On The Sunday Edition this morning, host Michael Enright sat down with Stéphane Dion, the Liberal critic for Canadian Heritage, to discuss the Liberal vision for the CBC. What struck me is Enright’s introduction to the story. He brought up the dilemma of how the CBC should report on itself.
This inspired me to write a comment on the Sunday Edition web site:
I’m surprised you’d even ask about the dilemma of how the CBC should cover itself. Having been a longtime CBC News watcher/listener, I’ve seen it first-hand. The answer is to cover the CBC only to distance itself from any problematic people (Jian Ghomeshi) or ignore the real stories entirely (Rex Murphy, Peter Mansbridge, and Amanda Lang). More than anything, the CBC’s reaction to the Lang affair is what ended my nearly thirty-year reliance on the CBC as my primary news source. CBC News, as an organization, has forgotten its purpose and cannot be trusted to uphold basic journalistic integrity.
A couple of years back, the CBC reported that the Royal Bank brought in foreign workers to do jobs that Canadians could have done. Canadaland reported that Amanda Lang unsuccessfully tried to get the story scuttled. Later, Lang wrote an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail about how the story was a non-issue. She did this entirely of her own volition, and broke CBC News rules in the process. Then, she had Royal Bank CEO Gord Nixon on her show for a softball interview. What really blew my mind is that while she reported on the Royal Bank, she was in a serious relationship with W. Geoffrey Beattie, who also is the chair of the Royal Bank’s Risk Committee, on their human resources committee, and member of the Royal Bank board.
Once this story broke, how did the CBC handle it? By circling the wagons. CBC Head of Public Affairs Chuck Thompson told CanadaLand,
Amanda did declare her relationship with Geoff Beattie to her executive producer (Robert Lack) and he has the appropriate processes in place.
What were these appropriate processes? We have no idea. I’d suggest that there are no appropriate processes for this situation. She should have not been involved in the reporting of the story, period. Her working to influence the story tells me she doesn’t have any idea what journalist integrity means.
You’ll recall Gordon Hewart’s famous words about justice,
justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done
I’d suggest the same is true for conflicts of interest. Not only must there be no conflict of interest, but there must not be even the perception of any conflict of interest. Putting some alleged backroom control into place isn’t nearly enough. Reporting the news is entirely about trust. Every time I see Amanda Lang reporting the news, I am reminded that the CBC is not worthy of my trust.
It saddens me because I genuinely like the CBC, but also for all the other reporters and worker who strive to do the right thing. They’ve been betrayed by management and some of their co-workers.
What really closed the book on my trust in the CBC was the response Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News, posted about this mess. In part, she said,
It is unfortunate that our internal processes are fodder for external debate by people who have their own agendas.
Can you believe the cluelessness? She’s running a publicly funded organization and calls it unfortunate that taxpayers are learning about what their tax dollars are funding. Further, the business of news organizations is to do exactly this sort of thing! I suspect she thinks it’s unfortunate Lang was caught rather than it being unfortunate we learned about their internal processes.
Sunday Edition image © CBC