Journalism ethics expert in 'Scud Stud' defamation case defends column

CALGARY -- An expert on journalistic ethics testified Friday that he doesn't believe a one-time Postmedia columnist did anything wrong when he wrote a contentious article about former journalist Arthur Kent.

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Dean Jobb, an associate professor of the School of Journalism at the University of Kings College in Halifax, was hired by Postmedia to write a rebuttal of an earlier report by Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the University of Toronto's journalism program.

Kent, 61, sued Postmedia, the National Post and Don Martin over a column written about him during the 2008 Alberta election.

Kent became known as the "Scud Stud" for his reporting on Iraqi missile strikes for NBC during the Gulf War. The column at issue said he was a "dud" on the campaign trail.

It used unnamed sources to paint Kent as a loose cannon who criticized the party and its leadership.

Dvorkin, a former managing editor and chief journalist at CBC radio, testified earlier that the article didn't "meet the standards of journalism at any level." He also criticized the use of anonymous sources and suggested it was based on spurious information.

Jobb, who has written a number of commentaries and feature articles for Postmedia, said he is satisfied that Martin was following solid journalist practices.

"He's researching a campaign. He's talking to two key insiders. He's able to obtain an internal email that backs up and corroborates what he's hearing," Jobb said.

"This is extensive research, and while columnists do comment on the news, they often do and should do their own investigation or research to follow up," he added.

"He's done what an experienced columnist would do in this situation. He's followed the leads he's been given and done more research to back up his opinion."

Jobb is satisfied Martin, who sent an email to the campaign website seeking comment from Kent and said no one answered when he called the office, made a sufficient effort to reach the candidate.

He also defended the use of anonymous sources, which he said remain recognized by leading news organization, especially in matters of public interest.

Jobb said politics, the conduct of political parties and behaviour of politicians are "obviously a matter of public interest in a democracy."

"This is consistent with ethical conduct of a journalist."

Under cross-examination, Jobb was asked about an admission by Martin during his testimony that a key paragraph in his article was not true.

Part of the column read: "Alberta Conservatives have bestowed problem candidate Arthur Kent with a less flattering designation as he noisily blusters his way through their reeling election campaign -- the 'Dud Scud."'

Martin acknowledged it wasn't several individuals who used the name, but just one person, and he couldn't remember who it was.

"Would you agree if that proposition is not true, then paragraph two should not be in the article at all?" Kent's lawyer, Kent Jesse, asked Jobb.

"It certainly shouldn't read that way," Jobb said.

Jobb was the final defence witness in proceedings that have spread over four weeks and heard from dozens of witnesses.

Closing arguments are scheduled for next Wednesday with a decision sometime in the new year.



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