Sun Media’s Glenn Garnett withdrew his company in a letter to the council’s executive director, Don McCurdy. Sun Media, which is owned by Quebecor Media Inc, describes itself as “the largest newspaper company in Canada with newspapers distributed in English and French in both large and small markets across the country.” Its publications include the Edmonton Sun, the Calgary Sun, the Winnipeg Sun and the Toronto Sun, among others. Garnett is the company’s vice president of editorial, according to the Star.
Garnett claimed that the council is “politically correct,” which runs counter to Sun Media’s newspaper’s “editorial direction.” He wrote, according to the Vancouver Sun:
“It has become painfully evident that the editorial direction of our newspapers, especially our urban tabloids, is incompatible with a politically correct mentality that informs OPC thinking, in the selection of cases it hears, and the rulings it renders.
“We cannot be bound by the interpretations of our competitors on our obligations and objectives as journalists. We no longer believe there is common cause here and have no reasonable expectation this is going to change.”
The council’s chairman, Dr. Robert Elgie, commented to the Vancouver Sun, that he’s “naturally disappointed” by the decision but emphasized the importance of the council’s work. Elgie noted that “Sun Media’s parent company — Quebecor — previously pulled out of a similar watchdog group in Quebec” and questioned the timing in light of the current UK phone hacking scandal that has “focused renewed attention on media ethics.”
The Sun noted that the Ontario Press Council was established in 1972 and has “more than 200 newspapers” in its jurisdiction.
The press council explains on its website that it “has chosen not to follow the lead of the United Kingdom Press Complaints Commission and other councils in adopting a formal code of practice for newspapers.” Unlike the PCC, newspapers abiding by the Ontario Press Council, don’t have to publish the councils’ findings.
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The Organization of News Ombudsmen’s executive director, Jeffrey Dvorkin, criticized Sun Media’s decision because “there’s now no mechanism in place for any kind of public accountability with Sun Media.” He added that “It’s really too bad and I think Sun Media is the ultimate loser by this short-sighted gesture,” the Vancouver Sun reported.
Dvorkin predicted that the media group will emphasize “more shock value” in exchange for “transparency and accountability”
The Canadian Press noted that Sun Media’s daily newspapers make up 27 of the 37 in the council’s jurisdiction.The Toronto Sun, a Sun Media newspaper, was criticized earlier this month for publishing a picture of Kate Middleton “at the precise moment a gust of wind lifted her dress.”
But, according to the Canadian Press, the Sun’s editor-in-chief, James Wallace, labeled the picture “compelling and newsworthy” and “defended the decision” to publish the photo.
iMediaEthics wrote in January when UK media company Northern & Shell’s seven print news publications were kicked out of the UK Press Complaints Commission.
iMediaEthics has written to the Ontario Press Council for further comment and will update with any response.