CBC modernizes journalistic standards and practices guide

The CBC has updated its standards and practices manual to make it more relevant to 21st-century reporting.

The CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices, available both online and as an “odd-shaped binder that contains the policies that guide [CBC’s] behaviour and practices”, was up to now dubbed the Little Blue Book.

A CBC article calls it “a tool to help our journalists make smart, ethical decisions in situations where there are many shades of grey, and to guide them to carry out the best public-service journalism we can provide.” The public broadcaster hopes it will become a living document that reflects modern-day reporting challenges.

The core guidelines and principles remain untouched — including best practices for clandestine reporting, embargoed news and conflict of interest — but the guide has been updated with the idea that the “news cycle” no longer exists, thanks to 24/hour news and social media which have changed the media landscape. “Reaction is instantaneous,” CBC’s Esther Enkin writes, and the torrent of information has “made our job easier in some ways, but it has created unique challenges in verifying information.”

The new “Use of Social Media” section informs journalists that

“[CBC is] consistent in our standards, no matter what the platform, in disseminating information. If we would not put the information on air or on our own website, we would not use social media to report that information.

“When using social media as an information-gathering tool, we apply the same standards as those for any other source of newsgathering.”

The guide has also been reorganized loosely into reporter beats, including sections on war reporting, crime reporting, investigative reporting and consumer reporting. The guide was reviewed by “Pierre Trudel, director of the Centre for Media Studies and L.R. Wilson, chair for information technology and e-commerce law at the Université de Montréal and Robert Steele, professor of journalism ethics at DePauw University and Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute.”