Letter to the CBC President requesting the reinstatement of Patrick Brown and Don Murray

To: Hubert Lacroix, CBC President
Copies to:
Richard Stursberg, Vice-President, English Television
John Cruickshank, Publisher, CBC News and Current Affairs

Sir,
While we realize CBC is facing budgetary pressures, and that resources are increasingly precious, we do not understand the decision of senior management to cashier Don Murray and Patrick Brown.

First, it is clear they both received a long-term commitment from CBC when they relinquished staff status and signed their contracts. It is not reassuring to see CBC renege on that commitment after just a few years.

But even more dismaying, our reporting bench loses a lot of heft without them. There is no way around that fact. These are journalists who in many ways defined foreign reporting at CBC in the past few decades. Some of us grew up watching them. And we remind you they are among the very few who have risen to the task of serving both English- and French-speaking audiences, something you have said must continue.

Don has worked in nearly all our bureaux. He is a foreign policy expert. And there is no better war correspondent in Canada than Patrick Brown. To let that kind of expertise walk out the door in an effort to save a tiny fraction of our payroll is baffling, especially given the resources CBC has poured into developing them over the years.

Canadians may not be focused on foreign news at the moment. But there will be other cataclysmic upheavals, and there will be more wars, and we would suggest that while they are willing and able, it would be good to have Don and Patrick available to go out the door.

Any of us who has worked with them in hostile environments understands the value of the experience they bring to the job. This is not boilerplate or obligatory collegial praise, sir. This is a group of your most senior journalists telling you our news service is losing crucial gravitas.

And it would be dispiriting, to say the least, to hear them reporting on the other network. CTV has already scooped up some of our better correspondents. Lets not offer them two of our icons.

Yours truly,
Adrienne Arsenault, CBC TV News
Nahlah Ayed, CBC TV News
Peter Armstrong, CBC TV
Keith Boag, CBC TV
Susan Bonner, CBC TV
Michael Colton, CBC Radio
David Common, CBC TV
Michel Cormier, Radio Canada
Margaret Evans, CBC Radio
Celine Galipeau, Radio Canada
Guy Gendron, Radio Canada
Anthony Germaine, CBC Radio
David Halton, CBC TV (Retired)
Jean-Francois Lepine, Radio Canada
Neil Macdonald, CBC TV
Rick MacInnes Rae, CBC Radio
Peter Mansbridge, CBC TV
David McGuffin, CBC TV News
Terry Milewski, CBC TV
Joyce Napier, Radio Canada
Raymond Saint Pierre, Radio Canada
Joe Schlesinger, CBC TV
Alison Smith, CBC TV
Brian Stewart, CBC TV
Connie Watson, CBC Radio
Jennifer Westaway, CBC Radio

23 comments:

  1. Alternative Girlfriend
    Posted November 4, 2008 at 1:10 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    for M.J. [Mike] O’Brien:

    I would like to Thank you for writing that. It’s one of the best posts I’ve ever read and I really appreciate it.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 10:23 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    People who mistreat their employees and who disrespect their senior, most loyal staff, don’t give a damn about their constituents. In this case the CBC no longer cares about viewers, only money. Viewers only watch CBC news because they trust these two guys and their colleagues. We don’t know who this hubert guy is. I trust Patrick Brown though. I saw him recently in London on the BBC when they carried a story from Canada LOL. CBC once was good. Now it is bad and it forgot its watchers.

    -Katie Alsop
    A concerned University Student.

  3. Themis ~ K.and.M.Berries
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 9:15 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Comment: The Diminishment of Canada

    I see greed for excessive profits breeding powerful executives in the Canadian news industry as it loses sight of the original canons of journalism.

    Concomitantly I fear that news/editorial departments will be converted to low-autonomy entities reporting to profit centres.

    In these two events, trust in the Canadian media will be lost and the easier, more boisterous American choices will replace Canadian outlets on the screens of Canadian viewers. In that, Canada will be diminished.

    I dont know much about TV news. Until recently I wrote magazine news and articles, traveling internationally for Maclean Hunter and its successors.

    I had come to sense Canadian TV news people were the best in the world– few, but if you find one, they are best.

    The last war I covered was the American War against Iraq which ended 1 May 2003 when, from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President George Bush announced the invasion’s successful conclusion.

    With pen, laptop and camera I covered the occupation of Iraq by The United States, Britain and a small few allied forces from May 2003 for about a year until mid 2004. From that time on I pursued another career.

    I have been to all the continents including war zones around the globe, not with sound/film crews but with still camera and notepad.

    For me, the most trusted faces I observed from my quiet corners in the scariest places often have been Canadian TV journalists, including those of Don Murray and Patrick Brown and their crews.

    These are people who know that ratings and profits are undeserved unless their seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events/issues happens first.

    They know that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.

    When I would see them on a random “Air Canada” flight I would guess or ask about the story they were visiting and silently say thanks for the fact that at least someone of the general media would be getting it right. It was not about being Canadian but about being good. That once was the Canadian news industrys focus.

    I remember in the summer of 1990 I was helping Dale Grant with a book; covering the SuperGun story and the post 8-year war Mid-East for Maclean Hunter some time after famous Canadian entrepreneur Gerry Bull (Grant, D. Wilderness of Mirrors. 1991) was assassinated; and around the time Saddam Hussein was invading Kuwait.

    Suddenly I was coming back from overseas to Oka, Quebec to cover the Royal 22e Régiment (Van Doos) deployed near Montreal against Canadians (How freaky is that?)

    The typical ‘domestic’ Canadian reporters had no war-zone experience (no wars in Canada) hence Canadian news outlets re-assigned and brought home one or more of their people from overseas.

    Those assignment editors acted correctly. So did the ‘Van Doos’ peacekeepers. In the end, everyone went home without a scratch, with little hype. That really was the story. We all went back to the Mid East to cover real war and Saddam Husseins eventual ouster from Kuwait.

    Can you imagine the Oka story being handled by a bunch of sensationalizing, muck-raking, rabble-rousing rating-chasers the likes of which emerges more and more these days when the bean-counting money grubbers start doing the editorial hiring and firing?

    Those dedicated to the real craft of journalism, like CBC once upon a time, know that every news organization has only its credibility and reputation to rely on (Tony Burman, editor-in-chief, CBC News). The credibility and reputation Tony Burman referred to was earned by people like Brown and Murray.

    The Canadian viewer came to trust Canadian news outlets becasue of the work of people like Brown and Murray and would flip the channel away from the American station carrying Desperate Housewives to catch the Canadian news.

    Let’s face it. I am saying that Murray and Brown always got it right in my opinion and I always counted on that. I bet you did too. Their credibility and reputation was lent to the news outlet they worked for. To what outlet and country will the trust and respect for them be transferred to now?

    There is an erosion of good talent in the general press in the Western World. The worlds TV media is overall very dirty now and getting dirtier as the distinction between “church and state” slides. The integrity of good Canadian media people like Brown and Murray held the industry accountable and the industry maintained its respect and credibility in the eyes and minds of the world.

    What if we continue to lose our best and brightest people?

    Ratings, money and greed, drive the ship. Once upon a time it was a zealous will to serve the viewer with solid reporting and unequivocal separation between news and opinion no matter who paid the bills.

    For whatever reason, Canada’s news reporting industry held on to its canons of journalism to become the best, most reliable, most trusted in the world. (i.e.:There isnt a place on this planet you cannot listen to or find others listening to CBCs As it Happens .)

    A change is in the wind. It seems the editor’s side of the house has only vague control of itself.

    The CBC has traditionally fought the editorial vs. ratings/advertising crap and won the day in the long run. The same is true for a number of other media institutions in Canada and yes, not just CBC but elsewhere at home and around the world.

    In Canada, the general press once did a good job of maintaining quality reporting; deep sleuthing; reasonable cynicism; and a zealous pursuit of all the “W’s?”.

    People and only people make the difference in the news business.

    As Canadian media institutions slide because of the quest for the almighty dollar and the need to be a total media monopoly (a.k.a. Rogers; AOL-Time-Warner-CNN; and their ilk), they fire good editors and writers and pay the marketing executives another bonus for the money they saved/made.

    Here’s what I mean with my heading: Diminishment of Canada.

    Without trusted professionals like Brown and Murray in the Canadian news industry, where will viewers go?

    Ask yourself this. If a child is raised in the south of Saskatchewan with only U.S. news, books and art, is the child a Canadian?

    M. J. [Mike] O’Brien

  4. Anonymous
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 3:08 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece
  5. Fantastic Mr. Fox
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 2:48 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Yes, I also doubt that Peter Mansbridge is terribly worried about his future.

    Miss CBC Watch, when these people had a place to go.

  6. Dwight Williams
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 2:45 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    They may protecting their privileges…but they’ve earned those privileges.

    Speaking as a fan outside the organization at present, I would also prefer that Messrs. Brown and Murray stay on for as long as they’re able and willing.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 10:48 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Don’t kid yourselves. Look at this list of privileged products of the CBC ‘star’ system out to protect their futures. They too want to secure a big salary in the twilight of their careers for only filing 3 times a year.
    That’s CBC National News for ya. Exclusive club… and membership has its privileges.

  8. Alternative Girlfriend
    Posted November 2, 2008 at 4:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Nah, it will never stick in The Management’s Craw, just the poor people in the Mailroom maybe. Like I said, it’s all Ignore, Ignore, Ignore. It won’t move them because again, what we think just doesn’t matter.

    A great example was the whole Hockey Theme debacle. Canadians were downright pissed, offended even, vocal about it but we got nothing but “No, it’s going to be great! Believe us!” What it really came down to was The Ceeb had their plan to take advantage of some poor schmuck in the name of something that alot of Canadians are passionate about, and whether or not it was important in the grand scheme of things like our Economy or Health Care, it’s still something that Canadians cared about because it often held beautiful memories for us, like sitting in the living room with your Dad and brothers, wearing your jersey cheering on your team on a Saturday Night.

    Tradition be Damned. It was okay because they flashed that fancy “Contest” word and dognabit we were going to love it no matter what. I wish more people had’ve read this: http://firefly-alternativegirlfriend.blogspot.com/2008/06/name-your-price-for-that-tune.html
    first.

    Some things though, some things should just not be tampered with. I honestly can’t believe that The CBC even dared to do it. Just speaking to others about it, the most common feedback I got was “What were they thinking?!” and “Which collasial IDIOT made THAT decision?!” *cough* *cough* Scott Moore *cough* I stand by my description of the change as Blasphemous and don’t care if people call me crazy for it. They Ceeb may as well just change the red Maple Leaf in our flag to a Dodo Bird.

    Just another tidbit I’d like to throw in about that if we’re talking about complaining to the Mothercorpse about our discontent; my Comments were repeatedly not posted in the CBC’s Message Boards regarding the dropping of Dolores Claman’s Song. I assume they have whoever moderates them press the “Delete” Button if it didn’t cast their contest in a favourable light. Everything I wrote was FACT, not opinion, and assume that in no way did they want other readers taking that information in. I certainly wasn’t surprised that my Comments never made it onto Scott Moore’s Blog either.

    Enough about that though. I see people commenting about Joe here, and while you may not have liked his style or agreed with him alot, you must admit that “Being Ouimet” is not an easy job to do and he had very big shoes to fill, so at the very least kudos go to him for trying. How many of you would have? Yes Allan, I know you are hoppin’ in your chair there flailing your arm up high like a second grader who knows all of the answers, but I mean other than Allan. ;)

    And Denis, Really? Way to go sounding like a Smarty Pants there.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted November 1, 2008 at 12:15 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “I’ll take things Joe’s never had for two hundred, Alex”.

    Oh my god I may well die of laughter. “Quoted for truth,” as the kids say.

  10. Allan
    Posted November 1, 2008 at 8:37 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Now will CBC ignore their own staff like they do viewer mail?
    I’m glad you posted the actual text, ~O.
    Will they have to wait a year for Hubie to get back to them?

  11. Anonymous
    Posted November 1, 2008 at 7:48 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hey now, I never said writing and calling would change the outcome, I said it would stick in management’s craw. To my mind, that’s still a laudable goal.

  12. Alternative Girlfriend
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 9:57 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    E-mails, Phone Calls, Snail Mail Letters, none of it will work. I’ve been down that road before.

    YOU WILL BE IGNORED.

    It’s what they do.

    Act like the problem doesn’t exist and proceed to destroy what was once a beautiful thing.

    You know… as long as their gettin’ paid…. You, and You, and Us Regular Folk don’t matter.

    Come on now though, don’t act surprised.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 3:56 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    As for the petition issue, your best bet is to complain directly to management.

    Send real paper letters, or make phone calls, directly to management offices. If you get the run-around, contact Audience Relations instead (but again, real letters or phone calls)

    Management HATES getting phone calls.

    Even simple emails to management are better than nothing, and the email addresses are easy to figure out from the names.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 3:36 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Stuck his neck out? Brave??? I almost spat out my bargain cookies.

    It’s easy to be brave when you have nothing to lose. His job? His reputation? His friends?

    “I’ll take things Joe’s never had for two hundred, Alex”.

    (Yes, Joe, of course it’s easy to be brave when you’re anonymous. Touche! But I have those 3 things and I like them all very much)

    I’m just amazed that someone other than Joe thinks he’s brave. Unless…

  15. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 3:07 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I like Ouimet. I liked Joe, too. He did a good job and took all sorts of uncalled for abuse. And he stuck his neck out. He was brave.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 2:28 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The most hilarious part of Fake Ouimet’s tenure was that whole Price is Right comparison.

    Fake Ouimet was not so much a Drew Carey stepping in with dynamism to replace a Bob Barker.

    More like a dry, self-interested supply teacher who has kidded themself into thinking they’re coming to inspire the kids.

    After all, who wouldn’t be inspired by my experiences as [insert somewhat interesting side gig here] or my extensive collection of [insert lukewarm arcane band or music genre here]?

    But we all know the fate of such supply teachers. There’s a reason that they don’t teach full time.

    And it usually ain’t because they get that golden call from their agent or their patents get processed or they
    win the lottery.

    More likely, they sit around in a tiny apartment eating bargain cookies, waiting for the next lukewarm, self-absorbed episode of their life to finally occur.

  17. Dinah Christie
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 1:42 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    See ya, Joe.

    And truly, wouldn’t wanna be ya!

  18. John O
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 12:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I just read over on the sidebar that Fake Ouimet has quit.
    So long, Joe, and thanks for trying.
    The personal attacks for not doing something you said you wouldn’t do, right from the start, were uncalled for.
    That said, I see the real Ouimet has been picking up the slack.
    Please stay. ‘nuf said.

  19. Kev
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 9:21 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    If you’re a member of the public, you’d be much better off petitioning your elected representative and maybe some ministers, for two reasons: public petitions directly to the CBC on other issues have not been effective, and a falloff in ad revenue makes the CBC more dependent on government funding.

    Of course, if you wanted to be *really* far-sighted, you could also hint at your approval of some license-based funding model instead, with no ads allowed. The privates would probably love it, as who wants competition, and it would make the CBC directly answerable to the public, with government having a much-reduced role. You’d probably get better news without the sword of funding decisions hanging over the newsroom every time they debated running a story about some ministerial indiscretion or other.

  20. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 8:51 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The method is transparent. The high profile firings are a prelude to larger, more meaningful cuts in every newsroom across the country. Lambs to the slaughter.

  21. bruch04@sympatico.ca
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 8:40 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Can this be turned into a petition of some kind???!! How can I express my support for this request in such a way that Hubert will know that it’s not just CBC employees who are concerned, but the viewers as well?

  22. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 8:21 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    within six months most of the undersigned will also be gone because the CBC’s darkest days are just ahead

  23. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 7:37 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’d be interested to see Hubert’s reply, if there was one.
    Wasn’t he the guy who was preaching “open lines of communication” not even a year ago?


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