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CBC’s Ombudsman Reminds CBC News That Its Job Is Journalism, Not Opinion

June 14th, 2016

Esther Enkin, CBC’s Ombudsman, has just reminded CBC News that the job of CBC’s journalists is …. journalism, not opinion-making.

Enkin was responding to a formal complaint from a CBC.ca reader about what he felt were “inflammatory & divisive & discriminatory” comments that CBC journalist Neil Macdonald recently made about Donald Trump’s supporters.

In her formal opinion, the Ombudsman makes it clear that “expressing opinion is prohibited by CBC policy” and that Macdonald’s remarks read “like opinion” and were “unnecessary in the context of this piece.”

A key line here comes at the  end of her opinion: “If Mr. Macdonald were a columnist or an outside commentator …..”

In recent years, I and others have expressed concerns that CBC News  has been having a hard time realizing that some of its most high-profile employees are most assuredly NOT columnists or outside commentators, but journalists who fall under the Corporation’s very specific and clearly-written policies on opinion making and, not a tangential issue, on conflict of interest.

To wit,  the controversy more than a year ago over CBC journalists taking large amounts of money from the private sector for public speaking  events.

Last winter, I wrote about the increased blurring of the important line between journalism and opinion making on my blog (Dec. 9, Dec. 14th) and on Huffington Post (Dec. 10, Dec. 15th.)

CBC responded with a somewhat convoluted defense which you can read here (Dec. 15, 2015.)

Now, it’s good to see CBC’s own Ombudsman reminding the Corporation of its vital journalistic responsibilities.

(As a former journalist, I can’t help but note that the title of Esther Enkin’s opinion is “Trump & The Republican Party” when in fact it is really about a CBC journalist’s policy-breaking  opinions about Trump and his followers. Headline writers! Always messing things up!)

6 Responses to “CBC’s Ombudsman Reminds CBC News That Its Job Is Journalism, Not Opinion”

  1. Tom Boushel says:

    It is very often difficult for a journalist to not inculcate their personal opinion into their reporting. That is why so few journalists are reverred by a majority of Canadians. It is far easier to be a critic than it is to be a good reporter. Thank God that Canada is still blessed with it’s fair share of good and great reporters.

  2. Paul Adams says:

    I’ve been told that internally some journos have been explicitly encouraged to ignore the strictures on opinion.

  3. Kim Covert says:

    I’m curious about this response from the ombudsman because I’ve understood Neil MacDonald’s columns for years to be opinion.

  4. Réjean Grenier says:

    I have been a journalist for 20 years and an editorialist for 15 years. Not at the same time. Period.

  5. Paul Adams says:

    Speaking of headlines, since when are opinion columnists read out of the profession of journalism? It may not be part of CBC’s journalistic tradition. But I always thought Chantal Hébert, Jeff Simpson, and Andrew Coyne were journalists.

  6. Scott Warwick says:

    I’m a tax accountant. I observe all news agencies have editorial positions dictated by their owners. It is shocking that the Cbc got to be “owned” by a small group of far right zealots – the passive aggressive master himself! First gut it of resources then plant a biggot tribe member. All I ask is that you folks who still have journalistic courage, take it back.

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