Reporters miss part of story

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Brigette DePape led out of Senate chamber

My local Halifax paper, the Chronicle- Herald has a beautifully written Canadian Press story on its front page about Brigette DePape’s anti-Harper protest during yesterday’s Speech from the Throne. Yes, beautifully written — except for one thing. The story by Bruce Cheadle failed to mention why DePape hoisted her “Stop Harper” stop sign on the floor of the Senate.

The closest it came were a couple of references to the “Harper agenda” and this quote drawn from her news release, “Conservative values are not in fact Canadian values.”

Unfortunately, CBC’s The National didn’t do any better. Laurie Graham’s one-minute-and-forty-two second report contained a clip of DePape saying that Harper’s agenda is “disrespectful for the people living in Canada.” But what specific part of that “agenda” was bothering DePape I wanted to know.

Karina Roman on CBC Radio’s World Report said the environment was one of DePape’s “main concerns” and repeated that “Conservative values are not Canadian values considering the majority of people did not vote Conservative in the last election.” For some reason, the CBC reporter disparaged DePape’s protest. “After her stunt, she was escorted from the Hill and fired from her job,” Roman  said. The CBC journalistic standards and practices code states: “On issues of controversy, we ensure that divergent views are reflected respectfully.” CBC reporters are also not supposed to editorialize using biased or tendentious language. In any case, it was hard to divine from Roman’s reporting exactly why DePape felt the need to protest in the first place.

Fortunately Robert Fife at CTV included a clip of DePape in which she mentioned Harper’s plan for more prisons, the expansion of Canadian military missions, cuts to social services and the lack of action on the environment while the Globe and Mail’s Daniel LeBlanc quoted her news release:

“Harper’s agenda is disastrous for this country and for my generation…We have to stop him from wasting billions on fighter jets, military bases, and corporate tax cuts while cutting social programs and destroying the climate. Most people in this country know what we need are green jobs, better medicare, and a healthy environment for future generation.”

Looks like Canadian Press and CBC got so caught up in the packaging of this dramatic protest that they missed part of the story. Yes, Marshall McLuhan did say that the medium is the message, but content sometimes matters too.

About Bruce Wark

Bruce Wark is a freelance journalist and retired journalism professor who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He taught the history and ethics of journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia for 15 years. Before that, he worked for 19 years at CBC Radio news serving as a producer in charge of such network programs as World at Six, World Report and The House. He also produced Media File, a national program that looked critically at the performance of the news media. Along the way, Wark also worked as CBC Radio's legislative reporter in Ontario and as its National Reporter in Canada's Maritime provinces.
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