For most of yesterday, I listened to the CBC’s radio coverage of the shooting at Parliament. The CBC radio coverage was excellent, as is usually the case with the CBC. I didn’t see the TV coverage but it’s attracted some notice in US sites, because it was so much better than what passes for TV journalism in the US these days. Here’s an article from Mediabistro.com.
For hours this afternoon, Canada’s CBC News covered the breaking news of at least three shooting incidents in Ottawa. Led by veteran anchor Peter Mansbridge, the rolling coverage was smart, careful, and absolutely un-American.
As Andy Carvin noted, Mansbridge set a respectful, careful tone, calling out interview subjects who had unconfirmed or contradictory information. “So much we could learn from his delivery today,” Carvin told me on Twitter.
On screen, CBC News kept a ticker scrolling, a “Breaking News” bug in the corner, a “LIVE” bug at the top right, and three boxes showing video and live pictures. Mansbridge rarely appeared on camera, even as he took pains to ensure information was correct before reporting anything–particularly the news a soldier shot at Ottawa’s War Memorial had died of his injuries.
As I watched via the network’s live stream in New York, I never heard a second of dramatic music, never saw a full-screen wipe with a catchy graphic like TERROR ON PARLIAMENT HILL, and never, ever heard Mansbridge or any of the CBC’s reporters dip even a toe into the waters of self-promotion.
Here’s another article from Mother Jones.
The broadcast was deliberative and deferential to the facts even when they were sparse. Exacting and painstaking, but never slow or boring, Mansbridge weighed the credibility of every detail, constantly framing and reframing what we knew and, most crucially, how we knew it. He literally spoke the news as it happened, using his experience not to opine nor fill the gaps in his knowledge, but to provide the necessary support for his team’s reporting.
Getting things wrong during fast-moving live coverage is, of course, common. Coverage of the Washington Navy Yard shooting last year got the details wrong early and often: It misstated the perpetrator’s name, age, and how many guns he had. Following the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, there was false coverage about the identity of the bombers, and anonymous sources leading journalists to nonexistent bombs and arrests. On the Media’s handy “breaking news consumer’s handbook” is a great roundup of the reporting errors that get repeated every time there is a mass shooting.
No newscast, especially live news, is immune to mistakes, and during the initial haze of leads and counterleads, it’s easy to point fingers. But for the six-some hours of CBC broadcasting I watched off-and-on (mostly on) today, I never once felt lost in the wall-to-wall speculation that has characterized so many recent breaking-news broadcasts in the United States.
And this is the TV network our prime minister keeps trying to kill.