Saturday, October 11, 2008

I always preferred CBC anyway

Yesterday morning, having become incensed over the way in which CTV Atlantic chose to air Steve Murphy's interview with Stéphane Dion, I sent the following e-mail to CTV Atlantic, CTV News, and Mike Duffy Live.

To whom it may concern:

I am disgusted by the way in which your network chose to air Steve Murphy's interview with Liberal leader Stéphane Dion Thursday evening. I am equally disgusted by Mr. Murphy's inability to properly phrase a question using clear English grammar, particularly when he knows the subject of his interview speaks English as a second language.

Steve Murphy (or whoever wrote the question posed to Mr. Dion) is at fault in this matter. The question "If you were Prime Minister now, what would you have done...?" mixes the present tense with the past tense. Such phrasing is unclear (even to an Anglophone) and, thus, open to interpretation. It is understandable that Mr. Dion would have difficulty understanding the intention of the question and he was entitled to clarification on what exactly was being asked. The question should have been rephrased so that it was grammatically clear.

The fact that Mr. Dion asked to re-start his answer so that he could answer the question that was meant to be asked does not reflect his party's policy. To air Mr. Dion's requests for clarification as if no interview subject has ever done such a thing before is unbalanced and makes it appear that CTV is trying to influence the election in some way. The use of confusing phrasing could also be seen as an effort to intentionally fluster Mr. Dion. CTV and Steve Murphy owe an apology to Mr. Dion and to all voters for interfering with the electoral process in this way and undermining the media's duty to present balanced coverage of an election campaign.

I suggest you clean up your act and learn to speak English.


Lisa Buchanan
I was offended not just because I'm a fan of Dion, but because I truly feel that this constituted CTV meddling in the electoral process and providing a ridiculous piece of ammunition to the Conservatives, who failed to make any productive use of the clip. I think it's clear to everyone that Dion had an answer to the question; he simply didn't know what he was being asked. CBC Newsworld spent a good deal of time talking about the matter yesterday morning and Dion had the opportunity to respond to the incident in a live interview with Heather Hiscox. CBC's Julie Van Dusen was quick to point out that it was difficult to understand what Harper was getting at since everyone knows about Dion's 30 day economic plan to the point where she can recite it in her sleep.

I wasn't the only person to complain. On the CTV National News last night, during the brief mention of the issue almost 15 minutes into the broadcast, Graeme Richardson reported there was "a strong negative reaction from the public; CTV was deluged with calls and messages."

Last night I received the following response from Jay Witherbee, News Director at CTV Atlantic.

Dear Ms. Buchanan,

Thank you for your email. I would like to take a moment to respond to your concerns to give you a better understanding of why we aired the interview with Stephane Dion in its entirety.

The economic crisis is a central issue in the federal election campaign. We posed a question to Mr. Dion regarding the economy and while it was unfortunate that he struggled in answering the question, upon review and reflection it was decided that we had a responsibility to run the footage so that our viewers could decide for themselves.

We would like to emphasize that Steve Murphy is not personally responsible for this decision. CTV News has an editorial review process in place. There was a great deal of consideration and discussion that went into making this decision. This process also included numerous other people from various departments within CTV News, as decisions of this magnitude are never made in isolation. We assure you that we do not take these issues lightly.

Thank you for sharing your point-of-view, as feedback from our viewers is extremely important to us. We sincerely hope that you will continue to watch CTV News in the future.


Jay Witherbee
News Director
CTV Atlantic
I don't often write letters about these sorts of things, but I'm glad I did in this case.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another blogger seems to have received the same answer as you from CTV. He also said the question was poorly phrased in his letter to CTV. Notice, CTV never addresses this point. They can't even show any evenhandedness in their response as they seem to be dismissing people's concerns about the ambiguous question.