Power and Politics producer responds to my CBC Ombudsman complaint on Terry Milewski using term “tar baby”


Received today in response to my complaint filed (see here) July 26:

Dear Mr. Skoreyko,

Thank you for your letter of July 26 to the CBC Ombudsman regarding an “offensive” term you heard on a recent edition of Power and Politics.  As the executive producer of the program I can tell you that your feedback is important and appreciated.

You wrote that CBC News Senior Correspondent Terry Milewski used the term “tar baby” during an interview on the July 24 edition of the program to describe the problem posed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper by the continuing Senate controversies. You pointed out that in a six-year-old review CBC’s Ombudsman had concluded that while “tar baby” was current in some communities 50 years ago, it “can now easily be viewed as archaic and offensive to many”.

It is a particularly evocative term especially for anyone who grew up with Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus children’s stories where it referred to a doll made of tar and turpentine used to trap Br’er Rabbit. But despite its literary provenance, the term has been interpreted by some as having negative racial connotations.

While from the context in which it was used, Mr. Milewski’s meaning is abundantly clear, still because it can be misinterpreted, it is our practice to avoid using the term. And while it is not something found these days in printed or scripted stories, live television does not benefit from the reflection they afford. On occasion, even the most seasoned television journalists use words that might be better chosen.

I have spoken with Mr. Milewski and reminded him of CBC practice regarding this term.

Thank you for your comments.


Amy Castle
Executive Producer, Power and Politics
CBC News Network


2 Responses to “Power and Politics producer responds to my CBC Ombudsman complaint on Terry Milewski using term “tar baby””

  1. DAVID WEUM Says:


  2. Liz J Says:

    So that’s it. Is this arrogance or what? She may as well say you’re thick, you just don’t get it, “……Mr Milewski’s meaning is abundantly clear” so it’s just a little tut, tut,Terry, in private of course.

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