BY JORDAN JOHNSTONE
Trust is hard to gain back once it is broken and no professionals know this better that journalists.
Some of the most well-known Canadian and American journalists have run into trouble over the last year, with scandals, lies and conflicts of interest. These include CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi, who allegedly sexually abused women, Leslie Roberts, a Global new anchor, who gave preferential treatment to clients of his public relations company, Amanda Lang, a CBC news senior business correspondent, who allegedly shelved an RBC story while in a relationship with a CEO, and the latest, Brian Williams, a CBS news anchor, who exaggerated stories about his time in Iraq and in New Orleans during Katrina.
By themselves these issues are damaging to the journalists’ reputations, careers and the companies they worked for, but when viewed together it creates a disturbing trend within the industry.
Journalism depends on the truth; if that is lost than the profession’s credibility is destroyed. That’s why Ghomeshi tried to get out ahead of the story on him by filing a lawsuit against the CBC and admitting to rough sex because he knew his reputation was at stake. Now that he has lost that he will never work in journalism again.
Roberts knew about journalism’s professional code of conduct and knew he made a mistake. Therefore, he resigned.
Williams, who claimed he was a passenger in a helicopter which came under fire in Iraq (which army officials said never happened) and saw a body floating near his hotel in the French Quarter, was suspended for six months without pay by CBS for misleading the public. Ghomeshi was fired from CBC, although Lang continues to work there.
When incidents like these happen in the journalism industry it damages the profession and the trust placed upon journalists to be honest and unbiased.
These so-called professionals know better. Hopefully those remaining in this once-proud industry, and those entering it, will tread carefully, learning from these conflicts of interest, lies and crimes.
Maybe it’s time to set up a journalism board like lawyers and doctors have to revoke journalism credentials based on a code of conduct, but that would attack free speech everywhere.