Be careful what you wish for…

My ACOA, KPMG and how they used CBC post this weekend appears to have unearthed some strong feelings.

There is a somewhat confusing thread here (which includes the line, referring to me, “While there are some who appear to follow his guidance like sheep…” Who knew I had such power!).

Matthew posted here about bloggers “atop high horses (or Shetland Ponies)” taking “shots at the local CBC.”

Nils offers an uncharacteristic defence of the CBC.

And the readership has commented here on the original post.

I know, respect, and consider as friends, many people who work at the CBC, or who have worked at the CBC. My brother Steve works for the CBC. I have worked for the CBC as a freelance contributor, both paid and not. I listen to CBC Radio and watch CBC Television 10 or 20 hours a week in one form or another. I would go (and have gone) to the barricades to preserve the CBC, as I consider it vital to the national interest.

I am also an occasional critic of the CBC: I’ve written on my weblog about the Corporation’s attitude towards RSS, about seemingly misguided experiments with technology, about Andy Barrie. And more.

I always consider my criticism to be reasonable (if sometimes overly rhetorical), and offered out of care and concern for the institution. I offer criticism because I consider the CBC to be relevant, and worthy of criticism. I think the CBC matters, and I consider it vitally important, and a responsibility on my part, to engage the CBC as an active listener / watcher / consumer when the opportunity arises.

I don’t think there’s any reasonable excuse for what amounted to reprinting an ACOA news release. Nils says that “nobody is getting slandered or seriously hurt” when the CBC does this. But it’s the CBC itself that is hurt by this: its journalistic integrity has been compromised, if only slightly, and every loss in that column chips away at the integrity of the institution regarding things that do matter.

I don’t know what the answer to decreasing budgets and overtaxed employees is, but I’m absolutely certain that it doesn’t involve letting the integrity guard down.

One more thing: this weblog isn’t news. It’s not comprehensive. There’s no editorial oversight. I am not a journalist, and I couldn’t be one if I tried. This weblog is, at best, a personal commentary on matters that catch my attention. I claim no authority. I am self-funded, and responsible to nobody but myself. While I invite comment about anything I write, I don’t promise that I’ll pay any attention to it (although often I do). I write here mostly for selfish reasons, with occasional sprinkles of Jeffersonian pretense, and everything you read here should taken in that light.


Matt's picture
Matt on February 23, 2004 - 19:45 Permalink

My comments were not in response to your post, Peter. I had nothing to do with the story you criticized, so I will not try to defend it. I will make sure others here have read it.

I wrote those comments on my page after reading the REACTION to your story… by people calling the CBC staff “repeaters,” “sloppy” and “irrelevant.” Those are the broad generalizations I was referring to when I said “taking shots.”

I’m not going to make any arguments about understaffing. That’s a reality and I think we’ve adapted well to it.

Are we 100 per cent perfect? Come on.

But I’m telling you, good people work here. They work very hard. And they provide a valuable service.

That’s what I was trying to get at.

Johnny Rukavina's picture
Johnny Rukavina on February 23, 2004 - 19:55 Permalink

I agree with Matt. He wrote what I was thinking.

Al O'Neill's picture
Al O'Neill on February 23, 2004 - 19:56 Permalink

Since it’s impossible to say anything without stepping on someone’s toes, doesn’t it?

I can certainly understand the feeling that perhaps a little cheerleading for the local economy might be OK, we’re all in this together, as it were. But I am of the feeling that PEI and Charlottetown have enough going for it that one can be a great supporter of our little place by making sure what you do say is well-informed and at least shows one is responsible for waht one prints as a news organization.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on February 23, 2004 - 19:56 Permalink

I agree with Matt too.

Alan's picture
Alan on February 23, 2004 - 20:33 Permalink

My main point in the Humblebub thread was that your post was an illustration of the tension between blogs as personal opinion — which I think you are stating above  — and the idea that blogs somehow are better or even emerging sources of news — which Craig proposed. I have big problems with the proposition that blogs cannot replace news media, whatever the cause of that weakness: Winer’s “traditional old boys club”, lack of resources or partiality or something else. You have always been more open than many in your declarations of interest which, like your restatement above that you are not news, is a proper and realistic approach to what a blog is.

[On the sheep commment, I shall try to use the warmer “The Shepard” in future.]

Nils Ling's picture
Nils Ling on February 23, 2004 - 20:45 Permalink

I also agree with Matt — no surprise. And I had no quibble with Peter’s original comments about the ACOA piece. I was offput by the tone of some of the responses, and decided to use my own blog to frame my thoughts, rather than shanghai someone else’s …

I’m all for journalistic integrity, although I’ve never had a real shred of it myself. I think it’s important. But I also think that if your guard slips from time to time, as it will in an imperfect world, there ought to be a level of forgiveness.

When I said “nobody is getting slandered or seriously hurt”, I was pointing to the relative unimportance of this little story. I don’t defend it as good journalism (like I would know good journalism if it bit me on the arse), but I do see it as a rather minor blip in the grand scheme of things.

And sure, the philosophical argument is “you can’t be a little bit pregnant” — that journalistic integrity is a pane of glass that is either whole or broken. That, it seems to me, is a purist’s view of a perfect world. I’d argue that this put a smudge on the pane of glass, but it’s a tiny one in the corner and hardly worth noting. It is certainly not a badge of shame and an excuse to loose the hounds. Sometmes we gotta pick our hills to die on, kids.

I guess my call is for perspective. When so much goes right at a place (and I want to be clear that I don’t mean “the CBC”, which I consider to be a fundamentally flawed organization with little hope of real redemption short of tearing it apart and starting over; rather, I mean “CBC Charlottetown”), it is still fair to point out when something goes wrong, especially in the reasonable way Peter did. To use that valid criticism as a springboard for vilifying some very hard-working and dedicated people is what upset Matthew and what got under my skin, too.

steve's picture
steve on February 23, 2004 - 21:06 Permalink

I work at CBC. I love the CBC. I have been praised and damned by CBC listeners, mostly in Saskatchewan where I used to work (“Get that lunatic off the air!”). The criticism doesn’t really bother me — I’m amazed and thrilled that people care enough to speak out. Canadians own us. They are us. We are them. They should criticize us. It makes us better.

Matt's picture
Matt on February 23, 2004 - 21:52 Permalink

I, too, welcome criticism, Steve. Everyday we get calls or e-mails (and blog entries) about what we are doing right, and what we aren’t. These people, like Peter, care about the service and want the best from us.

And I say, please — keep listening and keep sharing your thoughts. It does make us better.

But please… don’t throw rotten eggs at my house from behind a wall.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on February 24, 2004 - 13:42 Permalink

It was no keyboard malfunction. My use of the word