Days after the Christchurch, New Zealand mosques terrorism attacks, public editors for both the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star reviewed their respective paper’s coverage of terrorism.
Globe and Mail public editor Sylvia Stead argued the Globe’s front page March 16, the first opportunity for the paper to have prominent print coverage of the New Zealand attack, “missed the mark.” As Stead explained, because of the time difference, the news of the attack came “very late” March 14 evening, which allowed only a quick update to the print edition for March 15. Thus, the Globe had all of March 15 to prepare for its March 16 print edition coverage of the attacks. But, the paper didn’t put the attack prominently on its front page.
“Newspapers play a role in raising public awareness and a dominant image of New Zealand would have been a better statement, in my view, than a sketch pointing to a feature on the Finance Minister,” Stead argued.
While online coverage was available, readers questioned why the New Zealand attack didn’t make the March 16 front page, Stead reported. In comparison, she noted that the Globe put coverage of the Boston marathon bombing, the Orlando Pulse nightclub attack, and the Quebec City mosque attacks on the front page when they happened.
“While the New Zealand story was the dominant one in terms of coverage Saturday in the paper and online, the presence was too understated on the front page,” Stead wrote. According to Stead, the Globe’s editor-in-chief David Walmsley told readers it wasn’t because the paper was trying “to cause offence or minimize.”
The Toronto Star’s Kathy English took a broader view, instead asking about media coverage of terrorism, noting research has found an “inextricable link between terrorism and journalism.”
Despite calls to the contrary, the Star has to name and publish photos of killers in mass shootings, she wrote. The Star won’t publish video of murders “generally,” though and requires management to OK publishing any manifestos.
However, English advised the Star create guidelines for reporting on terrorism and breaking news. “The Star currently does not have such detailed guidelines communicated widely to the newsroom,” English wrote. “Sadly, given events in the world at large and within our own community, I think the time has come to do this.” iMediaEthics has written to English to ask if this will happen and if so, when.