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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 the spoiler alert becomes pointless

Sylvia Stead

There was a brief flurry on Twitter Monday morning and also an e-mail to me about a spoiler (spoiling?) headline and photograph with a Game of Thrones story.

The story starts out with this warning in bold letters: (Warning: Spoilers. If you have not watched Episode 2 of Season 4, don’t read this).

But the problem was that too much was given away with the headline and accompanying photo. I don’t want to make it worse by giving anything away here, but you can click on the link if you want to know more.

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Public editor: Not a day for a bland headline

Sylvia Stead

There was a letter to the editor in The Globe and Mail Wednesday from a reader who felt the “PQ crushed” main headline from Tuesday’s front page “smacked of a tabloid.” The reader called it un-Canadian, scornful and narrow-minded.

In my view, it was none of those things. As the smaller headline said, it was a “historic defeat.”

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Public editor: Clichés drive readers up the wall

Sylvia Stead

Clichés and overblown rhetoric drive some readers up the wall. Okay, that was both a cliché and overblown, but you get the point.

I’ve had a couple of e-mails from readers over the past week who were so annoyed that they took pen to paper (yes another cliché) – hands to keyboards anyway – to complain about these following phrases:

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Public editor: The reasons for and against endorsing a politician

Sylvia Stead

On Friday, I wrote about the importance of the media in holding power to account and used the example of The Globe and Mail’s editorial board, which endorsed Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the last election campaign, but now has published an unprecedented series arguing very strongly that the Fair Elections Act should be killed.

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Public editor: Why endorsing Harper doesn’t mean not criticizing him

SYLVIA STEAD

This month, The Globe and Mail’s editorial page published an unprecedented five-part series calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to kill the Fair Elections Act. The editorial board argued that the bill, if adopted as is, will harm the foundation of our democracy, undermine the electoral process, reduce voting rights and expand the role of money in politics.

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Public editor: Excellent article, wrong photograph

Sylvia Stead

Last Thursday night, a tweet was sent out from The Globe and Mail’s account promoting an excellent and original report by Paul Koring on a scenario for what might have happened to the missing Malaysian plane.

The tweet attracted criticism from some who complained that it intruded on the grief of the woman pictured and others who objected to the connection between the photo and the headline.

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Public editor: When a headline misses the point

Sylvia Stead

This story and the headline, “What to do if you’re caught texting behind the wheel,” sparked anger in a letter published in Thursday’s Globe and Mail and in the comments online.

“What to do if you’re caught texting behind the wheel (March 17): I look forward to future instalments in this series like ‘What to do if you’re caught drinking and driving.’ What happened to responsible journalism?” Peter Gorman wrote.

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Public editor: What’s the difference between a million and a billion?

Sylvia Stead

In 1945, C.D. Howe, a senior federal cabinet minister, was asked by the Opposition about cutting the billion-dollar war spending estimates by a million dollars, then a considerable amount of money. Although it is not clear that he answered this way, the Opposition famously shortened his answer and characterized it as: “What’s a million?”

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Public Editor: Uproar over an extreme close up

Sylvia Stead

Saturday’s paper prominently featured two Canadian premiers, both women. In both cases, some readers were critical of the coverage, but for very different reasons.

Above you see the very close up, life size face of Quebec Premier Pauline Marois as the Quebec election campaign builds momentum. The editors said they had a long discussion about the choice on Friday, and felt it showed a determined, battle-hardened leader. It is not a campaign shot that the candidate may want, but she looks human and tough.

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Public editor: Notes on gender and photo selection

Sylvia Stead

Here’s a little quiz.

An article on four financial advisers asks their advice about putting together a lasting RRSP strategy. Two of them are described as married with children. The other two have no reference to marital status or children.

Can you guess the gender of the first two? You are correct if you said both are women.

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Public editor: Why the words we choose matter

Sylvia Stead

The words you choose matter, and there were two examples this week that have provoked debate.

After this story about the arrest of suspected Mexican “drug lord” Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, a reader asked The Globe and Mail to “please stop referring to gangsters as ‘lords’, ‘kingpins’, ‘barons’, etc. These labels serve to reinforce the idea that these people have some claim to nobility. There is nothing noble about them. They are vicious gangsters, thieves and murderers.”

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Public editor: How should the Olympic medal standings be done?

Sylvia Stead

With Monday morning’s final list of Sochi Olympics medal standings, a few readers have written in complaining that The Globe and Mail chose an inferior way to rank the countries.

One reader said a front-page retraction was in order: “The front page of the Globe, Feb. 24, shows a ‘Medal Standings’ table. It is actually showing the total medal count. Medal standings are ranked by the number of gold medals won, followed by silver, then bronze. Google ‘medal standings Sochi’ and the Google results show Canada ranked third with 10 gold medals behind Russia (13) and Norway (11). The U.S. places fourth with 9. Canada also beat the U.S. in silver medals with 10 versus 7. C’mon Globe, give credit where credit’s due!”

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Public editor: Every picture tells a story (some of them disturbing)

Sylvia Stead

“I suppose the intent was to shock, but you crossed the line.” That is what one unhappy reader had to say about a photo on Wednesday’s front page.

And his complaint wasn’t the only one. The image of a man enveloped in flames amid the protest outside Ukraine’s parliament certainly was jarring. But did it really cross the line?

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Public editor: What should count in the Olympic rankings?

Sylvia Stead

A reader asked this week why The Globe and Mail doesn’t use the official Olympic method of ranking countries when presenting medal counts.

The Globe’s ranking is based on the total number of medals. In the case of a tie, the nod goes to whichever country has more gold, then silver, then bronze.

The Olympics ranking is based on the most gold medals won. In the case of a tie, more silver medals takes the next ranking.

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Public editor: The PM and the floating hockey stick explained

Sylvia Stead

Try this little test. Look at the photo above of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and some of his staff standing by a plane holding hockey sticks. Is Mr. Harper actually holding a hockey stick too? Why does it appear to be floating behind his hand?

Would you think that it is a bit odd or would you leap instantly to the conclusion that the picture was Photoshopped to make it look as though the PM was holding a hockey stick?

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Public editor: Special family bond deserves the full story

Sylvia Stead

My favourite part of the Olympics Games are the human stories behind the medal counts and athleticism.

This year, so far, we have read a wonderful story by Roy MacGregor about the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, who put that bond ahead of competition and everything else.

Then there was the heart-warming story by Allan Maki about the Canadian coach who gave a despondent Russian cross-country skier a new ski after his shattered in competition.

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Public editor: Mistakes in my column. Mea culpa

Sylvia Stead

When the subject of grammar is raised, get ready to duck. Now that I’ve read all 500-plus e-mails on readers’ grammatical pet peeves, I would like to turn to criticisms about my initial column on grammar.

In it, I referred to readers who sent me notes about such errors in The Globe and Mail over the past year. A few other readers raised excellent points about lapses in that column and also some others in that same day’s newspaper. So, mea culpa!

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Public editor: Homeopath’s advice needs to be balanced

Sylvia Stead

Last Friday, a blog on natural ways to keep the flu at bay written by an alternative-medicine specialist garnered criticism on social media and in the story comments.

The blog suggested a variety of solutions that the writer, who has a diploma in homeopathic medicine, felt could either help to prevent contracting the flu or mitigate the symptoms. The blog was criticized by medical professionals on a number of points and most said it missed the key advice that what really works is the flu vaccine.

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Public editor: What’s advertising and what’s editorial should be made clear

Sylvia Stead

Last Saturday, the news section included an article on Olympics design. The article was about the design of the Richmond Olympic Oval, built for the Vancouver Games. But a sidebar caused some confusion from a few readers.

The sidebar included a reference to an app and also to sponsorship by a car company.

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Public editor: Five more irritating grammatical errors

Sylvia Stead

Last Saturday, I wrote about readers’ pet peeves on grammatical errors and I invited other readers to send me theirs.

A reader in Victoria said: “You will probably regret the flood of e-mails you will get after inviting readers to write to you about grammar. The few drops I would like to add are about consecutive prepositions, specifically ending in ‘of’. It seems to be standard Globe style to write that the farm is outside of town or the bowl fell off of the table. http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/on-off-of/ hypothesizes that it may have started with the Rolling Stones’ Get Off Of My Cloud.

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Inside The Globe Contributors

Sylvia Stead

Sylvia Stead is The Globe and Mail's Public Editor.

Follow Sylvia on Twitter @SylviaStead