The Ontario Press Council, in a rare adjudication handed down this past October that actually upheld (in part) a complaint by a member of the public, has stinging words for resident Citizen far-right bloviator David Warren—and for the newspaper itself. (Here is the full text of the adjudication: scroll down.)
Ottawa professor Carol Wainio made eight allegations against various columns by Warren, four based upon alleged factual errors, and four more on the question of attribution.
On the first four, “the Council finds that the complainant’s sources appear to be substantially more reliable and persuasive than those apparently relied upon by the columnist.” Ouch. But the OPC went on to say:
[T]he Council is unable to make unequivocal findings as to the truth or otherwise of the multitude of facts which the complainant asserts are false.
The exception is in Complaint 4, “Iceland Stranded in More Ways than One”, Jan. 21, 2009. …[The]Council upholds the complainant’s assertion that the columnist made a factually incorrect mathematical calculation as to the per capita indebtedness of Icelanders.
On the question of attributing sources, however, the Council was far more assertive and blunt:
[T]he Council is persuaded that the columnist failed to meet generally accepted journalistic standards relating to attribution by either:
(a) using the words or assertions of another author or spokesperson without revealing that the words were not his own; and
(b) misusing the words or assertions of an unidentified author or spokesperson by failing to quote them fully and/or accurately.
Ooooo, that had to hurt.
The worst part of all this was that the Citizen, alerted to Wainio’s allegations, just dismissed them out of hand. The OPC wasn’t impressed:
[I]n the Council’s opinion, the Citizen had an obligation to confer with the columnist to explore the attribution allegations and provide an adequate response to the complainant’s assertion that the columnist had failed to meet accepted journalistic standards relating to full and accurate attribution.
And neither was Norm Spector yesterday:
What the Council does not divulge - either in its press release or in its decision - is that the Ottawa Citizen refused to attend its hearings into the complaint. For a powerful news organization that routinely demands accountability from others, its behaviour in the case of Professor Wainio’s complaint reeks of hypocrisy.
Obviously not much will come of this. Warren continues to have his flat-earth rants published. The text of the adjudication appears in the Winnipeg Free Press, but not the Citizen, at least as yet. Tempting it is to put up Kate McMillan’s dinosaur pic, to refer in this case both to the “MSM” and the columnamalist in question, but I shall restrain myself.
UPDATE: More here — a lot more — from Wainio’s Media Culpa.