The complainant asked a very good question: What’s appropriate for a newscast?

By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman

The complainant, Craig Pichach, asked a very good question: What’s appropriate for a newscast. In this case he thought an exchange between host Susan Bonner and Michael Enright was opinion and questioned the value of the format. In both the format and content, I found no violation of policy.

COMPLAINT

You objected to a question-and-answer session between World at Six (July 26, 2016) host Susan Bonner and Sunday Edition host Michael Enright who was reporting on the nomination of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. You said that the interview “was not news.” You found it opinionated and biased:

In my opinion a “veteran” reporter hijacked our national network turning it from a beacon of investigative journalism to his personal soapbox.

You said you expected to hear about substantial issues — such as possible internal corruption, media bias, the speeches and delegates at the convention. You added that the quality of the report, and labelling it as news, was “deeply disturbing.”

You were particularly offended that Mr. Enright referred to Ms. Clinton as a “wonderful person” and used adjectives like “warm”. You said this was clearly opinion, and if it was to be considered analysis, then Mr. Enright should have provided the facts to back up this characterization.

Is the statement that Hillary Clinton is a “wonderful person” true? The CBC News Editor notes that “One of the key issues around the Clinton nomination is her “likeability” factor” which seems to contrast the report. If it is not true then why was it reported on CBC World At Six? I would like to know if this report was true or not as I would like to depend on the World At Six for the news.

You rejected another part of the response from the Managing Editor of CBC News who told you that World as Six occasionally did broadcast analysis and personal observations from senior news correspondents. You questioned whether World at Six was the best vehicle for this type of analysis, as it is a news programme, and you suggested that if there were to be such analysis, then it should be far more clearly demarcated and labelled. You added:

That being said I would argue that declaring an individual a “wonderful person” without facts is not analysis. I would also argue that declaring an individual a “wonderful person” without the context of a personal story or having been asked for their personal opinion is not a personal reflection.

I submit this review request with the goal of keeping the World At Six a fact based news broadcast. I would hate to see our flagship news program reduced to gossip program declaring individuals wonderful versus not-wonderful.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

The Managing Editor for CBC news, Paul Hambleton, responded to your concerns. As I have noted, he explained that World at Six has a mandate “to deliver the news and provide context and analysis where possible.” He told you that the program provides a range of coverage, including analytical pieces and “personal reflections”, as part of ongoing and comprehensive coverage of important stories like the United States presidential campaign. In this particular case, he noted that Mr. Enright’s comments were “billed as thoughts from one of our veteran journalists.” He added:

It’s not uncommon that we seek such assessments from our senior reporters who take a step back from the day’s news to offer insight based on their knowledge and experience.

In this instance, Mr. Enright reflected on the significance of her nomination, offered some thoughts on the kind of person she is, and reflected on the events of the previous few days. One of the key issues around the Clinton nomination is her “likeability” factor: Despite all she has achieved and her experience in politics, she still struggles to win over voters. That was one of the issues Mr. Enright focused on.

He pointed out that Mr. Enright is a very experienced journalist who has covered many campaigns. He also said that there had been a full report on the latest events from Philadelphia at the beginning of the newscast. Mr. Hambleton added that he was confident that taken as a whole, the coverage of the U.S. presidential election overall had been comprehensive over the previous days and weeks on World at Six and other CBC News platforms.

Continue reading this story on the CBC website, where it was first published.