A reporter-turned-politician sues Canada’s largest newspaper publisher

Posted by on Dec 22, 2015 in Brian's Blog, Journalism, Justice, Newspapers and Magazines, Politics | 0 comments

Arthur Kent had made his name internationally as a foreign correspondent when he decided in 2007 to leave journalism behind and try his luck as a provincial politician in Alberta. He had covered the uprising in Tiananmen Square, witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, and earned the nickname “Scud Stud” during the Persian Gulf War of 1991 when he reported for NBC News about Iraqi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia.

In 2006 Kent returned to his native Alberta – which he had always planned to do – and used Calgary as a jumping-off point for trips to Afghanistan to cover the story of Canada’s military mission in Kandahar. He didn’t plan to go into politics at that point but was encouraged to do so by former Conservative premier Peter Lougheed, who said the party needed new blood. Kent won the nomination to represent the constituents of Calgary Currie as an MLA and ran for election when the writ was dropped in February 2008.

Former TV journalist Arthur Kent outside court during a break in his lawsuit against Postmedia and other individuals related to a 2008 column, in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Photo © Jeff McIntosh, used with permission

Former TV journalist Arthur Kent outside court during a break in his lawsuit against Postmedia and other individuals related to a 2008 column, in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Photo © Jeff McIntosh, used with permission

The media gave him plenty of coverage, firstly because they viewed him as a star candidate and secondly because – unlike other candidates – Kent spoke out about Conservative party matters that concerned him. He criticized Premier Ed Stelmach’s campaign team for failure to communicate and expressed disappointment when the premier’s handlers cancelled a scheduled appearance by Stelmach at a Kent fund-raising breakfast.

One of the columns did not sit well with Kent. Written by Don Martin, the Ottawa columnist for the National Post and Calgary Herald, it characterized Kent as a “self-absorbed” candidate who seemed to be unaware he was expected to play the role of a “mere infantry private who exists only to follow orders.” When editors for the two newspapers refused to run Kent’s rebuttal to the Martin column or issue an apology or retraction, he sued the columnist and the corporate owner of the papers for defamation.

The case took seven years to get to trial. It lasted for five weeks at Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary. I sat in for much of the proceedings and wrote an article for the online journal Facts & Opinion that you can read by clicking HERE. Enjoy!

 

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