It is every writer and editor’s worst nightmare to make an error, but one that may have pushed the person named in the story to suicide?
Today the Toronto Star is dealing with having gotten it wrong and what role, if any, their story played in this tragedy. After his photo and name were published, David Dewees, 32, lay down on the subway tracks Saturday and waited for the train that killed him.
(The Washington Post wrote last week about the trauma this creates for train drivers.)
The editor of the Toronto Star, which mistakenly printed the news last week that this Toronto high school teacher had been charged with assaulting 13-year-olds, Michael Cooke, is a man I’ve worked with twice in my career, at the Montreal Gazette and New York Daily News. He arrived to run the Star last year after being the top editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. (disclosure: I freelance occasionally for the Star.) Whatever happened in the newsroom, I know Cooke as a decent man and I am horrified on many fronts by this.
A good friend of mine teaches at the high school where Dewees worked. In too many ways, this is a story that hits home.
And, in the sort of irony any thinking editor equally dreads, here’s the Star’s first award to top teachers, a new feature they recently began.