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Reader Q&A with Sylvia Stead, The Globe's new public editor

Globe readers took part in an earlier live chat with newly appointed public editor Sylvia Stead on the position and editorial issues related to The Globe.

  • Hello to everyone. Let me say first that I am honoured to be appointed to this position. I have been a journalist at The Globe and Mail for almost 37 years as a reporter and editor. I see the position as being a more independent bridge between the readers and the news organization.

    Although our work is very public, the process behind the work can be somewhat mysterious and perhaps suspect to some.

    Normally this role is about managing corrections and complaints from readers and we want to continue to do our best to correct errors in the paper and online. But I want to hear about more than that from you. I want to understand concerns before they become complaints and the odd word of praise for our direction and coverage would also be welcome. We are in the middle of a news revolution as we move to new platforms and it is important to us that we keep our standards of journalism and our credibility high with you.

    I 'm looking forward to answering your questions about how we cover the news and how decisions are made.

    Please note that due to time constraints, we may not be able to answer all questions submitted. You can always get in touch directly about other issues at publiceditor@globeandmail.com.
    by Sylvia Stead edited by Jennifer MacMillan 1/24/2012 7:05:15 PM
  • Good day Sylvia. Congratulations on your new appointment. I have two questions. First, will the Globe continue to use post-moderation (comments are posted and looked at by moderators if there is a complaint), or do you have plans to go to a pre-moderated system (comments are looked at by moderators before being posted) ? Second, will you continue to allow pseudonyms for posting comments as you do now, or do you plan to use some sort of identification system? Thanks !
  • Hello eCitizen. We are looking at possible changes to our comments system, which could include having some form of pre-moderation as well as looking into whether we can have greater identification of our commenters.
  • Hello, and good wishes for your new role.
  • hello to you as well.
  • is your new position partly inspired by the concerns of litigation when protective phrase like alleged or apparently are missing?
  • Hello Sharon and thank you for the question. News organizations have always had someone overseeing questions of litigation and we have editors and lawyers who offer advice on that. One of the responsibilities of this position is to work with our legal counsel responding to lawsuits and complaints, but also to find ways to protect and promote our journalism. We were very proud to have taken the issue of protecting a source of reporter Daniel Leblanc in the sponsorship scandal all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. That case resulted in what we see as better language around the idea of responsible journalism. We have more recently joined with CTV, CBC, Global, the Vancouver Sun and the Province to argue in court against a police order that we turn over video and images related to the Stanley Cup Riot. We were well represented by Vancouver counsel Daniel Burnett who argued that the six journalism organizations were concerned that the order could turn our staff into evidence gatherers and put them at risk and that the police had other sources for the photos. The judge however decided against us, but it was a good argument and well made.
  • I notice many of the Globe's editors and reporters tweet photos and text of upcoming Globe products and projects — sometimes even analytics. Will that be something you will oversee? Will the Globe continue to be a more open newsroom?
  • Hello Sarah. We are committed to being a more open newsroom and to include readers in news about upcoming events of major features. My new role is part of that commitment from our editor and publisher to connect with all of you. Our reporters and editors often tweet about news stories they are working on and projects that are coming, although I haven’t seen much in the way of text or photos. More often, they tend to give you the short news headlines. The idea is that we are your eyes and ears on the world and we want to tell you what is happening when we know it.
  • Sarah, I should have added that we encourage our readers to watch the following blog which will explain how we work.

    tgam.ca/digilab
    by Sylvia Stead edited by Jennifer MacMillan 1/24/2012 6:20:06 PM
  • Shouldn't the public editor be more of an outsider, someone independent who can take The Globe and Mail to task? You have a stellar CV but you're very much a Globe insider. Won't that tie your hands?
  • I found out this week that there are just four public editors or ombudsmen roles in Canada and between 20 and 30 in the United States. Most are like me, selected from senior management of the news organization. A few are on contracts which can’t be cancelled. The New York Times is probably the best known of this model. I think my colleagues in North America who do this job show that you can be both knowledgeable about the inner workings of the organization while holding it to account and suggesting ways to improve our standards and relations with readers. I will not be involved in the day to day news decisions.
  • Personally, I feel an insider is better. An outsider will not have the kind of contacts and knowledge of the organisation needed to make a difference.
  • Hi Sylvia, So will you be in charge of attempting to balance the position of the articles so they are reporting on events vs being commentaries? It seems the left wing viewpoint is presented when you just want the facts of an issue.
  • Hello J Henry. We’ve had a number of question about bias and I thank you for yours. I received many emails of good wishes from readers over the past two days and one of them warned me about the battle between supporters of Party X and Party Y and that we will never win that one! Frankly, it’s not one we want to win or lose. We see it as a great part of our democratic tradition of sparking a debate and letting people argue their corner. We expect our reporters to do more than report. They also explain the context, the background and why it is important. The columnists of course are encouraged to put forward strong and controversial opinions and you notice they do! You J Henry are concerned about the left wing viewpoint, while we receive as many questions about a right wing viewpoint. If you see an article which you think is slanted too far, you can comment online, you can send a letter to the editor or you can email me at publiceditor@globeandmail.com and I would be happy to look into it.
  • Hello, can you give us some insight into the copy-editting/proof-reading process and responsibilities at the Globe?
  • Hello and thanks for the question. We really need to do a much better job of explaining the mysterious process of news gathering and publishing. You see the fruits of our labours every day, but you don’t know what goes on behind it. How reporters work, how they get scoops, how assigning editors decide what to cover and what to skip, how we change the paper for various parts of the country. I hope to get into that in the coming weeks and months in a blog. But for now, I can tell you that an editor has many responsibilities. They have to understand story structure and narrative, look for inconsistencies, look for balance in the coverage not to mention spelling and grammar. Then many must also be skilled at multimedia posting and adding value to our website or be visually strong page designers who make each page appealing. Or sometimes both. It’s a tough job.
  • J Henry, I think your argument is flawed. While it is true that Sylvia will be trying to mediate the position of articles to focus on events rather than commentary, I believe that a certain degree of commentary will be beneficial and that by portraying only facts of an issue, there cannot be any political stance made, whether left wing or otherwise.

  • Thanks to all of our readers for following the discussion today and submitting some great questions. And thanks to Sylvia Stead for her time as well.

    Sylvia, any final thoughts before we wrap up?
  • Thanks Jennifer for your hosting. One last thought which we have heard frequently from the readers and that is the tone of the comments which are often heartfelt and personal, but at times and from a handful of people veer into nasty or personal attacks. It is an issue we continue to study, but for now we have done two things to try to focus on the smarter comments. One is set the comments to appear by highest score as the default. This was based on your input and we think it is already helping. Another things we have done for those of you who have signed on is that you can ignore any commenter you like. By hovering over the gray icon, you will see four options on the bottom of that screen. One is a stop sign which allows you to ignore that person. Thanks to all for the great questions.
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