Friday, 7 December 2007

McConnell re Star

The following is from Theresa Sawada (nee McConnell), who wrote a 1976 Toronto Sun story about Bobby Ash of CFTO's Uncle Bobby show.

Unattributed content from her 1976 story appeared in a Jim Bawden obit for Ash in the Toronto Star last May. Last week, the Star published a correction - six months after Bawden's obit was published and 31 years after the original story appeared in the Sun.

Theresa writes:

"Hello, my name is Theresa Sawada (nee McConnell). I am the author of a profile of Bobby Ash, which was published in the Sunday Sun in 1976. I was a first year journalism student at Ryerson when I interviewed Uncle Bobby for an assignment. Larry Perks suggested I take it to the Sun to see if they would buy it.

Thirty years later, I read the words and phrases I wrote in an obituary under Jim Bawden's byline in the Star. I don't know if you professional writers get the same feeling when you read something you wrote so long ago, but I remember the thoughts as they came into my head and went onto the paper.

I emailed Kathy English right away, but didn't get an immediate reply. Finally, over the summer, she reached me by phone. Only after I mailed a copy of my original article and Jim's article did she agree that he should have credited me properly for the information and quotes I obtained.

I am now a teacher-librarian in an elementary school and teach media literacy. We are very particular about getting students to cite their sources. I asked Kathy for an explanation of how Jim Bawden's article satisfied his obligation to credit his source. Also, although he may have blown the dust off an old clipping, anyone who Googled Bobby Ash would now find my material under his byline.

I have not heard Jim Bawden's side of the story. I have an appreciation of the pressures professional journalists face, and don't think I could keep up the pace myself. If I wasn't still such a news junkie, he would have gotten away with something you colleagues seem to be admitting is often glossed over in the race to deadlines in a competitive market.

Thank you for a chance to participate in your discussion. I wondered whether the Sun folk would question the Star's correction. I should have known!


Theresa Sawada"

Thank you for your comments, Theresa. Could you send TSF a copy of your 1976 story for a full comparison?

Meanwhile, sources say Bawden attributed the 1976 content to the Sun, but a Star editor deleted the attribution saying it wasn't "Star style."

One quote in the Star story does end with "Ash told an interviewer in 1976." The Star, it its correction, said attribution should have included McConnell and the Sun.

As mentioned in a previous posting, morgue stories are often used by reporters and columnists for research and rewrites and it is not uncommon to use "told reporters" or "said in an interview" without naming the source newspaper and/or journalist.

From our viewpoint, "Ash told an interviewer" is a distinct separation of a writer's new work and previous work by another journalist.

Reliable Star sources say Bawden was "screwed" and the veteran television columnist has taken a buyout ending his lengthy stint as a Toronto Star staffer.

TSF has heard from the McConnell side and the Bawden side. Dan Smith, the Star's editorial union shop steward, declined "public comment" from SONG's side.

Will the Star editor(s) who handled Bawden's Uncle Bobby copy in May stand up and be heard?

The Star's correction for lack of full Sun attribution for content written three decades ago has a distinct odour that we can't shake.

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