As CBC supporters must know by now from bitter experience, you can rely on the public broadcaster. It always lets you down. Always.
Last week’s farcical barring and un-barring of Linden MacIntyre from CBC News Network, where he was due to promote his final fifth estate report, had the air and dynamic of awful workplace panic with an added tincture of spite.
It’s not over, this farce, and it might be getting worse. At this point you have to ask – Is there no adult in charge at CBC? The childish behaviour has become breathtaking.
At issue last week was a talk MacIntyre, a 38-year CBC veteran, gave at the University of Toronto, which used the Jian Ghomeshi scandal as a platform to talk about the “celebration of celebrity at CBC” and an attendant “toxic atmosphere,” as he saw it, at the broadcaster. Specifically at issue in the barring/unbarring farce was MacIntyre’s foolish choice of words in a follow-up interview with this newspaper.
In rambling comments about the tolerance of Ghomeshi’s alleged tantrums and workplace tyranny, he made reference to both Pastor Mansbridge of The National and the late CBC Radio host Peter Gzowski. Both were demanding in a way that might be interpreted as linked to the internal CBC culture that allowed Ghomeshi’s alleged actions to seemingly flourish, he suggested. Given what Ghomeshi is alleged to have done, creating the impression of connectivity was “unwise” to say the least. And it came from a man who is a Giller Prize winner for his novel The Bishop’s Man, so the wording seemed doubly perplexing.
But it didn’t end here. On Sunday, The National’s senior Washington correspondent Neil Macdonald used Facebook to launch a blistering personal attack on MacIntyre.
MacDonald wrote: “All right, spare me. Really. Linden MacIntyre is acting like a self-righteous horse’s ass. His humblebrag (I was once fired for my integrity, I could have been rich and famous if I’d gone to the States, but I opted to remain and dutifully serve Canada and just be “prominent”) his stupid comparison of Peter Mansbridge to Jian Ghomeshi, (he then called Mansbridge to apologize), his snarky verdict that a thousand CBCers should quit and take pensions to make room for young talent (He selflessly stepped aside at age 70), is insufferable nonsense.”
And it didn’t end there. After suggesting that MacIntyre once threatened him with “a punch in the nose” if he denied that CBC journalists are “public servants,” Macdonald offered an inside look at CBC News. “I’ve had yelling matches with bosses and anchors, including Peter Mansbridge, but I still had a job the next day, and we were all still colleagues. Yes, Linden, some people are more important and better-paid than others, even you, but I’ve never felt a “toxic” atmosphere, and I’ve never heard anyone at CBC News make any such complaint.”
If MacIntyre’s remarks were unwise (he apologized to Mansbridge but not to Gzowski’s family, as far as I know), what MacDonald has done beggars the adjective “unseemly.”
Worse, in a way, was how it played out on social media, the arena MacDonald used to air grievances and heap scorn on MacIntyre. On Twitter, Amanda Lang, CBC’s senior business correspondent and regular stand-in anchor of The National, cheered on MacDonald, writing, “I’m only sorry I didn’t write this myself.”
Right. So Macdonald launches an adolescent tirade against MacIntyre and gets a pat on the back from Lang in what is an unseemly airing of private grievances and professional spite. (Stratford Festival actress Cynthia Dale, Mansbridge’s wife, also took to Twitter to declare “THANKYOU Neil Macdonald” and used the hashtag, “#rightsideofhistory.”) It’s important to remember here that what is being cheered is Macdonald using the phrase “a self-righteous horse’s ass” about a distinguished colleague , with a good heaping of sarcasm.
Again – is there no adult in charge at CBC who can command these entitled, bickering and cheering celebrity journalists to shut up, stop bickering and sneering? If there was commanding, adult executive in charge, surely it's unlikely this farce would continue to unfold.
What’s beyond dismaying, in the end, is that CBC is supposed to be dealing with the Ghomeshi issue. It’s what inspired MacIntyre to speak out, as he was leaving CBC. The Ghomeshi case seems sidelined now and, given the allegations, that’s disgraceful. It would be fair guess that women who allege they put up with Ghomeshi’s antics would disagree with Neil Macdonald’s blithe dismissal of any “toxic atmosphere.’ Just another guy who doesn’t get it.
Instead of dealing with the Ghomeshi issue, it’s onward with childish backbiting and faction-fighting among well-paid, high-profile journalists, if “journalist” even applies to these people now. And there’s no one with the power to stop the farce. Another bitter let-down for anyone who believes in the CBC as a better broadcaster.Report Typo/Error