“I approached it as a labour arbitration hearing, got all my facts and arguments marshalled, and went right after Metroland from the start because, as the person complaining, I got to go first.
After a lot of backward and forward debate and questioning, I believe that I won overwhelmingly on points. Metroland was constantly defensive while I was very much on the attack, and I kept notes and saw that the panel questioned the Metroland representative far more than they did me, and they were far more probing with him.”
At long last and after a number of delays, the hearing was held on Friday last week.
The OPC hearing was regarding a complaint I made about an article published by the Aurora component of Metroland’s “yorkmedia.com” newspaper portfolio at the end of last year.
After the presentations were over and all the questions asked and answered, the Metroland representative and I left, and the hearing panel will come up with a “recommendation” which will be reviewed and ruled upon by the OPC as a whole sometime in September.
The final decision could involve dismissal of the complaint, or an order to print an apology or retraction, or whatever.
I approached it as a labour arbitration hearing, got all my facts and arguments marshalled, and went right after Metroland from the start because, as the person complaining, I got to go first.
After a lot of backward and forward debate and questioning, I believe that I won overwhelmingly on points. Metroland was constantly defensive while I was very much on the attack, and I kept notes and saw that the panel questioned the Metroland representative far more than they did me, and they were far more probing with him.
Black politician and ex-Ambassador Alvin Curling was there as part of the OPC panel, and he and I had some productive exchanges. And I think the most jarring question of all for Metroland came from Curling… I was very impressed, as the instant I saw him I wondered if I was being set-up and he would use the “race card” and start screaming at me and calling me a racist.
Of course, I must keep in mind that the OPC may have expected a higher standard from Metroland than from me. And, they are very politically-correct and may rule against me anyway, or possibly try to find in my favour without jeopardising politically-correct principles – it’s all in the wording.
But for those of us who were there in that room for that that hearing, I think there is no doubt about how it went. I won everwhelmingly on points, largely because some of the questions asked of Metroland defied logical responses.
My only concern was when Curling wanted to know how I would have felt if any Asians had been involved, and I resisted the question, pointing out twice that no Asians were involved in the events reported on by Metroland.
Using hindsight, I think I should have suggested to him that I would have been happy to discuss my attitude towards the various races of mankind with him after the hearing was over.
But overall it all went very professionally, and I was impressed. At the end, I thanked the panel and said that regardless of the outcome, I thought it had been a worthwhile exercise.
However, although I can be happy about how the hearing went, I would be an idiot to expect a favourable ruling. The “worthwhile” aspect may well be limited to the particular events in that particular room on that particular day, and only to the people who were present.
The Ontario Press Council as a whole will discuss the hearing panel’s recommendation in September, and their ruling will be announced soon after.
It will be interesting to see how it goes…
In an earlier post on the background of the Ontario Press Council I had this to say:
“As for the Ontario Press Council, I seem to remember that the Toronto Star was behind that in the late Sixties, as there was political pressure for them to clean up their act, and the Star wanted to set up a self-policing arrangement that would avoid the imposition of anything with real teeth in it.
And the OPC “About” section supports that to a degree when it says that “Following a 1968 Royal Commission of Inquiry and subsequent Senate Committee on mass media, a voluntary national press council was recommended… Beland Honderich, publisher of the Toronto Star, welcomed the idea and he and seven other publishers founded the Ontario Press Council in 1972.”
That was a little more than 40 years ago, and in my opinion, the current OPC version of history seems to whitewash things more than a little…
The Ontario Press Council website homepage has the phrase “Defending principles to inspire public trust” immediately below the name. We are also told that “The Ontario Press Council upholds acceptable journalistic and ethical standards on behalf of the public and press alike while defending the democratic rights of free speech and freedom of the press.” But, further examination of their website can lead to doubts.
For example, we are told in the “File a Complaint” section that: “It reads all complaints, but does not always decide to act… The Council has complete and absolute discretion about whether or not to hear any complaint.” And, “The Press Council does not currently have its own code of practice…”
So how, exactly, are we “defending principles” here?
In fact, the OPC rather grandly distances itself from any kind of measurable responsibility, by proclaiming that “The Ontario Press Council has chosen not to follow the lead of the United Kingdom Press Complaints Commission and other councils in adopting a formal code of practice for media publishing.”
In a 2011 article headed “Ontario Press Council Denies Sun Media Allegations Of Politically Correct Mentality”, Huffington Post reports on the Sun Media chain withdrawing from the OPC on the grounds that their (Sun Media’s) “editorial direction” was incompatible with a “politically correct mentality.”
It will be interesting to see how this plays out; either the OPC will accept my complaint and hear it, or it will find a reason to refuse it, in which case I think that the Senate should pehaps be invited to re-visit the issue after all these years.”
And now the issue can go on the back-burner for three months or so…
For further background information on my complaint, see the following:
“Racist vandals and the police as political performers” Dec. 30th, 2011 here.
“Black man accused in ‘bi-racial couple’ hate-crime case” Feb. 6th, 2012 here.
“Canada: Blatant smearing of White people by the media” Jan. 3rd, 2013 here.
“Blatant smearing of White people”: A follow-up” April 23rd, 2013 here.