CBC responds to my complaint of cash prizes awarded to journos from US union

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Received in response to the complaint (see here) I filed April 28 with the CBC Ombudsman:

Dear Mr. Skoreyko:

Thank you for your April 28th email to the CBC Ombudsman expressing concern that in 2012 CBC journalists from The Fifth Estate accepted an award called the Canadian Hillman Prize.

The Sidney Hillman Foundation, you wrote, is a “left-leaning US organization…heavily dominated by union executives allied with the Democratic Party.” And you asserted that CBC’s journalistic neutrality was compromised by accepting this award.

Jennifer McGuire has asked me to respond on her behalf.

The Hillman Prize has existed in Canada since 2011. It has been around for nearly 65 years in the United States, and is entrenched as one of the most prestigious prizes in journalism. Among its past winners are Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, and the New York Times.

In 2012, journalists from The Fifth Estate were awarded for their investigative work on “Scout’s Honour”.  It was a joint project with the Los Angeles Times which revealed how some children in the Boy Scouts movement were victims of sexual abuse because there were gaps in the system that was supposed to protect them.  This series of stories won several awards, including that year’s CAJ Award from the Canadian Association of Journalists. The reason for the widespread praise and recognition was that the journalism was new, original and important.

There are many different organizations which hand out awards to the media. Beyond those that are craft-specific, some have a focus on a particular cause. Some have a focus on a particular profession. Some have a focus on a particular industry.  All of these organizations have, to some degree, an agenda.

Does that mean they should all be taboo?  No. The question you pose might have value if there were any suggestion that a journalist told a certain type of story – or, worse, presented a biased story – in order to curry favour with one of these organizations in hopes of winning an award.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that was the case in “Scout’s Honour”.  I imagine you would receive the same answer from the Canadian Hillman Prize’s other proud winners,  the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald, the Victoria Times-Colonist, the Ottawa Citizen, PostMedia News, and the Hamilton Spectator.

Jack Nagler
Director, Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement,CBC News

Cc: CBC Ombudsman, Jennifer McGuire

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