By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman
The complainant, Curtis Hopkins, thought swearing on an online video of an eyewitness recording of a bus billowing smoke was in violation of policy. The video was a powerful account of a breaking news story, although the swearing was not critical to the understanding of the story. Since the crew could not edit it when they found it on Twitter, they published it with a prominent warning. That saved it from violating policy.
The staff of CBC News in Newfoundland and Labrador published video captured by a witness during a breaking news event at around 9:30 on the morning of May 25, 2017. The video involved a school bus engulfed in smoke which had pulled over to the side of the road. High school students had been on board. The start of that video included language you considered “profane.”
You thought the use of the language was gratuitous and did not meet the standards of CBC journalistic policy because leaving it out would not have altered the “nature and meaning of the information reported.”
In my opinion, “breaking news” does not give news agencies permission to throw raw unedited garbage out to the public just to be the first with the story. Further, as the audio did not fit the parameters of your Policy quote I feel CBC owes an apology to its viewers.
The Managing Editor for CBC Atlantic replied to your complaint. She told you that the team decided to post the video after it was verified because this was a breaking news story. She pointed out that the headline on the online article contained a warning of course language on the video. The video came to them via Twitter, and in the initial posting they were not able to edit it. Rather, they embedded the Tweet along with the footage in the report.