Star public editor: Press council provided opportunity for greater public understanding of journalism
The Ontario Press Council was exercising its right and responsibility in holding the Toronto Star to account for its reporting on Mayor Rob Ford “crack” video, writes the newspaper's public editor Kathy English.
By Kathy English, public editor of the Toronto Star
On any given day, in the course of doing their job of holding politicians and public officials to account, journalists ask — and expect answers to — many thousands of questions.
Isn’t it only fair then that journalists, too, be held to public account and be called on to answer questions about their work and how they do their jobs?
As a reader told me in a telephone message following the Ontario Press Council’s public hearing into the Toronto Star’s reporting of its explosive May 17 story about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and the “crack video” scandal: “People have every right to question the Star too.”
Indeed, journalists are not — and must not be — above the public accountability we expect of those we question. When called to account, we owe our audiences straight answers.
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While the Star is ultimately accountable to its readers, its longtime commitment to the Ontario Press Council is a strong statement of its commitment to accountability and transparency. Indeed, the Star was a founding member of the OPC and played a significant role in creating this important means for the public to hold the press to account.
In January, 1970, the Star’s then-president and publisher, Beland Honderich, first proposed the creation of regional press councils in Canada to a Senate committee on mass media.
“Star publisher says press councils would keep paper on toes,” and “Press councils urged to safeguard the public” read the headlines on the Star’s reports on its submission to the Senate committee.
The Star’s commitment to the press council has been reaffirmed repeatedly at the highest levels, most recently by John Honderich, chairman of the board of Torstar Corp., the Star’s parent company.
“In my view nothing has changed,” Honderich wrote last December in a column questioning why some newspapers were pulling out of press councils. “The responsibility and the need remain the same.
“For Canadian papers to argue somehow that they can carry on without any accountability — save and except forcing disgruntled readers to sue in court — strikes me as high-handed and insensitive.”
To continue reading this column, please go to thestar.com, where this was originally published.