Musings —05.26.2011 06:38 AM—
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.