BY: KATHY ENGLISH, TORONTO STAR PUBLIC EDITOR
It has long been the policy of the Toronto Star that black journalists not take public stands on public issues or become the news. By exercising his right to free speech and protest in a public forum on police discrimination Mr. Cole put himself in a firestorm of controversy that upwards of one blog and our newspaper were writing about. This was unacceptable to the editorial board of the Toronto Star and, as the public editor they trot out to cover their asses at times like these, I concur with their decision.
Our policies clearly state that Star journalists with high levels of melanin in their skin must avoid participation in demonstrations or signing of petitions, including online petitions and social media campaigns. This applies even to editorial columnists like Mr. Cole, despite the fact that columnists are more opinionated, brash, and naturally gifted than hard-working, high-IQ, good intangibles journalists like Chantal Hebert or Damien Cox.
Until this week Mr. Cole wrote an opinion column for the Star, not unlike Michele Landsberg, Naomi Klein or Craig Keilburger, all of whom advocated for causes of their own. Naturally the difference is that their advocacy didn’t expose the Star to any backlash or make us question Toronto’s identity as a progressive city. That, and I really can’t stress this enough, they were white.
Certainly Mr. Cole did not “become news” the way Robyn Doolittle did during the Ford years, but he also did not give our readers the chance to unite in mocking the failings of what turned out to be a very unwell man while displaying a skin colour that does not frighten our elderly readers. So really it’s comparing apples to oranges.
The simple fact is that Mr. Cole was not fired. He chose to stop writing his column after our editor-in-chief made it clear he could not continue to write for us while advocating for black causes, something he has dedicated his entire life towards.
I am sorry Cole’s voice will no longer be read by Star readers. But I take comfort in knowing that we will continue to cover such vital issues as police discrimination and race relations with the cold, dispassionate voice our readers desire.