Home Media Action Alerts2008 Montreal Gazette's Heavy-Handed Editing (January 11 2008)

Montreal Gazette's Heavy-Handed Editing (January 11 2008)

by Mike Fegelman



Montreal Gazette’s Heavy-Handed Editing

January 11, 2008

By: Mike Fegelman

Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:

News organizations in the past have criticized CanWest newspapers for using terms like “terrorist” and “Islamist terrorism” to describe Muslim or Arab attacks on Israelis and Western civilians, arguing that terms like “militant” and “suicide bomber” are less “loaded” and inflammatory.

Through it all, CanWest continues calling terrorism by its name, urging other media organizations to do the same. This is a policy which we have applauded in the past, yet one Canwest paper, the Montreal Gazette, recently chose to edit out the “terror” word from a recent CanWest wire report for reasons of “style and space.”

A report by Canwest’s Mideast correspondent Matthew Fisher discussed President Bush’s whirlwind visit to the region and was printed in Tuesday’s edition of the Montreal Gazette and reported the following:

“Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have given President George W. Bush a welcome gift on the eve of his arrival in the Holy Land today. After sharp differences over the Palestinian Authority’s failure to stop attacks on Israel…”

“The immense difficulty that peace negotiators have had for decades were underlined again early yesterday by the first Katyusha rocket attacks from Lebanon into northern Israel in several months and on Monday when a rocket fired from Gaza landed farther inside Israel than any before it.”

To the naked eye, this report seems accurate but when comparing this article to other Canwest papers that featured Mr. Fisher’s report, one can’t help but notice a stark difference.

The Victoria Times Colonist, Vancouver Province, Windsor Star, Regina Leader Post, Calgary Herald, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, and Edmonton Journal all reported the following:

“After sharp differences over the Palestinian Authority’s failure to stop terrorist attacks on Israel…”

“… on Monday when a terrorist rocket fired from Gaza landed farther inside Israel than any before it.”

HonestReporting Canada contacted editors at the Montreal Gazette inquiring why the term “terrorist” was twice edited out from the Gazette’s version in contrast to seven other Canwest papers who opted to leave the content as it was originally written by Mr. Fisher.

To our dismay, editors at the paper replied that they were “not inclined to discuss the editing of particular stories” while noting that “the Gazette is free to edit Canwest news service copy for reasons of style and space.”

If the Gazette claims they were editing for “space,” why then did only two words (terrorist X2) suffer the wrath of heavy handed editing when other sentences could have been telescoped down to condense the report? Surely it cannot be a coincidence that one of the most emotive words in the Mideast lexicon received this curious treatment. If, however, an editorial decision was made for “style,” is this a precedent that the Gazette intends to keep?

By refusing to address the issue – that editors are reversing Canwest’s editorial policy by sanitizing language – a once reputable and balanced paper, the Montreal Gazette, has managed to tarnish its reputation.

While the newspaper is free to make these editorial decisions, we wonder why it has reversed Canwest’s own policy on appropriating the “terror” word in its content and we encourage you to do the same.

How You Can Make a Difference:

HonestReporting Canada encourages readers to ask Montreal Gazette editors why it has departed from Canwest’s principled editorial policy regarding the use of the “terror” word.

To contact the Gazette please send letters to the editor at letters@thegazette.canwest.com and refer to Matthew Fisher’s January 8 report.





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