CBC Ombudsman: Define your terms
The complainant noted that a reporter labelled demonstrators against an anti-Islamophobia resolution as “far-right” but supplied no characterization of those who supported it.
By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman
The complainant, Shoel Silver, noted that a reporter labelled demonstrators against an anti-Islamophobia resolution as “far-right” but supplied no characterization of those who supported it. He thought that was unbalanced and challenged the basis for the characterization. CBC policy frowns on the use of such broad descriptions. The complainant had a good point.
You questioned the use of the term “far-right” to characterize a group of demonstrators taking part in a protest against Motion M-103, a motion to condemn Islamophobia, which was before the Federal Parliament at the time. You pointed out that there was no adjective or qualifier used to describe those who were demonstrating in support of the motion.
What was the basis on which she determined the political leanings of the anti-Motion demonstrators? I am certain they did not describe themselves as far right. And the views she described them as having did not appear extreme, even if their opponents characterized them as racist and anti-Islam.
You concluded the reporter used the term to “disparage” one side, creating unbalanced and unfair coverage.
Helen Evans, the Senior Manager of Journalism Programming in Quebec, replied to your complaint. She agreed you made a valid point that it was incorrect to label one group of demonstrators and not the other. She said she has brought this to the attention of senior journalists in the newsroom:
We have asked our senior editorial leaders to review how we are characterizing different groups representing different points of view on the political spectrum to try to make sure we are not simply falling into over-generalizations and stereotypes.
She shared with you that the editorial team responsible for covering the weekend demonstrations did some research into the sponsoring groups which would be participating. She told you that the people in the Montreal newsroom were familiar with the aims and positions of one of the Quebec-based group, La Meute, which is against the resolution. She said they were comfortable with a “far right” characterization but reporters and editors were told the better practice was to let those demonstrating explain their own positions and reasons for being there. She explained that it is not always possible to do so in spot news and live reporting.
Continue reading this story on the CBC website, where it was first published.