The Ombud’s Inbox

I’ll give you three guesses which topic generated the most complaints to my office during the month of March, and the first two don’t count.

Did everyone get the right answer? It was, of course, the controversy on Parliament Hill involving Jody Wilson-Raybould, Justin Trudeau, SNC-Lavalin and a cast of many more.

With a federal election looming, CBC’s audience is keenly attuned to the way this story has been covered. There is a recurring theme of complainants saying that the coverage is biased, though the question of HOW it’s biased has been all over the map. I’ll share a sliver of my correspondence on the subject.

There are some who feel the coverage has been biased toward the government:

“I demand that you instruct your reporters to stop pandering to the Liberals and give us perspectives that are truthful and objective…”

There are others who feel the coverage has biased against the government:

“…your bias toward everything that comes out of JWR’s mouth as truth has tarnished the reputation of CBC…”

There are still others who feel the coverage is designed to replace the government:

“The CBC is a taxpayer funded public broadcaster, not an arm of the previous government or of the Conservative Party of Canada!!”

The pattern of these complaints about bias is distributed fairly evenly – I can’t say that there’s a consensus out there on which way CBC is biased on this topic.

What do I make of all that? Well, I do not subscribe to the school of thought that if you upset everyone equally it must mean that you’re doing a good job of being balanced. Rather, I see this as a reminder of how important it is for CBC journalists to be precise when they select their stories, choose their words, or characterize the actions and motives of all the various players in this controversy. Every online headline, every live hit on CBC News Network, every pundit invited on air to analyze the latest development, makes a difference in the way the public perceives the CBC’s work.