Friday, February 29, 2008

Court concedes confidential sources

In a frustrating move for the journalistic community, the Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned a 2004 landmark ruling protecting the use of confidential sources.

The court reinstated a search warrant ordering The National Post to produce a document from reporter Andrew McIntosh said to be central to the "Shawinigate" investigation of former PM Jean Chretien.

In 2004, Ontario Superior Court justice Mary Lou Benotto became a hero to many Canadian journalists when she quashed the warrant, calling journalists' ability to protect their sources "essential" to media in a democracy.

"She called the proposed search unreasonable and a violation of the media's constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression and interfered with journalists' rights to protect sources," reports the Toronto Star.

"Without them, many important stories of public interest wouldn't have been published, she said, citing everything from Watergate to reports on hazardous waste dumping."

The Canadian Association of Journalists immediately issued a statement calling the ruling " a major setback for press freedom and the public's right to know."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

never mind


Syed Soharwardy has withdrawn his human rights complaint against Ezra Levant for publishing the infamous Muhammad cartoons in the Western Standard.

He explains why in this roundabout editorial, which, interestingly, acknowledges concerns over whether human rights commissions should tackle hate speech at all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here we go again

Warning! Several of these links contain images of the prophet Muhammad!

Just when you thought 12 little cartoons couldn't stir up any more chaos.

Today, Danish newspapers reprinted the cartoon of Muhammad that, along with 11 others printed in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper three years ago, sparked a wave of violence across the Muslim world.

The move was a response to the arrest of three people for allegedly plotting to kill the cartoonist, who's been under high surveillance since the fateful publication.

"Regardless of whether Jyllands-Posten at the time used freedom of speech unwisely and with damaging consequences, the paper deserves unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror," read an editorial in another paper which also reprinted the offending art.

I don't get it. If the decision was "unwise" in the first place -- presumably because it led to violence -- how is it now a wise decision as a reaction to violence?

Is publishing purely for the sake of offending a journalistic right? Is it ever a duty? If freedom of expression ends anywhere, it seems to me that inciting mass violence ought to be that place.

The tangled issue has reached Canada, where conservative publisher Ezra Levant is facing a human rights complaint for printing the cartoons two years ago. In a Toronto Star editorial, Kelly Toughill makes a good case for keeping human rights commissions out of journalism, but steers clear of the ethics of Levant's move.

Meanwhile, in a less nuanced analysis, FOX news has published several more antiquated depictions of Muhammad -- in a news story about Muslims' outrage over the inclusion of the very same images on a Wikipedia page. "People are very upset over a thing which we will now proceed to do." Very neutral, FOX.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Newseum

A monumental tribute to the history of journalism, one of the most expensive museums of all time.

"You get more feeling for the newspaper business from Daily Planet panels in an old Superman comic than you get at the Newseum," wrote Henry Allen of The Washington Post.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Breaking News

Now that we have your attention, did you know that on Super Tuesday, ABC alone sent out over 30 "breaking news " alerts about election results, according to an innovative, interactive website, Breaking News or Not?

Increasingly, it seems, news networks report "breaking news," interrupting scheduled programming to alert viewers to "urgent" stories -- on everything from Heath Ledger's death to tornado death tolls.

But this blog, started by editors fed up with the seemingly never-ending stream of breaking news after the Paris Hilton arrest, provides audiences with a chance to decide whether news is worthy of the "breaking" title. offers citizens a chance to discuss and debate the merits of news stories and the opportunity to discuss who got the story first, and who got it right. It even keeps a running tally of the time since the last "breaking news" story.