Thursday, March 23, 2006

CP24 response re ethics complaint

Yesterday, I received the following letter from CP24 Vice President and General Manager Stephen Hurlbut in response to my complaint about CP24 anchor David Onley. I am quite stunned by the rationalizations Hurlbut offers for one of his journalists taking a government appointment. I will be preparing a response and invite suggestions.

March 16, 2006

Dear Mrs. Tintor,

As the Vice President of News for Citytv and Vice President and General Manager of CP24 I will address your concerns.

Mr. Onley is indeed the Chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and the 3 to 4 non-paid days required for him to attend to his duties do not, in our view, constitute any breach of any code or constitute a breach of professional ethics. In fact, we are honoured and fully supportive that David has been asked to work on this very important initiative. CHUM Television and Citytv specifically has been a champion of all minority rights since we first went to air in Toronto and our support of David’s advisory role is consistent with our fundamentals. We believe it is important to recognize that the position is part-time and voluntary and while there is a small per diem of $225.00, Mr. Onley has asked that we direct this stipend to our corporate charity the CHUM Charitable Foundation.

Perhaps if we explain some of the background you may see Mr. Onley’s situation in a different light. The government has clearly explained to all members of the Advisory Council that they are not members of the government nor the Civil Service but rather they are volunteers positioned as experts in an advisory role only. When David and I were discussing the possibility of his accepting the position we were fully aware that the Ontario Disabilities Act was passed with unanimous support from all parties and had there been any issue of partisanship we would not be involved. While indeed the Advisory Council will present a report to the Cabinet Minister, it is representing the requests and enjoys the support of all members of the Legislature.

David Onley offers a very unique and valuable perspective. As I am sure you are aware, David has a disability; he had polio as a child. In his professional role as news anchor and reporter David, to the best of our knowledge, is the only full-time disabled newscaster in Canada. We believe that his level of visibility in his role as anchor/reporter has in itself been a positive statement. We believe that his simple TV presence and his level of consistent professionalism has made a difference and if his television work can draw greater attention to the work of the advisory board we support it totally.

Mrs. Tintor, we are vigilant in ensuring that our ethical lines remain in tact (sic) and that our role as journalists is not tainted by lending our resident expert David Onley to a non-partisan initiative. The work of the Advisory Board is important and our corporate responsibility is to help.

I do thank you for your letter and sincerely appreciate the concerns you raise and I invite you to call me directly should you wish to discuss this further.

Sincerely,

Stephen Hurlbut
Vice President, News Programming – Citytv
Vice President & General Manager – CP24

6 comments:

PGP said...

Joan I've enjoyed many of your insightful posts and comments.

BUT I think your way off base on this.

Regards,
Ommag

Josef said...

Here's the ethics issue: David Onley's reporting on a government he serves as an Advisory Council member. Nonpartisan is respectfully not tripartisan and yes, I am happy the per diem is going to a nonprofit, namely the CHUM Charitable Foundation. This is noble... But let's try another nonprofit - "the largest non-profit in Ontario" (thank you, Sandra "Lady Churchill" Pupatello standing up against Magna) and get some poor people some aid. Let's give that a whirl.

[Deep personal opine: I don't support per diems for true citizen board & commission members - reasonable expenses yes, but not per diems. A true volunteer doesn't take a salary, but only asks for expenses.]

Joan, to me this sounds like me going on the CBC and saying, "Today, the Pupatello-McGuinty Government did yada, yada, yada. Lady Churchill is the greatest (fill in the blank)!" Or for Stephen Taylor to do a broadcast on the Harper "conservative shortage" gov't... Lunacy to call that credible journalism.

This good citizen David Onley should be transferred to Sports and/or Entertainment, that's all.

Hope I helped clear up the fog. Best of luck.

MMP said...

Joan:

While I usually agree with your Blog, I think you could probably cut Mr. Onley and CP 24 some slack here. I think you are setting the ethical bar too high.
If a journalist were on the U of T Board of Governors (or whatever its equivalent is)and the government made a big grant to U of T, would you be concerned about his integrity? Is that very different from a journalist who is appointed to an Advisory Board on something where he has a personal non-pecuniary interest and where the Advisory Board was created under legislation supported by all parties? I see the potential for
bias in both situations but I think you're being unrealistic to require that only monks who have taken a vow of poverty should be journalists.

I concur that it might be preferable that no such personal considerations should apply but frankly, I don't think you need to look that far for potential conflicts of interest.
Knowing the odd journalist, I think you could probably get more mileage out of asking yourself who is buying them Raptor's tickets or who invites them to receptions with an open bar, if you are looking for potential influence or bias.
MMP.

Anonymous said...

The CHUM response speaks to the real lack of standards and the real absence of any thought about standards among Canada's journalists. Unlike some of your other readers, I agree with you, I applaud you. I really admire your patience for holding a dialogue with the oblivious.

And what's up with the grammar and spelling errors in Hurlburt's letter? Shocking!

PAN

Brian Lemon said...

Stephen and David are both straight shooters, and I think this is revealed in Steve's response.
Bigger fish to fry out there, with all due respect.

Josef said...

Reading the rest of the comments, I see the point being attempted here. So I think Joan you need to ask yourself this question, "Is pursuing this complaint further going to deter people who may at some point create a conflict of interest serve on boards/commissions/councils or is there already a conflict of interest?"

If there is, I think bullet-pointing out the conflict (as in a, b, c,...) will help your case.