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

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Photo taken by Canadian John Sheardown in his Tehran living room during the three months in which he and his wife, Zena, hid four of the six American fugitives. From left to right: Americans, Mark Lijek, Cora Lijek, Robert Anders, Canadian Zena Sheardown, Canadian Roger Lucy (First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy in Iran) and American Lee Schatz. (CBC)

Photo taken by Canadian John Sheardown in his Tehran living room during the three months in which he and his wife, Zena, hid four of the six American fugitives. From left to right: Americans, Mark Lijek, Cora Lijek, Robert Anders, Canadian Zena Sheardown, Canadian Roger Lucy (First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy in Iran) and American Lee Schatz.

(CBC)

Public editor: The real story behind the man in fatigues Add to ...

One of the greatest strengths of any newspaper is the intelligence and engagement of its readers. I am often reminded of the intelligence and knowledge of Globe readers, something that should keep editors and reporters on their toes.

Over the weekend, two readers wrote in noting errors in stories, and behind both of these errors are lessons for the staff. Here’s the first one from Mark Collins in Ottawa:

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“Your obituary of John Sheardown (A diplomat, a daredevil and a key player in the Canadian Caper, Jan. 5) contains a photo that, according to the caption, shows ‘five fugitive American diplomats’ in Tehran together with Mr. Sheardown’s wife, Zena. However, one of those five – second from right with high boots, a camouflage jacket, and mustache – is in fact the Canadian diplomat Roger Lucy who had his own part in the exfiltration caper. The Department of Foreign Affairs web page on the Canadian role states that ‘Luckily, at the last minute, the political officer, Roger Lucy, who had a knowledge of Farsi, noticed an erroneous date in the entry visas’ that the CIA had prepared for the Americans’ false Canadian passports.

“An official CIA account also relates, of the final preparations for the exfiltration, that ‘After dinner, Roger [Lucy] appeared in military fatigues, complete with hat, sunglasses, jackboots, and swagger stick. The interrogations began. The interrogations impressed some of the more overconfident members of the group with the importance of remembering the details of their cover stories and gave them a taste of what could be in store for them at the airport.’

“Another of our men in Tehran.”

Mr. Collins kindly included two great links to read more on this fascinating chapter in Canadian diplomatic history.

From that error comes a better and more complete story of the importance of Roger Lucy’s part in the Argo drama. (The entire CIA account makes great reading too.)

But here is what went wrong. The photo caption was correct in The Globe archives. It identifies everyone in the photograph by name and notes that Mr. Lucy is a Canadian embassy counsellor. (In fact, Mr. Collins notes, Mr. Lucy was First Secretary, and that will be fixed for future captions.) In an effort to shorten the caption, the editor didn’t read it closely enough to note that along with Mrs. Sheardown, there was one Canadian official and four Americans.

Another reader wrote in to complain about using two terms interchangeably on a story about a debate about the morality of paying taxes. The reader notes quite rightly that there is a major difference between calling it tax avoidance and tax evasion. While the political debate has muddled the two terms, it is clear that tax avoidance is legal and tax evasion is not.

In both examples, the lesson is that attention to detail is important to Globe readers and they notice such errors.

If you want to comment on this, please do so below. If you want to write to me on this or any other subject, please e-mail me at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @SylviaStead

 

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