Wonderful demonstration today of how BC’s tight little circle of political reporters is willfully blind to the real issue at stake in the CBC conflict of interest matter. Of course, I did not expect anything else from this trio on CKNW. I question their own journalistic ethics because of financial relationships they have had with business groups affected by their reporting. I’m wary of reporters who take payments from groups they might report upon and then claim absolute objectivity.
This is part of a comment I added to Alex Tsakumis’ blog (no longer online) article titled: CBC Ombudsman Levels Conflict Deflection by CBC Vancouver of Their Victoria Bureau Chief: Stephen Smart’s Conflict Finally, Officially Outed!
While I have not commented on Stephen Smart’s capabilities as a reporter, i do strongly condemn the regional management of CBC who chose to defend the indefensible, in effect choosing the private interest of their colleagues over their professional responsibility as news providers.
This issue has never been about Stephen Smart the man – I for one have never met him – or about his wife. Alex, you and I did not dream up a new definition of ‘conflict of interest’ nor did we ever attack Stephen Smart’s capabilities or achievements. As we pointed out often, the issue is one that should be dealt with separate from personalities.
Alex and I are likely the bloggers that Baldrey and Good claim have “axes to grind.” Baldrey tries to smear us as NDP partisans. A fatuous argument but, I guess he has no good ones.
From my piece Help for the CBC on conflicts of interest:
Relationships that cross the media-political divide raise ethical questions for the journalists and their employers. Should the potential conflict of interest merely be disclosed to readers or viewers? Or should the journalists be shifted to new assignments to lessen the appearance their motives might be divided?”
[LA Times James] Rainey offered outcomes of ethical reviews, including these:
- Los Angeles Times political reporter Ronald Brownstein recently began a new assignment as a columnist for the newspaper’s opinion and editorial pages after his bosses banned him from writing news stories about the presidential race. The Times was seeking to avoid the appearance of a conflict: Brownstein is married to Eileen McMenamin, chief spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain, a candidate for the Republican nomination.
- Nina Easton, Fortune magazine Washington bureau chief and Fox News analyst, said she would not write stories centering on McCain’s campaign, because her husband, Russ Schriefer, is plotting media strategy for McCain. When appearing on Fox, she said, she plans at least occasional disclaimers to tell TV viewers she is married to a McCain advisor.
Rainey also quotes Tom Rosenstiel, a former Washington correspondent for Newsweek magazine and The Times. He said that in many cases, disclosure was not enough:
“You have the right to marry anyone you want, but you don’t have the right to cover any beat you want,” said Rosenstiel, now director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
I paraphrase Professor Lee Wilkins, editor of The Journal of Mass Media Ethics:
Like it or not, the perception is that Stephen Smart is reporting about something in which his wife is a player — and CBC isn’t telling the public.