TORONTO – The union representing some members of the Canadian media has people questioning the objectivity of Canadian journalists after wading into the Ontario election by asking its members not to vote for Tim Hudak.
Jeffrey Dvorkin, the director of the University of Toronto school of journalism, called the union’s message “kind of dumb.”
“I’m frankly kind of appalled by it that a journalistic union would decide to stake out a position on a matter of public controversy when their members are not allowed to do that as part of their professional lives,” he said Tuesday.
Unifor Local 87-M – which represents media workers at The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun – said it was forced to break its traditional silence.
“We do not endorse candidates, nor do we contribute to political parties and I’m not here today to suggest you support any political party,” Jim Slotek, chair of the Toronto Sun unit of the union local said in a video posted to YouTube.
“But there is a point where objectivity and reality collide, and so I am here to ask our members to consider the practical reasons for not voting for one particular party in the June 12 Ontario provincial election – that would be the Progressive Conservative party.”
Ivor Shapiro, the chair of Ryerson University’s journalism program, said the union message is not endorsing any one candidate but rather “conveying the position of the union on the interests of organized labour in the province of Ontario.”
Shapiro said journalists are entitled to personal political views that don’t interfere with their work.
“Nobody thinks journalists should not have political views, nobody thinks journalists should not vote in elections. The union doesn’t just represent journalists but other media workers,” he said.
In Depth: Ontario Election 2014
Indeed, he pointed out that Slotek works for the Toronto Sun – a newspaper which endorsed Tim Hudak.
According to Dvorkin, “Journalist’s have the right to a freedom of opinion but they don’t have an automatic guarantee to a job as a journalist.”
In an email to Global News staff about the network’s strong showing at the recent RTDNA – Association of Electronic Journalists awards dinner, Troy Reeb, Senior Vice President of Global News and Stations Operations, reminded his journalists about the importance of remaining unbiased in their reporting, especially during election campaigns.
“As journalists, our obligation is to remain an independent voice, professionally detached and objective so as to not unduly influence the outcome of events,” the letter read.
The union local represents 35 separate media outlets including various newspapers and television stations but does not include the Canadian Press or CBC.
Unifor’s controversial decision to endorse any other party but the PC’s caused a stir online with Employment Minister Jason Kenney suggesting the impartiality might extend to the whole of Canadian media.
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- With files from The Canadian Press
*Correction: An early version of this article stated Global News was represented by Unifor Local 87-M. Global News is actually represented by Unifor Media One