Opinion: The Globe and Mail murky on how its error ridden pro-BC Liberal editorial was crafted

By David Beers, for The Tyee

By David Beers, for The Tyee

The Globe and Mail published an editorial on Friday evening endorsing Christy Clark and the BC Liberals to form the next government for British Columbia. Adrian Dix and his New Democrats were deemed by the Globe too "risky." The editorial cited among key reasons Dix's opposition to the TransMountain pipeline and the fact that while he presents himself as moderate, he is running with "left wingers" who would "wield influence."

One might assume that at Canada's self-styled national newspaper of record the act of advising British Columbians on who they should choose to elect to run their province would be considered a weighty and important task. The Globe has excellent reporters in British Columbia ready and available to offer their insights and fact check the resulting editorial… one might think.

Instead, the Globe's editorial writer(s) couldn't properly spell the name of one of the NDP politicians they declared too "left-wing" and therefore risky. It's George Heyman, not, as the editorial had it, George Hayman.

Even more startling, the editorial embraces the TransMountain pipeline even as it gets wrong what stuff that pipeline now carries, describing it as a "gas pipeline that runs from Alberta and ends in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby" that is proposed to begin carrying oil. Certainly the Globe's reporting team based in Vancouver knows the existing TransMountain pipeline already carries oil.

Which raises the question: Who wrote the Globe editorial, how was it fact checked if at all, and who gave it final approval?

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The Tyee sent such questions to Globe editor in chief John Stackhouse and Globe public editor Sylvia Stead on Sunday at 4:36 Pacific Time, two days after the editorial had been published, its errors still in place. Stead responded, saying, "As you know editorials are unsigned. I have been alerted to two errors which are being corrected." (Hours later, the fixes hadn't been made.)

The Tyee sent back an email saying: "Unsigned, yes, but someone has to write 'em. And there must be some process for coming to such an important decision. Is John Stackhouse involved in framing and writing them? Do you draw from reporters or editors on the ground here in BC when you write your editorials pertaining to key BC issues? Do you fact check your editorials with people in BC who are covering the issues?

Or would it be fair to say that this editorial was written and okayed in the Toronto offices without checking the final copy with anyone in BC offices?"

Stead said she couldn't respond until this morning, when she sent an email noting that Stackhouse had interviewed both Dix and Clark on editorial board visits to B.C. and been part of a group process arriving at the decision about who to endorse. However, "Newspapers including The Globe do not say who the writer was because the editorials are the voice of the newspaper." And, "The editorial was edited in Toronto and B.C."

Stead did not address how, in this particular case, or in general, the voice of the newspaper submits itself to fact checking, and by whom.

The same editorial was published about the time the Globe's editors likely had received the latest Angus Reid poll their own newspaper commissioned. It showed the New Democrats widening their lead by two points, placing them ahead on Friday by nine points. It doesn't take a political scientist to conclude that's a relatively large margin signalling a favourable trend for the New Democrats. Yet the editorial gives the opposite impression, saying "the latest polls show a tight race between the right-of-centre Liberals and left-leaning New Democrats, and for good reason…"

Such highly torqued spin and mistaken facts in the Globe editorial will do little to change the views of any British Columbians who resent that so much of the province's major media is owned and run outside the province. The online version of the editorial drew dozens of posted comments. Many noted how similar was the language used by the editorial writers and the BC Liberal campaign's own talking points. A scroll through Sunday's batch failed to reveal a single comment in support of the editorial.

As of 10:15 a.m. Pacific time this morning, the Globe editorial had corrected in its editorial the spelling of George Heyman's name. But it still incorrectly had the TransMountain pipeline transporting gas.

This article was originally published on The Tyee and reprinted here with the author's permission.