My letter to the Toronto Star:
In Susan Delacourt’s article “Aid groups advised to ‘shut the f— up’
on abortion” she writes:
“If you push it, there will be more backlash,” said Ruth, who fears
that outrage will push her boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to
take further measures against abortion and family planning – abroad,
or maybe even in Canada. “This is now a political football. This is
not about women’s health in this country.”
How does Susan Delacourt know what Nancy Ruth “fears”?
What did she actually say? Who says that Harper is
going to take measures again abortion “maybe even in Canada”? Not
“I hope I’m not proven wrong but I have every confidence that it (the
communiqué) will include family planning,” Ruth said. “Canada is still
a country with free and accessible abortion. Leave it there. Don’t
make it into an election issue.”
Ruth is a member of Conservative caucus (appointed by Paul Martin conveniently left out by Delacourt),
but is a pro-choice feminist who is essentially a Liberal on the issue.
Using her to indicate what the Conservatives think is like using Keith Martin to
indicate what the Conservatives think. It’s shoddy journalism. And
ultimately, Harper has no interest in making it into an election
issue. So why the fear-mongering on the part of Delacourt and the
Toronto Star? Why not stick to the facts of journalism 101: who, what,
where, when, why, how. Leave the speculation to the non-professional blogs.
I await your response.
I did receive a quick a response and was asked if I would like it printed in their letters-to-the editor section and I replied although it was written as a complaint please feel free.
Then later in the evening I got a nasty little note from Susan Delacourt who obviously doesn’t like criticism:
Dear Mr. Skoreyko:
Happy to tell you that we have actually posted a tape of Senator Ruth, which makes clear that she “fears” a backlash. Please give it a listen. You can find it within the body of the original story.
Senator Ruth sits in Conservative caucus and takes part in the discussions surrounding the abortion issue — she also explained this to the group. She did not claim to speak for Stephen Harper; in fact made quite clear that she was, from her vantage point, trying to anticipate his reactions and worried they will become more harsh than they already are. Note in the tape how many times she says how she hopes she’s right that this is as bad as it gets. This was said in an open forum, where the media was welcomed. You might want to check with some of the other 60-80 people present; they would verify the context. None so far, including Senator Ruth, has quarrelled with the Star’s record of events. That’s because it was, in our words, “journalism 101”. I was there. I taped the remarks. I printed them. Not rocket science. Or a Liberal plot.
One does not need to be an authorized Conservative spokesperson to suggest what Stephen Harper may do next. At no point does the article make the claim that Ruth was speaking for the government; so the shoddiness may be in the once-over reading of the article and the failure to listen to the transcript. From what I understand in your letter, Ruth’s appointment by Paul Martin disqualifies her to speak as a Conservative. Apart from being what my old logic profs would have called an ad hominem, irrelevant remark, Stephen Harper allows her in caucus. He might disagree that she’s not a Conservative. I know you may prefer that we only print the official Conservative talking points, but there are plenty of outlets for that in Canada, and you are most welcome to print them on your blog.
Thanks for writing,
Besides the obvious contempt in her condescending/snippy letter, two things stand out:
– Delacourt confirms that Ruth did not claim to speak for Harper (which was the basis for my complaint) but won’t admit attributing Ruth’s fear of a backlash coming from the PM a big journalistic no-no.
– She does the same thing again by saying that I “may prefer that we only print official Conservative talking points”. How does she know what I prefer? Actually, my preference is a balanced and fair media Susan.
Update: The Star’s editorial today echos my complaint “it is wrong to suggest, as the opposition Liberals have, that she was delivering the message on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper”. (see here)
Maybe now I why Delacourt was so touchy?