little structure to a typical Delaney day, so he can clock in 10-hour-plus days if there’s a major news storm breaking. There is, however, one constant, and that constant is unpredictability. “Today started off slow —and blamo, we have a swan rescue on the lake,” Delaney excitedly exclaims.

The reporter gushes with enthusiasm for his job, which brings him around Toronto covering everything and anything, from murder trials and civic protests to less-than-graceful swans that have managed to freeze their rears to Lake Ontario. For the past 25 years, Delaney has updated Torontonians on the day’s events. Sometimes the news is light, and some days the silly behind-the-scenes capers of a reporter on the beat don’t make the news.

One such shenanigan-filled day, Delaney was casually sitting in the front seat of the news van. The cameraman slammed the door, stowing his camera in the back seat, which caused the fire extinguisher to go off, somehow. “He had the keys, and I couldn’t open the door. I was covered in white power and coughing like a madman, while he was laughing like a madman,” recalls the newshound, who had to go home to shower and change.

Although some days Delaney hits the pavement at 8 a.m., “it depends,” explains the reporter. “It always has to end at six. The project is due at 6 p.m. ”Other days aren’t filled with belly laughs and topical tongue-in-cheek newscast sign-offs.

The journo doesn’t remember many times where the métier made him feel endangered. But, four years ago Delaney caught G20 black block protesters as they changed out of their monochrome uniforms back into their civilian togs in an attempt to evade the police. That day it wasn’t the aggressive protesters that unnerved Delaney, but the police. “The police were holding these big guns — I guess they were tear gas guns — and they would sometimes point them at me, and I remember going, ‘I don’t like this,’” recalls the 52-year-old.

The most scrutinizing linguists probably couldn’t hear the Queen’s vowels that years of Canadian living have eroded from Delaney’s speech. At the age of nine, when the newsman moved to Thornhill from North London, he had a pronounced British accent. There’s even a film clip of Delaney from Grade 6 where he and a friend are doing a mock news report on pollution.

“It’s very cute. I’m a tiny little boy with a little accent, and you can hear me say, ‘Oh no, I blew it, I’m a goof,’ says Delaney. The clip may seem prescient now, but back then Delaney wasn’t particularly interested in a career as a television reporter. In high school Delaney wasn’t an AV club type — in fact, he was a jock, playing any and all sports.

His parents wouldn’t even let him take drama while he was attending Richmond Hill’s Langstaff Secondary School. “I wanted to take drama,” says Delaney. “But, my parents told me I couldn’t take it. Funnily enough that’s what I need to get in this business.”

One particular late high school night is imprinted on Delaney’s memory, and that was his first foray into broadcasting. In Grade 13, Delaney knew he wanted to be a radio DJ, so he called up every station in town, hoping that one of them would let him come in for a tour. After a number of nos, Q107 finally offered the aspiring morning man a chance to see what radio was like behind the mic.

The station had a program on Saturdays called My Radio Hour where they allowed a member of the public to host for the evening. “One Saturday I went down, and all the kids at my school were having a party and they decided to tune me in, and I just froze. I was just awful. I was so embarrassed, but I kept going,” says Delaney.

The now-familiar TV reporter spent six years on the airwaves before transitioning to the small screen. Although Delaney sometimes misses the laid-back world of radio broadcasting, he loves being in front of the camera. “I love it where I am,” says Delaney, before cataloguing CTV’s many virtues.

“I’m probably going to end my career there [CTV],” says the reporter. “Unless you have a job offer for me at ABC,” he says, but you can hear the newscaster’s wink in his voice.

When the prodigal son returns home, he still likes to hit his favourite high school greasy spoon, Steer Inn Burgers, for some nosh. Back in the day, Steer Inn was the after−last call hangout joint for the boys.

“If you went there you didn’t bring a date,” explains Delaney, who associates the stalwart burger joint with fraternal bonding and late nights.

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