Rowe’s suggestion that there is an implicit quid pro quo between a speech about journalism and the coverage we do every night in our flagship television news program, The National, is false, and a direct attack on the journalistic integrity of Peter Mansbridge, writes CBC general manager and editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire.

By Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC

I was fascinated by Dan Rowe’s post earlier this week on J-Source entitled “What Peter Mansbridge’s CAPP speaking fee says about his news judgment.”

Mr. Rowe's views on paid public speaking by journalists are part of a public conversation that we welcome. As he indicated, we are currently having that conversation ourselves and will announce the results of an internal review in the coming weeks.

He fails to live up to the journalist ethic he himself espouses, and indeed is tasked with teaching others, when he makes baseless suggestions that CBC News is somehow ignoring the issue of climate change. His suggestion that there is an implicit quid pro quo between a speech about journalism and the coverage we do every night in our flagship television news program is false, and a direct attack on the journalistic integrity of Peter Mansbridge.

Simply watching CBC News, The National provides proof of the program's commitment to the topic of climate change, and the extensive work the program has done in bringing the issue to light. 

Peter's commitment to the story is highlighted by weeks of coverage over many years devoted to the Arctic and the impact of climate change, and indeed the impacts that will be felt around the world.


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These are many examples of that commitment. The National has reported on the work of scientists on the leading edge of climate change research. We've seen the effects on marine and bird life first hand and talked to Inuit hunters on the land. Beyond Canada, we've been to Africa, Europe and the Indian Ocean to show how the planet is changing. The Nationalhas also made several trips to Fort McMurray and the oil sands. In fact, there have been hundreds of stories on The National examining the effects of climate change and resource development over the past decade. We've talked to politicians and activists, critics and supporters, workers and neighbours. We've heard the positive and the negative and the many shades in between. Our role is to examine big issues such as this from many perspectives. Yes, we heard from Rex Murphy, but we also did a feature interview with Neil Young. 

Beyond ignoring the empirical evidence of what we put on the air, Mr. Rowe’s article acknowledges that no research exists on climate content on Canadian television. So just what does he base his accusation on? I’m not sure, but it would seem to say more about Mr. Rowe's journalism than it does about Peter Mansbridge.  

To make light of Peter's passionate interest in political journalism, and somehow link that as well to a lack of interest in the climate, is a further leap that is puzzling. It should not be a point of condemnation when a news organization’s coverage choices reflect what is happening in the public sphere. But we go well beyond that sphere to examine many issues, including climate change. It speaks to our role as a public broadcaster. We think that in the weight of coverage we give to this issue, the public is well-served.

CBC News is proud of Peter Mansbridge’s journalistic contributions and expertise—he is an icon in our profession. CBC News is also an organization that relies on far more than just one person—even someone as impressive as our Chief Correspondent. We have the best reporters and producers in the business, and all of them contribute to the daily battle of ideas that informs what we share with the audience on television, on radio, and on digital platforms.

We are also a rarity among news organizations in this country for our accountability and transparency. They’re best exemplified by the CBC Ombudsman, who independently reviews complaints by the audience to ensure that our journalism lives up to the values and policies we set for ourselves—a document, which is available for the public to read at http://www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/en/reporting-to-canadians/acts-and-policies/programming/journalism/.

I have no problem with Dan Rowe speaking his mind on speaking engagements, and I have no problem with him speaking his mind on the coverage that we do. But it would be nice if he did so with facts rather than empty rhetoric. 


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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.