Don’t Blame the “Messenjah”

One of the founders of the Canadian reggae group Messenjah, Errol Blackwood, disputed associating Carl Harvey with the band. Harvey has joined since the group reconstituted almost 20 years ago. There was no violation of policy.

COMPLAINT

You are the founder of the reggae band, Messenjah. You were concerned because an interview with musicians Carl and Rupert Harvey on the cbcnews.ca arts page referred to them as the founders of Messenjah.

Carl Harvey was never a member of Messenjah. Rupert Harvey is the only original member that was on that stage.

CBC producers acknowledged that it was not correct to refer to Carl and Rupert Harvey as “founding brothers” and changed it to read “Messenjah’s Carl and Rupert Harvey on Canada’s reggae roots.” You challenged this characterization as well because, you said, Carl Harvey was never part of the band, and this leaves the impression that he had played with the group. As you put it, “there are no Messenjah brothers.”

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

Leanne Hazen, the senior producer for the CBC News’ Arts and Entertainment unit replied to your concerns. As I have already mentioned, she acknowledged that the “sub-head” accompanying the video of the Harvey brothers’ interview was not accurate and it was changed. She also pointed out that the interview itself does not suggest that they were founders of the reggae group Messenjah.

She added that she was sorry that this caused you distress, and in no way was the interview or headline meant to minimize your contribution to Canadian music:

I regret that you were disappointed by CBC News, and I can assure you that nobody intended to diminish or ignore your place in the history of Canadian music. I have now completed a review of the segment and I believe I have been able to resolve the problem.

REVIEW

The bedrock commitment of any journalism is to accuracy. It is the first value listed in CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices:

We seek out the truth in all matters of public interest. We invest our time and our skills to learn, understand and clearly explain the facts to our audience. The production techniques we use serve to present the content in a clear and accessible manner.

This applies to headlines as much as it does to any of the content in an article, or audio or video segment. Headlines are designed to compress information and get the attention of a member of the public. The use of the reference to Messenjah was to draw attention to the association with Messenjah. Its first iteration, characterizing Carl and Rupert Harvey as founding brothers, was incorrect, and therefore in violation of the policy.

When you wrote to point this out, the correction was made. The current headline states “Messenjah’s Carl and Rupert Harvey on Canada’s reggae roots.” You state there are no “Messenjah brothers.”

The group’s current website acknowledges you as one of the founders of the band, and notes that you left and continued as a solo artist:

In late 1985 Errol Blackwood and Ray Ruddock left the band. Blackwood pursued a solo career and was very successful as a touring and recording artist. Messenjah continued touring and recording under Harvey's leadership who performed most of the lead vocals wrote and arranged most of the music.

It goes on to state that the band disbanded in 1998, but had a reunion tour in 2014. Carl Harvey was a member of the band then, and is still listed as lead guitar and vocals. It is, therefore, accurate to refer to the “Messenjah brothers” when referring to the current state of their careers.

This is a headline -- the interview itself does not deal with the band. You may object to the description, but it does not, as currently published, violate CBC policy.

Sincerely,

Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman