Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

The past week in Toronto j-ethics

The Torontoist got spanked over a photo gallery about strippers on break at Zanibar Tavern on Yonge St., and the Toronto Star’s public editor took the paper to task over an odd feature on Pierre Trudeau’s daughter.

In both cases, the issue was invasion of privacy.

Torontoist’s David Topping said the following:

… We featured those photographs thinking that the women depicted in them knew they could be seen.

He went on to acknowledge that they didn’t ask the women if they had consented to being photographed. Torontoist left one photo attached. You can see one of the strippers in profile.

The photos were taken by Brian Cameron, a Ryerson University librarian who had posted them to Flickr (they’re gone now). Cameron seems to have disabled his Twitter account.

The guy seems to be a serious photographer, and I doubt that his intent was bad.

I take a fair number of photos with my iPhone. If people are simply part of the wider scene, I don’t ask permission. If I’m deliberately making somone the subject of a photo and I don’t know them, I ask.

The Toronto Star’s case was much more deliberate. Sarah Coyne is the daughter of Deborah Coyne, a constitutional lawyer and one-time Liberal candidate. However, Sarah’s biological dad is one Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

If she was just Sarah Coyne, the Star would have been unlikely to send someone to her university to do a similar feature.

As English noted, Coyne declined to be interviewed for a 10th-anniversary, but the Star reporter soldiered on.

English reached the following conclusion:

In weighing the public interest with this young woman’s desire for privacy, I have to agree with the Star editor who rejected a freelance writer’s pitch to report on Sarah Coyne’s university life many months ago.

“We’ll take a pass,” that editor wrote in the email the freelancer brought to me this week.“I don’t think there’s enough new current information to sustain this and justify intruding into a life she obviously wants to keep private.”

But as English also notes, the story was very well read. I wonder how many people both read the story and tut-tutted about the Star publishing it.

The news business vs. journalism.

Deborah Coyne said the following in a letter to the editor:

The Toronto Star has every right to ask my daughter if she wishes to adopt a more public posture. In turn, she has every right to expect that when she says no, her answer will be respected with the same degree of dignity and courtesy that she always takes care to demonstrate. Regrettably, that expectation appears to have been poorly founded. I hope and I trust that in the future your paper will respect reasonable privacy boundaries.

Sun, November 28 2010 » Media, Minutiae