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Gentili: News moves fast but sometimes journalism takes time

A story about a Sudbury man charged under the Quarantine Act led to criticism of our coverage, but getting the story right often means slowing down
(Karolina Grabowska/Pexels)

A couple of weeks ago, ran a news release from the Greater Sudbury Police Service about a local man who had been charged for violating the Quarantine Act.

You may have seen the original story, which was based solely on that news release. It got around. wasn’t the only local news site to run the story, but we were one of, if not the first, to publish.

What happened after that, for reasons I’ll explain in a bit, was quite a bit of online criticism, emails and comments sent through the website, attacking our decision to run the press release without fact-checking.

When you do your job in public like we do, criticism is part and parcel. When we make mistakes, we make them in public. When we have to eat crow, we eat it in the street. It’s par for the course.

But the criticism we received for running the initial press release about the alleged Quarantine Act violation provides an opportunity to talk a bit about how we do journalism.

We, as reporters, had questions about the report, as we often do, but police opted not to name the man who was charged, so there wasn’t much we could do to answer those questions immediately. 

For your information, police routinely leave names of accused out of news releases. Sometimes this is to protect the victim of the alleged crime, say in the case of sexual assault or abuse involving a family member, but other times, as frustrating as it can be, we’re unclear why a name was withheld.

So, we wrote up the story and ran it based on the information provided by police. This is standard practice.

We consider police a reliable source, much like we consider Public Health Sudbury a reliable source or the province a reliable source. It means when a group we consider reliable issues a news release, we can give the information therein the benefit of the doubt. Or at least enough of a benefit to run the information provided, with proper accreditation to the source. It’s not us saying it, it’s whoever issued the release. 

We don’t publish things because we agree with them. That’s not how this works. We publish things we may personally disagree with all the time.

Groups like the police have checks and balances in place. For police, one of those checks and balances is the courtroom. When police issue a release about a murder, we run with it because it is unlikely police would invent news of a murder.

Plus, for a major crime like that, we as a news organization will follow the case through the courts. We’ll find out, as nearly as possible, what actually happened.

After we ran the story about the Quarantine Act violation charge — in which the person charged was not named remember — the man’s wife commented under the story post on our Facebook page, criticizing us for not reporting the truth.

For numerous reasons, which she shared with me in a later phone conversation (a conversation she recorded with my consent, and parts of which were later used in a video by a fundraising organization that calls itself a news outlet), the couple felt the man was unjustly charged.

Here’s where things get sticky. was criticized for running the press release without fact-checking. But, whether the man was charged and whether that charge was justified are actually two different questions.

It is absolutely true he was charged. In my view, was perfectly justified in running that initial release. It happened.

Had the police named him, it would have made our job a little easier in what comes next, but they didn’t, so we had to eat the criticism that followed.

It’s important to note, it would have been impossible to fact-check the story had the man’s wife not outed him on Facebook, so we owe her thanks for doing that. Her forthrightness provided us the chance to do some journalism.

Without knowing his name or the backstory to how he wound up fined under the Quarantine Act, couldn’t have done the follow up work we were able to do.

The couple told us he worked for a power company in California, doing restoration work after the terrible wildfires during the last fire season. They said he had been crossing the border regularly without an issue for months.

As well, they said the reason he was returning to Canada was for a medically necessary appointment at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, where he is undergoing cancer treatment. 

Upon his latest return to Canada, he was told his negative COVID-19 test was invalid because it was too old and he would have to spend three days at the Radisson hotel near Pearson Airport, the so-called “Quarantine Hotel.” He left a day early, hence the charge.

The couple told us they felt the charge was unjustified because: 1.) As a power company employee, he was an essential worker, which, in their interpretation of the Canadian legislation, should have exempted him from quarantine; 2.) He had a recent negative COVID test, and; 3.) He was returning to Canada for a medical appointment.

These are all testable claims. But without knowing his name, these were claims we wouldn’t have known and wouldn’t have been able to fact-check.

And fact-check we did. Our health reporter Len Gillis immediately got to work. However, there was a lot of information to sift through, a lot of legislation to read and review; there were interviews to do and information to source.

That takes time. Journalism takes time. It took Gillis several days to gather the information and many hours to write it, and it took several more hours to edit the story into a publishable form.

It turns out, based on the extensive and commendable work Gillis did, that the fellow likely shouldn’t have been fined in the first place. You can read Gillis’ story here. It’s good journalism.

We are grateful to the couple, Terri and Michael Bedard, for giving us the chance to do our jobs and, hopefully, set the record straight.

That’s what good journalism is. Asking the right questions, sourcing the most accurate information, following that information where it leads and laying out the findings for the public to digest.

Mark Gentili is the community editor for


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Mark Gentili

About the Author: Mark Gentili

Mark Gentili is the editor of
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