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Public editor: The far-flung reach of The Globe and Mail

More than just a bird: A Black-Headed Weaver.


I receive a number of e-mails from long-standing Globe readers, some with questions or complaints and others just remembering past experiences. Here are a few from the past week:

"In the mid-90s, I was living in Colombo (Sri Lanka). My employer had a subscription to the Saturday Globe and Mail (don't ask!) and I was at the bottom of the circulation list. At some point, I decided to have a little R&R in the Maldives. By then, I had a stack of three or four unread Globe and Mails. I left on vacation with them, in a large transparent bag. I flew from Colombo to Male (capital of the Maldives). From Male to the island where I had booked my package, we flew on DCH-6 Twin Otter (a Canadian plane) on floats. The planes were operated by Canadian pilots. The Twin Otter is a smallish plane (20+2). There is no cockpit. We boarded with our luggage. I could see the pilot eyeing my bag of Globe and Mails. During the flight, he turned around and asked me where the hell I got hold of these Globe and Mails. I explained. I think I saw some drool. 'Are you the one picking us up? I asked. 'Yes,' he replied. 'I will give you my Globe and Mail then,' I said. I was never more confident of the return of a plane. I could have sold my Globe and Mails for good money. Male is 14,068 km from Toronto. No point on Earth is farther away than 20,000 km from any other."

From Alain Gingras in Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, Que.

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On Wednesday, Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse forwarded a note from a reader lamenting the end of the birding column from many years ago. For those of you who remember, Peter Whelan was the writer. His last column appeared in 1999 and he died later that year. "Why not make the effort to name the bird in today's photo? It is a Black-Headed Weaver. I am a birder who still laments The Globe's decision years ago to drop its then-excellent birding column. To publish a picture titled 'a bird' without even making the effort to name it speaks to the 'block-headed' dumbing down of journalism in general," our reader wrote. Included above is the photo in question of the Black-Headed Weaver.

Here's another reader questioning, quite rightly, the use of an "ambulance driver" rather than "paramedic" in an article. "What the editors of the article in Saturday's Globe about the shooting in the daycare in Gatineau failed to notice was the reporters' choice of the words 'ambulance driver' rather than 'paramedic' in their account. Would they describe a doctor as a 'stethoscope user,' a teacher as a 'blackboard or whiteboard writer,' or a policeman as a 'police car driver?' To define a job or profession by a conveyance or tool used by the people doing that multifaceted job does a disservice to those who have trained for and carry out that important work. If some day you open your eyes and see the face of a paramedic working to save your life, you will be glad that he or she can do much more than drive the ambulance!"

This reader asked about the newspaper play of what the reader thought was an important story. "In today's paper, Saturday April 6, hidden on Page A11 was an article entitled 'Energy board changes pipeline complaint rules'. Easy to overlook and yet the content of this short article is truly frightening and outrageous. Surely it deserved a more prominent place – front page would be what I would expect. This is an unbelievable infringement on the basic rights of Canadians. I would hope that The Globe will follow up with a more prominent editorial comment alerting Canadians to this draconian action by the present Harper government. Your job, I hope, is to inform and bring important issues to the attention of your readers, not hide them in the back pages of your publication."

If you have any views to share on Globe journalism, complaints or praise or you want to share your thoughts or history, please e-mail me at

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More


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