The Globe and Mail published an editorial
on Friday evening endorsing Christy Clark and the BC Liberals to form
the next government for British Columbia. Adrian Dix and his New
Democrats were deemed by the Globe too "risky." The editorial cited
among key reasons Dix's opposition to the TransMountain pipeline and the
fact that while he presents himself as moderate, he is running with
"left wingers" who would "wield influence."
One might assume that at Canada's
self-styled national newspaper of record the act of advising British
Columbians on who they should choose to elect to run their province
would be considered a weighty and important task. The Globe has
excellent reporters in British Columbia ready and available to offer
their insights and fact check the resulting editorial... one might
think. Instead, the Globe's editorial writer(s)
couldn't properly spell the name of one of the NDP politicians they
declared too "left-wing" and therefore risky. It's George Heyman, not,
as the editorial had it, George Hayman.
Even more startling, the editorial embraces
the TransMountain pipeline even as it gets wrong what stuff that
pipeline now carries, describing it as a "gas pipeline that runs from
Alberta and ends in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby" that is proposed to
begin carrying oil. Certainly the Globe's reporting team based in
Vancouver knows the existing TransMountain pipeline already carries oil.
Which raises the question: Who wrote the Globe editorial, how was it fact checked if at all, and who gave it final approval?
The Tyee sent such questions to Globe
editor in chief John Stackhouse and Globe public editor Sylvia Stead on
Sunday at 4:36 Pacific Time, two days after the editorial had been
published, its errors still in place. Stead responded, saying, "As you
know editorials are unsigned. I have been alerted to two errors which
are being corrected." (Hours later, the fixes hadn't been made.)
The Tyee sent back an email saying:
"Unsigned, yes, but someone has to write 'em. And there must be some
process for coming to such an important decision. Is John Stackhouse
involved in framing and writing them? Do you draw from reporters or
editors on the ground here in BC when you write your editorials
pertaining to key BC issues? Do you fact check your editorials with
people in BC who are covering the issues?
"Or would it be fair to say that this
editorial was written and okayed in the Toronto offices without checking
the final copy with anyone in BC offices?"
Stead said she couldn't respond until this
morning, when she sent an email noting that Stackhouse had interviewed
both Dix and Clark on editorial board visits to B.C. and been part of a
group process arriving at the decision about who to endorse. However,
"Newspapers including The Globe do not say who the writer was because
the editorials are the voice of the newspaper." And, "The editorial was
edited in Toronto and B.C."
Stead did not address how, in this
particular case, or in general, the voice of the newspaper submits
itself to fact checking, and by whom. The same editorial was published about the
time the Globe's editors likely had received the latest Angus Reid poll
their own newspaper commissioned. It showed the New Democrats widening
their lead by two points, placing them ahead on Friday by nine points.
It doesn't take a political scientist to conclude that's a relatively
large margin signalling a favourable trend for the New Democrats. Yet
the editorial gives the opposite impression, saying "the latest polls
show a tight race between the right-of-centre Liberals and left-leaning
New Democrats, and for good reason..."
Such highly torqued spin and mistaken facts
in the Globe editorial will do little to change the views of any
British Columbians who resent that so much of the province's major media
is owned and run outside the province. The online version of the
editorial drew hundreds of posted comments. Many noted how similar was
the language used by the editorial writers and the BC Liberal campaign's
own talking points. A scroll through the first 150 failed to reveal a
single comment in support of the editorial.
As of 10:15 a.m. Pacific time this morning,
the Globe editorial had corrected in its editorial the spelling of
George Heyman's name. But it still incorrectly had the TransMountain
pipeline transporting gas.
David Beers is editor of The Tyee.