The Toronto Star’s view from within the bubble of its self-importance seems to be the only explanation for revealing details of its reporter’s suicide – against her wishes – and the newsroom sex triangle that preceded her death.
The chore fell to public editor Kathy English, who is often more apologist than critic of Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper.
English’s 1,300-word piece was headlined: When a private tragedy becomes a public spectacle.
But it was hardly big news, a “public spectacle,” outside Starland before English’s column went online late Tuesday.
The National Post followed with a long story, mainly parroting the key information English disclosed.
And the Post reprinted a statement from the union representing Star newsroom staff, calling for an independent investigation of the affair.
The union noted “a significant amount of unconfirmed speculation is swirling about.” The statement did not mention that reporter Raveena Aulakh killed herself, or that two high-ranking Star editors were playing musical beds.
That whole sordid mess was left to English.
The public editor wrote:
“By all reports of those closest to her, the last thing this award-winning global environment reporter wanted was to be the focus of this story about her suicide and its aftermath. She left explicit instructions that this very thing should not happen. (“Please don’t talk about me. Please don’t let anyone write about me,” she wrote.) …
“Her family also made clear those explicit wishes and the Star had tried to respect that.
“I know for certain that I am letting Raveena Aulakh down in writing this story in my role as public editor tasked with reporting to our readers about her death in light of this now public call for an independent investigation. I can say that because several years ago, she sent me a note about my role at the Star, telling me, ‘You have never let a Star reporter become a public spectacle and that comes from owning up to mistakes quickly and honestly before it spirals out of control.’
“This tragedy should not be a public spectacle and I wish it had not come to this. Certainly, serious mistakes of a personal nature have been made, and relatively quick and serious action taken by the Star as a result. But, sadly, too much here has spiraled out of control and in making this reporter’s death ‘news’ in the interests of the ‘transparency’ today’s journalism seems to always demand we are all doing exactly what Raveena, 42, implored against.”
Today’s journalism also demanded English wash the Star’s filthy laundry in public, name names:
“Raveena and Jon Filson, the senior manager, who had led the Star’s tablet project in the past year, had been involved in a relationship for some time that had ended recently. “Further, the clearly heartbroken reporter made allegations in those emails (sent to colleagues) about an improper relationship between Filson and his boss, managing editor Jane Davenport.”
Filson was apparently canned and Davenport booted out of the newsroom, to an unspecified corporate position.
Most news organizations are squeamish about reporting suicides. Of course, if it’s Hitler, or Hemingway or Robin Williams, it’s news.
But this young woman, who was unknown to most of us on Monday, deserved a private, dignified death.
Instead, the Star has unwrapped enough salacious material to unleash the jackals.
(My wife told me “it’s all over talk radio.”)
Adding insult to tragedy, the Star’s star columnist, Rosie DiManno, indulged in a Twitter brawl with a rival at the Toronto Sun, Joe Warmington, who employed the hashtag ripraveena to call for an investigation of Aulakh’s death.
DiManno: How low will you go? Was a time you were a decent person and ok reporter. You’re neither anymore. Just a sleazeball.
Warmington: Not near as low as you have already gone …
DiManno: A disgrace to yourself, your paper, your profession. You write endlessly about “scum.” Take a look in the mirror.
Warmington: I think you are talking about yourself #ripraveena. Do you even care about her?
DiManno: How fucking dare you? Come here and say that. I’ll rip your fucking throat out.
This is also a slice of today’s journalism.