Get Smart

This op-ed by the Vancouver Sun’s Craig McInnes has been making the rounds of Twitter today. He, like a lot of other provincial beat reporters, comes out to bat for the CBC’s Stephen Smart, accusing critics of fallacies of logic and even, yes, sexism. He compares Smart’s situation to his own at the Sun, where he met his wife. However the only fallacy I can see is his own:

When my wife and I worked for the same employer, we avoided any situation where one of us would be reporting to the other.

Super, except 1) that’s a statement about the reporting structure within a company and is a rule common in most workplaces and 2) it’s Smart’s job to report on his wife’s employer the B.C. Premier. He can’t avoid it. Not if he’s doing his job.

Contrary to popular opinion, journalists are not locked in a constant struggle to bring down the government of the day, exciting though that might seem. We also have a vested interest in the success of our politicians

It’s true, it’s not the singular purpose of the press to bring down the government. Then again I’m not sure having a “vested interest in the success of our politicians” is part of the curriculum at journalism school. Whatever happened to the concept of the “adversarial press”?

That just isn’t what “adversarial” means. An adversarial press does not mean that the media automatically and reflexively contradicts what the Government says or does. That is called being a mindless “contrarian,” not “adversarial.”

An adversarial process is designed to uncover deceit and falsehood by ensuring that claims and arguments are subjected to meaningful scrutiny by some opposing force. An adversarial press means that it views its function as a watchdog over the Government, as a check on its power. It fulfills that function by viewing Government statements and actions skeptically and with the intent to scrutinize them and determine their truth.

This isn’t to say Stephen Smart isn’t doing just that. But who could fault the public at large for having the perception his reporting could be affected, even unconsciously?

No one involved in the Smart/Scott complaint has any examples of the perceived conflict between the two corrupting the coverage of any story by the CBC.

Proving a negative: No one knows if Smart sat on a story or pulled punches. Maybe not. But maybe yes.

The notion competing professional interests can’t coexist under one roof dates back to the not-so-distant past when the model family consisted of hubby heading off to work and the good wife staying home and supporting him in every way.

No it doesn’t. Rules like this, preventing family members (not just spouses!) with competing professional interests from being professionally involved have existed for a long, long time. Note the emphasis on “competing”. Here’s an example of another news organization’s guidelines for dealing with family members.

This isn’t really about Stephen Smart. This is about the CBC. This is about why I, as a member of the TV-watching public, won’t change the channel because I think the reporting might not be as cosy with the government of the day elsewhere.

Kirk Lapointe made a ruling based on the CBC’s own guidelines. Craig McInnes doesn’t want to say he thinks Kirk Lapointe should have ignored them. Instead he tries to make it about the critics in the blogosphere.

UPDATE: Outside of the Legislature beat, Victoria is small-time, media-wise. Being reassigned would be a step down if one were to stay in Victoria (no offence to Victoria’s other reporters). It’s not a pleasant situation to be in.

UPDATE 2: Both Norm Farrell and RossK highlight an appearance by Keith Baldrey on Bill Good’s radio show in which he posited the following:

Keith Baldrey: Ya. I mean he’s my competitor. And I think it’s outrageous to suggest that his job performance has been anything less than exemplary. I mean, we compete for stories…. Here’s a great example. Christy Clark revealed that she wasn’t callin’ a fall election on my television station and a couple of other news outlets, and not the CBC (back in September)… It was, you know, he (Smart) doesn’t gain necessarily from the relationship his wife has with the Premier. In fact, I think, if anything he’s probably hurt by that.


So why would I watch CBC if one of it’s reporters has a hand tied behind his back?

Just sayin’