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CBC Threatens Its Own Future …. The Danger of Mixing Journalism and Opinion

December 14th, 2015

After my post last week complaining – and yes, worrying – about  CBC journalist Keith Boag’s personal opinions  about Donald Trump, I told myself to lie low. It’s the holiday season.

That turns out to be very hard to do, because once one realizes the extent to which personal opinion has become the day-to-day fodder of an ever widening circle of CBC journalists, you see it, hear it and click on it everywhere.

Let me be crystal clear: this threatens the future of the CBC.

I personally agree with Terry Milewski’s “analysis” of the Senate, posted this morning on CBC.ca.

But with a straight face, tell me this is impartial journalism.

For a vast, modern democracy to be saddled with an unelected upper house is an embarrassment ………..  the Senate’s ludicrously lop-sided makeup makes it doubly farcical ….. It’s as though we dug up a relic of an ancient civilization …..  could the rites of the pharaohs be any more bizarre? …..  these absurd imbalances, fossilized by history …. 

Can I say what Terry said? Sure I can, because it’s my personal opinion And I don’t work for CBC. (Anymore.)

Should Terry be saying it on CBC? No, absolutely not.

These comments, these opinions, unequivocally violate – spoiler alert: here’s the broken record again –– CBC’s long-standing and incredibly clearly-written policy statement that its journalists and the organization itself must not take ANY positions on issues in the public life of the country. They must be …. impartial.

CBC’s senior news managers need to get serious about this. It’s their job.

What’s more, Canadian citizens and taxpayers expect CBC to live up to this policy because democratic discussion demands it, in an increasingly partisan media environment and in public life more generally?

This flouting of the Corporation’s own rules is really a serious problem for journalism at the CBC but, clearly, it now is journalism at the CBC.

And that is very dangerous for the organization’s future, especially with many people hoping that a new government in Ottawa may rethink the role of the CBC in Canada’s public life.

As more and more of CBC’s journalism is directly allowed to be – let alone just perceived to be – personal opinion, it nurtures a growing public perception that “the CBC is just another media platform like the other private media platforms in the marketplace, so why exactly, should the public pay taxes to fund it in the future?”

I don’t think the answer should be:

Oh well, get a grip Frank! ….. it’s 2015!


6 Responses to “CBC Threatens Its Own Future …. The Danger of Mixing Journalism and Opinion”

  1. I agree with You Frank. Sadly the general public is not ‘buying’ much that is impartial or well thought out/researched. As much as I hate to say it, it is possible that CBC is casting its own fate to those that pander not ponder. This need by some to be heard or acknowledged as a voice in a growing swirl of sound bites and web bits seems to have swept the high standard of reportage once the signature of CBC’s public affairs department into a less than savory tabloid format strewn with old news rehashed to match the ebb and flow of the monopolized media and their corporate despots. Sad!….but let us be clear that regionally the CBC is still holding on to it’s strong sense of community. This quality will be it’s saving grace. Its dilemma will be finding on air persona who can crack the market without relying on the opinions that you commented about. People like Larry and Loyd are hard to come by when reality TV is winning at the polls. We have to have faith and hope the new administration will make an effort to revitalize a Corp. Regional input is what CBC can do and in my ‘opinion’ should do. Fair reporting on political subjects should be free from opinion.

  2. P. D. Carswell says:

    One of the worst and earliest CBC reporters to offer his own opinions as “news” analysis was Neil MacDonald. It’s a pity to see this trend from otherwise professional reporters in the field. I agree that it will be very bad for the CBC, and hope the Mother Corp will change what is obviously a policy directive.

  3. Réjean Grenier says:

    Coming from straight journalism (20 yrs at RadCan and CBC) I agree but with a caveat. I believe there is place for commentary and opinion at the CBC but not from staff journalists. From commentators like Rex Murphy, sure. But it has to be billed as such, like columns or editorials in newspapers.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I was struck by the inflammatory tone of Terry’s article right away, and I didn’t like it at all. It’s not up to CBC to tell Canada to get rid of the senate.

    What also crosses my mind is that the CBC has a Harper-appointed board, and I wonder whether this CPC-dominated group is intent on still following Harper’s agenda, which is to discredit the CBC as much as possible, until there are screams to get rid of it.

    Interesting that it was written just as Duffy’s trial is getting into the interesting information that Harper used Novak to relay messages so that he could never be blamed, and so on. On to the Nigel Wright cheque.

    Whether I’m right or wrong, I no longer trust CBC.

  5. Hal Jones says:

    The issue you raise of reporting versus opinion is made worse by the CBC’s habit of labelling and promoting these opinions as “Analysis”. The examples you cite of Terry Milewski and Keith Boag are clearly their own opinions. They may have been shaped by the knowledge gleaned from knowledgeable sources but without attribution they remain persoal opinions.
    I knew both Terry and Keith years ago (I was a CBC correspondent for several years) and have little doubt that they would prefer to be traditional, solid journalists. However, I suspect they are under presuure from present management to “be different” in the hopes of helping CBC News survive the challenges posed by social media. Like you, I fear this is a strategy that is doomed to fail and may even doom the CBC.

  6. Laurence Stevenson says:

    If there was one lesson I had at CBC that was continuously hammered home it was ‘get the basics right’. Maintaining the integrity/impartiality of journalists is pretty much rule 1.
    (Except for Hal. Voicing your opinion about being thrown on air without any prep time was entirely appropriate given the circumstances. I tech’d a certain infamous W@6!

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