Thursday, February 15, 2018

CTV News - The Donald Trump of Canadian journalism

CTV News has announced that they, "stand behind their reporting" of the Patrick Brown story and that attacks on their journalistic practices are, "groundless and wrong".


They can stand behind their reporting all they like but they don't get to decide if criticism of their journalistic practices is without merit any more than Patrick Brown got to decide if the allegations against him were true or not.  

CTV is starting to seriously sound like U.S. president Donald Trump in trying to defend its tarnished reputation.  Donald loves to express views about himself and present them as fact, saying ridiculous things like: "Nobody understands women's issues better than me, nobody".  And he'll frequently double down on his absurd assertions by punctuating them with something stupid like: "And everybody knows it".  

Does CTV deserve the criticism that's coming their way?  Go onto social media and you'll see CTV getting lambasted for everything from ethics to simple fact checking.  I share the view that this Bell Media division has seriously damaged the reputation of MSM news outlets in Canada.  

It would help if CTV's news director would issue an apology for the shoddy job that was done on this story, but that's likely coming just after 'The Donald' announces that his wanting a big military parade was the result of a lapse in judgement.

What do consumers of news expect from responsible news outlets?  Its pretty simple, report the facts.  If someone calls in with a story about a robbery on Second Avenue and Main Street at the Piggly Wiggly, make sure the details are right.  If there isn't a store of that name at that location, do some digging.  

And don't take sides in the stories being reported, again...just present the facts.  It is up to individuals to make their own judgements.  If a reporter has a conflict of interest that could influence their reporting, then remove that individual from the story and have someone else do the job.   Or at minimum state the bias up front so that consumers are aware of the potential for bias.

And finally, present both sides.  When reporting on allegations with no third party witnesses give both accuser and accused the opportunity to present their side of the story. 

So how did CTV botch the Patrick Brown story?  Number one, they got the facts wrong.  

The individual who claimed Patrick Brown met her in a bar where she was drinking underage while still a high school student, she apparently got her dates mixed up.  I'm not faulting the woman for having a faulty memory, the alleged event took place around 10 years ago.  Its entirely possible that what she said of the misconduct is true, but that she simply wasn't 100% sure of the time frame.  

Sadly for the accuser, this seriously undermines the credibility of the allegations, and the fault lies entirely with CTV News.  Had CTV been thorough in their investigation they would discovered that Patrick Brown was not living in a 2 storey house with an upstairs bedroom when the alleged events are said to have taken place.  

Again, I am not questioning the veracity of the allegations here, but I am going to criticize CTV for not checking the facts.  Because they didn't do their job the individual making these accusations has had her credibility questioned.  This is what should have happened before the story went to air in my view:

CTV to accuser:  We looked into the details of your accusation, and it turns out Patrick Brown was not living in a two storey house at the time you say he took you to a second floor bedroom, closed the door and demanded oral sex.  At that time he was living in a one floor open concept subdivided duplex with no upstairs and no bedroom door.  Is it possible it happened at a later date, after you were no longer in high school?  

The conflict of interest involving reporter Rachel Aiello is even more damning in my view.  It is now a well known fact that Ms. Aiello and the constituency worker who claims Patrick Brown climbed on top of her and kissed her without consent, that these two individuals worked together at Ottawa's 'The Hill Times'.  In fact there are pictures now being shared all over social media that suggest the reporter and her source are in point of fact friends.  

There are two possibilities here as I see it.  It may be that Ms. Aiello never disclosed her relationship to her superiors.  If that is the case, then this goes beyond a simple mistake.  The other possibility is that Ms. Aiello did disclose the relationship with this source, and that her editors decided not to disclose it.  Either way it seriously damages the credibility of this story, and reflects very badly on the ethics of CTV News in the opinion of many who are now criticising CTV.  

Now that the relationship is well known CTV is claiming that they took measures to ensure there wasn't contact between their reporter and the anonymous source.  But its too late now, the damage is done and excuses after the fact won't take that away.  

And finally we're left with the fact that CTV did not give Patrick Brown any chance to respond to the allegations before the story hit the airwaves. Responsible journalism involves reporting, not just one point of view in these "she said, he said" situations, but both sides.  Failing to report on conflicting accounts from others present at the time of the alleged incidents seriously erodes CTV's professional reputation in the eyes of many news consumers.

What CTV News needs to do, if they care about repairing the damage to their image and brand, is to acknoweldge the mistakes they made and to commit to better reporting going forward.  Failing to do so will only lend credibility to Patrick Brown's allegations that this was a politically motivated hit job designed to remove him from his job as PC Party leader.  

With Caroline Mulroney being a candidate and the brother of a CTV media star, the optics here are so bad that any reasonable and fair minded PC Party member should immediately eliminate her from consideration in the upcoming leadership vote in my opinion. 

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