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Toronto Star joins global Trust Project

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At a time when global trust in journalism is at a crisis point and the media literacy gap between news organizations and their audiences seems never wider, the Toronto Star is taking concrete steps to be more accountable and transparent to you, its readers.

On Tuesday, the Star announced that it is formally a partner in the Trust Project, a global consortium of news organizations working together to improve trust in journalism. The project, led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman and hosted by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, aims to foster trust by helping to guide audiences to reliable, credible news sources and making it clear to readers when they have found them.

With Tuesday’s announcement, the Star joins more than 30 other credible news companies, such as the Washington Post, the Economist and the Globe and Mail, participating in the Trust Project.
With Tuesday’s announcement, the Star joins more than 30 other credible news companies, such as the Washington Post, the Economist and the Globe and Mail, participating in the Trust Project.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

With Tuesday’s announcement, the Star joins more than 30 other credible news companies, such as the Washington Post, the Economist and the Globe and Mail, participating in the Trust Project.

“We keep saying journalism matters but we weren’t showing how, or why, or what journalism actually is. That was the inspiration for our own trust project, which began in May 2017. And it was the inspiration for being part of this larger effort to be transparent and accountable on all kinds of fronts,” said Star Editor Irene Gentle.

Read more:

Star Trust committee participating in a Reddit AMA on Oct. 9 at 12 p.m.

Torstar Journalistic Standards Guide

Opinion | Public Editor: Readers need to distinguish news from opinion

The Star’s internal trust committee, an ongoing initiative made up of employees across Torstar, has overseen the creation of a dedicated Trust page, a larger glossary of Star news terms, new conventions on story labelling, and a weekly trust feature looking at the various ways the Star does its journalism.

“The Star has long had a very deep commitment to responsible, public service journalism. We have a public editor, independent from the newsroom for people to voice complaints to. We are part of National Newsmedia Council, an independent body that oversees and adjudicates journalism complaints. We have a code of conduct. We have ethical discussions on what we do and how we do it every day, sometimes multiple times a day. We know this but we weren’t telling our story,” said Gentle.

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In the global Trust Project, participating media organizations agree to follow certain disclosure standards, known as Trust Indicators, developed by news executives around the world following dozens of interviews with readers that sought to discern what audiences value in news.

The indicators essentially present a variety of information about the publication that readers have said is important, such as ownership structure, executive makeup, mission statement, ethics, sources of funding, and journalistic standards and policies. The indicators also include clear labels to help readers better distinguish between news, opinion, analysis, and sponsored content, as well as biographical details about reporters that highlight their expertise and track records.

Participants also state any commitments to presenting more diverse perspectives, citations and references for published statements of fact, and information about why certain stories were pursued and by what means.

Lehrman likens the Trust Indicators for news to the equivalent of nutrition information.

“It’s like a nutrition label that you would get on a piece of news,” Lerhman said in an interview. “Maybe you care a lot about ethics. Maybe you care a lot about the author’s expertise. Maybe you care a lot about the organization as a whole. So, you will get all these pieces of information and you can make your own decisions about what news you want to trust.”

How does this all translate into what Star readers will experience? For starters, at the bottom of every article published on thestar.com, readers will now find links to three trust-related features: a more visible “Report an Error” button, a link to the Star’s journalistic standards guide and a link to the organization’s “About Us” page.

In recent months, the latter two features have undergone substantial revision overseen by Public Editor Kathy English.

Behind the scenes, the Star’s development team has been working on updating and standardizing internet markup language that will help the Trust Project’s tech partners — Google, Facebook, and Bing, to name just a few — better guide audiences to trusted sources.

Email your questions or comments to the Star’s trust committee at trust@thestar.ca.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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