Politician accuses Windsor Star of conflict of interest

Windsor mayoral hopeful Rick Limoges has accused the Windsor Star of a conflict of interest, claiming election coverage unfairly favours Mayor Eddie Francis. The mayor’s long-time chief of staff, Norma Coleman, is married to the Star‘s editorial page editor John Coleman.

Limoges has filed a complaint of bias against the Star with the Ontario Press Council.

A Windsor Star article written in response to the allegations quotes publisher Jim Venney:

“‘To say that the editorial positions we have are biased toward city
hall because John’s wife works there is just not the case,’ said Venney,
explaining that he determines editorial board decisions based on
discussions with editor Marty Beneteau, editorial writer Karen Hall and

“‘Usually it’s a group discussion. But the only person who could potentially determine the outcome of those discussions is me.'”

Venney pointed out that Coleman is “recused” from newsroom discussions on the mayoral election, and that another editor is in charge of columns and cartoons about the election.

The Star quotes Limoges’ campaign chair Bruck Easton, who read the following from a prepared statement: 

“Francis hired Norma Coleman after his election in 2003 to serve as chief of staff, a position she has held ever since. Easton noted that throughout that time her husband, John Coleman, has worked as editorial page editor of the Star.

“The resulting conflict has been obvious to everyone who has learned of the situation and it has clearly become a factor in The Windsor Star’s coverage of municipal affairs.”

“This has not been a situation where one columnist has been pro-Francis policies and another has been taking shots at him. What has been startling is that every columnist and the editorial board have been solid in their praise of virtually every policy that Mr. Francis has espoused.”

The Star notes that “the alleged bias spills over to news coverage, Easton claimed, though he later said he does not take issue with the paper’s reporting.”

The Windsor Square writes that the Colemans’ relationship “has not been disclosed to Windsor Star readers…” and that “by not disclosing this relationship, the Limoges campaign believes that the Star does not comply in spirit with Ontario Press Council guidelines—the Council has not adopted a formal code of practice for newspapers—but the Council’s guidelines state:

“‘The Press Council believes publishers, editors and reporters, while actively engaged in journalism, should not seek or hold elective political office in their newspaper’s distribution area. And:

“‘In the interest of credibility, a column should disclose any possible conflict of interest on the part of the writer.'”

In his prepared speech (available in full through The Windsor Square) Easton alleged that columnist Chris Vander Doelen has “attacked” Limoges but not Francis, and said that editorial cartoons by Mike Graston that put the mayoral candidate in an unfair light.