Why I helped the CBC

Tonight CBC’s the fifth estate will air an hour-long investigative documentary, titled The Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi. I participated in this report. I gave the CBC information and documentation from my independent investigation and from my work with Kevin Donovan. I reached out to some of my sources on the CBC’s behalf and asked if they would be interested in participating as well. I gave the CBC extensive interviews, both on and off camera.

This may strike some as an odd choice.

After all, I’ve been highly critical of the CBC’s internal Ghomeshi investigation, which is currently being conducted by lawyer Janice Rubin. I felt that in that instance, the very idea that the CBC could be expected to do an honest job of investigating itself was a joke. So why have I now participated with a CBC news investigation?

It wasn’t for money. This was a different kind of partnership than my work with the Toronto Star; I volunteered my time and efforts to the fifth estate and officially I am simply a source in their report.  It wasn’t for attention; I’ve turned down every request for a TV appearance about the Ghomeshi case before this one.

I helped the CBC (or more specifically, I helped some of the CBC’s last remaining investigative reporters) because they are in a unique position to find and report the truth about CBC management’s role in the Ghomeshi case. Since parting company with the Toronto Star, my own investigation has focused directly on CBC management. I have learned and reported some information on this, but my access to the highest levels of the organization is very limited, and my requests for comment are met with curt denials when they are answered at all.

The fifth estate‘s Gillian Findlay, her executive producer Jim Williamson, and senior producer Julian Sher promised me that they too were specifically interested in investigating CBC management. They have assured me that they have both the will and the license to hold their own bosses to account, even if it means implicating people they have personal friendships with. And they have institutional knowledge and access that I do not.

I chose to trust them.

The worst case scenario is that the fifth estate‘s report will be like the two CBC interviews executive Heather Conway requested and received in the early days of this story: a carefully managed attempt to provide the appearance of accountability with none of the substance. If I’ve helped the CBC fool its audience into thinking the broadcaster has properly dealt with this and we can all move on, I apologize in advance.

How will we know?

There will be many indications. In their advance hype for tonight’s episode, the fifth estate has promised “numerous revelations”. Perhaps some of these will concern the instances in which management was directly exposed to Jian Ghomeshi’s inappropriate behaviour. After all, Ghomeshi’s activities were not constrained to his staff. He rode in elevators with management and rubbed elbows with top executives at galas and fundraisers in Toronto and Ottawa. Ghomeshi was a fixture at these parties, where he was known as as a brazen operator. Is it credible that no CBC executive saw anything firsthand? Were they ever told about an incident after the fact? Perhaps we will learn something tonight.

Ultimately, there is one way we will know for sure if the fifth estate is for real. It has nothing to do with hints, warnings or red-flags that CBC executives might have heeded before anyone knew about the severity of Ghomeshi’s actions- it has to do with the direct behaviour of management at the highest levels, once they knew the truth.

In his infamous Facebook post, since deleted (possibly as a condition of his settlement with the CBC,) Jian Ghomeshi wrote:

“I was given the choice to walk away quietly and to publicly suggest that this was my decision.”

If true, this offer to deceive the public and cover up crimes would have been made to Ghomeshi by CBC executives after he showed them photo evidence that he had brutalized a woman. It’s possible that Ghomeshi was lying about this. But it’s unlikely: if such an offer was made, lawyers on both sides would have been present.

So: was this offer made by CBC management? If so, by who exactly?

For the fifth estate‘s investigation to be credible and legitimate, their report must at the very least pose these questions.

And that’s how we’ll know.

Finally, there is another reason why I helped the CBC. It’s an idealistic one from a recovering public broadcaster, a small hope that the many responsible and principled journalists still within the CBC might reclaim the place from those who have driven it into the ground in every conceivable way.

The only way the CBC can present itself to Canadians as an organization that is still in the business of telling the truth is by cleaning up its own damn mess.

I really hope they do.

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