In the space of one week, l’affaire Raveena went from unspeakable private tragedy to institutional scandale to, perhaps inevitably, empty vessel for countless ego-driven agendas and petty payback.
At the Toronto Star, uncomfortable truths by the satirical press, plus demands by the paper’s union for an independent inquiry – and the National Post‘s reporting of same – undid management’s cone-of-silence strategy.
Public editor Kathy English was deployed to pen a master class in self-serving suck-and-blow, in which she clumsily relied upon Raveena Aulakh’s plea for privacy (“’Please don’t talk about me. Please don’t let anyone write about me,’ she wrote.”) not only as an explanation for not running an obit, but as tacit justification for the Star’s subsequent attempts to sweep the entire HR headache under the rug.
Why dishonour the NNA-winning journo’s memory with an independent investigation when Star management can simply take care of the unpleasantness in discreet, respectful silence?
After acknowledging the now out-of-the-bag entanglements between Raveena, Star Touch editor Jon Filson and ME Jane Davenport in an attempt to starve the story of oxygen, English ran back to the corporate fence:
“I do not know all of the details of what this investigation revealed but I can understand that much of what all are dealing with here are private personnel matters and that the Star has a long-standing policy not to comment on personnel issues.”
Move along, nothing to see here! And more’s the pity, because among the gaping holes in this story is why Filson’s conduct in the affair merited an immediate curb-kicking, while Davenport’s didn’t.
The simplest explanation? Legal advice. There’s a world of difference between Jon and Jane making the beast with two managers and Jon legovering with a unionized sluggo like Raveena.
Jane’s transgressions didn’t amount to a firing offence, so she’d be eligible for a severance package not unadjacent to $400,000. That’s a bit rich for a struggling pifflesheet that just paid publisher John Cruickshank a $750K kiss-off. Best to bury her pushing paper in some airless pit of a TorStar office, seen by newsroom drudges only in the elevators, until she takes the hint and quits.
The mood in the newsroom toward the much-unloved Filson ranged from the mutinous to the murderous, so he was best discarded.
Even the Star, it seems, has its limits. The paper has long had a history of clusterfucking, going back at least as far as the intern program of the 80s, a notorious bonkfest for horndog editors and naive young things straight out of J-skool. Senior editors rented an apartment near 1 Yonge that was referred to as the summer “fuck house.”
Then there was the time the Star’s Queen’s Park reporter Lisa Wright went berserk over her break-up with a married Sun reporter and trashed his office. Star ME Lou Clancy protected her, ostensibly because they had had a relationship. When Honderich found out via Trash Magazine, he canned Clancy, first sending him on sabbatical to Northwestern University in Chicago, then out the door.
Jane, it must be noted, has her own list of priors. Her current marriage to Postmedia sports editor Jack Romanelli began as a workplace desk-polisher at the Montreal Gazette, where he was ME in 2004.
Editor Peter Stockland was obliged to shitcan the much-married Jack for trying to finagle Jane a promotion, without divulging their horizontal relationship. (Jack booked off work last week, presumably to be with his bride during this difficult time.)
If the Star failed to cover itself in glory, what can be said of its competitors, who cranked up the sanctimony and faux outrage to drag One Yonge through the muck (‘tell Raveena’s story?!’, shurely?!–ed.):
Raveena Who? All Paul Godfrey cares about is sticking it to John Honderich, who crapped all over his business sense, ethics, etc., in a scathing screed in the Star last January. The Star union’s demand for an investigation into Raveena’s death was the perfect hook, gleefully exploited, to get the Star‘s dirty gitch into the headlines.
As above, but the emetic Joe Wormington is so far up Godfrey’s ass he can see Sue-Ann Levy‘s kneepads. The long-serving Rob Ford comfort bear is ever-keen to exact revenge for RoFo’s treatment at the hands of the Liberal rag. Of course, those Star stories were at least true, while Joe’s so far been left spinning whacko conspiracy theories: Was it really suicide? (er, yes.) Highlights included Holy Joe imploring his tweeps to put him in touch with Raveena’s beloved “grandmom”, who, as Raveena wrote in a loving 2012 profile, died in 2009.
Editrix Jonathan Kay went full ghoul, demanding the Star release Raveena’s suicide note in the interests of journalism, the public’s right to know, quack, quack, quack. Kay’s bizarre grandstanding is based on a healthy abhorrence for the Star and its holier-than-thou Atkinson principles, not to mention years at the Post watching his own paper get repeatedly scooped by the One Yonge gang. When Kay’s sometime patron, Tubby Black, was first incarcerated, Star types worked themselves into a state of fervid arousal with dark fantasies of his molestation in the showers, etc.
It’s revenge served cold for the Corpse, where management is still icing its collective goolies from the Star’s ruinous Jian Ghomeshi expose.
He looks like he could be an Uber driver.
And I see lots of cats in her future.
Sadly, this mess is pushing Jian off the front page. In order to remember him, I suggest we adopt a new noun and verb into the English language
As in :
Woman “I was out at dinner with this guy, and he leaned over, grabbed my throat, and slapped me across the face.”
Friend : “So what did you do then….?”
Woman : “Finished my dinner, and sent him some nudies the next day.”
This whole scenario can be called “a Ghomeshi!” If she had got up and left, she could say she’d been “Ghomeshied.” Let’s keep Jian immortalized.
Sigh. Jonathan Kay…at The Walrus? I thought that The Walrus was supposed to have intelligent folks!
The TorStar staff memo released yesterday from HR head Brian Daly reads like a master class in ambidextrous legal obfuscation. Nicely done!
Bottom line? No third party investigation into the death of Raveena Aulakh because, er, we have degrees and shit. All good over here, nothing to see, now buzz off.
“At the outset, we did consider engaging an external investigator, which we always assess in more complex or executive-level cases. Our conclusion was that an external legal investigator was not necessary or appropriate in the circumstances. Such 3rd party investigations, by their very nature, follow formalized, legalistic protocols, with minimal if any transparency of findings or conclusions. It was our professional assessment that such a formal legal procedure didn’t make sense in this case, and that an internal independent investigation would allow for greater transparency as well as providing the necessary level of independence.”
Given the nature of some high-profile investigations such as the Jian Ghomeshi case — where a third-party investigator was brought in to look at how the CBC handled the situation — and Bill 132, the recent sexual harassment legislation in Ontario, it shouldn’t seem unusual for the union to make such a request.
TorStar is an independent organization with a labour relations person, trained in investigations. They have to be careful saying they should have automatically had a third-party investigation. If the union members had an issue with the conduct of the Star, they could have also filed a grievance.
The question now becomes, given the suicide, whether a third-party investigator would have commented on policies and procedures at the Star, which could have better dealt with her concerns, but not necessarily whether the initial investigation was done properly.
It appears the organization had capable and experienced people conduct the investigation. Even if an internal manager is able to maintain objectivity, there may nonetheless be a perception by employees that the manager is biased, particularly in a unionized environment.
TorStar is late to the policy amendment party; writing staff consent and disclosure obligations after the fact. The Davenport-Filson HR fallout, a head-scratching combination of Peter Principal sashaying to Filson’s straight-up shit-canning, is a most perplexing nut. This would have been an appropriate response had these policies been in place, but they were not, so TorStar is duly wise, and no doubt advised, to keep Davenport.
“We are also moving forward this year with revisions to the Star’s Respect in the Workplace Policy and related complaint procedures, to bring greater clarity on expectations in this area. These changes were already underway and will be rolled-out to all staff in the next few months.”
Universal Bullshit Translation: “We were already working on this shit when Raveena killed herself so we can say that at discovery.”
By Daly’s logic, third-party investigations are only a necessary result of initial internal assessments if it is a “complex” and “executive-level” case. Does it get much more complex than suicide?
Due diligence indeed!
Clarence Darrow is 104.
Now, 22 July
Toronto Star puts hold on review into workplace culture after union withdraws support.
Michael Cooke writes:
To all newsroom staff:
Last week, we proposed and the union agreed to a joint process for an independent facilitator to help us examine current newsroom culture.
Today we regret to report the union has withdrawn its support, writing that the proposed agreement “is not in the best interest of its members.”
The point of contention surrounds the use of interviews and material that would inevitably arise from this process.
The union insists that it be able to use all such material in the separate grievance it has launched. The company is strongly opposed……