Friday, January 25, 2008

And So The Story Begins To Emerge

But key questions remain unanswered

In a recent post to his CBC editor's blog, John Cruickshank has publicly offered such some snippets of the story surrounding Krista Erickson and the conduct that eventually got her reassigned to Toronto.

"When, as in the present instance, it is revealed that a reporter has been collaborating, even if only obliquely, with one party or another, an appearance of partisanship emerges that cannot be dispelled by claims that this is how political reporters interact with their sources.

In this case, our reporter provided questions to two Liberal MPs using her BlackBerry in the hope that these would be put to the former prime minister during the committee hearings.
According to Cruickshank, Erickson did in fact submit the offending question to two Liberal MPs (she also did it via Blackberry which leaves a trail of electronic correspondance that can be followed). One of them was clearly Pablo Rodriguez.

Who was the other Liberal MP? Was is Paul Szabo?

That could prove to be a serious breach of conduct for Mr Szabo, who evidently willfully allowed the Commons Committee he chaired to breach its mandate in pursuit of a non-existent news story that would just so happen to be damaging to the Conservatives.

Will a House of Commons Ethics Committee be called into his conduct? Perhaps it should be.

Also, a question for Pablo Rodriguez: why'd you lie?

Remember that Rodriguez claimed he wrote his questions himself, as he allegedly writes all his questions. Yet, John Cruickshank has clearly determined otherwise.

Rodriguez should be challenged on the public record. In fact, the extent to which he himself has benefitted from such misconduct on behalf of media personell before should be throughly investigated.

"I accept the reporter's explanation that she did not do this to advantage the Liberals or hurt the Conservatives — that she just wanted answers for her story.

She believed it was permissible to create a temporary alliance of convenience with the Liberals if it would help determine whether Brian Mulroney had lobbied a Tory minister on a recent matter.
Alliances of convenience do pose a serious threat to journalistic credibility.

Yet, if Erickson believed that was permissable, something probably gave her that impression. How prevalent are such "alliances of convenience" at the CBC?

Are they really temporary alliances, or are such "alliances of convenience" perhaps a sign that activist journalism -- wherein reporters intentionally work hand-in-hand with politicians they support in order to damage governments they oppose -- has truly taken root at the CBC?

"But in this kind of information sharing, reporters can become part of the story they are covering, which is not our role. Any time a reporter plants a question and covers the results, they are deceiving their audience about their detachment and fairness.

For our reporters, this makes cultivating sources problematic. We can't make deals that leave us beholden either to members of the government or any opposition party.
Yet it's entirely possible that the only difference between Erickson and other CBC reporters who may (or may not) have made similar arrangements is that she got caught.

Will there be a full-scale investigation into such practices at the CBC to determine who else, if anyone, has used such means to cultivate sources? If so, will anyone else found to have done so be disciplined?

A public inquiry into such practices at the CBC may still be in order. However, if John Cruickshank has yet to percieve the wisdom of calling for such an air-clearing process, it's at this point unlikely that he ever will.

Which is rather unfortunate. While Cruickshank and CBC Ombudsman Vice Carlin have answered some key questions, it seems that many more will remain unanswered -- maybe even formally unasked.

The CBC is far from clear of any doubt.

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