VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Readers opening up Monday’s edition of the Vancouver Sun are finding an open letter from the editor in chief, who is apologizing for a controversial op-ed published over the weekend.
After immense blow-back from its own newsroom, Postmedia — which owns both the Sun and the Province newspapers — says it is reviewing its editorial processes.
The op-ed, penned by a Mount Royal University instructor, uses data from a Conservative think tank to argue that diversity, tolerance, and inclusion are not in Canada’s best interest. It’s been condemned as a racist and white nationalist piece by many.
Writers for the Sun and the Province quickly blasted it on Twitter, one calling it “a complete pile of absolute garbage.”
1. What a complete pile of absolute garbage that op-ed is.
2. I have no idea why it was published. IMO it never should have been and is inexcusably wrong.
3. Rank-and-file journos don’t control op-eds, editors do.
4. Let’s not forget reporters/columnists here do great work daily https://t.co/I0d61LADIR
— Rob Shaw (@robshaw_vansun) September 7, 2019
Following backlash, Editor in Chief Harold Munro quickly apologized, admitting it was published before he had a chance to read it.
“An opinion article by Mark Hecht published in Saturday’s Weekend Review section and online contained views that do not meet the journalistic standards of The Vancouver Sun and do not represent the views of our editors and journalists,” the apology reads.
The Sun’s editor @haroldmunro is pledging to review the paper’s “local workflow and editorial processes” following the op-ed’s publication. The piece argued that Canada should abandon diversity, tolerance, and inclusion, citing data from the @GatestoneInst @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/L8Arz0NiHu
— Kurtis Doering (@KDnewsguy) September 9, 2019
So how does something like this happen?
Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says this is symptomatic of an industry which being is stretched too thin.
“I think the problem is because most newsrooms have been hollowed out, mostly by the quest for digital efficiencies so that news organizations are laying people off, or making their newsrooms smaller, asking for their newsrooms to produce more content with fewer resources,” he explains. “So mistakes like this, which used to hardly ever happen, are now happening with greater frequency.”
While he admits it’s rare for a publication to have to retract an opinion piece, Dvorkin notes it seems to be happening with “increasing frequency.”
“It’s something that we need to be more aware of, because it’s clearly a problem for news organizations,” he says.
We were all in the newsroom working hard today to tell stories we hope our community cares about. None of us had anything to do with this. If I knew this was being published, I would have said something. And my co-workers would have done so too. https://t.co/wpfjPmwz3Q
— Kim Bolan (@kbolan) September 7, 2019
As for whether the paper’s reputation recover from Saturday’s publication, Dvorkin admits it will be difficult.
“But I think that one of the things that news organizations need to be more aware of than they have been recently is that their reputation is really important,” he says. “The credibility of a news organization with the public is more important now than ever before at a time when the public is being deluged with dubious information, so called ‘fake news.'”
Dvorkin believes news organizations have an “obligation” to treat readers as “citizens rather than just as consumers or data points.”
After the firestorm of criticism in response to Mark Hecht’s editorial, many were heartened by the members of the Vancouver Sun and Province newsrooms who took to social media to speak out against the piece.
The response from the journalists is a good thing, according to Dvorkin.
“I think it’s a good sign that there’s a high sense of ethical component, ethical obligation on the part of people who work in newsrooms,” he notes. “The question is, do their managers have an equivalent sense of obligation to their public as much as the denizens of the newsroom do.”
Apologies we’re late to weigh in on the @VancouverSun @theprovince racist editorial debacle. Clearly our members don’t stand by this. We’ve been hearing complaints, and many have spoken out publicly already, denouncing the piece. Still can’t believe it actually made it to press.
— Unifor Local 2000 (@Unifor2000) September 8, 2019