Globe public editor: Why endorsing Harper doesn’t mean not criticizing him

 By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

 By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

This month, The Globe and Mail’s editorial page published an unprecedented five-part series calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to kill the Fair Elections Act. The editorial board argued that the bill, if adopted as is, will harm the foundation of our democracy, undermine the electoral process, reduce voting rights and expand the role of money in politics.

I heard from a caller who said he stopped reading The Globe and Mail a few years ago after the editorial board backed Mr. Harper for the job of Prime Minister. The caller believed that meant The Globe’s news coverage and editorial stand would be pro-Conservative. He was surprised to hear that the paper’s editorials had taken such a strong stand against the leader it had supported, and said he would give the paper another chance.

What the caller is forgetting is that the media’s role is to question authority, to hold power to account without favour. That includes government, opposition parties, candidates for political office, bureaucrats, corporations and many others. An election endorsement doesn’t stop the editorial board from criticizing anything the endorsed party or government subsequently does.

(It’s worth noting that the editorial board is separate from the news operation and in no way affects news coverage; the church-and-state separation is a principle in The Globe’s code of conduct.)

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