‘As public editor with responsibility for overseeing the Star’s policies, I agree with the Star’s concerns about Desmond Cole’s recent actions.’
By Kathy English for the Toronto Star
“It is not appropriate for Star journalists to play the roles of both actor and critic.”
– Toronto Star Newsroom Policy and Journalistic Standards Manual
It has long been Toronto Star policy that journalists do not take public stands on public issues or become the news. This policy is aligned with longstanding journalistic values and the ethics policies of most credible news organizations in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. These policies hold that journalists must not cross over into direct activism and personal participation in causes that go beyond their writing.
Our policies state that Star journalists must avoid participation in demonstrations or signing of petitions, including online petitions and social media campaigns. Further, “editorial employees” must “avoid active participation in community organizations and pressure groups that take positions on public issues.”
Given these standards, I know I was not the only Star journalist who became somewhat uneasy upon reading that a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board came to an abrupt end recently when journalist and activist Desmond Cole admonished board members for failing to destroy carding data, then stalled the proceedings by refusing to leave the speaker’s chair.
As the Star’s Wendy Gillis reported, Cole, then a freelance Star columnist, had been making a public deputation about the controversial police practice of “carding” when he announced he would launch an immediate protest if the board did not agree to put stricter constraints on police access to the data collected through what he termed the “illicit” practice.
Until this week, Cole wrote a biweekly column for the Star’s opinion pages. On Thursday, without any advance notice to the Star, he took to social media to announce he has decided to stop writing the column.