The complainant thought CBC News’ recently launched Opinion section featured far too many anti-Trump columns.
By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman
The complainant, Gordon Swaters, thought CBC News’ recently launched Opinion section featured far too many anti-Trump columns. Closer analysis showed there were different perspectives. In a post-truth era, it’s going to be a challenge to get it right.
You complained about an Opinion piece written by Neil Macdonald shortly after the U.S. election. You took exception to “Mr. Macdonald’s commentary on President-Elect Trump’s campaign, his election and those that support him.” You noted Mr. Macdonald is entitled to his views, which you characterized as “extreme, nasty and unnecessarily harsh”, but you thought that he was given too many opportunities to express those views without any balancing perspectives. You said this violated CBC News’ mandate to provide fair, balanced and evenhanded coverage.
After you received the CBC management response, you rejected the assurance that balance would be achieved over time. You cited another column just published by Mr. Macdonald. You asked that countering views be published quickly, “not down the road in some distant future.”
How about asking, for example, Conrad Black to publish an opinion piece on Trump right now! Good God, how about a balanced presentation right now. Not in some distant idealized future. Sadly, I am forced into only one conclusion. The CBC is a biased “news” organization. It continues to publish one-sided opinion pieces like Macdonald’s over and over again while NEVER publishing opinion pieces expressing the other side’s point of view.
The Managing Editor for @cbcnews, Steven Ladurantaye, responded to your complaint. He told you that he agreed with you that Mr. Macdonald’s pieces required balance through the publication of opinion columns with other points of view and perspectives. He explained the Opinion section was launched November 7, 2016 to “highlight many other freelance voices.” He added Mr. Macdonald will no longer be reporting, but will write on a range of topics within this section as well.
He informed you that even in the Opinion section the value of balance will be upheld. He noted that CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices calls for a range of views, taking into “account their relevance to the debate and how widely held these views are” and that they appear over a “reasonable period of time.”
I can assure you we will give voice to all manner of opinions on Donald Trump in the coming days, months and years. I can only imagine what these opinion writers will have to work with as material in that time, but I’m guessing it will be good reading.
CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices has policy on opinion. Two aspects of the policy are particularly relevant here:
When presenting content (programs, program segments, or digital content) where a single opinion or point of view is featured, we ensure that a diversity of perspective is provided across a network or platform and in an appropriate time frame.\
CBC, in its programming, over time, provides a wide range of comment and opinion on significant issues. We achieve balance by featuring multiple perspectives and points of view to reflect a diversity of opinion.