I've been thinking . . .

"A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity."    

Franz Kafka

"The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and if the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through--not ever much. And if he is a writer wise enough to know it can't be done, then he is not a writer at all. A good writer always works at the impossible."

John Steinbeck

On the Truth

To ensure that the public has the truth surrounding my resignation from the Toronto Star yesterday, after Editor Michael Cooke made it clear that the newspaper would not publish a story of significant public interest, I want to put the following on the record.

A published report today quotes Star spokesman Bob Hepburn saying, in response to my blog post explaining that I had to resign to break free from a six-week reporting ban and finish the story in question: “There’s no truth to that suggestion.”

Here is the truth of what happened in the minutes just before my resignation at a meting in the Garibaldi Room of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

Before the meeting with Cooke, Executive Editor Paul Woods, a labor relations staffer from the newspaper and two union reps, I insisted that I would record the meeting. Both Star management and the union insisted I had no right to do so.

I refused to back down, just as I have in the face of genocidal killers, generals, corrupt politicians or others who have told me to turn my recorder off.

I have just listened to that recording. 

After pressing for the right to deal with the central issue, the reporting ban, at the top the meeting, I was asked again what the story in question was about. I told Cooke I had explained that several times before, but would be happy to do so again.

He listened to the description of details already on the record.

Then, after falsely accusing me of "ducking and dodging" editors' questions for weeks (even though I repeatedly asked for a telephone or videoconference conversation to address any remaining questions following lengthy written replies), Cooke stated:

"Thank you for clearing that up. That is indeed what I thought the story was about. I don't think that's a story for The Star to engage in."

It was clear to me Cooke had rejected the story on behalf of the newspaper he leads.

So I submitted my resignation.

Please watch this space for more developments in the coming days.

And thanks to all for joining me in standing up in defence of our democracy.







On War and the Good Fight

Soon after resigning from the Toronto Star yesterday, I chatted with a CBC reporter who asked the question that I suspect is on a lot of minds still: Why pick this hill to die on?

The answer lies in the question itself.

I come from the world of war reporting, where each day journalists in countless places choose to offer up their lives for the truth.

To some, mostly those who've never been there, that might sound bombastic. But it's true.

A quarrel over the search for two ships that sank in the middle of the 19th century probably doesn't strike people as the best reason to turn your back on a six-figure salary and walk the plank.

To understand why, you only need to know this: I've lost track of the times I was nearly killed because I knew I had to give a bigger voice to frightened, intimidated people who couldn't stand up to power on their own.

That is the core of the story I've returned to after breaking free yesterday from a six-week reporting ban imposed by Toronto Star editors.

I was willing to sacrifice my life at many moments over some two decades as combat reporter and photographer, in places like Mogadishu and the Somali countryside, in the blood-soaked streets of Rwanda, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, in the former Yugoslavia . . . And on and on.

Yesterday I decided to sacrifice my livelihood for the truth. That's much harder, actually, because it affects my family's future--and I'll still be around to watch them suffer the consequences.

I'll admit that's scary at times. And, as anyone who knows my background will attest, I'm not easily scared.

But when I admit that fear, I think of the alternative: Silence.

Which only breeds more fear.

For strength, I also remember fallen comrades along the way and ask myself: If they had lived, would they still have the fight in them now? 

And I know they would. That's just how combat journalists live. They must be willing to lose everything. They put that much faith in the truth.

I also think of a simple fact about moments of revolutionary change: They arrive, usually after long suffering, when a critical mass of people, as diverse as the society they live in, decide they're not going to be afraid anymore.

When they stand up, others follow. 

It's time. No more fear. Stand up for the people being silenced and give them voice.

That's the only way we'll take our democracy back.

Please watch this space and News page for more thoughts and updates.


NOTE: This corrects a typo by deleting the word"up" after "If they had lived:"