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Public editor: Globe’s coverage of Montreal slaying was justified

Lin Jun, a Chinese student at Concordia University.

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I expected an outcry over the graphic details used in describing the almost unimaginably horrific slaying of Lin Jun. In a national newspaper that avoids many murder stories, this was one that had to be covered for its news value because it was so unusual and such a shocking case – not only because of the dismemberment but also because body parts were mailed to political parties.

In fact The Globe and Mail received just a few complaints. One was from a reader who felt our coverage was over the top in terms of descriptions used. I am comfortable defending what has been published online and in our newspaper mainly because we need to see what evil looks like in our society. We need to understand what people are capable of doing and why. Journalists need to bear witness on the good and bad in our society.

I was surprised however to see another letter which suggested Luka Rocco Magnotta – the suspect – and others thrive on attention and notoriety and that by running multiple pictures of him we were feeding that need. "Of course you knew that… Knowing this, the Globe takes advantage of the situation to put out as many front page (web front page) images as they can dig up. You should offer a course in modern day yellow journalism. Reporting is not the same as trying to profit from the situation. But maybe you missed that class in journalism school."

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This suggestion is completely off base. We ran multiple photos of Mr. Magnotta with his glam shots and different guises to demonstrate the extreme narcissism that seems a key factor in his behaviour. This was not normal.

And we again saw the narcissism when he was captured at the Internet cafe in Berlin reading about himself.

In fact, Montreal police Commander Denis Mainville, the head of the major crimes unit, said that a worker at the cafe spotted Mr. Magnotta because of photos published in a Germany newspaper. In this case, media attention helped the investigation.

"This sordid crime went around the world in record time," Commander Mainville said Monday during a news conference. "The spread in traditional media and social media of these photos, this news, was key to ending this manhunt."

On another story last week, our readers were unhappy that a story about a spill of 22,000 barrels of oil into the Alberta muskeg was placed in the Report on Business section and not in news. A letter to the editor said:

"In your May 31 paper, you allocated 1/10th of page 3 of the business section to a story about a 'huge' pipeline oil spill in Alberta. With the discussion currently going on in our country, and in your publication, around the oil sands in general, Bill C-38, Keystone, 'Dutch disease,' etc., I don't understand how you could classify the story of a huge oil spill happening right here as a business story."

It is an interesting debate about what should be included in the business section. But in this case, I think it should have gone in the news pages given both the environmental impact and the political interest.

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Sections are not as important online where readers find what interests them. More than 1,000 commented on the story online mostly about the environmental and political impact of the spill.

We unfortunately have to close comments on this story as per our community guidelines (closing for legal reasons in ongoing court cases,) but you can send me an email at publiceditor@globeandmail.com.

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More

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