(By: Ryan Rocca)
Renowned Toronto Star investigative reporter Kevin Donovan came to Ryerson earlier this week to discuss his newly-released book entitled Secret Life: The Jian Ghomeshi Investigation.
Ryerson journalism professor Lisa Taylor sat down with Donovan at an event at the Rogers Communications Centre and discussed highlights from the book.
Donovan’s work contains a detailed account of his experiences covering the scandal involving former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi and being one of the first journalists in Canada to break the now infamous story.
“This story was very different than almost any I have ever dealt with,” Donovan said as he read an excerpt from his book. “There were no court records to support the allegations that Jian Ghomeshi beat women during intimate encounters. I spent some time over the summer looking both civilly and criminally and came up empty handed.”
Donovan went on to describe the process that it took for him to finally get the evidence that he needed in order to publish the allegations against Ghomeshi. It took Donovan numerous months of hard, investigative work. Once Donovan did get the interviews he needed, the story hit the front page of the Toronto Star.
A media frenzy quickly ensued following the publishing of Donovan’s article and stories of Ghomeshi’s alleged vulgar behaviour became a part of the daily news cycle in Canada. After the completion of a criminal trial last March, Ghomeshi was found not guilty in regards to these allegations.
Even so, Donovan’s new book and his articles in the Toronto Star highlight issues in regards to sexual misconduct and sexual violence in Canada. Secret Life: The Jian Ghomeshi Investigation contains the accounts of a total of 17 different individuals – some men and some women- who claim that Ghomeshi assaulted them.
One of the key themes of Donovan’s book is discussing his own personal accounts in covering these allegations. He discusses issues in regards to journalism ethics and his personal practices as a journalist, some of which he highlighted at the event at the RCC.
In addition to the Ghomeshi controversy, Donovan has also previously broken stories like the Rob Ford crack scandal, Ornge Air Ambulance scandal, controversies in regards to news anchors Evan Soloman and Leslie Roberts, and many other now-infamous cases. He has also completed war coverage from Afghanistan and Iraq.
When speaking to the audience at the RCC event, which was largely made up of journalism students and professors, Donovan used his past experience to describe his personal set of journalism ethics and practices. “The dangers of printing misinformation are many,” Donovan said as he read an excerpt from his book describing his way of thinking when covering the Ghomeshi story.
“As journalists, we have a very important role in society and do not serve the public by rushing to judgement,”said Donovan. “I am of the belief that it is more important to be right than to be first.”
Donovan went on to say that accuracy should be the main goal of all journalists, especially in complex cases that are in regards to scandals involving high-profile figures, like the Ghomeshi case.
For first-year Ryerson journalism student Hilary Punchard, Donovan’s remarks helped her understand what it means to be a journalist. “I learned a lot about journalism ethics at the event,” said Punchard following the discussion. “Donovan helped me realize that journalists truly work for the people and not just for the news organization,” she said.
Lauren Davis, who is also a first-year Ryerson journalism student, had a similar reaction to the event. “He showed me that, in order to make it as a successful journalist, you have to show what you know are the facts, whether both sides of the story like it or not,” she said.