The Current: Has “critical journalism gone missing in action?”

CBC’s The Current looked at media coverage of the Games in Vancouver with a Feb. 26 segment that included a panel featuring CBC reporter Tom Harrington, Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason and Vancouver freelance journalist Frances Bula.

The panelists were asked to respond to concerns expressed by David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. Eby’s comments about the media coverage of the Games stemmed from a Feb. 16 J-Source column on the subject. After Eby spoke about the criticisms he expressed in the column, the panel of journalists responded.

Here is sampling of their responses:

Gary Mason, The Globe and Mail:
“I have a lot of respect for David, but I think his concerns are ridiculous. I think any suggestion that there are these powers up in management who are telling the journalists not to cover negative stories or not to look for negative stories is just patently not true.”

Tom Harrington, CBC:
“As much as a network that buys Olympic rights is a partner in the Games, I don’t think that means that the CBC relieves its responsibilities for journalism behind as part of the news coverage of these Games. I know that we’ve tackled all the big issues that have been around the Games.”

Frances Bula, freelance journalist:
“We all live with conflict of interest all the time. Potentially anybody who covers a beat gets involved in that kind of thing and I think there is a bit more possibility in the Games. A number of us who cover development issues in the city were offered tickets to the men’s gold hockey tickets by someone we cover. No one I know took those. I have to it did make my eyes well up for a moment. There is a bit more around that you have to deal with…But to think that the Olympics brings a conflict that doesn’t exist in other reporting is kind of naive.”

Bula also responded to a recent J-Source column by Stephen J.A. Ward. Bula told The Current audience:

“It really surprises me that, for example, respected journalism professors like Stephen Ward will say that journalists have been compromised but there is not a shred of evidence to say they pulled back on this story, they didn’t do this one.”

She added:

“I have to ask these critics: Where is the evidence? Is there a real difference in the coverage between the sponsors and the non-sponsors, between the accredited journalists who apparently have to abide by that code and I don’t think you see it.”

Listen to this episode of The Current here.