Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Globe and Mail: A Study in Vindictiveness



As one well-acquainted with the scourge of depression and the toll it takes on both the sufferer and his/her family, it was with great interest that I recently read Jan Wong's account of her struggle with the disease in Out of the Blue. In what I view as an act of personal courage, the former Globe and Mail reporter whose wide-ranging work certainly enhanced the Globe “brand,” reveals at length the story of her mental descent as a result of toiling in what ultimately became an unsupportive and toxic workplace.

Even those whose lives have not been either directly or indirectly marred by this insidious sickness will doubtless be fascinated by the vindictive, almost Machiavellian machinations of the Globe's upper management once it no longer had any use for Wong, amply illustrating the sad fact that the newspaper business is just that, a business, with no tolerance for anyone who 'rocks the boat' in ways that discomfit 'the bosses.'

In her book, management at The Globe, both present and past, including Sylvia Stead, John Stackhouse and Edward Greenspon, come across as especially venal, petty and cowardly, essentially 'hanging Wong out to dry' after a story she wrote about the 2006 Dawson College shootings included a comment about cultural alienation in Quebec, linking it to two previous tragedies in La Belle Province. Controversy and condemnation of Wong ensued, and the Globe went into full defensive mode, ultimately essentially abandoning Wong to the rabble.

But the Globe wasn't quite through with Wong. Because the paper carries a great deal of clout and has substantial reserves with which to litigate, Wong wound up self-publishing her chronicle after her publisher, Doubleday, ultimately wanted her to censor her story, excising most references to her experiences at The Globe, an impossibility since her depression was caused by workplace stress.

Eventually, Wong won a severance package from The Globe, on the condition that she not discuss the details of it. In her book, after being fired by the Globe for time missed due to her depression, she talked about how she “fought back and won,” that her former employer “had caved” and that she had received “a pile of money.” It would appear that those comments were too much for the Globe, which will now receive back the severance after an arbitrator ruled that by saying those things, she breached her confidentiality agreement with the paper.

The self-proclaimed 'newspaper of record' would have us believe that they took this action based on principle; others could just as cogently argue that it was simply a continuation of the vindicativeness that essentially drove Wong from the Globe.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend the book; not only does it give valuable insight into mental illness, but it will also enable you to decide for yourself who is in the right and who is in the wrong in this matter.

2 comments:

  1. A mean, nasty business, Lorne.

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  2. Expectations of honourable conduct at The Globe seem futile, Owen, based on its treatment not only of Wong, but of other former writers there as well, including David Macfarlane and Ray Conlogue.

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