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The CBC’s Dumb Saga of Mr. Smart

January 26th, 2012 · 35 Comments

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.”

He’s right.

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.”

Not!!!

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.

Harv Oberfeld

 

Tags: British Columbia · Media

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mike Cleaver // Jan 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Glad to see you’re on this one as well.
    I also had written the CBC Ombudsman about Stephen’s appointment as well as to the RTNDA which administers the Code of Ethics to which most electronic broadcasters subscribe. Article Six of that Code of Ethics deals with Conflict of Interest.
    It is short, sharp, easy to understand and has no caveats.
    When I wrote to Stephen expressing my concerns when I first learned of his appointment, he assured me that his superiors at the CBC were fine with the circumstances, which Stephen justified to me as “economic,” saying no one can live in Victoria on just one salary.
    After correspondence with Mr. LaPointe and reading his decision and the fact local CBC management were not prepared to make a change, I again wrote to Mr. LaPointe, agreeing with his findings and hoped that this “event” would reach a satisfactory conclusion, either by transferring Mr. Smart to another position that would have nothing to do with the BC Government or any ramifications resulting from government action or inaction.
    Mr. LaPointe responded and it appears the matter is not closed.
    But this brings up the topic of other members of the media who have spouses or partners who also are receiving money from the provincial government.
    Several are said to be in this category as well. Ethics used to be a prime concern in the coverage of news, just as digging for new and exclusive stories.
    Now, it’s do a piece on the latest government handout and do video of the latest photo op without asking any hard questions.
    Harvey, I sure as hell miss having you on Global.
    You were the last of a pretty much dead breed, the ethical reporter.

    (Response: Thanks Mike..appreciate the sentiments, esp coming from a colleague. I can tell you that when I retired, I did agree with Global newsroom management to be available once or twice a month or as required to do special reports or at election time etc. I think it would have been fun for me, would certainly have helped them in some areas where they have problems, and I believe the viewers would have enjoyed and tuned in to see that. But as soon as I was out the door, they renegged on that. I was disappointed…but then my buddy Chris set up the blog ..and I’ve REALLY enjoyed that!! Much more fun, and (I hope) somewhat stimulating. And i know MANY in the media appreciate my keeping it real on media issues …most of the time. 🙂 If Stephen continues to cover the legislature, I really believe the CBC crediblity will suffer …and their ombudsman process will look like a total meaningless farce. h.o)

  • 2 Lew // Jan 27, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Great post Harvey.

    Unfortunately, it isn’t just the CBC and Mr. Smart who think there is no issue here. The usual suspects at ‘NW, Vancouver Sun, and Global see no problem with this situation, which seems such an elemental conflict to most.

    The Smart/Scott scenario is the journalistic equivalent of a bait car. It’s very illuminating to watch who jumps in to go for a ride with Mr. Smart as he drives off thumbing his nose at the public that pays his and his wife’s salary. Instead of advising him not to steal the car.

    (Response: I don’t think Smart is thumbing his nose at all: he’s no doubt quite concerned about the situation and understands the possible perceptions. But as I said, even if he is completely neutral, what would happen if he filed a positive story on some sort of government plan or action? A lot of people would reject the story … and that’s where CBC cannot afford the reputation hit. h.o.)

  • 3 Norm Farrell // Jan 27, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Thanks for weighing in on this subject. Given your background as a top reporter for probably the best local news broadcaster anywhere, your voice adds credibility to what could have been a one-sided debate. It is somewhat amazing that so many corporate journalists rushed to defend CBC, Smart and Scott.

    In can think of another hypothetical example: What if a reporter wanted to examine the outsized operating budget of the Premier’s office where staff pulling 6-figure salaries bump into each other trying to plan the next photo op. If that reporter’s life partner was one of those lucky people, who he/she be likely to report honestly and completely?

    (Response: This is an issue that goes well beyond Smart/Scott. In a capital city, there’s a good chance any reporter’s spouse may work for a government department or agency …and that COULD lead them to steer away from exposees involving that department or agency. But I think there’s a difference between a spouse working in a department … as a civil servant … and someone working in a political position for a minister or premier. The latter is much more precarious and open to question …and I can understand the reporter, spouse of politican saying there’s no problem ..BUT I cannot accept the media organization also giving it a pass, esp when its own investigative ombudsman has said, indirectly, it is not right. h.o)

  • 4 Lew // Jan 27, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Never mind about the CBC’s reputation. What about his? Everything I’ve heard about him from those who know him personally is positive. Good reporter, hard working, bright, etc. So he must have knowingly considered his situation then and now and decided he’s staying despite what we think. That’s thumbing his nose.

    I can appreciate the economic realities here, but he and his wife accepted their positions, which as you forcefully point out in your post, are mutually untenable. What will he do if he discovers on his beat a politician in a conflict of interest? Call the kettle black?

  • 5 BG // Jan 27, 2012 at 2:57 am

    Without a free, impartial honest press there is no democracy. This conflict of interest and the whitewash is totally wrong and it shouldn’t be allowed to pass.

    Thank you Harvey for bringing this to our attention. I don’t agree with everything you write on your blog, in fact I disagree strongly about some things, but whatever you do please KEEP IT UP!!

  • 6 cherylb // Jan 27, 2012 at 3:10 am

    That’s it CBC! I used to defend you all the time and insist we needed you in this country. My grandfather would just die to see his beloved CBC in these modern times. I see that you have no more integrity than any of the other media organizations. We may as well save the money that it costs us to keep you if you are just like the others.

  • 7 RossK // Jan 27, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Mr. O. said:

    “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.”

    I do not disagree.

    However, Mr. Keith Baldrey, based on his own words to Bill Good on the very same CKNW last Friday, apparently does think that the relationship may have ‘hurt’ Mr. Smart’s ability to get an important story at least once already.

    The following is the key passage:

    Bill Good (speaking to Mr. Baldrey): And we should point out that you are a direct competitor of Mr. Smart.

    Keith Baldrey: Ya. I mean he’s my competitor. And I think it’s outrageous to suggest that his job performance has been anything less than exemplary. I mean, we compete for stories…. Here’s a great example. Christy Clark revealed that she wasn’t callin’ a fall election on my television station and a couple of other news outlets, and not the CBC (back in September)… It was, you know, he (Smart) doesn’t gain necessarily from the relationship his wife has with the Premier. In fact, I think, if anything he’s probably hurt by that.

    _______
    For anyone interested, this passage is sourced here and it is explained here.

    (Response: Global gets big announcements when the government WANTS something released because of its viewer numbers, plain and simple. As I’ve mentioned on here, I was always happy that Premier Gordon Campbell would aslmosdt always agree to see me, even on very short notice, and even on difficult issues. But I never deluded myself to thinking it was just because it was ME: it was because of BCTV’s numbers! (And maybe just a little fear that I would report he had gone into hiding if he refused. LOL!) But as soon as I retired…after 38 years in journalism and 26 years covering HIM at BCTV, not a word from Campbell, either professionally or personally. So although he saw me when I asked, he clearly was no friend or admirer. 🙂 If Smart worked for Global, instead of about the lowest rated local news show, he’d get the big announcements. h.o)

    .

  • 8 StandupforBC // Jan 27, 2012 at 5:22 am

    Stephen Smart has said that one of the reasons he has kept his job is that no one can afford to live in Victoria on one salary.

    That will be a big surprise to the tens of thousands, maybe more, of people who do exactly that, manage to live in Victoria on one salary.

    Mr. Smart’s comment is especially ridiculous in light of the fact that his wife earns approximately $175,000 per year.

    Yes, CBC has become incredibly out of touch.

    And I too am another person who had, until seeing this and other serious professional lapses, been an avid supporter of the CBC.

    I still support (greatly) the concept of a national public broadcaster for Canada, just not one run and staffed by the current holders of those positions. Just like I support the concept of democracy, just not the kind of “democracy” run and staffed by the Harper Government.

  • 9 Mo // Jan 27, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Thank-you sir! A great post!

    The choice is as simple as you have outlined it:

    “CBC reporter Stephen Smart MUST stop covering the BC Legislature. Or Rebecca Scott MUST stop working as Christy Clark’s deputy press secretary.”

    Th CBC regional management is DEAD wrong on this and they will get lots of native feedback.

    CBC. I have turned you OFF. No Radio and No TV. until you restore democracy in your newsroom …

  • 10 RS // Jan 27, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    CBC BC news director Wayne Williams wrote “there could be a perception of conflicte of interest, we have taken steps to address the issue, ensuring both distance and trasparency.”

    Oh yeah? What steps we’re left to wonder.

    Perhaps the Dick Van Dyke school of distance and transpaency.

    “You knew there was a sexual connection between Rob and Laura (Steve and Rebecca). We allowed it to happen. We didn’t have them go around saying, “I love you.” They proved it by the way that they reacted to each other. But we were constrained to use twin beds rather than double beds.” Carl Reiner

    http://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/american-actors-mary-tyler-moore-and-dick-van-dyke-kiss-in-news-photo/80845827?Language=en-US

  • 11 Keith // Jan 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Hi Harvey,

    if Mr. Smart finds it difficult to live on one salary in Victoria, this would be the perfect opportunity with his first hand experience as a menber of the 99%, to do some in depth journalism on the subject of income inequality.

    (Response: I’m sure his wife …with her contacts (LOL) …. can find some other kind of employment in Victoria. Or he can. h.o)

  • 12 BC Mary // Jan 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Please don’t blame CBC. In my view, CBC is struggling valiantly against everything the Harper Government can throw at it.

    When The Refooorm Party was first elected to the House of Commons in any significant numbers, their ready-made policy was Deficit Reduction, and their primary “villain” was the public broadcaster, CBC. The Reform Party seemed to prosper wherever the public wasn’t sure how things work. As with CBC.

    So I decided to speak up. I wrote to our newly-elected Reform M.P., wee Gary Lunn. Politely I congratulated him on winning the new job as M.P. for Saanich and the Islands, and said I felt sure he intended to serve ALL his constituents therefore I wanted to tell him that I support proper funding of the C.B.C. I politely asked him to consider improving the funding whenever it came up for renewal. I said I felt CBC was vital to our knowledge of ourselves as a nation, and as a rich outlet for the best we produce. (Our sales of CBC programs was phenomenal, back then.)

    Well, somewhere in storage is wee Gary’s nasty letter of reply. “You would do well to remember … ” he finger-wagged at me, as he promoted … PROMOTED … the Free Enterprise model of broadcasting. You know … buh buh buh buhabuhabuha boo … and now we’ll try to sell you some cornflakes or a car or something.

    I was left in no doubt as to the fate of CBC as we had once known it … and, oh yes, as to our own fate if we disobeyed the Refooorm signals.

    I imagine Head Office (Reform PMO) is rejoicing these days to see bad press being generated against CBC because of the Rebecca-and-Stephen affair. Easy. But most other complains arise, in my view, from the rough handling CBC gets from the Harper executive.

    We may be actually watching a replay of what was done to cripple BC Rail, and then BC Hydro,and AECL … etc. before declaring these gems as money-losers fit only for the trash sales market. Talk about “enemies of Canada”, wow.

    I regret saying these things. I wanted very much to avoid politics when running my own blog, or in commenting. But as with Gordon Campbell and BCRail etc., somebody is eventually responsible. And that’s the signal for me. When we know who’s responsible, we must speak up, stand up, and support … well, support CBC before it’s too late.

  • 13 DonGar // Jan 27, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Great Post. This is really keeping it real!!

  • 14 D. M. Johnston // Jan 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    A conflict of interest:

    “We can define a conflict of interest as a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as, say, a public official, an employee, or a professional.”

    Source: Chris MacDonald, Michael McDonald, and Wayne Norman, “Charitable Conflicts of Interest”, Journal of Business Ethics 39:1-2, 67-74, August 2002. (p.68)

    If CBC’s ombudsman deemed that Mr. Smart is in a conflict of interest, the CBC’s management must take action. They have or will not, than I must treat their news product as tainted; as tainted as NW’s Friday morning’s three amigos.

    Shame on the CBC to allow this to happen and cry for the want of a truly independent news media in BC and Canada.

  • 15 ron wilton // Jan 27, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Wow! Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

    Poor Stephen is about to learn a harsh life lesson thrown at him by the fates of broadcasting.

    Too many masters does not a good reporter make.

    Anybody taking bets?

  • 16 Toby // Jan 27, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    What would happen if Stephen Smart uncovered and reported on a major scandal in the Premier’s office? Would the Premier and her advisers believe that Mr. Smart did not get the details from his wife? Would Rebecca Scott keep her job?

  • 17 BC Mary // Jan 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    I was just (above) trying to describe the country as I think the Refo-o-orm Conservative Party of Stephen Harper perceives it …

    and then I saw that Stephen Harper described it clearly in his speech to world leaders yesterday at Davos. Our Stephie said:

    “Canada’s choice will be, with clarity and urgency, to seize and to master our future, to be a model of confidence, growth and prosperity in the 21st century,” Harper said.

    That’s exactly what wee Gary Lunn told me.

    “a model of confidence” willing to run rough-shod,

    “growth” brings to mind the Mega-Ministry which combines 5 historic Ministries designed to expedite permit applications to begin working B.C. mines, etc.,

    “Model of prosperity” as in when they sell CBC.

  • 18 kwm // Jan 28, 2012 at 1:47 am

    Thank you for this essential post! If living on a single income is really a valid justification for compromising journalistic ethics, then the CBC is long overdue in covering why this is so. As suggested above, a series of stories on BC Liberal and economic policy and priorities for the past decade is long, long, long overdue. If $175,000 is not enough to live on in BC, then this should be a weekly feature! Many thanks for keeping it real and reminding us of a time when things were strategic but a whole lot more honest in your profession. I think may be time for a professional college of journalists with refresher courses to maintain individual certification and accreditation processes for each newsroom to retain licensure.

  • 19 BC Mary // Jan 28, 2012 at 3:34 am

    Harv,

    By a strange co-incidence, another CBC insight arrived in my mail. It explains what I was trying to explain about CBC’s fragility in never being sure where their next budget is going to come from. Read about it here: …

    On Sunday, Tony Clement will head back to Ottawa for the resumption of a Parliamentary session that could prove disastrous for our national public broadcaster, the CBC.

    Heritage Minister James Moore has floated the idea that the Harper government will slash CBC funding by more than $100 million in the upcoming federal budget. This would deliver a devastating blow. Stations would be closed, programs cancelled and journalists and creative people laid off.

    And this would break the Conservatives’ election promise to “maintain or increase” funding for the CBC.

    There is something you can do to change this destructive outcome.

    We are asking tens of thousands of CBC supporters to phone their Conservative MP today. Tony Clement needs to knows that constituents think the CBC is too important and fragile from previous cuts to be slashed again.

    It’s a simple gesture that will have a big impact.

    MPs have their ear to the ground when they are at home, listening to local constituents to assess how their government is doing.

    [This comes from “Friends of CBC”. Thanks Harvey.]

  • 20 Scotty on Denman // Jan 28, 2012 at 5:53 am

    Stephen Smart, CBC’s Legislature reporter, doesn’t sound very convincing when he says there’s no conflict of interest between his journalistic impartiality and his wife’s job as BC Premier’s Deputy Press Secretary.

    He sounds a little bit more convincing when he says he’s just following orders from CBC management to continue covering political news his wife is paid to make look good. CBC’s Ombudsman found there is indeed a conflict of interest here but the CBC’s regional managing director says there’s not one shred of evidence of conflict, so, not instinctively knowing who to believe, Smart figures it’s okay to persevere as political reporter. Or maybe it was his boss’s emphatic “without a shred” defense that illuminated a pathway he could not see himself.

    He does sound very convincing, though, when he suggests his need to earn a living also weighed heavily as he reflected on the potential and perceived conflict. Then he as good as throws his free pass on journalistic integrity away by pleading poverty, immediately stopping dry any tears of sympathy his fellow proletariat may have shed for him by claiming he and his wife need two incomes to afford living in Victoria when she hauls down $176 K a year from the Premiere’s Office. That wasn’t very smart of him, was it?

    It would be most charitable to say Smart seems to have comprehension issues around the conflict of interest concept. Anyone can have mistaken beliefs, and if one doesn’t know what a conflict of interest is, one might be forgiven for believing there is none. But it is a charlatan who says he knows what a conflict is if he knows he doesn’t know. Worse if he does know there is a conflict but says he believes there isn’t. Still worse if he admits there is a conflict but he’s gonna keep right on doing it.

    The instant Smart’s boss deferred a matter that should have been an open and shut case to the Ombudsman, they all started looking evasive. Doing a one-eighty on the decision awakens suspicions that conflict of interest guidelines are meant to quell in the first place. With remarkable candour Smart admits of interests, laudably his wife, his job, his home, that must be taken into consideration when deciding whether a conflict of interest indictment can be ignored.

    But it’s too late now, cat’s out of the bag, the reporter has become the story. Curiously, as the sand underfoot begins to pore, Smart and the CBC are taking a dangerously long time to simply step away. The ant lion knows at some point each step ahead ravels the sand two steps back. This situation can’t last.

    (Response: That’s the worst part…the reporter has become the story. And that will not go away as long as he covers BC legislature and his wife continues to work for the premier. That’s an unsustainable situation …unless CBC managment back East step in to protect the Corp’s reputation. Clearly local management are not up to that task. h.o)

  • 21 Gary // Jan 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I can’t agree with BCMary on this one. IMHO it is time for the CBC to either learn to swim on its own, or sink. They no lomnger present anything that is worthwhile to us as Canadians and they certainly do nothing to cement our Canadian culture. The CBC has become a giant pit that we throw 100s of millions of dollars into every year with no worthwhile return on our money.

  • 22 D. M. Johnston // Jan 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    What I find so distasteful is that the CBC chap’s wife earns over $175,000 a year working for the Premier.

    Sorry, I do not think any bureaucrats is worth $175K per year, in fact, I do not think anyone working for the premier should earn over $75,000 per annum!

    (Response: I assume that, to avoid ANY conflict, NONE of that money is spent on Stephen’s own needs, wants, food, clothing, entertainment, vacations. Because I hope he would agree for a legislative reporter to receive, directly or indirectly,or benefit in any way from ANY money from the premier’s office, would be quite wrong. h.o)

  • 23 mariner // Jan 28, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I find this whole thing about $175,000 a year not enough to live on for two people, absolutely insane. Just wait until Stephen Smart is otherwise compromized – maybe even retired, then he would learn a thing or two.

    Most people have only $13,000 a year to live on after a life time of paying towards the Canada Pensions (CPP plus OAS).

    As a pensioner approaching 70 years of age, watching my life savings dwindle away whilst I try to live of $13,000 a year government pension, I find Stephen Smart’s comments to be totally out of touch with reality and insulting – like most people involved with politics I guess.

    Thanks – and keep up your good work Harvey.

    Thanks.

  • 24 larben // Jan 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Of course there would be no preferential treatment of this reporter, unless of course he dredges up some really big dirt on the Liberals, because they would prefer he didn’t.

  • 25 Burgess // Jan 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    One ‘extra’ item of remuneration that Rebecca has is the Government Credit Card for ‘business related expenses’ that officials and employees never never abuse. It will be interesting to see just what charges appear on the next years accounting. One wonders if chewing gum or some sort of trivia will be appended.

  • 26 Merv Adey // Jan 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    It may surprise some, but I am with BCMary on the need to improve and sustain the CBC. Throughout my life the CBC has been an integral part of the media landscape. It still does some good work, but it has gone down hill the further it became a quasi commercial enterprise. That’s my view anyway.

    One can reasonably argue that if dependent on government financing it will be/is/was slanted, but as we have seen, dependence on corporate financing is not better. Perhaps worse.

    My letter to the Ombudsman was in the hope of a correction of a poor course the BC CBC has been on. The TV news has become pablum and it used to be more relevant.

  • 27 DonGar // Jan 28, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    I have to agree with Gary we need to stop funding the CBC and let them pay their own way. If they have value they will get advertising dollars and for social content maybe they need to start fund raising like PBS.

    There are so many options available today with the internet ect CBC should no longer be funded on the taxpayers back. This would free up a billion a year for better purposes.

  • 28 larben // Jan 28, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    DonGar – Great Day in the Morning!

  • 29 Barry // Jan 29, 2012 at 2:11 am

    I’m a freelance writer. I was once given an assignment to write about a company, But before I was given the go ahead, the editor asked me if I or any relative was employed by the company.

    If a small magazine can figure this out, then surely a large outfit like the CBC can…

    (Response: Very good point. In fact, when they do polling for ratings etc. a lot of media ask “Do you or anyone in your household work for ANY media, advertising agency etc etc.?” Guess the CBC no longer will ask that in any surveys they have done on their behalf…because to them it apparently doesn’t matter any more. Should make for some interesting political polls on CBC from now on …if those they approach can even be on the payroll of those they’re asking about. LOL! h.o)

  • 30 Tony Martinson // Jan 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Since we’re talking about journalism and ethics, could someone please offer a source for the salary claim? Lara Dauphinee, as deputy chief of staff, made around $150000, and Rebecca Scott is just a lowly manager of something or other. I’m betting that claim is a guess.

  • 31 Norm Farrell // Jan 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    In the course of correspondence about this issue with Wayne Williams, New Director, CBC News, I asked this question:
    “I note in your response regarding Stephen Smart’s conflict of interest you state that Rebecca Scott is “one of a number of press secretaries.” I am aware of Chris Olson’s position but would you kindly name the other press secretaries in Premier Clark’s office.”

    Jan. 5, Williams responded,
    “More specifically, Rebecca Scott is one of six communications staff in the premiers office. They include a press secretary, a deputy press secretary, a communications director, a senior communications coordinators, a senior issues management coordinator and a communications coordinator. … I also have a question for you. Where did you get the $175,000 annual salary for Ms Scott?”

    My response, “From my [Dec 21/2011] Northern Insights piece, Help for the CBC on conflicts of interest</b:

    "Scott was appointed as a Level 4 excluded employee and staff at that level (reported in the most recent Public Accounts) average $175,361 in annual salary. Scott's position is not a junior position."

    As you might note, I used the average salary of all level 4 employees reported in Public Accounts, not including allowances and benefits. I believe that is more meaningful approach than quoting minimum and maximum figures for the range.

    Mr. Williams, in our numerous communications, did not dispute the figure.

    Government reps prefer to quote ranges for pay grades but the average of amounts paid for that grade is a more useful number. Neither the BC Liberals nor the CBC have disputed or corrected the amount.

    (Response: Great information. This is what the media should be doing …asking the tough questions! Really interresting to me that the issue was raised by a private citizen…not one of those very well-paid “professional” reporters covering the legislature. (See why we need change over there?). And it is being pursued by the blogosphere … once more leaving most …not all …. of the “pros” in the dust. When is BC’s media MANAGEMENT going to wake up and properly manage???? h.o)

  • 32 Merv Adey // Jan 30, 2012 at 6:15 am

    It’s an interesting point, that about the complaint coming from a “private citizen”. The bloggers, Norm, Alex, RossK etc had raised the profile of this issue. I wouldn’t have known about it.

    But somehow, bloggers have a bad rep. They are dismissed because of what they do, for having an agenda perhaps, or a website or whatever. Doesn’t matter if they are addressing issues with facts or with spin or a bit of both. The establishment turns its back.

    My suspicion is that Kirk Lapointe was waiting for a complaint from someone who couldn’t be dismissed as a nasty blogger. I can’t believe he didn’t already know of the conflict. Ironic, because I certainly didn’t analyse the issue in the depth that it has received before or since in the blogosphere.

    But I guess the lesson is, for independent citizens, we must take up a cause ourselves if we feel strongly. Bang your head against the wall. Sometimes it cracks.

    (Response: I diasgree. There’s a difference between blogging or reporting something and actually filing a formal complaint. Lapointe as the official ombudsman can’t be expected to …and has no authority to… set up an investigation of anything about CBc posted on a blog or reported. Until there’s a complaint brought to him that,prima facie, has possible merit. h.o.)

  • 33 Merv Adey // Jan 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Of course you’re right HO, but Norm Farrell launched a complaint at least a few days before I did. He can fill us in on the response he got??

  • 34 Norm Farrell // Feb 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I know that there were a number of complaints that went forward and the timing of the order matters little. I think that Merv Adey’s might have been chosen to go forward because it was well written and well argued. LaPointe did not avoid communicating with me either so I think he did his job without fault. The descent into foolishness was initiated by CBC managers, people like Jennifer McGuire. The strength of any online initiative come from reasonable people acting in reasonable ways. The focus should be on the message not the messenger.

    H.O. is a valued contributor because he understands the human dynamics at work within the news profession.

  • 35 k3 // Feb 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I have to agree with this argument against Scott working the Leg.

    It got me to pondering though… Should political reporters for the CBC be allowed to vote?

    It does not matter who they vote for, if they are voting then they do have bias. ‘“Just because there is no impropriety does not mean there is no conflict,” Lapointe wrote.’

    No answer has come to me yet.

    (Response: You raise a very interesting point. For what it is worth, I NEVER voted in the sphere I was covering at any time. For example, when covering the legislature, I did not vote in BC elections, but did vote in federal elections; when covering Parliament, I did not vote in federal elections…neither in Ontario or Ottawa elections, because I never saw myself as “one of them” but ALWAYS a BC rep just working in Ottawa because Parliament was there. When I returned to Vancouver to cover “general” news, I began voting again in civic, provincial and federal elections, because I wasn’t covering any of them as a regular beat. h.o0