This week I’m in Portland, Oregon attending a conference for work. Twitter has been my main note taking tool, and therefore when there was a shooting in Ottawa yesterday morning, I was aware of it fairly quickly.
What I saw online was a lot of links to coverage to American outlets – CNN, MSNBC, Fox News. But what Mark Joyella at TVNewser got to see was a feed from CBC. Here in America we’ve become accustomed to seeing “Breaking,” Exclusive,” and lots of flashy graphics on big news stories (even not so big news stories). But Joyella writes in his article “Canada’s CBC News Shows What Thoughtful Breaking News Coverage Really Looks Like,” “As I watched via the network’s live stream in New York, I never heard a second of dramatic music, never saw a full-screen wipe with a catchy graphic like TERROR ON PARLIAMENT HILL, and never, ever heard (Peter) Mansbridge or any of the CBC’s reporters dip even a toe into the waters of self-promotion.”
This is what Joyella witnessed while Mansbridge was reporting on a shooting in his nation’s capital. Think about that for a moment. If this happened in the US Capitol, can you imagine any cable news outlet going on air and delivering the news in the same way Mansbridge is reported to have done so? No “unconfirmed reports,” no “sources close to the incident,” no speculation. Instead, responsible journalism that includes verifying information before reporting it on air, or calling it out if callers or guests start to speculate.
Don’t misunderstand me, there is a lot of quality journalism still happening at the network and cable news level. But in incidents of national security, things can quickly escalate and the tenants of journalism are sometimes forgotten. A few of us – yes, I still group myself in with working journalists – could take a lesson from our neighbors to the north.