CBC News Admonished for Reporting Opinion as Fact: Network Ombudsman

by EditorL

Pedestrians walk in front of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) building in downtown Toronto. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images)

By Amanda Brown

CBC’s ombudsman has criticized the news network’s reporting of former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray’s campaign to run again for municipal government in that city last year, saying it “crossed the line.”

Jack Nagler, English Services ombudsman at CBC/Radio-Canada, said the network reported opinion as fact, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.

“It is worth noting here that Mr. Murray who had been leading in the polls taken in the weeks leading up to the election ended up losing the race,” wrote the ombudsman.

Mr. Nagler did not attribute the loss to negative coverage, but said that there was “one particular detail of CBC’s story that I felt crossed the line and was unfair,” pointing to several quotes of interviewees at the end of the article questioning whether Mr. Murray was fit to be a mayor.

Mr. Murray was appointed executive director of Calgary-based Pembina Institute, an environmental research group, in 2017. He served as Liberal environment minister in Ontario from 2010 to 2017, and was previously mayor of Winnipeg from 1998 to 2004.

In the Winnipeg mayoralty race last Oct. 26, Mr. Murray sought to make a comeback to public office. In an article on Sept. 29, 2022, CBC News referred to him as the “election front-runner” while discussing allegations of misconduct against him.

According to the news network, Mr. Murray had resigned from the Pembina Institute in 2018 under controversial circumstances, as “complaints about his management” emerged, including tardiness, harassment, excessive drinking, and “sexual innuendo.”

Mr. Murray lost the election to Scott Gillingham, a former Pentecostal pastor, by 4,391 votes. He denied the misconduct allegations.

Melanie Verhaeghe, managing editor at CBC Manitoba, defended CBC’s news coverage and its use of named sources.

“The mayor of Winnipeg oversees the running of the city and its $1.9 billion operating budget,” wrote Ms. Verhaeghe. “It is a significant job with significant responsibility. Serious candidates should expect close scrutiny.”

The ombudsman said that by publishing the opinions of Mr. Murray’s detractors who had said he was an unfit candidate for the mayoral seat, CBC had “crossed this line.”

In the CBC article, Mr. Murray’s former Pembina Institute co-workers were quoted questioning whether he was “fit to be a mayor” or “would be a toxic mayor” if he won the election.

“Their opinions on Glen Murray’s suitability as mayor were beside the point,” wrote Mr. Nagler. “It didn’t advance the story in a meaningful way. And to have the article conclude with this section – to have the two speakers serve as the ‘final word’ on the subject – felt like piling on.”

Mr. Nagler added: “With only a few weeks to go before election day, CBC would have been wise to simply let Winnipeggers read the story and process it on their own as they decided what to make of Glen Murray’s candidacy.”

Mr. Murray is presently employed as director ofWinnipeg software firm.


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