Memo: Toronto Star announces “independent facilitation process review” of the newsroom’s current culture
The following memo was sent to Toronto Star staff on July 13, from John Honderich, Chair, Torstar Corporation, and Michael Cooke, Editor, Toronto Star. Spelling of Ms. Aulakh’s name is reproduced as it was in the original document.
To all newsroom staff:
We write today to bring you up to date on efforts made by the company over the past month to address concerns that have surfaced over our newsroom culture.
As most of you know, the union has publicly called for an “independent investigation” of the newsroom’s “poisonous workplace” where “harassment” and “bullying” are rife. This came on the heels of the tragic passing of our colleague Ravenna Aulakh. For the record, the union has also filed a grievance on the same matter. Obviously the grievance will be administered in accordance with well established procedures.
But the union’s words are very strong. Very strong indeed. If true, such a workplace environment would not allow for the publication of a great metropolitan newspaper in print and digital, which is everyone’s goal. The union’s assessment is not our view. But in recent conversations with newsroom staff, we have heard legitimate concerns raised and questions posed.
As a result, we put forward several weeks ago a very different and progressive idea to conduct an “independent facilitation process review” of the newsroom’s current culture. This review would be conducted by a seasoned, professional, independent facilitator with significant experience in this field. That individual would be free to ask questions of management and staff, make observations and formulate recommendations to management to address any pertinent areas of concern. We offered a role for the union to join in this process and after some discussions, we are pleased to report they have agreed without any preconditions. We would expect to launch this initiative in mid to late August.
The facilitator will work independently in conducting the review and in developing conclusions and recommendations. We have assigned three senior editors in the newsroom to assist the facilitator: Managing Editor Irene Gentle, City Editor Wendy Metcalfe, and Senior Editor Dianne de Fenoyl. We look forward to the union assigning its own three members. We have also offered the union an opportunity to provide input on the selection of the facilitator. In the coming weeks we will be selecting the facilitator and putting a number of administrative steps in place to ensure this initiative’s success. We intend to keep all newsroom staff fully informed of the process and the important role all of you can play.
There is no doubt we all share a common interest in ensuring our newsroom culture meets the highest standards and allows for the greatest amount of creativity. This is a very special place. We want to make sure it stays that way.
John Honderich – Chair, Torstar Corporation
Michael Cooke – Editor, Toronto Star