The complainant considered the an article about a twitter attack on the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign photo opinion and questioned the value and purpose of the story.
By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman
CBC’s Trending feature published an article about a twitter attack on the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign photo showing him eating KFC with a knife and fork. The complainant, Taylor MacPherson, considered the piece opinion and questioned the value and purpose of the story. Using Twitter as a source was not the issue, but some of the language in the piece did cross over to opinion.
You were concerned that an article published on the CBCNews.ca page under the “Trending” section was “rife with opinion and blatantly” and took sides in the United States election. You thought it inappropriate that such a piece should be published under the news heading. You also pointed out that the piece, entitled Donald Trump invites ridicule for eating KFC with a knife and fork, was based on a series of tweets which you did not think “constituted actual news.” You thought that was an inappropriate use of resources for the CBC:
I believe most Canadians would hesitate to tell you that they pay taxes so reporters can troll Twitter for “news” all day.
You were also concerned that the creator of the piece had “cherry-picked” the tweets featured to present a one-sided view of the reaction to Mr. Trump and there was no attempt at providing a balanced viewpoint. The issue at hand here was a photo of Mr. Trump eating Kentucky Fried chicken with a knife and fork, which invited many comments about the fact that the convention is to eat the food with one’s hands. You cited the first sentence of the piece to indicate that this was only opinion and not news.
The piece opens with the line “Another day, another reason why Donald Trump shouldn’t have a Twitter account.” This is clearly not “news” as it is labelled, and has no business being promoted as such.
You characterized this article as “an open condemnation of a foreign political candidate”, which is inappropriate. You said many Canadians support Trump and this reinforced their view of CBC as “left-leaning.” In further correspondence you added:
In the story your writer insinuates that Trump’s “signature spin” is to lie to the public blatantly. In addition, the piece states: “Some Twitter users pointed out the photo was also a racist attempt at courting the black vote.” What this should read is: “Some Twitter users pointed out the photo was, in their [incorrect, probably Ryerson-educated] opinion also a racist attempt at courting the black vote.” Stating other people’s opinion as fact is just as bad as labelling your own opinions as “news,” and I would like to see a correction/retraction made to ensure that the public is aware of where CBC actually stands on this issue.
The Managing Editor of CBCNews.ca, Steven Ladurantaye, replied to your complaint. He told you that he agreed that the “piece slipped too far toward opinion.” He also agreed that to start the piece by saying Mr. Trump should not have a twitter account was not appropriate. He told you he asked staff to rewrite the beginning and the article now starts with the sentence “The slogan isn’t ‘utensil lickin’ good for a reason.” He added that the story was “meant to be cheeky but it should also be fair.” He also said that it is important not to “take the tweets of a few and mistake them for the opinions of many.”