“It was an imperfect answer to an imperfect question.” Stackhouse on pulling Ford “fat” article

The Globe and Mail made a mistake by publishing the Rob Ford “fat” article, editor-in-chief John Stackhouse told a roomful of journalists last night.

Stackhouse spoke on Oct. 21 at an event moderated by CBC’s Ira Basen and hosted by the Canadian Journalism Foundation in Toronto.

A Ryerson University journalism student asked Stackhouse about the ethical implications of removing the Rob Ford article from the website. The article, written by Stephen Marche and published in the Oct 15 Saturday edition of the Globe, focused on the Toronto mayoral candidate’s weight: “The mounds of fat that encircle Rob Ford’s body like great deflated tires of defeat are truly unprecedented in Canadian politics.”

Stackhouse admitted that, upon discovering the article online, he immediately had it pulled. He was surprised to find that the article had been published, despite the fact it “didn’t stand up to a number of Globe standards.” The question that wasn’t asked: how did a story that didn’t meet the paper’s standards end up in print in the first place?

Basen pointed out that, by neglecting to provide an explanation for why the story was removed the Globe was failing to provide a service to its readers. Stackhouse said that the Globe doesn’t have a comprehensive system in place for dealing with these kinds of situations. He said that the Globe chose not to provide an article explaining the decision because it didn’t want to draw more attention to the article — which, by now, is relatively easy to find online elsewhere. “It was an imperfect answer to an imperfect question,” he said.

Here’s the full live tweet recap of the event (click on “view more” for the full feed):