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Claire Hoy Settlement is Significant
Special Editorial Section

by Ken Popert

 

TORONTO — The freedom of working journalists to publicly criticize the journalistic ethics of their employers has got a foot in the courtroom door. And one of Canada's biggest news-gathering operations has lost a three-year battle to go on shaping the news in secrecy. These are the unwritten terms of settlement of a grievance filed with The Toronto Star by the Toronto Newspaper Guild on behalf of former Star reporter Claire Hoy, who now is a political columnist for The Toronto Sun.

The grievance was filed after the Star fired Hoy in October, 1974 and sued him for libel. These actions were the Star's response to two televised interviews — one carried nationally by the CBC and one locally by Toronto's CITY—in which Hoy said the daily was slanting its news coverage of the federal election campaign then in progress.

In May, 1975 the Star secured from the board of arbitration — assembled under the Ontario Labour Relations Act a ruling that the proceedings would be held in secret. The Guild, however, appealed that decision and it was overturned bv the Divisional Court of the Supreme Court of Ontario in February of this year.

Having lost the judicial war to make the newsroom safe for secrecy, the Star turned to other means. According to Hoy, the newspaper offered to settle on two occasions, once on condition that the agreement be kept secret and once on condition that the settlement be made without prejudice, which would have meant that the case could not be cited as a precedent in future disputes between journalists and management. The Guild rejected both conditions.

The strength of the Star's thirst for secrecy in the case can be measured by the terms of the settlement. The newspaper capitulated right across the board, giving in to every one of the Guild's conditions for settlement. In return, according to Guild executive secretary John P. Bryant, the Star received nothing. But by settling, the Star did preclude a public hearing of the case.

In the settlement the Star agreed:

  • To allow Hoy to resign and collect severance pay. (The amount of the severance pay due Hoy was not available at the time of writing.)
  • To provide Hoy with a letter of recommendation testifying to his competence and professionalism as a journalist,
  • To remove all reference to the case from Hoy's employment record, and
  • To pay court costs incurred in the Guild's appeal of the arbitration board's decision to hear the case in secret.

The Star has also abandoned its libel suit against Hoy.

Talking about his televised revelations of three years ago, Hoy says: "If people in this business saw someone screwing around in another business, they'd think it was a hell of a story. Well, the same applies to that story.

"I figured they were big enough to take some criticism. I guess I was wrong. But I had my facts; the settlement shows that."

Early on, when it seemed to be winning, the Star covered its dispute with Hoy. Apologies from the CBC and CITY for broadcasting Hoy's embarrassing revelations made the daily's news pages. But Star editors haven't found the case newsworthy of late: Star readers haven't been told about the settlement.

To Canada's fattest daily, humble pie is still a foreign delicacy.

 

Published in Content's SOURCES December 1977

 



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