An important thing happened in Canadian journalism on Tuesday. The head of Canada’s public broadcaster told a parliamentary committee that a private news organization, Sun/Quebecor, misled the public.
CBC president Hubert Lacroix told the committee that Quebecor reporters had not called for comment or confirmation on several stories insinuating that CBC is a hotbed of sexual harassment. He clarified that CBC has received a total of three sexual harassment complaints in the last three years. That is certainly three too many and it is necessary for all of us – employees, managers, union reps, all Canadians – to work together to eliminate this scourge altogether. But there is no sense that CBC is covering up an abuse scandal of Jimmy Savile proportions.
The Canadian media industry is a very small world that keeps getting smaller. Sure, there is the odd fight, and spat, and lawsuit. But it’s pretty rare that a media executive gets up before MPs to say another news organization has lied.
Lacroix said of Sun: “I believe it is important to call them out when they are deliberately misleading Canadians; when they’re taking a serious issue like sexual harassment and turning it into a weapon for their own interests.”
He’s absolutely right to do so.
Lacroix’s statements come after 25,000 Canadians sent letters to the CRTC in opposition to a guaranteed spot – and subsidy – for Sun News Network on cable and satellite. He also rightly pointed out that CBC journos could never get away with this kind of journalism since they work under the tightest and most comprehensive policy in the business. And of Quebecor? The company has pulled out of the press councils in Québec and Ontario, organizations that exist to increase public trust in the media and decide on reader complaints.
Even more important, Lacroix brings an important debate about journalism ethics and quality firmly into the public realm, where it merits broad discussion. After all, journalism isn’t only of interest to journalists and their bosses. It is a matter of deep public interest, and crucial to democracy.
We have taken Sun journalism to task before for gutting reporting resources and pushing negative stories about CBC to further its own interests. It’s time for it to stop. We do need news diversity in this country. What we don’t need is nonsense.