For many months now the Toronto Star’s Noor Javed and Kristin Rushowy have reported diligently on the racial tensions roiling within the York Region District School Board that have led to Ontario’s education minister ordering an “urgent review” of the board.
These two reporters’ work exemplifies the journalist’s mission to hold public officials to account. Their reporting on allegations of racism and Islamophobia within a school board that has received relatively little media scrutiny in past is of strong public interest and, to my mind, has been accurate, fair, comprehensive and necessary. Most notably, their exclusive reports have shone a light on a Markham principal who posted anti-Muslim content on her public Facebook page and a longtime school trustee who used the n-word in reference to a black parent.
In reporting on trustee Nancy Elgie, 82, who publicly apologized for using the repugnant racial slur, but has resisted calls for her resignation — that includes a petition signed by more than 2,800 parents — Javed and Rushowy have gone above and beyond to be fair, going back repeatedly to the trustee, her family members and other sources to give them opportunity to tell their full story.
The reporters and their editors were thus surprised when critics this week accused them of irresponsible and unfair reporting on Elgie, charging they had not given readers all the facts. As one reader told them, “Finally, the real story has come out.”
The reason for this criticism: A Star opinion page article written by two of Elgie’s children, Stewart Elgie and Allyson Harrison, and headlined in the Star’s print edition “Facts to consider when you judge Nancy Elgie.”
“As Nancy’s children, we ask only that you learn the full story — which has not all come out yet — before passing judgment,” the pair wrote.
The opinion article was wholly sympathetic to Nancy Elgie, as one would expect of an article written by her children.
But the reality is that the reason all the facts they recounted had not come out yet was because they themselves had chosen not to tell the reporters and had indeed asked the reporters not to report specific details of their mother’s head injury. (more...)