Globe executives want to monetize the integrity and reputations of The Globe and Mail’s journalists – the same award-winning reporters and editors that management proudly (and rightly) claims are vital to the enterprise’s future as a powerful, independent, fearless and profitable news organization.
CORRECTION: SUN Media and SUN News are separate companies, both owned by Quebecor. An earlier version of this story confused the two.
(April 24/14) SUN Media has since contacted me to dispute Septembre’s account of her interview questions- they claim Monique Beech never asked the questions described below. SUN also points out that Monique Beech did in fact respond to my request for comment, to ask for more details before agreeing to an interview. This is correct. So while CANOE.ca failed to respond to my request for comment, Monique did respond, and I dropped the ball on that. I apologize to her for the oversight. -JB
Septembre Anderson, a Toronto journalist, was asked about her political leanings while on a job interview with SUN Media web portal CANOE.ca.
Anderson applied to be CANOE’s front page digital editor. When she arrived for her interview this past February, she immediately saw that Monique Beech, SUN Media’s digital content director, had been researching her online presence.
“She had my Twitter feed and my Tumblr open on her desktop, and she’d been Googling me as well,” recalls Anderson. Such digging is standard in modern hiring, especially in the media business. What Anderson didn’t expect were questions about her politics.
As Anderson recalls, Monique Beech said, “I can see that you’re very left-leaning and you talk a lot about social justice.”
She then recalls being asked: “What makes you think you can work for a right-wing company?’”
Neither CANOE nor Monique Beech responded to CANADALAND’s request for confirmation and comment about the incident. * (see correction above)
Septembre Anderson rolled with it, answering “I’m a journalist, I can put my politics aside”. But the interview left her with a bad taste in her mouth.
“It felt wrong,” she recalls. “I don’t think that was a question that should have been asked. I feel it was inappropriate.” Ultimately, she didn’t get the job, and suspects that her politics might have had something to do with that.
And here’s the shocker: as far as I can tell, if Anderson was rejected because of her political leanings, such discrimination may have been perfectly legal.
Ontario’s Human Rights Code protects workers and job applicants from discrimination or harassment on the basis of their race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.
But political opinions, expressions or affiliations are not explicitly protected in Ontario, as they are in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Newfoundland & Labrador, NWT, Yukon, B.C., and Manitoba.
It’s been argued that political affiliations should be covered under “creed”, but the Court of Appeal for Ontario has rejected this notion, inasmuch as they’ve ruled that belonging to a political party does not constitute creed. A complete set of political beliefs like Anderson’s, encompassing social justice, economics, and a slew of other issues certainly sounds like a creed, but the courts have yet to take a firm position.
In the meantime, all you crypto-lefties working for SUN and the National Post should take note: you can get sacked for your pinko tweets, so best keep mum.
First it was Rex, then it was Peter. Now, personal appearances at oil industry events by Amanda Lang, Mark Kelly, and Ian Hanomansing are coming to light. Were they paid too?
When it was just Rex, the CBC’s excuse was that he was a commentator, not a reporter, and a freelancer, not an employee. “…taking a provocative stand is what we pay him to do,” blogged Editor in Chief Jennifer McGuire. “Our regular staff abides by rules in our Journalistic Standards and Practices.”
Now that Mansbridge is being questioned, they’ve got a new tune. Here’s what a CBC press flack told VICE yesterday:
“Peter is encouraged by management to speak on a regular basis, it’s part of an outreach initiative in place for many of our hosts that ensures CBC News and in this case our Chief Correspondent is talking to Canadians in communities across the country…Peter does not weigh in on matters of current controversy or sensitivity… By the way, earlier today he spoke to a grade five class.”
And in a separate statement to the Huffington Post:
“(Peter) speaks to a variety of groups and has given more than 200 speeches in the last ten years; some of those groups include associations or organizations looking out for the environment. There are occasions where he is paid to speak but given he’s taking on extra work and doing so on his own time, we think it’s fair that he gets compensated.”
Well there you have it! It’s not a conflict of interest, it’s community outreach! And all that oil sands cash (estimated at $28,000 per appearance, with four known appearances) merely subsidizes Peter’s goodwill missions to schoolchildren and tree-huggers.
What absurd bullshit. What an inconsistent fit of rationalizations.
So: when Rex does it, it’s okay because he’s speaking his mind. When Peter does it, it’s okay because he isn’t. When Rex does it, it lies outside of his job at the CBC. When Peter does it, it’s part of his job at the CBC.
It’s all very amusing, and I’m as eager as anyone to engage in a conversation about the finer points of objectivity, bias, and the economic realities of modern journalism. But there’s a bottom line that the CBC is dancing on, and it is this:
A journalist shouldn’t get paid on the sly by the people they cover.
It’s an ethical concept laid out plainly in the in-house rulebook that McGuire cites (see Conflict of Interest). It’s an ethical concept a child could grasp.
But okay, fine. If CBC News feels otherwise, if they have embraced some radical, postmodern vision of mercenary, free-for-all journalism, an all-drug Olympics of news reporting- then let them say so. Not on their obscure Editor’s Blog, not in a statement released to pestering independent news sites, but to their own audience, on the air, on the news.
If their defence is actually “yeah, he did it, all our hosts do it, we know all about it, so what?”, then I’d love to see them run it past their viewers.
They will never do this. They will offer their evasions and rationalizations in the hope of nipping this scandal in the bud while it’s still relatively unreported (no mainstream coverage yet!), but Peter Mansbridge will never tell his own audience, on The National, before an At Issue panel on the Oil Sands, that he has been paid thousands and thousands of dollars by petroleum companies.
People wouldn’t be okay with that.
This photo of Peter Mansbridge holding forth from behind a CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers) lectern popped up online last weekend. Grabbed from CAPP’s Facebook page, it’s dated December 11, 2012, and contains this caption:
“Peter Mansbridge at CAPP’s Investment Symposium last night. He articulated that energy has moved to the forefront of news: economic, environment, safety.”
So was Mansbridge paid to tell Oil Sands companies how important they are? The answer is yes. When asked if her group paid the CBC anchor a fee or honorarium for the keynote, CAPP spokesperson Geraldine Anderson answered:
“Yes, Peter Mansbridge delivered the keynote speech at CAPP’s Investment Symposium, held in Toronto in December 2012. CAPP procured Mansbridge’s services through Lavin Agency. As part of our agreement with Lavin, we cannot disclose the fee.”
The Toronto Sun reports that Mansbridge has received as much as $28,000 per gig, but the amount is a secondary issue. The Oil Sands is perhaps Canada’s most controversial and divisive news topic, with competing interests constantly vying for positive media exposure and public sympathy. As the CBC’s Chief Correspondent and anchor of their flagship national news broadcast, Mansbridge exerts undeniable influence over what Oil Sands stories The National covers and how it covers them. The fact that he has been moonlighting for the energy industry is a clear (and undisclosed) conflict-of-interest.
And he may have done it many times.
The twitter account that broke news of the CAPP keynote belongs to one Sierra Rayne, who describes herself himself in his profile as a Saskatchewan environmental scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry. Rayne also links to this event, the 2008 Global Petroleum Show, where Mansbridge is listed as a moderator for the Global Petroleum Conference, this 2011 keynote by Mansbridge for the Canadian Association for Petroleum Landmen (sponsored by oil company Cenovus) and this 2004 moderation gig for the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy & Petroleum.
When Rex Murphy was revealed to have taken similar jobs, CBC Editor in Chief Jennifer McGuire defended him on the basis that Rex is a freelancer, and therefore doesn’t have to follow the rules set out for full time CBC employees. Here are some of those rules, as laid out in the CBC’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics policy:
1. No conflict should exist or appear to exist between the private interests of CBC/Radio-Canada employees and their official duties.
5. Employees must not use their positions to further their personal interests.
10. Gifts, benefits, money or other special considerations offered to CBC/Radio-Canada employees to influence, obligate or appear to influence a CBC/Radio-Canada decision must be refused.
15.Employees may not engage in activities likely to bring CBC/Radio-Canada into disrepute.
16.Employees may not take a stand on public controversies if CBC’s integrity would be compromised.
18. Employees shall not engage without permission in outside work which involves services in competition with the CBC/Radio-Canada, exploits their connection with the CBC/Radio-Canada or restricts their availability, efficiency or causes a conflict of interest with their CBC/Radio-Canada duties.
19. The duty to disclose and remove conflicts of interest rests with the employee.
Blogger Dean Skoreyko says he’s filed a complaint about the conflict with CBC Ombudsman Esther Enkin.
“Pretty accurate stuff” is how VICE magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes describes this week’s CANADALAND podcast, in an email sent the morning the episode was posted. Still, there are several points he wants to contest. Here they are, along with responses, where appropriate, from those whose comments rankled him: