Guest blogger: In The Court Of The Crimson Logo

Sent to us by Allan.
Enjoy.

~O

Does the CBC know anything about journalism?
Does it even understand its own code of “Standards & Practices”?
Thanks to Stephen Taylor we are led to believe that reporter Krista Erickson was the puppet master behind MP Rodriguez asking questions that went over even his own head at the Mulroney Inquiry.
Now the National Post is demanding a formal announcement identifying the reporter and what discipline has been meted out.
It’s been a month, and CBC brass have been strangely quiet and slow to put this matter behind them.
But not entirely silent.

CBC spokesman Jeff Keay even admitted to The Canadian Press that one of the Crown corporation’s reporters had acted in an “inappropriate way” and violated CBC’s “journalistic policies and practices.”
and
Publisher John Cruickshank sets the record straight in an open letter (saying that) “CBC News had publicly condemned the behaviour.”

So it would seem that guilt has been clearly established by these two gentlemen.
But guilty of what?
Cruickshank specifies that a CBC staff member had “communicated suggested questions to Liberal MPs in advance of a public hearing.”
Yeah, so?
Since there’s no implication that these were hypnotic suggestions, what then is the violation?
If I call an MP and identify myself as a reporter and ask “what questions will you be putting to Mr. Mulroney?”, have I gone too far?
If I ask “will you be bringing up the lobbying efforts in connection with the wireless spectrum?”, have I gone too far?

Now, I’m definitely not qualified to run a news organization, but I am curious to learn if anyone at the CBC is either.
Will they stand by their own employee and defend that person’s integrity, or forever mark them as an unethical reporter?
How will management demonstrate the “transparent and reliable complaints process” that Cruickshank praises?
What biblical passage from S & P will they be quoting to show all of us that this reporter should have known better?
The rule or policy that was broken must be somewhere in that document, according to Jeff Keay.
Which one was it?
We await further enlightenment. We thirst for a better understanding of the art of journalism and leadership.
We already know that the reporter is guilty. Now it’s simply time (overdue, in fact) for Jeff and John to demonstrate the courage of their … convictions.

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous
    Posted January 15, 2008 at 6:31 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “MVP” tanked because of it’s time slot, Friday evening is death. The current exec. believe they are above such realities of the business … or they are just stupid. “Sophie” is so incredibly bad that it will start bleeding audience this week. It has no future. I suspect “MVP” will end up in that spot. I have no interest here and think all four new shows are derivative and tedious.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted January 14, 2008 at 11:41 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Everything else launched last week did better than MVP. Good luck with your career as a phone psychic.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted January 14, 2008 at 5:37 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Fulford can relax … here’s the way it’s gonna go … “The Border” will be retooled because the prod. values and direction are good but the writing is crummy. “Sophie” is DOA and will go the way of “Rumours” and other money squandered in Quebec. “Jpod”, while a noble effort, won’t find an audience on the CBC and will be quietly cancelled. Copeland will write something withering about the Corpse in response. “MVP” will be moved to richer pastures on the sched. in the vain hope that Alice is there.

  4. Nancy
    Posted January 13, 2008 at 2:10 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Why doesn’t the reporter in question step forward and answer these questions and explain his or her actions? CBC News has done everything in its power to cover this up. Why the secrecy? That only makes things worse. I do not know if the journalist did womething WRONG but he or she SHOULD step forward and explain what happened.

  5. Enik
    Posted January 13, 2008 at 6:35 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Respect? They teach workshops on that, don’t they?

  6. Allan
    Posted January 12, 2008 at 12:23 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Krista’s signed confession that her avowed goal was to unseat the Harper government is all the proof that’s needed. May I see that document please?
    Until then I have no hesitation in assuming that the reporter in question is an honourable, ethical professional who knows their job and does it to the best of their ability and was doing so in this instance.
    In fact, when I heard that a reporter was in some way behind the question Rodriguez posed. my initial reaction was “give that person a medal!”
    I don’t accept that reporters are not permitted to provide MP’s with any evidence they’ve uncovered.
    And I require evidence, not opinion, when anyone suggests that day to day co-operation has evolved into collusion.

    At the core of this story is a person.
    A person who is entitled to be heard, before sending out fundraising letters claiming a widespread conspiracy necessitating donations in the $100 to $200 range.
    Doug Finley’s accusations are laughable, and similar to Mulroney’s demand that the 5th Estate be investigated about their motives after airing Schrieber’s claims.
    Every day, an MP stands in the House of Commons and asks a question based on a recent newspaper article. Andrew seems to take the position that the MP would not be permitted to contact the source of the story to confirm it’s accuracy, or that if they did, the reporter would not be allowed to speak with them.
    That doesn’t make sense to me.
    I favor a press that pushes the envelope and is not the least intimidated by a powerful government. Every injustice, failure, and revelation that the press brings to light carries the innate challenge – “what are you gonna do about it?”. We expect news organizations to be aggressive and dogged in their pursuit of the truth because it’s in our national interest. And that’s no easy task when you’re faced with uncooperative public officials, corporate stonewalling and dependency on advertisers.
    Reporters in every city act as our agents, expected to do their utmost in “keeping it real” for the sake of everyone. And it’s reporters more than anyone else who keep politicians honest and acting responsibly between elections.
    So there’s a bit of a “support our troops” sentimentality there, for me at least.
    In judging a reporter, it’s primarily the quality of their work, accuracy and dedication to their profession that concerns me, and not their private political persuasions or spiritual beliefs or drug problems. That’s for spinmiesters like Finley to exploit and use to distract from the real issues.

    I’m not trying to be hard on you Andrew, and I appreciate you taking the time to comment on this post. Neither of us have all the facts at this stage.
    In writing this post I was trying to point out that the CBC was quick to defend itself but not the reporter. And neither Jeff nor John seemed to think twice before hanging one of their own out to dry. Are they, in this case, justified? Or just plain reckless with another person’s reputation.
    Where is the indication that management respects not just themselves but the people who work for them as well?

  7. Anonymous
    Posted January 12, 2008 at 11:11 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    (Is that report online anywhere? If so, I’m having trouble finding it. The truncated CBC.ca story apparently didn’t link to it, and I can’t find it on the corporate site or using Google. But I’ll keep trying.)

    The complete Milewski report was on both the corporate site and the National site when the report was originally released.

    Unfortunately CBC.ca management during the Galipeau era arbitrarily decided to purge older files from the original National site to save server space (without consulting The National or anyone else) At that time the Milewski report disappeared.

    It may be somewhere on an internet archive site if you check for a captured corporate site or The National site for that time period. Usually archive sites only allow Googlebot to scan the top page.

  8. Bill D.
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 7:48 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Andrew:

    I never said it was ethical, but it also isn’t fabrication or plagiarism.

    I would still like to see a reference from the CBC’s JS&P that clearly states the offence the journalist commited.

    I would have thought being charged with the equivalent of “unspecified crimes against the people” went out with Ceaucescu.

    Given that CBC editorial managers are known to lurk around here (and they would have the policy memorized, doncha think?), and it’s been eight hours since my last message (and 27 since the original post), I’m wondering if I’m justified in thinking that it doesn’t exist, given that no one has pointed to it yet.

    (Hopefully our genial host Ouimet didn’t smite those responses. :) )

    I read the policy online, and I didn’t see anything that is completely on point with respects to this particular case (I fully admit that doesn’t mean it isn’t there).

    Another question: Does anyone see any parallels to this case and the Milewski affair from the APEC summit of 1997? It’s been a while, but I believe he was accused of giving advice to APEC summit protesters. A 1999 report by then Radio-Canada ombudsman Marcel Pepin resoundingly cleared Milewski.

    (Is that report online anywhere? If so, I’m having trouble finding it. The truncated CBC.ca story apparently didn’t link to it, and I can’t find it on the corporate site or using Google. But I’ll keep trying.)

    On the reporter writing or broadcasting something, what if they slapped the label ‘analysis’ on it and took the ‘I’s out, merely saying “here’s some questions someone might wish to investigate.”

    Would that be okay with you?

    I don’t know if you read Kinsella’s post, but he noted that the N-P wrote an editorial calling for the miscreant reporter to be named, even though it worked hand in glove with the Alliance and PCs years before on the Shawinigate story.

    Let us spare a small moment in our busy lives for the condemnation of rank hypocrisy.

  9. Andrew Lundy
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 4:09 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Wow, where to begin?

    First off, apologies to Ouimet for missing the target. Allan it is. (and thanks for pointing that out, Paul).

    First to inudes: Sure, any member of the public can call and suggest questions to an MP. But reporters have to remove themselves from that situation off the bat. They are there to cover the hearing, to act as professional witnesses, and maybe to analyze what happened. But not to become a part of the process by trying to influence how the process unfolds.

    Would you think it was OK for a reporter covering a protest to suggest to protest organizers the best streets to block, or what kind of slogans and placards to bring out?

    On to Enik: I think you’re drawing a parallel where there isn’t one. “If I am a reporter and I go to an MP and I ask “Will you be asking Mr. Mulroney about his possible lobbying efforts on wireless regulation?”, is that me feeding an MP a question? It certainly does suggest a question that the MP could pursue.”

    Asking MPs what questions they’ll ask is not the same as feeding them questions TO ask. Your example comes close to the line, I think, but it’s still legit. But if the MP said, ‘what lobbying efforts,’ and the reporter then gave the MP all the evidence, that would be crossing the line.

    And whether this kind of thing went on with Gomery is beside the point. It shouldn’t happen. I’m sure it does, but its prevalence doesn’t make it ethical.

    Bill: to answer your first question, I’d say if a *reporter* wrote that ‘here are the questions I’d ask..’ then I’d have a problem with that. A columnist, fine, but not a reporter, who should have at least the appearance of objectivity. But we’re not talking about that what-if — putting something in a column or story is not the same as contacting an MP on the committee directly and feeding him or her questions to ask. I think there’s a clear difference.

    As for Kinsella, Wells et al, they’re just saying the same thing: everybody does it, it’s part of the landscape.

    Sure, and it’s one reason why a lot of people are turned off MSM now. “Hey man, everybody’s doin’ it” is not sound reasoning, and doesn’t convince me it’s ethical.

    As for the JS&P, I didn’t take the little blue book with me when I left CBC, so I can’t quote chapter and verse, but I’m betting the sections on objectivity and bias cover it. And my editors at the other places I’ve worked would have had huge problems with what the CBC reporter apparently did.

  10. Bill D.
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 10:57 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Could someone please point out to me (and as was noted in Allan’s post) the exact section of CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices that the reporter violated?

    On Dec. 28, at my own blog, I posed the following question:

    “… Would it be different if (the reporter) had written or broadcast something saying ‘here’s the questions I would ask Mulroney if I were on the ethics committee’ a day or two before the witness’s appearance and transparently put those same questions out for all the world to see?

    “Would that breach CBC guidelines about journalistic behaviour that could be seen as partisan?”

    Andrew suggests that the CBC reporter’s behaviour “violated not only CBC’s JS&P but the policies of pretty much every newsroom in the country.”

    He might want to check out Warren Kinsella’s related post from Jan. 10.

    During the Shawinigate period, he alleges the National Post was giving the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties a heads-up on their Shawinigate stories so the pols could be better prepared for question period.

    Those parties are the forerunners of the current Conservative party, which is so aggrieved by the CBC reporter’s behaviour in this case.

    On Dec. 15, Paul Wells of Maclean’s blogged the following under the headline “Don’t tell Doug Finley but …

    “… but reporters have been planting questions with MPs at committee hearings since the dawn of time. I don’t know whether I ever did it with Reform, Alliance or NDP MPs when the Liberals were in government, but I know it got done and if I had a story I needed advancing, I’d have done it in a second. ‘Hey, you might want to ask about…’

    I know this will come as a shock to people who think the state broadcaster must be barred from embarrassing the government. Guys like Doug Finley.”

    (Note: Wells is a former N-Per. His current boss is Ken Whyte, who was the N-P’s editor during Shawinigate.)

    I also offer the following from a Dec. 24 CP story:

    “CBC brass have said they are investigating and considering possible disciplinary action against a reporter who allegedly supplied questions for Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez to ask Mulroney.

    “But the broadcaster’s reaction has left some puzzled on Parliament Hill.

    “Other reporters say they’ve suggested questions for politicians in the past – for instance, when Conservatives were in opposition and grilling the Liberals during the sponsorship scandal.”

    The practice might not be a best one (although I again implore people to tell me what JS&P section was breached), but it seems to be a relatively common one.

  11. Enik
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 10:48 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I too am confused about the supposedly obvious difference between “a reporter feeding an MP questions and a reporter asking politicos what THEY will ask”.

    If I am a reporter and I go to an MP and I ask “Will you be asking Mr. Mulroney about his possible lobbying efforts on wireless regulation?”, is that me feeding an MP a question? It certainly does suggest a question that the MP could pursue.

    Similarly, I could ask “Have you heard…?”, “Are you aware…?”, “Have you read…?” and “What do you know about…?” all in such a way that the questions prompt the MP to borrow my wording or come up with his own to ask pointed questions of Mr. Mulroney, even questions that are “over his head”.

    Weren’t there similar interactions between reporters and MPs during the (Liberal) Sponsorship scandal? Aren’t these kinds of interactions common whenever a significant issue arises in government?

    I fail to see the line here between asking and feeding. But then I too am definitely not qualified to run a news organization, just to work in one.

  12. Anonymous
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 10:08 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    There is absolutely no way to rationalize or justify a “reporter” from the state funded CBC providing direction, research and questions to a group of liberal MP’s in an effort to smear or connect the current Stephen Harper government to the Mulroney-Shreiber affair. The CBC’s position in this regard is reprehensible and indefensible. The CBC has again violated the sacred trust of Canadians.

  13. Paul
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 8:58 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Andrew, you did see this was a guest post by Allan, right?

  14. iNudes
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 8:29 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I am sorry Andrew, but you haven’t really explained how you feel suggesting a question violates standards and practices.

    There is nothing stopping anyone (including yourself) from calling up Mr. Rodriguez’s office and suggesting a question. I have heard no reports that the reporter made any sort of deal to get their question asked. The question was suggested, Mr. Rodriguez can ask it or not, it’s up to him.

    This isn’t the first time a reporter has suggested a question to a politician. I’ve heard this happened with the sponsorship scandal…except it was conservative members who had questions suggested by reporters. Funny how the tory blogosphere wasn’t complaining then.

    Funny how if a question is aimed at a friend it’s called a vendetta, but if it’s aimed at an enemy it’s called uncovering the truth.

  15. Andrew Lundy
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 12:06 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Seriously, Ouimet… CBC admits one of its reporters fed questions to a Liberal MP so they could be asked at a public hearing and your response is, “so what?” Are you kidding me?

    It’s not a reporter’s job to become part of a political process. It’s not a reporter’s job to help one particular party, or one particular MP.

    What the reporter (I don’t know if it was Krista Erickson) did was flat-out inexcusable, and violated not only CBC’s JS&P but the policies of pretty much every newsroom in the country.

    Your facetious comment that the suggestions weren’t ‘hypnotic’ so they should be OK is juvenile at best.. and it’s way beneath you.

    Not only that, but your attempt to draw a parallel between a reporter feeding an MP questions and a reporter asking politicos what THEY will ask falls flat on its face. They’re not the same at all.

    About the only thing you got right in this post is your admission that you’re “definitely not qualified to run a news organization…”


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