Reporter put in harm’s way: CBC ombudsman
CBC Ombudsman Vince Carlin has reported on complaints, apparently spearheaded by Conservative Party strategist Doug Finley, from the so-called “Krista Erickson” affair. The parliamentary reporter was initially disciplined by the CBC for passing questions to the Liberals to pose to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at a committee hearing a year ago into the Airbus scandal. The questions were about whether Mulroney had lobbied the present Conservative government on behalf of Quebecor without registering as a lobbyist.
Carlin found that the rule barring the planting of questions with politicians, something journalists at other news outlets do, is an unwritten one at the CBC. He wrote that, in effect, CBC put Erickson in harm’s way when they moved her to the Parliamentary bureau from Winnipeg with little political reporting experience and without a better understanding of (written and unwritten) CBC policy.
Carlin also found that Erickson, “a journalist of exceptional energy and tenacity,” was pursuing a story that “was clearly of public interest.” He criticized the reaction to the episode, noting that “the Conservatives who complained the loudest appeared to be trying to distract attention from the solid reporting that Ms. Erickson had done, raising questions that have still not been answered.”
Carlin also noted that no one has suggested there were inaccuracies in Erickson’s reporting.
“The whole episode should send a chill to reporters who might wonder if they are being put in harm’s way with no one to back them up if powerful people complain about their work,” says CMG president Lise Lareau. “The case was troubling in the way that CBC publicly identified Erickson and discussed her discipline in a press release. The CBC appeared to be bowing entirely to Finley and the Conservative government, with no support or protection for its own journalist reporting in a political minefield.”
Earlier this year, Erickson and the Guild reached a settlement with the CBC about the disciplinary action and she is now back in her job at the CBC’s Ottawa bureau.
Lareau is planning to set up a committee of journalist members of the Guild to discuss how political reporting is evolving and to give working journalists input on our employers’ policies and practices. To read Carlin’s report, which provides a good overview of the events and a clear sense of the issues journalists face in political reporting, click here.
Lots to talk about at TNG forum on future of media industry
The Newspaper Guild is holding a forum on the future of the media industry in Baltimore in January and there is no shortage of material for discussion. Last week, the Tribune newspaper group filed for bankruptcy protection and the New York Times Co. announced it was borrowing up to $225 million against its Manhattan headquarters in order to repay debt due in May. In all, The Associated Press, Tribune Co, Time Inc., and Gannett Co. (USA Today) have announced 4,500 job cuts this year.
North of the border, about 1,000 media jobs have been lost in 2008, with the biggest cuts at Canwest (560), Torstar (160), CTV (105) and Rogers (100).
The TNG forum will cover organizing and collective bargaining in the media sector, alternative ownership models, training and diversity. The CMG will send six members.
Guild sponsors young cyclists in Toronto race
The CMG sponsored a team of young cyclists competing for the George Terry trophy in Toronto earlier this fall. The fourteen racers sported Guild t-shirts in their 3-kilometre “Tour de University Heights,” near York University.
George Terry, the father of CBC Toronto Guild member Edwin Terry, was the first cyclist to win a medal for Trinidad and Tobago in an International cycling event– at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1946.
Four cyclists in the Guild-sponsored team made it to the finals.