I’ve made an issue of the conflict of interest CBC Legislative Bureau Chief Stephen Smart faces when reporting on Premier Photo-Op and her government while he shares pillows each night with Rebecca Scott, Premier Clark’s Deputy Press Secretary.
Wayne Williams, News Director, CBC News British Columbia, said this in correspondence with me:
Earlier last year, Rebecca Scott, now married to Mr. Smart, accepted a position in Premier Christy Clark’s office. But I should be clear about what her job is and what it is not. Yes, it is a political position. She is one of a number of press secretaries or assistants in the office whose principal job it is to advise the premier on constituency matters and prepare background briefing summaries for particular issues or upcoming events.
I told Williams that I was familiar with Press Secretary Chris Olsen but asked him to name the other press secretaries. Of course, there were no others. Williams did emphasize:
at no time is she a point of contact for Stephen Smart.
I will ignore that unfortunate wording since the young couple has been married less than a year.
However, I do wonder if the firing of Press Secretary Chris Olsen Thursday changes anything for Smart and Scott. My dictionary defines deputy as a person appointed as assistant who serves as successor in the event of a vacancy. Since CBC defended Smart because his wife was “one of a number of press secretaries” but now she is the only press secretary, the broadcaster’s already weak position has further deteriorated.
CBC has argued that no review or complaints about Smart’s work noted examples of biased reporting. Critics such as the one you are reading pointed out that Smart’s conflict might cause reticence in originating stories that reflect badly on his wife or her boss. Viewers expect the top CBC journalist covering BC’s government would follow any lead diligently and without encumbrance. He must not be a me-too reporter repackaging PAB press releases.
Last week provided an example of CBC pulling punches on political coverage in a matter involving Scott. On February 9, The Tyee reported on an email sent to press gallery members by deputy press secretary Scott. It said:
In place of a formal Throne Speech, the Premier will be appearing on CKNW’s Bill Good Show to outline the government’s agenda for the spring session, The premier will give a scrum to other media who are welcome to watch the interview at the CKNW studio…
This message was quickly recognized as the wrong message.
Just about every news organization, as well as the twitterverse and the blogosphere, were quick to jump on the “in place of a Throne Speech” message sent by Scott on February 9. Some of the tweeting was delicious and devilish stuff from the likes of Gary Mason and Lindsay Kines.
All of the major media outlets were on this quickly, except for CBC. They took four days. Did CBC hold off on the story because it distressed Stephen Smart’s wife?
That deserves an explanation from Wayne Williams and his boss Jennifer McGuire. Anyone care to ask?