Ken Whyte versus the RRJ

Not 24 hours after a Ryerson Review of Journalism story
on publisher Kerry Mitchell went online, Rogers publisher Ken Whyte sent a
letter to the editor expressing his “disappointment” with the way his comrade
was portrayed.

The story, which describes Mitchell as an “interfering
publisher” with a “hungry ambition and a cool demeanor” who recently crossed Whyte, was
written by Robyn Urback and Maiya Keidan (both of the RRJ’s spring 2010 issue)
and published online Wednesday, March 31.

The next morning, Whyte sent a scathing email to the RRJ,
which read, in part:

“The supposed criticisms of my Rogers Publishing
colleague Kerry Mitchell are ridiculous. It is not a “transgression”
for a publisher to be involved in the cover and contents of her magazine; it is
a duty. A “hands-on” management style is not a flaw or a problem but
something Kerry has in common with the founder of our company, Ted Rogers
(whose name, incidentally, is on the wall at the Ryerson School of

The letter, however, was vague and non-descript, and
though it speaks of factual inaccuracies, it lists no specifics.

D.B. Scott wrote about the incident on the Canadian
blog, and the entry has spurred more than a dozen comments over the
weekend. One anonymous commenter wrote:

“The RRJ has undone what little
credibility it had with this story (and other stories that use the same silly
reporting techniques).”

David Hayes, a Toronto-based freelancer, pointed out
that the RRJ’s fact-checking department is more rigorous than that of
Maclean’s, and that the strong point of view in the piece is similar in feel to
the pieces Whyte has cultivated for his own baby. Hayes writes:

“Disagreeing with the point-of-view of a strong feature
that has a point-of-view (as good magazine journalism should) is fine, to be
expected. As most publishers would say, including Ken Whyte who delights in the
buzz & controversy created by the point-of-view journalism he runs in
Maclean’s, it’s when no one cares much one way or the other about an article
(or a magazine) that you should worry.”

It’s worth noting that this is just one of several RRJ
pieces published this year (for both the spring and summer issues) that Whyte
declined to comment on during the research stage.

Full disclosure: I worked on the summer 2010 issue of the
Ryerson Review of Journalism as managing editor (and ran the issue’s fact-checking department).