(as sent earlier today)
Dear Ms. English,
Thank you for your letter of October 15.
I note that your letter does not refute any of the facts I submitted in support of my complaint of September 26. Although you and I agree on the facts, we disagree on what they mean.
Your response is ambiguous. You reject my allegations that the Star published corrupt news reports yet you specifically agree with me that Mr. Hamilton had an undisclosed conflict with respect to his Smart Grid promotional articles that the Star should have reported to readers.
When I assert that Mr Hamilton has engaged in corrupt journalism, I intend the term “corruption” to mean the impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle by a person in a position of authority. This general definition is accepted by groups as diverse as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the American Nursing Association Code of Ethics, and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of Kenya. One form corrupt journalism can take is concealing a conflict of interest for personal benefit.
The four articles of Mr. Hamilton I cited in my complaint demonstrate a sustained pattern of concealing conflicts of interests from readers.
Mr. Hamilton’s corrupt reporting only came to light when information about Mr. Hamilton’s friend Ben Chin was uncovered in the course of the gas scandal investigation at Queen’s Park.
Your letter makes it clear that the Toronto Star does not consider press corruption to have occurred when a reporter, ostensibly reporting news about some companies like IBM, GE, or Toronto Hydro, is receiving an undisclosed financial contribution from a project where IBM, GE, and Toronto Hydro are corporate sponsors. Since you deny that this is an example of press corruption, in the interests of transparency, please clarify the Toronto Star’s definition of press corruption.
You argue that because Mr Hamilton was writing about smart grid prior to being engaged by the government it was therefore less important for him to declare his conflict. You also argue that Mr. Hamilton was under a lesser obligation to disclose his conflicts when he switched from being a staffer to a freelancer. Notwithstanding Mr. Hamilton’s experience and educational background, you accept at face value his excuse that he didn’t think he had a conflict. I disagree with your judgement on all these points.
Although you specifically deny my corruption charge with respect to Mr. Hamilton repeatedly providing stealth PR in the pages of the Star on behalf of the corporate sponsors of his Smart Grid work, your response does not address my charge that another example of Mr. Hamilton’s corrupt reporting arises from his engagement with Air Miles.
As presented in my letter of the 26th, that complaint is supported by these facts:
– Reader complaints against Mr. Hamilton and his record of accepting awards from those he reported on should have alerted Mr. Hamilton’s editors at the Star prior to 2011 that his work needed to be closely supervised.
– On July 7, 2011, the Toronto Star published what appeared to be a news article entitled “A Rewarding Way to Influence Greener Choices“, promoting the Ontario Power Authority’s relationship with Air Miles. The article contains no reference to Mr. Hamilton’s personal relationship with Mr. Chin, then a VP at Air Miles.
– On September 8, 2011, Mr. Chin and Air Miles hosted Mr. Hamilton’s book launch at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto for his book “Mad Like Tesla”.
In my letter of September 26th, I put this question to you: How is it that nobody at the Star noticed that Mr. Hamilton’s September 2011 book launch was sponsored by Air Miles, a company he had promotionally profiled in a Star article two months earlier? I also put these questions to you: What steps did Mr. Hamilton’s editors follow to supervise his work? Was there any supervision?
Continued silence from the Star on these questions suggests that Star would not make an effort to disclose to readers similar concealed conflicts of interest in future. I urge you to acknowledge that Hamilton’s reporting on Air Miles appears to have been tainted and to recognize that the Star’s editors need to be more alert to such breaches of the reader’s trust in future.