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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Good Week for CBC News

At a time when the news is compelling, I find myself drawn back to CBC TV News and for good reasons. The world's major economic powers are meeting in Toronto and only the CBC seems able to report on this event with all of the necessary context.

Far from just showing men (and one woman) in suits, walking blissfully for a photo op, some real news was broken, and on the flagship newscast, The National. That's where an extraordinary bit of journalism occurred this past week.

In an interview with the head of the Canadian intelligence service (CSIS), Richard Fadden dropped a bombshell: he claimed some unnamed municipal officials and cabinet ministers from two unnamed provinces, are being influenced by foreign governments.

Fadden then hinted China was one of the countries wielding influence. He also said some municipal officials in B.C. are among those being influenced by foreign governments.

There were two interviews on CBC TV - one in a report by Brian Stewart - a long time senior correspondent and the other in a one-on-one interview with Peter Mansbridge - the host of The National.

This story had enormous impact especially coming as it did just prior to the arrival of China's Hun JinTao in Toronto.

Some media critics carped that the CBC sat on this story too long and held it until the eve of the G20 summit for maximum effect. Others believe that the Conservative government allowed Fadden to make these allegations and the CBC swallowed the bait. Some Chinese-Canadian politicians accused CSIS - and the CBC of engaging in McCarthyism.

That's absurd. In my opinion it showed great enterprise journalism and CBC TV should be applauded for this. Now the more important follow up story needs to be done: who are these politicians and does Fadden's allegations have any truth?

Local CBC TV News was also very strong this week doing excellent stories on the politics and the protests. After a rocky re-launch of both the National and the local supper hour shows some months ago, I find that CBC TV News - both nationally and locally are back doing what it does best - smart news programming that is editorially driven and content rich.

The local TV news is especially good with strong reporting and a view of Toronto that is more accurate and more diverse than ever. The original model was Moses Znaimer's City Pulse, but in effect, CBC TV News in Toronto has now outdone itself and put City Pulse on a back burner.

The other bright spot for CBC this week was on the radio. Protesters took to the streets in downtown Toronto today. A few hundred so-called anarchists broke away from a peaceful labor and environment rally. Police cars were burned, stores front damaged and looting occurred. As I write this, police and protesters are clashing around the provincial legislature buildings.

CBC Radio has provided excellent coverage throughout the afternoon and into the evening, especially hosted by Robert Fisher who brought an interesting combination of context, calm and concern to his reporting. CBC Radio's morning show host, Matt Galloway provided live reports from both sides of the police lines while riding around Toronto on his bicycle. I haven't heard radio this good for a while.

Both Radio and TV News show that despite the machinations of consultants to "sex up the news," the bench strength of the news departments is still undeniably powerful.

Kudos to CBC News. 

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