Our use of anonymous sources in last weekend's Ford family story sparked a raging debate about media ethics that ran through the week.
Ethical quandaries have continued to present themselves. On Monday morning, we published a story saying that a member of Mayor Rob Ford's office had spoken to police about the alleged crack video. One source had told our reporters about the circumstances and the people involved; a second source confirmed the information, but not the names of the officials in the mayor's office. We published the story without the names, following our policy that all information in The Globe must be double sourced. It was later confirmed that one of the officials was David Price, a friend of the Fords from their youth whom we subsequently profiled on Wednesday based on a number of days of research. While we were in possession of Mr. Price's name on Sunday, we opted not to use it because of lack of verification.
I explained some of our decisions in last weekend's letter and the video below.
Our reporters received other startling tips through the week that we also opted not to publish for lack of confirmation, including in the early days of the week the Dixon Road address that has become the latest media target in the frenzy around the alleged crack video. It's hard to remember a Canadian story so riddled with rumour and innuendo.
Our readers reacted swiftly to our Ford family coverage, did so well beyond our site. The main story, on the family's history with illicit drugs was widely read and shared around the world. About one-quarter of the readers who clicked on the article through a mobile device did so from Twitter. Nearly as many read it through Facebook, where you could find a vigorous discussion of the piece. We opted to keep comments closed on our own site, for legal reasons, as we feel we would be viewed as the publisher of such comments. That is not the case for Facebook comments, in our view.
The feedback we received was instant and ranged from harsh criticism to abiding admiration. I received about 150 e-mails over the weekend – of them, 95 were negative. My voicemail reached its limit Sunday evening, with negative (profanely so) messages prompted largely by a sequence of television and radio programs on The Globe's coverage.
Here's a range of views:
- “What a disgrace – no names, no real facts, just nebulous hearsay.”
- “This is disgusting journalism and does beg the question whether The Globe is full of maggots.”
- “The Globe has sunk to a new low. Tabloid journalism at its worst.”
- “UNbelievable. UNprofessional ... to coin some of your marketing mantra. Why is such an esteemed torch-bearer of common-sense journalism reducing itself to Toronto Star-like tripe ...? I am on the verge of UNsubscribing.”
- “Principled and courageous and reflecting excellent and thorough reporting.”
- “What most impresses me is the integrity and impartiality shown by The Globe – and of course the resources and skill necessary to unearth such a tangled history.”
- “The research contributes to the growth of public awareness regarding the inept and ethically dubious mayoral leadership we are experiencing in the City of Toronto.”
- “I don’t like the Fords or their politics. But this week, I learned I liked the media much less ... There is a lack of respect for human dignity when the faces and identities of multiple accusers remain hidden, yet they create the rope by which we hang people in the media.”
Many told us they had cancelled their subscriptions. Our circulation department reports, at last count, five cancellations attributed to Ford coverage. Our overall rate of cancellations was no more than that of a typical week.
Another political storm, in Ottawa over the Senate, may be having a more serious impact on the country. The departure of Nigel Wright from the Prime Minister's Office is already having a marked impact on business relations with Ottawa. Investors are looking for further clarity on the Harper government's stated principles against state-owned foreign enterprises owning of key assets in the resource sectors. Mr. Wright was not only a central figure in crafting those rules, sparked by the Chinese takeover of Nexen, he was also an important voice in explaining them.
Among the transactions now mired in the political distractions at play in Ottawa is the sale of B.C.'s Ridley Terminals. More than 50 potential bidders have expressed interest, and a formal auction was to begin on June 1. That is now off, likely until the fall, in part because of uncertainty about the status of state-owned enterprises in the process. Getting a straight answer from Ottawa these days is as tough for business as it is for the media.
On Monday, The Globe launches World Insider, a daily examination of the most important international developments and global issues, written by a group of experienced and interesting experts, veteran diplomats and on-the-ground insiders from around the world.
Exclusively for Globe Unlimited subscribers, World Insider will each morning offer a detailed analysis of a current world news development and its potential effects on Canadians, their investments, and their future – an informed and essential road map that cuts through the noise of international headlines.
World Insider is produced by The Globe's award-winning international-affairs columnist Doug Saunders and by foreign editor Craig Offman, who oversees the most extensive international coverage in the Canadian media, with bureaus in Beijing, New Delhi, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Rome, London, New York, Washington and soon Rio de Janeiro.
Here's what you can expect:
- The world this week: Every Monday morning, international-affairs columnist Doug Saunders or one of his colleagues will provide a wide-angle look at a development likely to shape the week’s news, and a guide to the most important readings on the subject.
- Middle East insider: Every Friday, Middle East writer Patrick Martin will provide an insider’s account of the most important developments in the Middle East and North Africa, drawing on his unparalleled range of contacts and experiences.
- Americas insider: A team of writers led by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist David Shribman will offer an insider’s analysis of U.S. politics, with a focus on its effects on the economy and the wider world. They will be joined by top observers of Central and South American affairs, centred around The Globe’s new Rio de Janeiro-based Americas bureau.
- Diplomatic insider: A team of experienced former diplomats will provide a behind-the-scenes autopsy of the diplomatic implications of international events, focusing on Canada’s role in the world and with an eye on looming, unnoticed trends.
- BRICS insider: The Globe has won acclaim and awards as the Canadian leader in coverage of events in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Our network of expert observers in these countries will provide an inside look at the developments most likely to change the world from within these crucial countries.
We know that Globe readers are devoted followers of international affairs and global trends, and expect the highest standards in world analysis and opinion. We encourage your feedback.
Enjoy the weekend,