Blog by John Miller

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Chicken journalism

What does it say about a publishing company when it defends the editorial integrity of its journalists, but regrets what they do?

Welcomed to the strange topsy-turvy world of Rogers Publishing.

A week after Maclean's magazine touched off a storm in Quebec with a story that called it "The Most Corrupt Province in Canada," and illustrated it with a cover showing the mascot of the Quebec city Carnaval carrying a briefcase overflowing with cash, Rogers Publishing says it "sincerely regret(s) any offence that the cover may have caused."

It was signed by Brian Segal, company president, and clearly trumps an online editorial published a day earlier by the editors in which they strongly defended both the choice of cover and the article.

The move was clearly designed to protect Rogers large telecom business in Quebec, where the company is taking on Bell and Videotron in Canada's hottest competition for new wireless business. But the message won't satisfy Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who is calling for a proper apology from the editors. Even the House of Commons waded into the controversy, with MPs passing a motion expressing their "profound sadness at the prejudice displayed and the stereotypes employed by Maclean's."

Everyone at the magazine is clamming up, but the editors must only feel betrayed by their corporate masters.

In fact, the article cited plenty of evidence to support its contention that the government led by Charest "has lurched from one scandal to the next" and the province has a 40-year history of being awash in corruption and ill-spent federal handouts -- from the 1970s Cliche Commission that investigated the construction industry, to Shawinigate, to the sponsorship scandal.

Maclean`s backdown was attacked as hypocrisy by columnist Peter Worthington, writing for Quebec-owned Sun-Media. He called it "political correctness run amok," and he's right.

It`s not going to help Rogers` telecom business to issue a mealy-mouth non-apology. But it's going to harm the credibility of its magazine to second-guess editors who were only doing their jobs.