By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman
The complainant, Luanne Roth, had concerns about a bar graph in an article explaining how to follow election results on the CBC news site on B.C. election day. It showed the Green Party ahead of the NDP. Her concern was this graph, pictured on a cellphone, would unduly influence strategic voters who would think the Greens were stronger than the polls indicated. There is no mention of party standing anywhere in this piece, and the context is quite clear. It’s a reminder that copy editing covers pictures too.
On the day of the recent British Columbia provincial election, CBC News published an article informing readers how they might follow the election results after the polls closed. The headline said: “Where to watch, read and listen to CBC B.C.’s election coverage.” The piece provided information about how to obtain results on all of CBC News’ platforms. The first illustration showed a hand holding up a mobile phone with a graphic of “British Columbia Votes” and a green, orange and red bar graph. The green bar was slightly larger than the orange one, and the red bar at the bottom was the longest.
You were disturbed by the photo of the graph because you believed it would benefit the Green Party. You thought that those viewing the image would believe the party was poised for a breakthrough and would be sure to vote Green – rather than strategically – something that was an important aspect of this election. You thought the image violated CBC News’ commitment to balance, and was even more egregious because it was published on election day.
You believe CBC News management did not acknowledge the gravity of their error. You wanted an apology and an indication of the sanctions of those responsible for it, and what would be put in place to prevent it from happening again.