Review: White Coat, Black Art introductory blog for program about nurses (complaint from Allison Patrick, Professor of Nursing, George Brown College, Toronto)

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

You wrote to complain about an introductory blog posted by the host of White Coat, Black Art, Dr. Brian Goldman.

You said that despite the range of topics covered in the interview the blog entry narrowed the focus this way: “So we thought it only fair that this week we talk about nurses…Our panel of veteran nurses complaining about the work ethic of their younger colleagues.” You felt that “this was not the topic of our interview and misleads the listeners with the suggestion that our discussion was focused on complaining about the work ethic of younger colleagues.”

The producer of the program replied that “the panel did indeed complain about younger nurses, so I think that statement is fair enough. Of course you are right in saying that your interview with Brian (some 40 minutes long, as recorded) was not limited to that topic. But it was certainly an important topic in the interview, so important that the edited interview—the one that listeners heard—focused on it…”

You asked for a review, saying that you continued to feel that the introductory posting (blog) was “misleading and disrespectful to myself and to the profession.” I have now, quite belatedly, done that review. Please forgive my tardiness. I trust delayed justice is not, in this instance, denied justice.

The situation actually summons up some crucial questions for journalism. We spend considerable time trying to get the substance right, but, occasionally, fail to place solid material in the correct context.

I have listened to the entire interview done by Dr. Brian Goldman with you and another experienced Registered Nurse, Linda Jepson. Dr. Goldman, although not a journalist by training, clearly has solid journalistic instincts. By and large, he posed good, open-ended questions and appeared to listen to the replies and follow where they led. However, you did point out in your initial complaint one question in particular that clearly appeared to confuse both of the interview subjects (and me, as well).

One of the interesting areas to which the questions led was how more recent graduates are viewed by their more experienced colleagues. Ms. Jepson expressed definite and pointed views on the subject. You, however, appeared to try to make points more subtly without directly disagreeing with your colleague. To my ears, your points seemed to be nuanced and less judgmental. Your colleague was less subtle and more forceful.

While the edited interview, as aired, was only a portion of the original conversation, I cannot conclude that it was a misrepresentation of it. I believe you were aware that the conversation would be edited. That being said, it is incumbent upon programmers to make sure that use of the edited portions meets the principles of integrity and fairness as laid down in CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices:

Integrity The information is truthful, not distorted to justify a conclusion. Broadcasters do not take advantage of their power to present a personal bias.

Fairness The information reports or reflects equitably the relevant facts and significant points of view; it deals fairly and ethically with persons, institutions, issues and events.

The podcast introduction, while “grabby” and dramatic, appears to be unfair in its use of such phrases as “blood on the floor” and “spill the beans.” Certainly the views of one of you might lead to that shorthand, but I think a fair hearing of your views would lead to another conclusion.

I have discovered that the item is no longer readily available as a podcast, but if it is retrievable, the introduction should be amended to give a fairer sense of the differing views expressed.

Conclusion

While the item itself conformed with CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices, the podcast introduction was misleading in its characterization of your views and, therefore, not “fair.”

Vince Carlin
CBC Ombudsman