Reports about cutting of trees in Toronto park

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

City of Toronto Councillor Cliff Jenkins felt reports about the cutting of trees in a park damaged his reputation

You initially wrote to the CBC to complain about a news report of May 15, 2008, by reporter Jamie Strashin regarding Mossgrove Park.

You said that the report contained inaccurate information which could have been avoided had the reporter carried out “the most minimal due diligence” by obtaining a copy of the Mossgrove Park Police Safety Audit which recommended the removal of a certain number of trees in order to provide clearer and more secure sight-lines into the park.

Joan Melanson, Executive Producer of CBC Radio Toronto, responded, saying that Mr. Strashin had been unable to contact the officer who actually sat on the Safety Audit committee and, instead, spoke with a superior officer. She said further that, despite claims to the contrary, Mr. Strashin had not been offered a copy of the Police Constable's report.

You responded by saying that the answer seems to imply that “Mr. Strashin's only obligation was to accept a copy of the report if one was handed to him. I find it hard to imagine that the CBC's standards would support the notion.”

You asked for a review:

As you know, I met with a representative from your office concerning this matter so I will make my review relatively brief.

The main point at issue was an interview done by reporter Jamie Strashin with a police officer at Toronto's 33 Division. That officer was not involved in the study concerning Mossgrove Park. He appeared to speak authoritatively on the matter. However, it appears that he was not conversant with the matter and has been contradicted by higher authority.

The CBC failed to verify that fact, even when it was brought to their attention.

It is also unclear why the reporter did not have a copy of the report since other journalists had one. Your representative says that he offered Mr. Strashin a copy, something which Mr. Strashin apparently denies. In any event, it would seem to be a minimal journalistic task to acquire first hand information on the issue.

While you also appeared to have some difficulty with other elements of the story, my review indicates that they were, in fact, good reporting—seeking out neighborhood comment on the subject. The mere presence of a committee report does not necessarily indicate universal approbation for its conclusions. Had the reporter applied the same diligence to the police viewpoint, we would not be doing this review.

Conclusion

The story left the impression that the Toronto Police Service did not support the actions taken in clearing trees in the affected area. This is incorrect. Any version of the story accessible by any means should be corrected to reflect this fact.

I am unable to reach a definitive conclusion as to whether or not Mr. Strashin was “offered” a copy of the report. However, I find that the issue is irrelevant since Mr. Strashin should have made his own efforts to secure a copy, or at least an authoritative version from a participant.

Vince Carlin
CBC Ombudsman