8. Omitting the Unverified: Joel Eastwood and the Toronto Star

While Hudes and National Post editors were deciding whether or not to include an unverified Facebook page in their story, Joel Eastwood was having a similar debate in another newsroom in the city. [1]

Eastwood was working as a general assignment reporter for the Toronto Star in 2014. When reports of a shooting in New Brunswick broke on the evening of June 4, Eastwood was the lead reporter on the story.

“I was working from the desk, making phone calls, speaking to people in Moncton who had either tweeted about it or publicized that they had heard shots,” Eastwood said.

After the RCMP released the shooter’s name, the Facebook page came to Eastwood’s attention and there was an internal discussion about including it in the story.

Eastwood said the argument for including it was that there was “good reason to believe” that this was the Facebook page of the shooter and it would “provide context or an understanding of the shooter’s motives.” Eastwood disagreed with that reasoning.

“The decision that I made was that it did not make sense, and it seemed irresponsible, to publish unconfirmed information,” Eastwood said. “At the time, the shooting was still ongoing, the suspect was still at large, and there was just too many unknowns.”

Listen: Former Toronto Star journalist Joel Eastwood explains the importance of cautious reporting during active shootings like the one in this case.

[1] Source for all information on this page: Joel Eastwood interview by Avneet Dhillon, November 21, 2016.

Next: 9. Decision Point