Toronto Star public editor Kathy English defended columnists’ “freedom to offend” in a recent column.
In a Nov. 8 public editor column, English shared that “one of the most frequent issues” she receives complaints about concerns columns that offend or upset readers.
“Recent months have brought a marked increase in such complaints with various columns that expressed strong views on issues regarding Alberta, the People’s Party of Canada, electoral reform, bicyclists in Toronto, Sean Spicer’s run on “Dancing with the Stars” and even the “bland sludge” of Tim Hortons coffee all evoking substantial and emotional reader response from all sides of the ideological spectrum,” she wrote.
Accoding to English, readers often call for firings of columnists. “Cancel that columnist, censor that opinion, critics cry,” she wrote.
However, English rejected calls for firing any columnists over “disagreeable opinions,” arguing “it would be an outrage.” English explained that the Star doesn’t necessarily agree with all opinions it publishes but it agrees they have “the right to express those views.”
English wrote, “Columns — clearly labelled as “Opinion” —can be “unfair” to some sides of any argument but still be “fair comment” given that opinion journalists stake out a position and aim to present convincing arguments to support their perspective.”