rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Apology doesn't address root cause of Chronicle Herald's mishandled refugee story

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Binuri Ranasinghe/flickr

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Chronicle Herald publisher Sarah Dennis was contrite. Under the headline, "We Have Listened And Will Learn From This," she wrote about her newspaper's mishandling of the infamously viral story that "should not have been released."

She seemed forthright: "apologize," "failure of foresight," "acknowledge our mistakes," "accept and try to learn from criticism..."

But nowhere in her 659-word mea culpa Friday did Dennis admit the root cause of those abysmal failures: the fact her newspaper's 60 professional journalists have been walking picket lines for 87 days-and-counting instead of reporting, writing, editing and saving their publisher from stories for which she has no choice but to grovel.

Sarah Dennis had no choice.

Late on Friday, April 8, the newspaper posted an un-bylined, anonymously sourced, un-researched, un-vetted story about un-named elementary school "refugee students... choking, pushing, slapping and verbally abusing" fellow students while yelling, "Muslims rule the world!"

Unsurprisingly, that hateful story got swallowed up whole by the haters and regurgitated around the world as fact.

The Herald belatedly tried to walk their mess back -- deleting sentences, then the whole story, apologizing -- but the damage is done.

Two of the paper's long-time columnists -- Chad Lucas, who hadn't written during the strike, and Lezlie Lowe, who had -- publicly resigned. If you believe social media, many subscribers who'd held their noses and onto their newspapers during the strike's first 11 weeks finally canceled them last week.

In professional newsrooms, skeptical editors look for logic holes in the stories even experienced reporters pitch. Is this really a story? They demand to know why sources want anonymity, and must OK their inclusion. If a story is confusing, incomplete or skewed, editors send it back for additional work. Controversial stories almost always get a second -- sometimes third, fourth -- look by more senior editors.

It appears none of that happened at the Herald. The paper's few remaining professional newsroom managers can't help but be over-worked, overwhelmed. The non-newsroom fill-ins lack the experience to even understand how badly they're screwing up.

It will get worse, unless...

If Sarah Dennis truly wants to learn from what's happened, she needs to pick up the phone, call the union and begin meaningful negotiations.

Otherwise, she won't have a paper to apologize for much longer.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Binuri Ranasinghe/flickr

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.