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Monday, December 27

  1. page Approaching Subjects edited Approaching the subject of an investigation (The original draft version of this Investigative …
    Approaching the subject of an investigation
    (The original draftversion of this
    Investigative journalism, perhaps more than any other type of reporting, has the great potential to cause harm to the subject or subjects of a story. Therefore, a reporter must commit to stringent standards of care when pursuing information for an investigative report. Doing so is not only part of the journalist’s ethical responsibility, but it also provides a defense against any future legal repercussions.
    The landmark Grant v. Torstar decision is particularly significant to the investigative journalist. Essentially, it allows reporters the opportunity to be wrong about aspects of their story, as long as they can prove that they made a thorough attempt to get the truth. As journalism professor Dean Jobb explains, “it shifts the focus away from what was published or broadcast… and places it squarely on the conduct of the reporters and editors who produced the story” (2009).
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  2. page Deciding to Publish edited When is a story ready to publish? The (The original version ... by Zoe McKnight McKnight) …

    When is a story ready to publish?
    The(The original version
    by Zoe McKnightMcKnight)
    Freedom does not negate responsibility. It is vital that the media act responsibly in reporting facts
    on matters of public concern, holding themselves to the highest journalistic standards
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  3. page Deciding to Publish edited When is a story ready to publish? The original version of this entry was written by Zoe McKnigh…

    When is a story ready to publish?
    The original version of this entry was written by Zoe McKnight

    Freedom does not negate responsibility. It is vital that the media act responsibly in reporting facts
    on matters of public concern, holding themselves to the highest journalistic standards
    Whether an investigative journalist digs down to answer the 5 Ws of a story, or whether he or she answers just one – “How did it come to happen?” – the whole truth may never show up. Cashore, despite dedicating the better part of his career to the Mulroney/Schreiber saga, admits that we still don’t know what really went on behind closed doors. No doubt there is a gray area, but an investigative reporter succeeds as the gray turns to black and white. In practice, that distillation process, in some ways as opaque as the truth itself, may begin and end with a gut feeling. But in between the story has been triple-checked, edited, vetted, scrutinized by experienced journalists with the deepest commitment to responsible communication in accordance with principles of accuracy determined in newsrooms and now recognized by the Supreme Court.
    By Zoe McKnight
    Ryerson University
    MJ Candidate '11

    6. References
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  4. page edited ... "Reportage" Story Selection and Editing ... in newsworthiness Judicious edit…
    Story Selection and Editing
    in newsworthiness
    Judicious editing
    Transparency in presentation
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  5. page Transparency with Sources edited ... Introduction “A reporter is only as good as their source.” It is a colloquial phrase that req…
    “A reporter is only as good as their source.” It is a colloquial phrase that requires reporters to chase, woo and seduce sources into supplying information they otherwise would not disclose. However, this competitive belief system can easily lead to a slippery slope of deception and lies.
    In theThe landmark 2009 decision
    Grant v. Torstar, the landmark case set the precedent for what becameTorstar created the public
    Deception of sources can come in many forms from the extreme (the use of undercover tactics or hidden cameras) to the greyer area of misrepresenting motives. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel list a string of possible deceptions that include “bluffing sources, failing to level with sources about the real point of the story…[and] lying to sources about the point of stories” (97). Janet Malcolm famously considers some kind of deception almost inevitable for journalists, whom she describes as “morally indefensible” predators preying on a subject’s weaknesses without remorse (1). When transparency with a source is compromised, the reporter-source relationship can quickly become a legally and ethically messy power struggle. When a reporter uses deception, a “collision in values” arises to produce a journalistic paradox (Foreman 269).
    Journalists' ethics codes such as those of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the (U.S.) Society of Professional Journalists do not explicitly prohibit lying, but do state (in the SPJ's words) that ethical journalists are expected to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable. The code states that journalists should treat sources and subjects “as human beings deserving of respect” (Foreman 89), which is hard to reconcile with respect. To lie is to mislead and to mislead is to be unfair to the subject. According to Aristotle, lying is “mean and culpable” and should be avoided if truthful means are available (Bok 32).
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  6. page Corrections and Retractions edited ... Setting the record straight (The original version of this entry was written by Ramya Jegathe…
    Setting the record straight
    (The original version of this entry was written by Ramya Jegatheesan)
    media today."
    – Jeff Cohen, founder of media watch group FAIR (quoted in Media Reform and Democracy)
    He followed 12001,200 factual errors
    Sometimes, errors persist even after they have been disproved. Almost one in five Americans seem to think Barack Obama is Muslim according to a 2010 Pew Research Center survey (media-ocracy). This number went up from March 2009, when the Pew Research Center found that only 11 percent of Americans believed this (media-ocracy). The culprit? 60 percent of those who believe President Obama is a Muslim got that idea from the media, with television media leading the way (media-ocracy).
    Kovach and Rosenstiel include in their elements of journalism three principles, which speak to the necessity of correcting errors. The first is that "journalism's first obligation is to the truth," and the second is that "its essence is a discipline of verification" (5). Both of these speak to journalism's function in giving the "people the information they need to be free and self-governing" (Kovach and Rosenstiel 5). In other words, the press' role is to practice journalism in the public's interest.
    Apart from the obvious that news that fails to tell the truth is no longer journalism but fiction and hardly something the public can act on, we live in vastly different times. The internet and the sheer volume of knowledge that people are drowning in have created a different reality for journalists. With a few strokes of the key, almost anyone can publish on the web from anywhere in the world. Information is no longer a steady trickle, but a constant downpour (Postman). In his speech “Informing ourselves to death,” Postman argues that we “live in a world that … makes no sense to us” and that means we’ll believe almost anything “because there is no reason not to believe”. For journalists to gain and keep the public's trust in such an environment, truth and a system of verification are essential. According to Media scholar D. Charles Whitney, “Nothing is more crucial to a news organization than its reputation for accuracy, and nothing is more crucial to establishing this reputation than the honest, timely, and public admission of errors” (quoted in Maier 4).
    “Errors can be forgiven, but confession is required,” was the conclusion reached by the ASNE Credibility Project, which spent three years trying to foster audience trust at eight test-site newspapers (quoted in Maier 5-6). A U.S. national survey found that most newspaper readers “feel better” when they see errors corrected and published (Maier 2), and that many read the corrections box regularly (Maier 5-6). But many Americans, 63 percent, believe that news stories are often inaccurate according to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey report (“Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade low”). The Pew Research Center survey also found that only 21 percent believe news organizations are willing to “admit their mistakes” (“Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade low”). The story is not that much different when it comes to Canadians. A 2008 Canadian Media Research Consortium study found that two thirds of Canadians believe that news organizations “cover up their mistakes” (The Credibility Gap 5), and 48 percent of Canadians believe “news stories are often inaccurate” (The Credibility Gap 6).
    KovachAs Kovach and Rosenstiel
    There are so many ways for the public to point out errors in the media now. Readers can email journalists and editors. They can sound off on their own blogs. They can comment at the end of an article. They can alert error compilation sites such as Silverman’s Regret the Error. They can hear about it on fake news shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And if they google the story, all these other critiques of that story will pop up as well. News organizations cannot get away with ignoring their mistakes without looking like fools. The lack of acknowledgment and correction will eat away at an organization’s credibility. As Kovach and Rosenstiel observe, "audiences expect their new facts to become part of the record" (21). It is not a matter of if an error gets found out, but when. And if a news organization then fails to correct its errors, it is also cutting off the conversation with its audience and potentially future news subjects and sources. People may no longer be so willing to talk to an organization with a reputation for erroneous reporting and reluctance for acknowledging and correcting it. Ordinary people, after all, may have no recourse to restoring their reputation or correcting the facts beyond asking the offending publication to rectify their mistakes by printing a retraction or correction. Not everyone has thousands of dollars to spend taking a news organization to court.
    admit it. Stevie Cameron, a journalist, who was accused of being an RCMP informant by the Globe and Mail in a major article by William Kaplan says she spent around 160 000 to 170 000 dollars going to court to help clear her name (Cameron 2010). 60 000 dollars came through a fundraiser organized by fellow journalists, but the rest she had to come up with herself (Cameron 2010). “It was very harmful to me, and it cost me a fortune,” she said in a phone interview (Cameron 2010). “I kept having to sell RRSPs to pay for it” (Cameron 2010). Cameron says she was unable to work while fighting the issue in the courts (2010). When RCMP Supt. Alan Mathews admitted under oath that the material the RCMP received from Cameron was all in the public record or in material that the RCMP got from the same sources that gave the information to journalists, and that the RCMP had little interaction with Cameron, no one reported it or corrected their stories (Cameron 2010). No news organization clarified that Cameron had been unknowingly, unwillingly and wrongfully coded as an informant so that the RCMP could get a search warrant to raid a helicopter factory (Cameron 2010).
    The law
    In the Grant v. Torstar Corp., the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the public interest responsible communication defence protects journalists even when their work “contain[s] false imputations,” but the Supreme Court also stressed that “the right to free expression does not confer a license to ruin reputation” (Grant v. Torstar Corp 2009).
    The catch, however, is that in order to use this defence the media has to show that it acted “responsibly in attempting to verify the information” and that it followed professional best practices (Grant v. Torstar Corp 2009). One could make the case that correcting information once an organization is aware of its error, is part of acting responsibly and pursuing professional best practices. In its decision, the Supreme Court also cautioned that a news publisher who is found to have acted with “reckless indifference to truth” or published with “knowledge of falsity” would be guilty of malice (Grant v. Torstar Corp 2009). According to the Court, “A defendant who has acted with malice in publishing defamatory allegations has by definition not acted responsibly” (Grant v. Torstar Corp 2009).

    An error by any other name
    Not all errors that need correction are of a factual nature. Some might classify as errors in reporting, the lack of balance in telling a story. Maier writes in his paper on corrections in the news that researchers have classified errors of both fact and meaning (3). Errors of fact fall into the following categories: “misquotes, spellings, names, ages, other numbers, titles, addresses, other locations, time and dates” (3). Errors of meaning, on the other hand, can include “overemphasis, under-emphasis, omission, and misleading headlines (3). For example, FAIR (Fair and Accuracy in Reporting) wrote a wish list of media corrections they would like to see. It included the following wish:
    The Hutchins Commission made an interesting observation. “It is no longer enough to report the fact truthfully. It is now necessary to report the truth about the fact (quoted in Kovach and Rosenstiel 42).
    Corrections should not hide in the closet
    Michael Finkel wrote an article for the Times Magazine in 2001 called “Is Youssaf Malé a slave?”. Later it was discovered that the article was a fake. The Youssaf Malé, Finkel wrote about was a composite character (Finkel Editor’s note). While the New York Times published a retraction on its website in an editor’s note appended to the bottom of the article, it is in tiny print and you still do not know that the article you are reading is a fake until you reach the end of the first page, and that is only if you choose to read the fine print. Many readers may not. They may just click on page two and continue reading. Because the entire article is an error, one could argue the New York Times should have a line or two right below the byline letting readers know that this is the case and then invite them to read the editor’s note that is appended at the bottom of the page.
    In that same vein, articles
    News organizations should not
    prominent spots in their publication so they
    be enough. Maier argues that “inviting corrections” and putting them in a consistent location each time is not enough (15).
    Silverman, founder of
    be overlooked. Follow upFollow-up is critical
    Works Cited
    Nov. 2010. <>.
    Cameron, Stevie. Telephone interview. 25 Oct. 2010.
    Finkel, Michael. New York Times. Is Youssouf Male a Slave, 18 Nov. 2001. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. <>.
    Grant v. Torstar Corp., 2009 SCC 61. Supreme Court of Canada. 22 Dec. 2009. Supreme Court of Canada- Decisions. 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. <>.
    Hodgson v. Canadian Newspapers Company Limited. Court of Appeal for Ontario. 22 June 2000. Guide to Ontario Courts. 22 June 2000. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. <>.
    Kovach, Bill, and Tom Rosenstiel. The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. New York: Crown, 2001. Print.
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  7. page Reportage edited ... (3) provide the context in which the statements were made. The Supreme Court of Canada formul…
    (3) provide the context in which the statements were made.
    The Supreme Court of Canada formulated the above test in the context of a decision that created the larger defence of responsible communication in the public interest. Like the British reportage defence, the Canadian Supreme Court finished the discussion of reportage with the following statement: “As always, the ultimate question is whether publication was responsible in the circumstances (Grant v. Torstar).”
    above still has to go through allmust meet the same ten other factors that apply to PIRC. This would seem to make the pursuit of a defence of reportage in court redundant,criteria for PIRC - except for the fact that under reportage athe key element of responsible journalism is dismissed: verification. Under
    In practice, verifying the four requirements for establishing a reportage defence coincides and intersects with many of the PIRC elements. In the absence of any further parameters from Canadian case law, and in view of the fact that the Supreme Court expressly quoted British case law on reportage when discussing it in Grant v. Torstar, it is not a stretch to believe that at least the first few cases of reportage in Canada will look to British cases involving reportage to find the elements that will meet the four criteria set out above. Naturally, reportage in Canada will at some point develop its own standing, considering that PIRC itself departs from Reynolds in some points.
    The Supreme Court of Canada in fact expressly referenced the four relevant British cases decided on reportage so far, namely Al-Fagih v. H.H. Saudi Research & Marketing, Charman v. Orion, Prince Radu v. Houston, and finally, Roberts v. Gable (Grant v. Torstar).
    A propos
    Bearing all that law in mind, let’s look into an anecdotal sample case where reportage could be used as a defence for a journalist publishing somebody else’s defamatory comment without verifying the truth of those comments, simply because the fact that the comment was made is more important than the comment per se.
    political blog of Philipe Preville on the website of Toronto
    Did Spacing Magazine and Toronto Life defame Rob Ford by calling him a "fat fuck"? Let's see how the reportage defence could help them in this case.
    First of all, calling anybody a “fat fuck”, a schoolyard-like insult, is a defamatory statement per se, whatever this expression actually means. Repeating that by posting the video online is just as defamatory, even if the expression had been beeped out, which it wasn’t.
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  8. page The Grant Judgment edited ... Full text The full ruling in Grant v. Torstar is found at the Supreme Court's website: http:/…
    Full text
    The full ruling in Grant v. Torstar is found at the Supreme Court's website:
    A concise commentary on the ruling is Jobb, Dean: "The responsible communication defence: What's in it for journalists?", December 23, 2009.

    The eight factors
    To uphold a libel defence of "responsible communication", a Canadian court must be convinced of the public interest in the matter and the defendant publisher's "diligen[ce] in trying to verify the allegation, having regard to:
    (h) any other relevant circumstances."
    (Grant v. Torstar Corp., 2009 SCC 61, para. 126B.)
    For commentary on the ruling, see:
    - Jobb, Dean: "The responsible communication defence: What's in it for journalists?", December 23, 2009.
    - Rosner, Cecil: "What exactly is responsible journalism?", December 30, 2009,
    - Fairhurst, Ted: "'A huge sea change' in libel law", February 18, 2010.

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