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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: Keeping sources’ anonymity is a matter of trust

SYLVIA STEAD

In the midst of charges of made-up news, mostly south of the border, a reader wanted to know more about the mysterious practices around anonymous sources.

“I realize there are times when a source does not want to go on the record out of concern for their position, reputation and livelihood, but the practice seems to have become an issue,” the reader said. “Fake news sites regularly cite ‘anonymous sources’ as a way to cover the fact that they’re just making things up. … The other day, Trump claimed media who quote anonymous sources are making it all up. Some clarification about why anonymous sources are used by the legitimate [media] might be helpful at this point.”

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A better way to stay informed about markets and your investments every morning

Gillian Livingston

We recently launched a new and improved daily morning feature within our Inside the Market section aimed at keeping readers better informed.

What every Canadian investor needs to know today highlights the latest developments in markets starting before the opening bell and continuing throughout the morning. Updated continuously with fresh data, interactive charting and market-moving news, the feature is intended to give investors a reliable, easily digestible briefing every morning. Look for the latest market action displayed and explained in easy-to-scan sections on equities, commodities, currencies/bonds, economic news and stocks on the move.  

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Public editor: Globe’s description of ‘unfounded’ did not mislead readers

SYLVIA STEAD

The Globe’s Robyn Doolittle has followed her series on sexual assault allegations, Unfounded, with classic journalistic doggedness. She continues to ask how police forces are responding to the 20-month investigation that found that one out of every five sex-assault allegations is being dismissed as “unfounded.”

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Public Editor: Why are women absent from the pages of The Globe?

Sylvia Stead

Images can be more powerful than even a thousand words.

I often hear from readers about photos in The Globe and Mail: from those who believe that some photos show too much violence or too much of the same old thing; from unhappy readers who note when the Sports section is all men for too many days in a row; from happy readers when they see women on a Sports front. I myself wonder, sometimes, why a photo accompanying a story about something like the unemployment rate couldn’t have been of a woman rather than a man.

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Public editor: Lines between opinion, analysis and news need to be clearer

Sylvia Stead

Globe readers had reason to be confused this week. A few were puzzled by two instances of columnists who were writing either opinion, analysis or politics. So now you are probably confused too.

A little background: Campbell Clark is The Globe and Mail’s chief political writer. He writes several times a week, mostly opinion, but sometimes if it runs on the front page it’s labelled analysis. John Ibbitson is a writer in the Ottawa bureau who regularly writes columns or analysis and occasionally news stories. Adam Radwanski is a political feature writer who mostly writes analysis.

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Public Editor: Why being right beats being first

Sylvia Stead

Today and yesterday, the website and the front page of the newspaper have been and are dominated by extensive coverage of the attack on the Quebec City mosque. Much more coverage is and will be done in the coming hours and days and readers still have many questions: mostly about motive, but also what kind of weapon and where did the shooter get it?

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Public Editor: I’ve had a few calls for language checks – or Czechs

SYLVIA STEAD

A reader on Twitter raised this “Language check” question yesterday. “Why is a move to Status of Women necessarily a ‘demotion?’ ” Demotion was a description used by Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife to describe Maryam Monsef’s move from democratic institutions minister to status of women minister.

He noted that Ms. Monsef “was widely criticized for the way she handled the government’s plans to change the voting system.” If you’ve forgotten, here’s a video link to the controversy. Mr. Fife said he used that word because she is moving from a very controversial ministry to one with little or no controversy.

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Public Editor: When we laid eggs in 2016, you kindly let us know

Sylvia Stead

The number of corrections in The Globe and Mail has inched up this year, perhaps 10 per cent more than last, but frankly I was surprised it wasn’t higher.

In May, The Globe introduced a link on every online article asking readers to report a typo, error or concern; given there were more than 5,000 of those clicks, I expected many more corrections.

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Public Editor: Readers criticize gender balance in coverage of doctor’s killing

SYLVIA STEAD

I’ve heard criticism this week from doctors and other readers upset with our coverage of the death of Dr. Elana Fric Shamji, a highly regarded family physician and associate professor at the University of Toronto. Dr. Fric Shamji was found dead late last week, and her husband has been charged with her murder.

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Public Editor: The Globe will avoid racist term alt-right

SYLVIA STEAD

On Monday, The Globe and Mail issued this note to all editorial staff:

The term alt-right refers to a collection of groups or individuals espousing racist, fascist or white-supremacist ideologies.

We should avoid this term as much as possible.

If we must use it, in a quote, for example, we should provide a definition of the term.

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We must call the ‘alt-right’ what it is: fascist, racist, white supremacist

Sylvia Stead

Should journalists use made-up words?

Sometimes yes. Language changes constantly, and so words such as “post-truth” and “yogalates” come into the vernacular and should be used and explained until they are well understood. (Post-truth: when emotions, beliefs and even lies trump facts as the drivers of public opinion. Yogalates: yoga and Pilates combined.)

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Public Editor: Reader was right to note lack of balance

SYLVIA STEAD

Earlier this week, a reader complained about an article published online about a diamond mine in Northern Ontario. She works in the North in resources and said she knows communities are divided on the subject of development in general and its impact on indigenous people.

The article is about a diamond mine near the indigenous community of Attawapiskat. The headline says, “Diamond mines give economic sparkle to Canada’s north.”

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Public Editor: Thank you, readers, for suggesting we look at solitary confinement

SYLVIA STEAD

In June, I asked readers what issues they felt should go under the media microscope. The Globe and Mail had been honoured for its work on military men and women suffering from post-traumatic stress and from its coverage of indigenous women, but there is always much more to do.

A couple of readers suggested solitary confinement and I passed those messages on to the senior editors.

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Public Editor: Transparency with sources – and readers – is necessary

SYLVIA STEAD

Last week, The Globe and Mail ran a feature in the Life section in a series called “It Happened to Me.” It was an interview with comedian Cathy Jones about experiencing the symptoms of vaginal atrophy.

The story included an interview with Dr. Vivien Brown, an assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto and president of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada. It did not reference any medication by name, although Dr. Brown did discuss various hormonal and non-hormonal treatments.

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Public Editor: This headline is not the full story

SYLVIA STEAD

They’re just a few words at the top of the articles, but headlines attract more than their share of complaints. Readers complain that they are too political or not political enough. They fail to tell the whole story, they miss the point of the story, or the tone is really off.

On Wednesday, I had a complaint about this headline: “Russia likely responsible for attack on aid convoy, U.S. says.” The reader complained that the word “likely” revealed speculation. I told him that The New York Times Service article said that Obama administration sources think there is a “high probability” the Russians were responsible. So the speculation is from government officials, not the headline writer – and I think the headline was accurate and fair.

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Public Editor: At The Globe, Dr. doesn’t just mean medical doctors

SYLVIA STEAD

A recent story about tax law was criticized for a mistake about a name by one of the story subjects and she was right.

The reporter spoke to three experts about whether Olympic medalists should be taxed for their bonuses they received if they made the podium. The experts were all referred to as Mr. or Ms. in the article even though one of them, Lindsay Tedds, is identified as associate professor at the University of Victoria’s school of public administration. She should have been described as either Prof. or Dr. on second reference.

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Public editor: Getting late evening news and photos into a newspaper

Sylvia Stead

Penny Oleksiak, the 16-year-old swimming sensation, is a shining star. Readers can’t get enough news stories, features and photos of this phenomenal athlete.

But a few readers have not been that happy with The Globe’s coverage.

Last Saturday’s front-page photo was a portrait shot by freelancer Darren Calabrese. Set against a black background, Ms. Oleksiak looks strong and confident with a serious gaze at the camera. She is wearing her Canadian racing suit with black shorts.

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Public Editor: Should The Globe fix or ban online comments?

Sylvia Stead

As a rule, journalists love feedback – concrete evidence that the fruit of their labour is not only finding an audience, but having an impact. And yet there is nothing quite as divisive as the comments that are posted directly to stories online.

For anyone not that familiar with them, think a mix of talk radio and the more heated debates conducted on social media. The views expressed are quick and, at times, emotional responses to the issue of the day. And on some subjects, such as politics and sports, they become agitated and partisan pretty quickly. (Much like the House of Commons during Question Period.)

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Public editor: A banner year for investigative journalism

Sylvia Stead

It has been a banner year for investigative journalism in Canada. Witness the recent spate of awards for work that uncovers malfeasance or shines a light on deeply ingrained societal prejudices and problems.

This is an area where the established media excel – if only because it takes time, often months of investigation, and a real commitment to get beyond the daily news.

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Public Editor: Credentials must always be checked

SYLVIA STEAD

A profile story which initially described a man as a chiropractor running a school about osteopathy was changed this week to make two significant corrections.

The story on the business education hub was part of a series about how people use their MBA. The reporter searched online for MBA and chiropractor, found Shahin Pourgol of Toronto and decided to write a profile. She then went to his school and wrote about it.

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