A great man once said, "Politics is inherently stupid." That great man was me.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

We Asked: "Who is Anthony Doob?"

...why didn't Jennifer Ditchburn and the Canadian Press do the same?

If you read my previous posting, you probably got a little miffed at the lack of objectivity in Jennifer Ditchburn's article about the Tory criminal justice platform. The first paragraphs seemed to mock the Tory's political message, and were quickly followed by quotes from a Liberal attorney and a U of T criminologist, Anthony Doob, who had the following to say:

"Doob contends there is little evidence to support Conservative claims that proposals such as mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes or getting rid of house arrest for serious offenders has any positive effect on the crime rate - which is actually on a long-term downward trend."

...Doob says the problem is that it is far easier to explain to the public that you're going to come up with a series of tougher laws, than to describe a long-term, workable strategy for actually reducing crime.

"I look at this and I see one party that's absolutely clear on its position on crime - and they're almost always wrong - and the other two national parties are afraid to come out with strong, coherent policies."
Doob is saying that the Tories don't have a plan to reduce crime, that they are too lazy to come up with one, and that their strategy will never work. Doob then says that the Conservatives will almost always be wrong on crime, but that the Liberals and NDP would probably be absolutely right, if they'd just come out with a policy!

Ditchburn made no attempt to interview law enforcement officials/judges who might give an opposing opinion for her readers to ponder.

I had hoped that everyone could read the article for themselves to pick out the lack of objectivity and I suppose most did, but I ended up fisking the article anyways for a reader in the comments who didn't quite see it the same way that I did. I was thinking about how journalists can often create bias through errors of omission, through what they don't write rather than through what they do. Failing to tell the whole story or to present an opposing point of view can often create an editorial bias in supposedly objective articles, whether done intentionally or not.

In criticizing Ditchburn's choice of interviewee, I thought that it wasn't fair to simply label an individual like Anthony Doob as a 'left-wing socialist with a hate-on for the Tories' simply because he teaches/researches at U of T. So I had to either find out if Doob did have a possible political motivation for his words, or leave him out of my argument altogether.

It just so turns out that Anthony Doob would have a possible political reason for claiming the Tory criminal justice platform would never work (and the those platforms from the parties to the left and centre-left would). Anthony Doob donated to his local NDP candidate in the last general federal election. Indeed, Mel Watkins, the Candidate for Beaches-East York received a $500 donation from one Anthony Doob. I'm no expert, but a 500 dollar contribution is hardly indicative of someone who doesn't have strong ties to a party or an ideology.

I checked it out. It took me less than five minutes to do so (and only a little bit longer because the electoral contribution search function doesn't seem to work that well with Firefox). So the question is, if I could fine this out in such a short period of time, Why didn't Jennifer Ditchburn bother trying, or if she did, why wasn't there full disclosure in her article? It would seem to me that when your articles are going to be read by millions of Canadians who assume they are getting an objective opinion, you should make sure that their assumptions will end up being correct.

Again, If this grinds your gears, call/write the Canadian Press and complain. You might get someone on the other end disagreeing with you, but you at least made your reservations about the quality and objectivity of the writing known.

--Updated-- I contacted the CP about the story, I'll post a response if I get one.

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