05.26.2011 06:38 AM

The Globe and Mail’s mistake

There’s a notice about me on page two of this morning’s Globe (the sharp-eyed Norman Spector noticed it, but I didn’t).  I can’t find it online, so here is the background.  It’s a letter I sent on Tuesday to the Globe’s editor-in-chief, John Stackhouse.

Because the Globe still hasn’t acknowledged (a) they had an obligation to contact me to get my side of the story and (b) they failed to do that, I may well take the matter up with the Ontario Press Council.  I’d be interested in your collective views on that.  In the meantime, here’s the letter that gave rise to the Globe eating some humble pie this morning:

Dear Mr. Stackhouse:

I am writing in regard to a news feature authored by your Zosia Bielski.

In your May 20 edition, Ms. Bielski wrote a profile of TVO journalist Steve Paikin.  In the story, she published the following:

“Does anything, or anyone, ruffle his feathers?

The answer is yes, but even there Mr. Paikin is uncontroversial, for the thorn was Warren Kinsella. In 2009, the Liberal Party operative tried to pressure the host to “unbook” one of his guests, conservative author Kathy Shaidle, or else he would blog about it. Mr. Paikin referred Mr. Kinsella to TVO’s public relations team, a point not taken kindly by the provocateur.

“Once he goes nuclear and e-mails the [education] minister, e-mails the chairman, e-mails the CEO, suddenly now this becomes an example of a Liberal operative putting pressure on a public broadcaster to drop a guest. If we did, how the hell would that have looked – buckling to the request of somebody who basically works for [Ontario Premier] Dalton McGuinty.”

Writing on The Agenda’s blog eight days later, Mr. Paikin shed light on the tussle: “If Warren’s ultimate goal was to deprive Kathy of a ‘platform,’ his approach failed spectacularly.”

It was an uncharacteristically feisty moment for the host, who has seen “Warren” once since, “shook hands with him and said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ ”

Teflon-clad until the end, Mr. Paikin offers, “I am on speaking terms with everybody I know. Whether they’re on speaking terms with me is another question.”

My complaints are as follows:

1.  Ms. Bielski made no attempt to contact me for my side of this story, or even to provide the smallest amount of context.  Ms. Bielski would not have the excuse that she does not know how or where to contact me, as she had previously done so in 2006, when she was a reporter for the National Post.

2.  Following some awkward prose and mixed metaphors in the opening quoted passage, Ms. Bielski states that, as “a Liberal Party operative,” I sought to place pressure on Mr. Paikin to “unbook” Kathy Shaidle, whom she benignly describes as “a conservative author.”  I can state that I contacted Mr. Paikin, as well as many others at TVO, to object to the fact that the network was using tax dollars to play host to a white supremacist; as the author of two books on the subject, I felt comfortable in warning TVO about the mistake they had made.  I provided Mr.Paikin and others at TVO with information about Ms. Shaidle, comprised of cited racist statements ultimately taken from her web site: http://shaidletheracist.blogspot.com/2009/02/file-section-13-complaint-against.html.  Many other citizens wrote to TVO to similarly voice their objections.  None of them were singled out for condemnation in the way that I was, or dismissed as “a Liberal Party operative.”  Ms. Bielski’s statement is therefore erroneous in two crucial respects: one, she accepts without checking Mr. Paikin’s false statement, that I was working as “a Liberal operative” when I made my complaint; two, she accepts a benign and false description of Ms. Shaidle, one that does not permit the reader to understand why I and others complained in the first place.  (Moreover, I can add that I spoke to no politician, at any time, about my concern; I simply dealt directly with TVO, as their web site encourages viewers to do.)

3.  Mr. Paikin, when I wrote to him to state that I intended to write critically about the invitation on my web site, and the fact that TVO initially planned to pay Ms. Shaidle, dismissively replied by email and stated:  “Frankly warren, I haven’t spent any time on this yet today.”  He did not refer me to a “public relations team,” he in fact referred me to a producer, for reasons that are unclear.  In particular, the written record – which I would have been pleased to share with your reporter – will I believe show that I did not “go nuclear.”  I, like others, simply objected to TVO’s decision, and wanted to change it.  I did not, and do not, think that tax dollars should be used to assist the ambitions of racists like Ms. Shaidle.  By providing a false and uncritical platform for Mr.Paikin to “get back” at a person who had apparently irritated him, Ms. Bielski again failed the Globe’s readers, by providing a wholly erroneous characterization of events.  This could have been easily avoided, had she bothered to do the the bare minimum of reporting.

4.  Ms. Bielski goes on – and again fails to provide the slightest amount of balance – when she quotes the subject of her paean as saying my “approach failed miserably.”  She did not inquire if Ms. Shaidle was in fact paid after the public outcry, or if she has ever been invited back to TVO.  Again, she fails the paper’s readers by providing a one-sided and frankly erroneous account, and permits Mr. Paikin to grandstand and whitewash his behaviour.  Mr. Paikin is well-known for his inability to receive anything but adulation; what surprised me, at least, was the Globe’s willingness to facilitate same.

5.  Your reporter concludes this section of the piece by asserting that I – who she refers to as “Warren” in flying quotes, for reasons that are unclear but seem as dismissive as Mr. Paikin had been – met Mr. Paikin since, and shook hands with him.  I do not recall this taking place, at all, and would have told her so if she had bothered to call me.  In fact, all that I recall is Mr. Paikin’s producers asking me to go on his program, and me declining, because of the unprofessional manner in which the Shaidle case was handled.

Your reporter also dealt with me – and, more importantly, her readers – unprofessionally.  I am writing to register a formal complaint and seek a remedy from your office.  In conclusion, I also reserve the right to write about this situation in the newspaper for which I write – and which, coincidentally I am sure, is a competitor to your own.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest opportunity.

Sincerely,

Warren Kinsella

 

26 Comments

  1. Pete says:

    WK, I hate that BS when reporters are sucked into wriitng stuff that hasn’t been properly researched. I do hope you sue the bastards because the G&M holds themselves to be Canada’s newspaper. They should take that responsibility more seriously if they intend to be that paper.

  2. eattv says:

    Question: Since this excerpt is from a puff piece where the main subject is Mr. Paikin and not that POS Shaidle, does the whole journalistic integrity thing apply here? I can see where an article is directly addressing a specific issue that all parties should be contacted. However in this case it seems to be a little side story that server to illustrate that “The Journalist Who Likes Everybody™” has his limits. Could it be seen as an opinion to counter the headline title, and if so, do they need your side of the story? Just interested in your thoughts as a journalist, which I admittedly am not.

    Cheers.

    • Attack! says:

      I’m not a journo, either, but the response seems obvious to me: No. It wasn’t presented as satire, but as factual.

      And WK is, and was portrayed as a real person… not as a hypothetical composite, which this chatty Cathy could have made him into, for the purposes of the story — e.g., as just a generic, unnamed ‘political consultant,’ who once tried to block a certain (also unnamed) guest from appearing. Voila, no harm done.

      But she DID name him , in a reputation- and career-damaging fashion: as a ‘political operative’ (which, yes, he sometimes is, when he’s on contract w. a Party for something, but which he wasn’t, in this case) who allegedly tried to suppress the opp. for free speech of of someone of a diff. political persuasion, in a ham-fisted fashion….

      … rather than as: “a concerned citizen who is a published opponent of hate speech who tried to prevent a demonstrated purveyor of hate speech from being given a free public media platform, which would thereby tacitly condone her views.”

      So, yeah, journalistic standards apply even in puff pieces to ensure that the secondary characters aren’t maligned in the process. Imagine if a puff piece on the PM said… “He’s a very busy man, and reporters keep asking the same q’s over and over again, which wastes everybody’s time, so he found he had to limit the no. of q’s he takes, to get them to cover all the topics they really want to know about. But will take q’s from ANY reporter: except for X, whom, as the PM, points out, is lying bastard who never reports anything right.

      • eattv says:

        Good points. Thanks for answering!

        • Outsider says:

          Also, to that I would add that no matter what the context is, it is the duty of the publication to ensure that all information relating to a person being identified in print is correct. The fact that WK was appearing primarily as a part of one aspect of the story makes it no less important that details relating to him are correct.

  3. Richard says:

    Sounds like it is definitely mop and pail time at the old Globe and Mail. But do you think it’s just sloppiness or laziness, or is there some hidden agenda at work?

  4. JenS says:

    From what you have written it sounds like crap reporting that would not stand up at the Press Council. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why no effort was made to contact you. That’s a key tenet to how libel law, by precedent, now works in Ontario — the reporter must show how they made extensive effort to contact the subject of their statements.

  5. tdotlib says:

    “A profile of TVO broadcaster Steve Paikin on Saturday referred to Warren Kinsella’s objection to TVO hosting a conservative writer. Mr. Kinsella objected as a citizen and not as a “Liberal operative”.

    That’s some weak sauce from the Globe.

    • Warren says:

      Agreed. So, press council? Sue?

      • JenS says:

        I’d at least threaten both.

        I went to a seminar put on by Tony Wong from Blakes a year or so ago on the recent changes to libel law. It was fascinating, and likely speaks to a great deal of what the Globe reporter did wrong here. The not attempting to get ahold of you part would be a huge issue for both libel hearing and press council.

      • Chris P says:

        Press Council first. If you don’t recieve a fair and satisfactory result than sue. I wouldn’t write about it your column either – if your going to pursue this as a private citizen than writing about it at a competitors newspaper will be percieved that you are so doing for personal/readership cagin as gain and/or as ‘liberal operative’ not as a private citizen which is the way it should be handled. Just a thought.

        • Craig Chamberlain says:

          Doesn’t have to be either/or with the complaint and the column. Such is the unique wrath of WK.

      • Craig Chamberlain says:

        SUE? No. You would be giving them too much of your energy, which you need to protect as well. Don’t elevate them.

        SUN column, SUN tv? Definitely.

  6. Definitely push the matter with the press council.

    As a regular reader of your musings and some times contributor I distinctly remember the context of the incident. At that time, and whenever the incident has been referred to since, it was always clear that your objection to K.S. appearing on Paikin’s show had everything to do with the racist and white supremacist writings of the “guest” and nothing at all to do with her particular political bias.

    The defense Paikin proffers is weak sauce too – McGuinty (or a McGuinty supporter or political operative) being afraid of K.S.? [laughter]

    Give us all a break Paikin. Man up.

  7. cylinder88 says:

    The elephant in the room on this issue is why TVO even exists. It bothers you Warren that Shaidle may have been paid. I am far more concerned with the many millions of taxpayer dollars tha McGuinty sends to TVO. Why is the province in the TV business anyway?

  8. JH says:

    Love him or hate him Lord Black certainly has a way with words, especially appropriate here when it comes to the press. To wit: “My experience with journalists authorizes me to record that a very large number of them are ignorant, lazy, opinionated, intellectually dishonest, and inadequately supervised. The ‘profession’ is heavily cluttered with abrasive youngsters who substitute ‘commitment’ for insight, and to a lesser extent, with aged hacks toiling through a miasma of mounting decrepitude. Alcoholism is endemic in both groups.”

  9. Attack! says:

    WK: maybe all Norm Spector saw was this “clarification” added to the end of the original piece, which only undoes one of the two main shortcomings:

    “Editor’s Note: This profile of TVO broadcaster Steve Paikin refers to Warren Kinsella’s objection to TVO hosting a conservative writer. Mr. Kinsella says he objected as a private citizen and not as a “Liberal operative” as he was described in the original newspaper version and an earlier online version.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/steve-paikin-the-journalist-who-likes-everybody/article2030230/singlepage/#articlecontent

    … which doesn’t suffice.

    Problem w. going the Press Council route, tho’, is that QMI famously withdrew from the QC v. of that voluntary association themselves, and just settled a lawsuit with the CBC over that (when one of their exec’s criticized them for that in rather impolitic terms), which’d give the Globe grist to critique that.

    Maybe just pursue it at the professional level, that they’ve deliberately or at least negligently confused what you do in your capacities as a private citizen and a political consultant to the detriment of the latter.

  10. Ed says:

    I think the Press Council is the right move (if you have the time and stomach for the process). I beleive that because they have issue a half-apology. It seems the reason they did that was because they knew they were in the wrong, but did not want to look weak. There in lies the rub. Once you have found yourself to be wrong, you should own up to it. It’s not about appearing weak or strong. It’s about fixing something you did wrong. The Globe clearly has not done that.

  11. Lord Kitchener says:

    Take the high road, don’t sue — but write a clear Sun Column on how your words were twisted and use it as an example of how the conservative media bends the truth; not unlike the Right saying the “Liberal media” does — and then expand on that to show how Hudak is doing same with his rhetorical calisthenics — all hype, no substance. Bonus points if you can make a connection between G&M and Hudak.

    Grits need to distance themselves from the optics of being whiners and self entitled; but, a hard jab back at the G&M is in order. There are bigger fish to fry, namely Hudak/Hillier.

    Plus, isnt there more to lose by putting Paikin in the middle of this? He comes across as biased as Switzerland; but, in the end is smart enough to see past Hudak’s nonsense and Grits need that.

      • Craig Chamberlain says:

        It’s an election year and you could be a target, towards eroding your energy/attention. There could be bigger fish for you to fry, WK. You don’t want to be bogged down with this affair when the next unwanted guest comes knocking — who may be bigger and uglier than this one. Protect your energies and have some fun talking/ writing about this! I suspect embarassing them at your pleasure without the work of a lawsuit would be more satisfying.

        By the way, making a complaint as a private citizen and roasting them in the SUN needn’t be an either/or affair. For whatever number of hats you wear, you are one Warren Kinsella.

  12. MC says:

    I think you could reasonably argue that since it was a puff piece about Paikin, there was no need to specifically name you (if what they were after was an example of how Mr. Paikin does not bend to alleged pressure from a Premier – which is what the example seems designed to provide).

    That said, it’s just as likely that the OPc would view the Globe’s “clarification” as sufficient redress.

  13. Lipman says:

    It is a sad state of affairs when a person like Shaidle gets a platform. I wonder how people from various ethno-cultural backgrounds would feel about her appearance on that show given her history of racist rants and cheapshots. It is remarkable that P and Co. did not do their homework on her. If they did do their homework and had her on the show as a “controversial figure,” then they should be ashamed of themselves.

    It bothers me everytime I’m reminded of KS being on that normally great program.

    • Ab observer says:

      Regardless of Shaidle’s views, I agree that TVO should not be subsidized by the Ontario government.

      I assume in the interest of consistency, all those that object to TVO funding would concur that CBC funding similarly should go by the wayside?

      I mean, we do want to be consistent, don’t we?

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