Statement by The Globe and Mail to the Ontario Press Council Sept. 9, 2013.
My name is John Stackhouse, Editor-in-Chief of The Globe and Mail. With me here is Sinclair Stewart, The Globe and Mail’s Editor of News and Sports, and Greg McArthur, an investigative reporter and the lead writer of the article that we have been called to discuss today.
Mr. Chairman, let me begin by thanking you and the Press Council for convening this hearing. And Ms. Harrison, we appreciate the opportunity to discuss these important questions around the use of anonymous sources. I will speak to the principles and practices of our journalism, to our approach to the story being discussed today, and to the four questions raised by the Ontario Press Council.
As you know, unlike some newspapers, The Globe and Mail is a voluntary member of the Ontario Press Council and we believe in and have invested in the transparency of our journalism and how it is crafted. We have a public Code of Conduct and a senior position of Public Editor, who deals with such issues raised by readers. The Globe and Mail has very high standards for its work and we are happy to have this opportunity to explain those.
Journalists in a democracy play a vital role in bringing stories of public interest to light and I am proud of the work our journalists have done. This story, at its heart, is about the actions and background of a public figure who has much power and responsibility over the lives of our readers and the functioning of this city. This story met a very high standard of public interest, which I will explain, and was subjected to the most rigorous standards of reporting that we could apply, including repeated efforts to get a response from members of the Ford family, multiple interviews with key sources and additional, corroborative interviews with those sources by senior editors and legal counsel, all over an 18-month period. I am proud of those standards, the rigorous process applied to this work of investigative reporting, and the outstanding and important journalism that it produced.
While we understand that some people don’t like critical stories written about politicians or other community leaders, it is the responsibility of journalists to document facts that perhaps those leaders don’t want to be known. Public leaders have many opportunities to tell their story and those stories are covered as well, but the voting public and society at large needs to know much more than what elected officials want published. Ultimately it is up to the public to decide what to do with the information, but journalists need to be impartial witnesses and publish as much reasonable and defensible information as they can so that citizens, who do not have access to the same resources to question and challenge authority, can make up their own minds.
Ms. Harrison said this article could be used in a partisan way. It is important to note that there were no motives, partisan or otherwise, in our work. In fact, unlike some media, we have written positively as well as critically about the Fords, and have even, in the past year, published an article by Doug Ford on the issue of public transit. Our work on this story was driven only by the principles of full disclosure in matters of public concern, of which the commercial trafficking or drugs surely is one.
Mr. Chairman, this investigation began, as much great journalism does, with some simple questions about public officials. Our reporters and editors wanted to better understand the newly elected mayor, his powerful brother and the events that shaped them. We did not start research on this story with any expectation, especially that it would become about Doug Ford’s ties to the drug trade. Surprisingly, at the time, there was little information on the public record about the Fords’ family background. This was especially curious given Rob and Doug Fords’ repeated statements about their family’s integrity, and given that family’s long and admirable history in public life.
Starting in late 2011, our reporting began to explore that family background, and the more people we spoke with, the more it became apparent that the drug trade had been a part of the lives of Doug Ford and his siblings, and that they were known for that amongst their peer group in central Etobicoke. Given the serious public concern about drug trafficking in Toronto, and given Doug Ford’s own statements against the drug trade, we felt this information was irrefutably in the public interest.