CBC Ombudsman: No diatribes here please
CBC Ombudsman Esther Enkin agrees that the use of the word diatribe in a recent story was wrong, but believes disciplining those who were responsible goes too far.
The complainant, Nigel Jackman, took exception to the use of the word “diatribe” in an introduction to a piece about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s (then) upcoming address to the United States Congress. The managing editor of CBC News Network agreed it was an inappropriate use of the word. Mr. Jackman asked me to review the matter because he felt there should have been strict discipline of those who were responsible. I agreed there was an error. Discipline is a different matter.
You wrote to express your dismay about an introduction to an item you heard on CBC News Network. You said you heard one of your “favorite CBC news presenters in the person of Heather Hiscox” say the following on CBC News Network the morning of March 3, 2015: “Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver his diatribe on Iran before the U.S. Congress at 11:00 a.m.” You added:
Such hubris on her part is nauseating. If she was merely reading pre-written lines, she should have had the common sense to substitute or drop that scurrilous language.
After you received a reply from the managing editor of CBC News Network agreeing with you that the word was inappropriate, you wrote again to inquire what the consequences of this error would be. You characterized this as a “serious lapse” and inquired about discipline against the staff:
Were they admonished orally? Was a reprimand placed in their personnel file by management? Were they removed from their positions or were their payable hours reduced? Will they incur a pay cut? Will they be placed on probation? Will they be transferred to a less high-profile position in radio, for example? Will they be next on the list of personnel cuts by CBC’s Board of Directors?
Ms. Harwood let you know that they had all been spoken with and that appropriate steps had been taken. You found this response unsatisfactory and asked me to “remediate” the matter.
In her first response to you, the managing editor of CBC News Network, Jennifer Harwood, told you she agreed that “‘diatribe’ was not an appropriate description of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address.” She explained:
The intention was to describe the speech as a strong denunciation of Iran, and was certainly not meant in a pejorative sense. However, we could have and should have chosen a better word in our scripting.
She said she regretted you were disappointed and went on to point out that the coverage of the speech and its fallout reflected a range of views and perspectives throughout the day:
. . . I hope you were able to watch some of our continuing coverage of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech today, which included reporting from the CBC’s Lyndsay Duncombe in our Washington Bureau, as well as interviews with the Israeli Consul-General to Toronto and Western Canada D J Schneeweiss; former Canadian ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor; as well as analysis from Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and former CBC News Senior Correspondent Brian Stewart.
In response to your query about disciplinary action, she replied:
It must suffice to say that since then we have taken what we believe to be the appropriate steps. Our labour agreements prohibit me from discussing disciplinary measures taken, if any, and their nature. I can tell you, however, that I expect those involved now have a much keener understanding of the word’s meaning.
She agreed with you that standards are important and assured you that CBC news staff is committed to upholding them.
To continue reading this column, please go to ombudsman.cbc.radio-canada.ca where it was originally published.