It’s one of the oldest rules of journalism: a good story should include the BIG basics… Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. And when ALL those criteria are met, readers, listeners and viewers can confer the most precious approval rating for the story, the reporter and the news organization: TRUST.
Unfortunately, it’s been a BAD month for Canadian media when it comes to TRUST.
First CBC Vancouver did a story (I did not see any TV piece …but the story DID appear on the CBC.Ca BC website) reporting that “a NEW information-sharing agreement between Canada and the United States … could put travelers who regularly spend a lot of time in the US at risk of significant consequences”.
Quoting Gail Hunnisett, constituency assistant for BC MP Alex Atamanenko (NDP-BC Southern Interior), the CBC explained that it’s a “misconception” that Canadians can spend 182 days a year in the US, without being considered a US resident for tax purposes.
The original CBC story explained Canadians can actually only spend 120 days a year in the US … not 182.
Wow! Great story! It actually went national … picked up by other websites, newspapers. Tens of thousands of Canadian travelers …business, snowbirds, travelers … were alerted, informed and I’d dare say even frightened.
Hunnisett said, though, the 120 days could be extended to 182 days by filling out a special form proving their closer connection to Canada.
WAIT A MINUTE!!!
That’s NOT new. That’s been the rule for a decade …. I’ve been filling out that form (IRS Form 8840) for years! And so have tens of thousands of other Canadians, each and every year.
But the panic was out there … worried Canadians fearing cutbacks in their travels contacting friends, lawyers and The Canadian Snowbird Association asking/wondering/fretting about the “NEW” rules.
Until the Snowbird Association issued a statement that began:
“ In a recent article which appeared on CBC News’ British Columbia website, it was suggested that Canadian citizens are only allowed to spend 120 days in the United States each year. For clarification purposes, the Canadian Snowbird Association would like to remind travellers to the U.S. that this information is incorrect.”
“ Further, the CBC News article also discussed the Entry/Exit Initiative, a bi-national border program in which entry and exit data will be shared on individuals travelling between Canada and the United States. While this initiative was scheduled to be expanded on June 30, 2014, to include Canadian and American citizens, the necessary legislative and regulatory changes have not been implemented. At present, the Entry/Exit Initiative is not fully operational,” the Snowbird organization assured Canadians.
WHEW! (You can read the whole CSBA statement here:http://www.snowbirds.org/us-travel-rules-clarified.
Clearly bad reporting …scare mongering that went right across the country … and “incorrect”.
CBC then changed its original story, adding:
“Hunnisett said that for people travelling to the U.S. for long stays year after year, it’s actually 120 days, or four months, averaged using a special formula over a period of three years.”
In other words, the same rule that has been in effect for years.
No “NEW” limit, no “NEW” change, no “NEW” story.
Was there NO verification, NO secondary sourcing, No checking before publishing?
Bad for establishing/keeping the public TRUST!
But that was nothing compared to what was going on back East, in Toronto.
Global Television anchor and executive editor Leslie Roberts resigned after it was revealed he had a business affiliation with a public relations firm, Buzz PR,whose clients he featured and/or referred to in glowing terms on Global network shows.
Buzz PR reportedly billed itself as “Toronto’s top public relations agency and said it specialized in securing media appearances for its clients. How true!
Somehow, though, Roberts failed to tell his Global bosses of his own links to Buzz PR and it only surfaced after the Toronto Star revealed the link in an investigative piece. The anchor was suspended pending an investigation …and then quit.
More media trust down the toilet.
And then there was Amanda Lang of CBC Toronto. (Like I said, this was a BAD month for Canadian media!).
This week, the CBC BANNED on-air journalists from making any paid outside appearances, after it was revealed Lang had accepted money from Manulife for moderating two seminars and was paid by Sun Life for a speech.
Further digging revealed that CBC broadcasters Peter Mansbridge, Dianne Buckner, Diana Swain and Evan Solomon had also made appearances/speeches for cash.
How can Canadians trust “journalists” who accept money from those they “cover”? I don’t believe we can or should.
BUT I would make one exception: pundits, experts, commentators for one station or network sometimes appear on other stations or networks pedalling their expertise. (ie Palmer or Baldrey or Smyth or Spector doing “freelance” gigs in other media. Agree or disagree with them, those discussions do help the overall discourse of issues and no one should be required to work for free (especially for multi-million-dollar news organizations) and if their employers allow it, I am not perturbed if they are paid for their comments or expertise.)
But they must NEVER work/appear before those they cover: companies, lobby groups, political parties or government departments or agencies.
It’s about TRUST.
An important journalistic commodity … that has taken a few hard hits this month.
And there’s still a week to go.
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