CBC reporter Stephen Smart MUST stop covering the BC Legislature. Or Rebecca Scott MUST stop working as Christy Clark’s deputy press secretary.
The integrity of CBC Television requires that ONE of those alternatives take place.. PRONTO!
What’s the problem?
Smart, who has covered the legislature for CBC since 2010, and Scott, appointed in 2011 as Clark’s deputy press secretary, are married …TO EACH OTHER.
There is NO WAY, in my opinion, that Smart can continue to cover the Liberal government and Clark while his wife works for it and her. Period. Simple. END OF STORY!
Or maybe not.
Certainly, the CBC’s own ombudsman, Kirk Lapointe … a veteran experienced former journalist and media manager … thinks there is a conflict here.
“There is a violation of CBC Journalist Standards and Policy,” the CBC ombudsman wrote in his review, after a private citizen complained about the apparent conflict of interest.
“Just because there is no impropriety does not mean there is no conflict,” Lapointe wrote. “Whether a real or perceived conflict of interest, no amount of managing it can do more than mitigating the impact of an impartial fulfilment of duties.”
Yet, incredibly, the real culprit in this situation …CBC regional management … decided to let Smart continue to cover the legislature.
“We feel the ombudsman’s ruling found no issues wuth Stephen’s reporting,” said Johnny Michel, managing director for CBC’s Pacific Region. “Without a shred of evidence that Stephen is offside in his reporting, we feel this is now just a personal matter and a corporate matter.”
There’s a lot more to journalism than just what actually appears in stories: what about things any reporter may know but decides NOT to report for various reasons? What about possible public perceptions …. justified or not … of easier questioning of the premier or government ministers or tougher questioning of opponents? What about the reporter himself becoming more the center of attention than the story being presented, as viewers, knowing of the conflict ruling, now will always look for bias?
Problems like these do not relate solely to Stephen Smart: any reporter can face tougher scrutiny once even a POTENTIAL for bias surfaces. And in covering politics, the sensitivity becomes even greater …to the point of viewer distraction.
The fact that this even has to be debated…. the IDEA that a political legislative reporter’s wife can work personally and directly for the premier and this could be considered acceptable … I believe speaks to the sad state of ethics at CBC Vancouver region; and the fact so many others in the business defend such ludicrous reality exposes the sad standard of journalism in BC today.
Are they so out of touch with real Canadians in Fortress CBC they think they can withstand their own ombudsman’s findings, the public’s likely suspicions from now on and the decline in credibility among viewers for their news product?
How can Smart possibly cover the provincial election campaign without the question of his impartiality coming up? And the closer that election comes …the more questions I suspect will be raised about his stories, his spin, his conclusions … handicapping CBC’s coverage.
This will NOT go away … as things now stand, the situation will get worse: for Smart; for Scott; and for the CBC. (Clark’s credibility with many is already in the bin.)
Smart is a good reporter and Scott (by the way, they both worked at CKNW before) has never, as far as I can determine, ever been guilty of manipulating her hubby’s stories.
But that is not the point.
Let’s say Smart uncovers a great POSITIVE story about government plans to substantially increase funding in health care or housing or education: I submit just about every viewer would see that story as just a government plant, unworthy of deserving any journalistic credit or credibility.
And how could viewers ever be totally comfortable in the belief that Smart is telling us EVERYTHING he knows about skeletons in the government or Clark’s office? Simply not possible.
The regional CBC management response is an insult to journalistic integrity in general, Lapointe in particular, and to all CBC viewers and voters, who have the right to EXPECT there be NO CONNECTIONS OF ANY KIND between those who cover the legislature and those who have politically sensitive jobs working for the government and/or the premier.
Scott has to move from the premier’s staff to another ministry job less political and less directly related to the media.
Or Smart has to move to another beat… unrelated to covering provincial politics… so his stories, and not the reporter, once more become the focus of viewers’ attention.