An internal review at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has determined journalist Amanda Lang adhered to its journalistic standards in her coverage of RBC.
Ms. Lang, the public broadcaster’s senior business correspondent, faced public criticism and news stories that suggested she had been in conflicts of interest in her reporting on the bank, her involvement in investigative stories on temporary foreign workers, and her coverage of other companies.
In response, the CBC commissioned its director of journalistic public accountability and engagement, Jack Nagler, to lead a review, which included an external analysis by Cormex Research. It “re-affirmed that all of CBC’s journalism relating to the RBC Temporary Foreign Workers story met CBC’s journalistic standards,” Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC news, writes in a memo sent to staff on Thursday.
“It also concluded that the content of Amanda Lang’s journalism has adhered to CBC’s journalistic standards,” Ms. McGuire said.
Ms. Lang became the focus of conflict-of-interest concerns after the media website Canadaland alleged she had tried to scuttle a story on RBC and foriegn workers led by CBC investigative reporter Kathy Tomlinson, and pointed to Ms. Lang’s relationship with an RBC board member.
She also did paid speaking engagements at events where RBC was a sponsor, and was scheduled to speak at an event on outsourcing shortly after Ms. Tomlinson’s stories began running, but cancelled her appearance. In January, as public pressure mounted, the CBC changed its policy and banned on-air journalists from paid speaking outside the organization.
In an interview earlier this year, Ms. Lang said she had “absolutely not” tried to spike any story, nor does she have the power to, calling her exchanges with Ms. Tomlinson “a genuine and honest disagreement about what the story was.” She also said she had disclosed her relationship with Geoff Beattie, a member of RBC’s board, to the CBC, but not before the stories in question went to air.
The review concludes that Ms. Lang’s critique of the CBC’s stories on RBC and foreign workers “is technically correct,” and that it “is her job” to voice her opinion on major business stories. But it also found Ms. Tomlinson had “told a real story.”
But it is “problematic” that Ms. Lang did not consult other key journalists on the story, such as Ms. Tomlinson, before interviewing RBC CEO Gord Nixon, the review says.
In a January interview, Ms. Tomlinson told The Globe and Mail she told CBC managers she was concerned Ms. Lang could be in a conflict of interest. “My concerns were listened to,” she said, and she was reassured she “would continue to have a lot of support for my work.”
Ms. Lang and CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson declined requests for comment.
After watching “dozens” of interviews from Ms. Lang’s shows, the Lang & O’Leary Exchange and The Exchange with Amanda Lang, over the last two years, Mr. Nagler “did not detect any pattern suggesting RBC is being given a higher profile or being treated more favourably than any other bank.”
A separate analysis of bank coverage on the programs concluded, “The level of attention and the tone for RBC on the program was in keeping with observed norms” among competitors covering the banks.
The review makes a series of nine recommendations to tighten up the CBC’s management of investigative stories and potential conflicts. In her memo to staff, Ms. McGuire notes the review revealed there were “a range of interpretations” applied to the CBC’s policy for disclosing conflicts of interest, which says the duty “rests with the employee.”
“Going forward, CBC News will ensure that all of our staff adhere to the most rigorous interpretation of this standard,” Ms. McGuire writes.Report Typo/Error