Friday, November 24, 2006

"I was not deemed to be a Star person"

The December Report on Business Magazine (in today's Globe and Mail) has a little surprise tucked inside its back cover: an interview with recently-exited Toronto Star editor Giles Gherson. Some of the Qs & As:

Were you upholding the principles of social justice laid down by legendary editor Joe Atkinson?
The paper under my editorship was pursuing the Atkinson principles in a fairly aggressive way. We were doing socially progressive journalism.

Yet some people in the organization felt you weren't?
I think that was a canard. It was said by some people, but if you look at the record, they would be very, very hard-pressed to make the case. If you look at stuff we did on the working poor, the health care system, the education system for natives, and others, it was vigorous and effective.

So what should you have done differently?
In terms of substance, nothing. We moved pretty fast; I thought we had a lot of momentum. But if you want to talk about politics—which I can't get into—yes, some things could have been done differently. But that was not my battle. These were discussions in the upper reaches of the company.

What would be your advice to your successor, Fred Kuntz?
Stay the course. Fred has a longer tradition at the Star. I was a change agent from the outside. I found the newsroom extremely welcoming, but I know in the organization as a whole, I was not deemed to be a Star person. It's no accident that my successor, and Michael's successor [Jagoda Pike], are both from within the company. The Star has a very strong sense of itself, its culture and tradition. The question is whether that can lead to the kinds of changes necessary at a time of huge upheavals in the newspaper industry.

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