Binkley on betrayal of principle in the news

Alex Binkley is a foremost political and economic analyst, whose website is Readers will be aware that his columns in True North Perspective have foreseen political and economic developments in Canada. This issue in ...

The Binkley Report

Amanda Lang, Peter Mansbridge, Rex Murphy, Leslie Roberts

betray principles of the best traditions of Canadian journalism

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

Canadian journalism is in a best of times, worst of times scenario.         

On the one hand are the antics of Leslie Roberts, former anchor and executive editor of Global News Hour in Toronto, and some of CBC-TV’s supposed leading lights — Amanda Lang, Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy. Then there’s Stun TV.

They have all gained prominence in the news though not through their reporting of it.

In addition to being a news presenter, Roberts was part owner of a public relations firm, some of whose clients were covered by Global, sometimes even being interviewed by Roberts.

Lang was caught for trying to protect the business interests of her boyfriend who just happens to be a member of the board of directors of the Royal Bank of Canada. Then there’s Mansbridge and Murphy taking hefty fees for speaking to conferences of organizations that are regularly in the news. Rest assured these good folks would be all over any politician caught in such a blatant conflict of interest.

Perhaps we should be calling these people personalities or performers because they are no longer journalists.

Jim Poling was a long-time colleague at the Canadian Press news service, who had always had a clear view of journalism’s role to report on the events of the day in a way that informed rather than tried to influence the public.

In a recent column on his blog On Shaman’s Rock, he called the Roberts affair “yet another example of journalistic integrity being run over by personality journalism promoted in the desperate efforts to garner more viewers, listeners, or readers. The personalities become bigger than the news operation itself. Bigger than the decades-old rules designed to protect integrity, accuracy, and fairness in the news.

“Last year the CBC was forced to change policies that allowed on-air personalities to make paid speeches to groups that they report on. For example, millionaire news reader Peter Mansbridge took big bucks for speaking to lobby groups that often are in the news.

“Too often journalists these days forget their purpose: to watch, listen and to report as fairly as possible what they see and hear. Those who want more than that — power, prestige, adulation, and an expensive suit with an Order of Canada pin in the lapel should be pursuing other lines of work.”

In contrast to this shabby state of affairs so aptly described by Poling has been the emergence in recent years of a slew of new media who operate on his dictum about integrity, fairness and accuracy.

Listing them geographically to be fair, Ricochet, Ipolitics, Blacklocks Reporter, Press Progress, Canada, Vice Magazine, Vancouver Observer and The Tyee. They are a mix of subscription based and funded news services that will hopefully all survive. Readers are who are tired or suspicious of the current media offerings would do well to check out the alternatives although finding the time to read them all would be no small feat. But you will be well informed.

Blacklocks broke the story about the Harper government’s fake news operation and it was picked up by the mainstream media with little credit to its source.

In fairness, I have contributed some articles to Blacklocks.

The shenanigans at CBC are a black mark on all Canadian journalism but they have to be hardest on the real journalists at CBC. There are many who do a first rate job. Anna Maria Tremonti, the voice and guiding light of CBC Radio’s The Current, is one great example. Kathy Tomlinson, who revealed the story behind Lang’s antics, seems to be another with her heart and head in the right place.

There are lots of hard working journalists at the newspapers in Canada although their work often gets lost in the guff that editors use to fill the pages. They too get tarred by the Roberts and Langs rather than recognized for their work.

Alex Binkley