Friday, January 20, 2012

Self-interested blather from Edge of the Ledge

Wonderful demonstration today of how BC's tight little circle of political reporters is wilfully 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' fine blog on the 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."
No doubt Alex and I are 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 there are 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."
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  1. Alas, Norm:

    I hear Stephen Smart is staying put as CBC's ledge bureau chief. If true, good move by CBC. Looks like news div. wins out, as it should be.

    Villagers win.

    1. Did you expect different? A bureaucracy such as that at the top of the CBC seldom admits to making mistakes, particularly when the mistakes have been repeatedly pointed out to them by outsiders.

      They declined to act in response to criticism but I expect that, after a discreet delay, Smart or his wife will be reassigned. Problem solved and no mistake ever admitted.

      Nigel Hawthorne could explain it better.

    2. Did I expect any different? I hoped different.

    3. My cynical spirit salutes your optimism.

  2. have been following your concerns, and was going to congratulate you on generating the response from the ombudsman. I read it and thought it was clear he shouldn't continue (or not even been appointed)
    and was was generous towards Smart. I was scoked when I read in the sun the local cbc was retaining him.
    I have sent an email and voice message to cbc expressing by shock. Bill Good had it right they should all declare a conflict of interest. Very perceptive of him,lets all agree and have them all leave.

  3. The CBC has allowed a situation to develop whereby the reporter has to publicly justify his seat at the table, and has thus himself become the story. That is inexcusable, especially as the conflict is so glaring. It leaves the inescapable impression that the CBC doesn't care about the reputation of their journalists, and the journalist who finds himself the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons wasn't sharp enough to see what was inevitably going to happen. If he couldn't see this coming, what else is he missing? I know I will never look at anything he produces without wondering.

  4. Hey Norm, i agree 100% with your reply to Spartikus above.they will wait an appropriate amount of time and reasign him because if not this will not go away.
    Baldry, Good and Palmer like little old ladies couldn't wait to squack about it and therefore now have brought it all to the attention of many, IDIOTS! Shot themelves in the foot again.
    Great work Norm!

  5. Charlie of Georgia Straight fame called out Palmer and Baldry for accepting payments from various groups, such as the "Vancouver Board of Trade" and alike for speaking engagements. All he got for his perceptive reporting was a royal raspberry from Bill Boring and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb.

    Now you have called out the CBC's Smart over a conflict of interest and the CBC ombudsman has agreed, the tedious trio of Boring and the Tweedle's are giving you the royal raspberry.

    Such nonsense, there is a conflict of interest and news from Smart must be treated as suspect, but then I treat all news from the CBC, CORUS, Global and the Sun as suspect, that's why I do not listen to those stations, nor subscribe to the Sun.

    All the CBC and Global are is dead air and the Sun, poor fish-wrap. So sad that BC's Fifth Estate has devolved into a cheap infomercial, sold to the highest bidder.

    Watching paint dry would be more informative than the biased clap trap that passes for news in Vancouver.

  6. great work by Norm, Merv and Alex in persistently identifying the conflict in Stephen Smart's role. It was also an agreeable surprise to see the CBC ombudsman clearly confirming that it was a conflict.

    Have stopped reading Vaughn and Baldrey, they are just too biased and put my blood pressure through the roof.

    Yesterday though, I accidentally read Vaughn's comments about CLBC, stating there was no need to "throw money" at an situation where there may be no problem. Seems like an ostrich report to reporting, I see no problem therefore there is no problem.

    One day, heck even just 1/2 day, of conversations with families and developmentally disabled adults trying to living on the meagre disability allowance would provide a much more balanced perspective. Interesting that Vaughn doesn't have a comments section on his columns either like Mike Smyth does.

    It would be great to get Dawn Steele's observations on government's latest funding announcements to CLBC. That's a source I can trust to present a thoughtful alternate view.

  7. thank goodness for independent bloggers: independent views, thoughtful comments and a welcome antidote to the corporate pablum. Norm's my go-to site every day.

    Btw, found some more balanced coverage on government's latest funding announcement to CLBC at the Province including Dawn Steele's thoughts.

    Also the "Moms on the Move" blog site provide an important counter-perspective on CLBC A must read.

    Thanks God for independent bloggers, what a way to build community and empower citizens, no wonder government is trying to seize control of the internet.

  8. The response from Good,Baldrey,Palmer, regarding this issue, while unfortunate, it was, after all, expected.

    Impossible for any of those aforementioned to see a conflict in someone else life as they are all so conflicted themselves; to admit to a conflict in Smart’s employment would mean all three of them would have to have a hard look in the mirror. Best instead to obfuscate… thus the sideways move by Baldrey in response.

    A better question to ask Good, Baldrey, Palmer would be this;

    “Do any of you actually recall the first time that you sold out your integrity?”

    ( After the first time each successive time gets more easy….until one ends up being just another shark in the water……)

    For Smart, he would be viewed in a more respectful light if he has asked for a different assignment upon learning of his wife’s employment. By leaving this the way it is now, to continue fester, he only does considerable damage to his own career.

  9. What would we expect from fools anyway ?????
    Baldry, Good, Palmer have all sold their integrity for a pieces of silver !!!
    Their actions alone show just how integrity plays a major part in the "journalistic careers" - in fact, their normal work does nothing but insult the very profession that put food on their tables.

    I stopped buying the Vancouver major dailies and the G&M years ago, due to the lack of facts and integrity - the same applies to the CBC of late. I get most of my world news from the BBC and the Public Broadcasting out of the USA - both sources have an impecable reputation for both accuracy and integrity. The alternative for news nowadays is the bloggers in BC - for the MSM are loathe to report on themselves in a negative light and therefore cannot be trusted at all !!!!

    Please keep up your good work.

    Thank you.

  10. Vaughn and Baldry are as funny, as the funny papers. Good, reminds me of the old Maggie and Jigs radio show, a million laughs.

    Canada is a joke all over the world. They can't believe the crap in our media. They can't believe the crap in this entire country. It's true, 06:52. If you want the truth, go to the other country's media. Other honorable country's still believe in, good honest journalism and reporting on their TV news channels.

    My God, what a disgrace this country really is. How shameful!!!

    1. The good thing about Postmedia papers is that they encourage people to read the Globe and Mail or go online for real sites like the Financial Times, The Guardian, New York Times and the related International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, McClatchy, Le Monde Diplomatique, etc.

  11. Norm, are you KIDDING? The Globe and Mail is wingnut central these days. Most of the "articles" are opinion pieces by rightwing columnists like Wente, Ibbitson and Jane Useless Taber. Occasionally there's the odd critique of the powers that be but it's rare. The Globe is rapidly approaching National Fox New Post.

    1. I agree largely although I believe the Globe & Mail is superior by far to anything put out by Postmedia. I don't expect everything in a newspaper to be something that suits my opinions. The New York Times does much that I think is of questionable purpose and value. Yet, I don't think another major North American paper compares to it.

      I love much of what The Guardian is doing and most of my business reading is with the Financial Times but I don't have particular loyalty to any one. Really, I'm a consumer of info from all over and, while that choice exists, I would not change.



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