After nearly three decades of membership, Sun Media has decided to pull its 27 daily and community member papers from the Ontario Press Council. The newspaper chain has cited several reasons for quitting the council, chiefly taking issue with the OPC's (perceived) politically correct mentality.

TORONTO//by Lauren McKeon — After nearly three decades of membership, Sun Media has decided to pull its 27 daily and community member papers from the Ontario Press Council. The newspaper chain has cited several reasons for quitting the council, chiefly taking issue with the OPC's (perceived) politically correct mentality.

A Sun Media story quotes from the letter Glenn Garnett, vice-president of editorial at Sun Media, wrote to the Ontario Press Council:

"We no longer believe there is a common cause here … The editorial direction of our newspapers, especially our urban tabloids, is incompatible with a politically correct mentality that informs OPC thinking, in the selection of cases it hears, and the rulings it renders."

When reached by J-Source, Garnett declined to comment further, saying he preferred to let the letter excerpt stand for itself.

"They don't want to be bound by interpretation of competitors on their obligations and objectives as journalists," expands OPC chair Robert Elgie, "They no longer feel it's a common cause, nor a reasonable expectation that this [discord] is going to change."

And, yes, adds Elgie: "They think that the organization is incompatible because it's a politically correct mentality that informs the OPC thinking."

Council cases are chosen and decisions rendered by a committee of peers. Council standards can be changed; proposals to do so are decided on by the Council, whose membership is split between press and the public, headed by an independent chair. Incidentally, two OPC members, Rob Granatstein and Christina Spencer, work for Sun Media papers (the Toronto Sun and Ottawa Sun, respectively); they will no longer sit on the council.

Pre Sun pull-out, the Council’s membership was comprised of 37 daily papers and 191 independent papers.

"We're a creature of the newspapers; we're not a stranger on the street," says Elgie, "The [OPC's] standards were established by the newspapers, not by us."

"I thought we had a pretty good relationship with them [Sun Media]," he adds, "They apparently felt that it isn’t … it disappoints me because I have a lot of regard for many of those people [at the Sun papers]."

Elgie says he hopes to remain on good terms with the Sun chain, but adds that some may feel it was not a good time for Sun Media to leave the council, especially in light of the recent furor over phone hacking in the U.K.
 
Jeffrey Dvorkin, executive director of the Organization of News Ombudsmen, agrees. "They've had so many complaints about their broadcast," he says, "the timing is really awful."

More than that "at a time when the public is asking for more accountability," he adds, "[it] really shows a tin ear on the part of Sun Media." 

–with files from Alexandra Bosanac

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