When a story like the Quebec mosque attack breaks, it takes time to get the facts straight.

By Sylvia Stead for the Globe and Mail
Today and yesterday, the website and the front page of the newspaper have been and are dominated by extensive coverage of the attack on the Quebec City mosque. Much more coverage is and will be done in the coming hours and days and readers still have many questions: mostly about motive, but also what kind of weapon and where did the shooter get it?

But when it happened, a few newspaper readers wondered on Monday morning why the shooting was a single column above the fold, while a story about technology leaders asking Ottawa to issue visas after the Trump immigration order was the four-column lead story?

Here’s one from Pickering, Ont.: “What the heck!! ‘Top tech leaders…’ more important than mass shooting at mosque?? Read about this on Twitter last night, so surely ample time to headline in today’s paper. Reason why not????”

Another reader wondered why the two stories with the same number of “column inches” couldn’t have been flipped, with the shooting taking the dominant position.

These are good questions and with time and more details, I have no doubt the shooting would have been the dominant image.

But there wasn’t much time and there even fewer details on Sunday night.

First, you have to understand that reporters in bureaus are constantly on call even long past normal work hours. Secondly, The Globe and Mail does not have a bureau in Quebec City, so Montreal-based reporter Les Perreaux jumped into action as soon as he heard the news.

Although the shooting in Quebec happened just before 8 p.m., there were no news reports for close to an hour, as far as I can tell.

Mr. Perreaux said he was getting ready for bed when he heard reports of an incident at a mosque. He sent a red alert to the editors at 9:17 p.m. of a possible shooting and major police operation. It was 20 minutes before the police briefing and he filed immediately after that for online. While waiting for the briefing, Mr. Perreaux was making many calls and watching social media. The Montreal newspaper La Presse and later a Reuters reporter had unconfirmed details about a number of people who were killed. As some details started to come in, including an interview with a police spokesman, there were also false stories from other media including the wrong names of suspects.

Continue reading this story on The Globe and Mail website, where it was first published.

Sylvia Stead is the Public Editor of the Globe and Mail.