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Paul Watson, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, has quit the Toronto Star over that paper’s “refusal to publish a story of significant public interest.”
Watson announced his resignation on his blogTuesday.
July 7, 2015
At a meeting today in Vancouver, I submitted my resignation to the Toronto Star following the newspaper’s refusal to publish a story of significant public interest.
Resigning is the only way I can resume that reporting, complete the work and fulfill my responsibilities as a journalist.
My reporting is an attempt to give voice to federal civil servants and others involved in the grueling, High Arctic search for British Royal Navy explorer Sir John Franklin’s lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Several are experts in their fields.
For months, these individuals have been angry at what they consider distorted and inaccurate accounts of last fall’s historic discovery of Erebus in the frigid waters of eastern Queen Maud Gulf. They identify a peripheral member of the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition, who has access to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office as well as editors at The Star, as the source of these accounts.
I intend to continue my efforts to bring this important story forward and will endeavor, as I have throughout my long career as a journalist, to ensure full, fair and accurate reporting of the facts.
Paul Watson“Resigning is the only way I can resume that reporting, complete the work and fulfill my responsibilities as a journalist,” Watson wrote.
The article Watson says he couldn’t publish at the Star centres on the search for the lost ships of the 1845 Franklin expedition, an initiative led by Parks Canada that had significant input and personal investment by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The discovery of one of the Franklin ships, the HMS Erebus, was announced by the prime minister in September of 2014.
Watson says experts and civil servants who worked on the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition that found the wreck of the Erebus are outraged at what they see as “distorted and inaccurate accounts” of that discovery, which allegedly originated with a person close to the Prime Minister’s Office who also has influence within the Star.
Watson’s says his efforts to report on that person’s influence were stymied, and that editors put him under “a six-week reporting ban” he only broke free of upon his resignation.
Watson was not immediately available for comment Wednesday, but has promised more updates on his personal website and on his Facebook page. Toronto Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke and publisher John Cruickshank also did not respond to the National Post’s enquiries, but this story will be updated if that changes. The Star’s website, which boasts of Watson as “Canada’s only Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist,” still lists him as staff as of Wednesday afternoon.
Watson won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in breaking news photography for a grisly photo of adead U.S. soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu during the civil war in Somalia. He originally joined the Star in 1985 and covered foreign conflicts including in Somalia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. After leaving in 1998, he rejoined the Toronto daily from the Los Angeles Times in 2009 and has devoted most of his energies to reporting on Canada’s arctic.