Jennifer McGuire is general manager and editor in chief of CBC News. Today, with no shortage of hubris, she posted a defence that attempts to explain the broadcaster’s determination to act against recommendations of CBC Ombudsman Kirk LaPointe by continuing the appointment of Stephen Smart, husband of Premier Clark’s Deputy Press Secretary, as CBC’s Legislative Bureau Chief.
One minor but interesting thing about McGuire’s piece is that it has been tinkered with after they posted it. The CBC timeline for the article when I write this shows: “Posted: Jan 31, 2012 3:13 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 31, 2012 4:03 PM ET.” Most of the comments allowed are time stamped before the item was supposedly posted. Since the last update, about eight hours, only three comments and a few replies to comments have been published. Comments were running about 90% critical of Ms. McGuire’s rationalizations so the webmaster pulled references to her article from the CBC News home page. One is left with the impression CBC is playing games with its comment sections to avoid embarrassment. The most recent one may have been too painful for folks at the public broadcaster:
“Sorry Jennifer, your’e wrong. Just because Stephen Smart has not breached journalistic standards in his reports does not mean there is no conflict. A media outlets lack of reporting is just as bad as “soft journalism.”
“Here are some examples:
“1) If you Google “Stephen Smart CBC” you find that the CBC failed to report on the Ombudsman findings last week. The Globe and Mail also missed this major story.
“2) Last week the Times Colonist reported the hiring of Christy Clark’s friend to a high paid VIHA job was labelled “secret and confidential” rather than “Urgent” as previously reported.
“3) The BC Rail documents are all over the internet and everyone except Bill Tielman and Alex Tsakumis ignore the facts.
“4) The other day my comment was censored by CBC because it referred to Smart’s conflict. It was clean and only stated facts with a link to your competition
“Thankfully we now have the internet and are able to dig out the real truth. I refuse to watch the CBC news until my confidence is restored.”
There is one additional avenue for CBC consumers who are unsatisfied with the public broadcaster’s stone ear in this matter. There is a segment of The National called Go Public that provides this invitation:
“Want to hold the powers that be accountable? Go Public wants to hear from you. You can email us directly at email@example.com, with your name, contact information and details of the story you would like us to look into – or – you can use the story submission form [on the linked page].”
Here is the email I sent to CBC News Go Public:
May I suggest you investigate the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in British Columbia. CBC’s Legislative Bureau Chief is the husband of Premier Clark’s Deputy Press Secretary, a person appointed by Order in Council, which by-passes rules of engagement faced by typical civil servants.
The Deputy Press Secretary in one of a relatively small group that designs and co-ordinates the Premier’s public relations. Of course, the purpose of that office is to gain positive spin on stories involving the leader of the Liberal Party of British Columbia.
The CBC Ombudsman investigated the obvious conflict of interest and determined that the relationship was inappropriate. Oddly, the general manager and editor in chief of CBC News decided the findings of the Ombudsman should be ignored.
This relationship precludes the Victoria Bureau Chief from investigating and reporting on similar or more egregious conflicts of interest that affect fellow members of BC’s Legislative press gallery. To do so would simply amplify concerns about his own position.
Since the only option of complaint has not led to a satisfactory resolution, Go Public should examine and report on this unprecedented situation.