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Inside The Globe

Public Editor Sylvia Stead responds to readers and gives a behind-the-scenes look

Entry archive:

Public editor: When a critic is accused of having an agenda

Sylvia Stead

Some journalists are expected to have a point of view. Political columnists comment on public policies, and critics are, well, critical when evaluating a performance. In both cases, the writers have opinions and should feel free to express them.

There is also a tradition of provocative thinking in columns and critical writing that is important to free speech. The views expressed often spark a wider debate on the letters page and social media as well as around the dinner table.

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Public editor: Stories on vaccination aren’t propaganda

Sylvia Stead

I received an e-mail from a reader who said he always believed The Globe and Mail has professional standards and is very objective in its news coverage.

“I have to admit though, as a person with no academic or professional background associated with vaccination, I am surprised at the one-dimensional reporting on this topic. It feels like the paper is engaged in an act of public duty propaganda-style. I find it difficult to believe that the individuals belonging to the ‘anti-vaxxer’ community have no credible person(s) who could intelligently and responsibly relate the complex rationale that is the basis for their position on this issue,” he wrote.

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Public editor: It’s not a poll; it’s just reader feedback

Sylvia Stead

I’ve had a few complaints about a recent survey of Globe and Mail readers’ views on federal politics asking if they believed Stephen Harper’s Canada is better, worse or unchanged.

So what’s good and what’s bad about this particular survey?

It’s good that readers are being engaged on what will be the political story of the year. The survey attracted 138,000 votes, so it’s obviously a topic of great interest.

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Public editor: If The Globe was perfect, we’d never beg the question

Sylvia Stead

The headline above was on my column on grammatical mistakes that appeared in Saturday’s Focus section.

It was penned by a very clever editor, Victor Dwyer: a wordsmith, writer and, if I may say, grammar nerd with a great sense of humour.

Not surprisingly, many Globe readers were in on the joke.

One reader from Winnipeg wrote: “If the Globe WERE Perfect ...?” Then, just four minutes later, “Duh! Got it ... now.”

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Public editor: Egregious grammatical errors caught by Globe readers

Sylvia Stead

Globe and Mail readers are very well-read and, rightly so, are sticklers for good grammar. Not a week goes by without a few notes. This month, one reader asked writers to “please stop the redundancy” by adding “why” after “the reasons.”

One man despaired over the mixing up of flout and flaunt. “If we mix up the two words, soon the distinction will be lost and neither word will mean anything.”

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Public editor: Why coverage of polls will be important in election year

Sylvia Stead

Writing about opinion polls is kind of like sports coverage. You need to get the score right and you need to understand if a team is on the rise or stuck in a rut, but, whether that day or the next, a writer needs to explain what it really means.

This year, with a federal election looming, the coverage of opinion polls will be important.

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Public editor: Seven reasons why coverage of Rob Ford will continue

Sylvia Stead

Rob Ford.

So, readers, you thought that you wouldn’t read any more stories about the former mayor of Toronto. In fact, some of you have taken to Twitter or commented online, rather vehemently, to protest against this latest story (about Mr. Ford’s criticism of Mayor John Tory after his first month on the job) and to beg the editors to stop, just stop.

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Public editor: Why The Globe didn’t publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons

Sylvia Stead

There is a debate going on about whether newspapers should have published some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed.

On Thursday, contributor Timothy Garton Ash says European media should publish: “I would suggest that the publication or broadcast over this week should include not only a few of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons relating to Mohammed, but also one or two devoted to other subjects, so everyone can see that this was a satirical magazine, offensive to many different kinds of people. That’s what satire does.”

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Public editor: Suspect or accused, or just killer?

Sylvia Stead

A journalist’s instinct in dealing with crime is to be careful, and rightly so. Suspicions aren’t always right, police charges don’t always stick in court. So when charges are laid for serious crimes, the media correctly describe someone as being a suspect or accused of a crime. The final ruling on innocence or guilt is up to the courts.

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Public editor: Readers have no trouble spotting the error of our ways

Sylvia Stead

Last Saturday, my year-end column on errors was a quiz that included 15 notable mistakes – what The Globe and Mail got wrong and what the article should have said. The headline “Can you spot the errors of our ways” was a great invitation to readers to keep noticing the mistakes and keep helping The Globe correct its errors.

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Public editor: Can you spot the errors of our ways?

SYLVIA STEAD

This year, The Globe and Mail has published more than 450 corrections for errors made either online or in print. It’s certainly a lot, but noticeably fewer than in either of the previous two years.

Why the improvement? I can’t really say whether editors are catching more mistakes or writers are making fewer of them. But, on average, there is still more than one miscue a day, many of them brought to my attention (or that of other editors) by our clever and ever-vigilant readers.

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Public editor: Why profanity appeared on the front page

Sylvia Stead

A number of readers were shocked and appalled to see profanity on the front page of The Globe and Mail on Saturday. The profanity was in the name of one of the bands involved in what was a wonderful feature called Broadsheet Music: a year in the review.

The feature on the front of the Arts section answered the question: What would the year sound like if it were music? To answer that question, The Globe approached Arts & Crafts, an independent record company, and the Canadian Opera Company. There were articles in the Saturday paper explaining how the six original compositions by Canadian artists, including Broken Social Scene and, yes, Fucked Up, were created. It also links to a multimedia presentation, where you can listen to the music that interprets the year 2014.

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Public editor: How a mistake keeps getting repeated

Sylvia Stead

There are times when an error slips into a story without anyone noticing and it can continue to be repeated for months. In this case, it started in July with a story on the report into the death of Edward Snowshoe, a young inmate who killed himself after being in segregation for 162 days.

That article drew parallels with Ashley Smith, the New Brunswick teen who also died after a lengthy term in segregation cells.

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Public editor: Why ‘botched’ was a poor choice of words

Sylvia Stead

The definition of “botch” is: to spoil by poor work; bungle.

Does that fit a story The Globe and Mail published online on a U.S. attempt to rescue an American hostage in Yemen and its headline, which says: “Two hostages killed in Yemen in botched rescue attempt, U.S. officials say”?

If you read the article, you see that it was expected to be and was a difficult operation. The article describes how, despite moving in under darkness with specialized equipment, the Yemeni counterterrorism troops and the SEAL Team 6 commandos knew that it was extraordinarily challenging.

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Public editor: The Globe exposed thalidomiders’ problems decades ago

Sylvia Stead

Many readers have written to the letters editor, to editor-in-chief David Walmsley and to me to thank The Globe and Mail for its special series on the thalidomiders who are suffering terrible pain and pressing for compensation from the federal government.

On Monday night, the House of Commons voted unanimously, a rare event, to provide full support to the survivors, while in the gallery the victims wept with relief and happiness.

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Public editor: How thalidomide stories spurred federal action

Sylvia Stead

Last weekend, The Globe and Mail launched a heart-breaking special series on Canada’s 95 known survivors of thalidomide.

In the early sixties, their mothers took the supposed “miracle drug,” which doctors began to prescribe for morning sickness after it received federal approval.

Today, they are in their fifties and live, in many cases, with constant suffering, their limbs gnarled and stunted.

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Public editor: Rinelle’s photo published with permission

Sylvia Stead

I have heard from two readers over the past week who were concerned that The Globe and Mail published a front-page photo of Rinelle Harper, the 16-year-old victim of a gruesome attack in Winnipeg this month.

The readers were confused as to why The Globe would publish her photo when at a press conference the day before she had asked that her face be concealed. They didn’t know that the newspaper had an exclusive interview with the family in their hotel room on the eve of the press conference and obtained explicit permission to take and publish photos of Rinelle and her family.

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Public editor: Yes to Ghomeshi coverage; no to pictures

Sylvia Stead

Last week, I asked readers whether there was too much or too little coverage of Jian Ghomeshi. And what about the photos of him, which one reader begged The Globe and Mail to stop publishing because she and her friends found it “revolting.”

More than two dozen of you wrote in from across the country, one from the United States and one from overseas. The message was pretty clear: Keep covering the news on Mr. Ghomeshi, remember that this is a turning point for society’s understanding of sexual harassment and abuse of women and please, please don’t run those photos any more.

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Public editor: Too much Ghomeshi or not enough?

Sylvia Stead

Too much or too little? From time to time, readers will write either to ask why The Globe and Mail isn’t writing more on a subject or to say enough already, we are sick of the non-stop coverage.

Earlier this year, that subject was Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Last week, it was former CBC host of Q Jian Ghomeshi. In his case, one reader wants more coverage, while another doesn’t want to see his photo any more.

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Public editor: The problem with Ezra Levant’s complaint

Sylvia Stead

Ezra Levant, Sun Media columnist and Sun TV commentator, has complained about a recent Globe and Mail story. He has said The Globe story is wrong and that his column is completely correct.

So let’s look at the facts from a journalistic point of view. Mr. Levant wrote a Remembrance Day column that said the Greater Essex County District School Board in Ontario circulated an e-mail that, according to him, says: “Teachers should be prepared to exempt Muslim students from Remembrance Day.”

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