Globe public editor: When should a person’s age be included in an article?

 By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

 By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

One of my regular correspondents wondered why the Globe and Mail article on the CBC’s Linden MacIntyre deciding to retire this summer did not include his age.

The article, which was the top viewed for much of the day last Thursday, said Mr. MacIntyre, a 24-year co-host of the fifth estate with nine Gemini awards, “felt compelled to leave in part to preclude the layoffs of younger colleagues …”

He added that he “started to do the math” and he believed that his departure would do the least damage to the show.

The article said Mr. MacIntyre celebrates 50 years as a journalist this month.

So was it necessary to say he is 70 years old? The reader said yes. “It is relevant, even central, to the story. MacIntyre said he did the math. We would like to be able to do it too. As a reader, whenever I learn about a person retiring, I want to know the age of the person. It gives context. Premature, ‘normal’ etc. …”

The Globe reporter who wrote the article said he does not include an age as a matter of course and felt that it was not necessary in part because Mr. MacIntyre’s length of experience was listed. An editor also did not ask for its inclusion.

In my view, it is useful to include a person’s age in any article about retirement. It’s also a good idea to reference age in longer profiles, crime stories or any other story where age seems relevant, such as this one, but not in every article.

With no mandatory retirement, many people in business, teaching, writing and, yes, the media are working well beyond 65 and it is usually not important to mention age in stories about their work. From my reading, it appears there has been a gradual move away from what used to be a fairly standard inclusion of ages in articles and that’s a good thing.

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