The Columbia Journalism Review reports Jesse Brown Punctures Canada’s Media Bubble

In a scathing article on Canadian journalist Jesse Brown – you know the guy who pulled back the covers on Jian Ghomeshi and his nasty sex crimes – the august Columbia Journalism Review pans the lack of journalistic ethics and cozy press self-censorship in Canada.

It might help to forget the smug, holier-than-thou attitudes of CBC’s Peter Mansbridge or the Neil MacDonald sneering down his nose at Americans. It would help to be humble and realize things are not well in Canada when the finger is pointed by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the only Ivy-league school of journalism in the US.

Featured image – Peter Mansbridge apologist for oil prices (cartoon Patrick LaMontagne)

Columbia School of Journalism is THE-school of journalism with the responsibility of administering the Pulitzer Prize and the National Magazine Award. Columbia upholds the highest standards of journalistic ethics and scholarship.

It seems ironic that bloggers are leading the way with investigative reporting that rocks the Canadian media establishment. Jesse Brown is just one of those bloggers.  For my similar efforts the PEI Press Gallery took away my press pass because according to them  I not only crossed over the line of good journalism, I didn’t know a line existed but that’s another story.


Columbia Journalism Review – In early 2014, news circulated online that two high-profile personalities of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had been making paid speeches to oil lobbyists.

murphy--big-oil-552-51A video surfaced in which Rex Murphy, a longtime radio host and TV pundit for the public broadcaster, stellified the industry for its “technological wizardry,” and a 2012 photo emerged of the CBC’s chief correspondent, Peter Mansbridge, behind a lectern emblazoned with the logo of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

A minor debate in the national press ensued, in which the discussion was less about the problem of a reporter not disclosing payments from a player in one of Canada’s most contentious issues and more about the question of whether opinions had actually been bought.

The answer from the journalists and their editors was a resolute “No.” (Murphy is a consistent supporter of Alberta oil sands development and a climate-change denier.) In the end, aside from wounded pride, Murphy and Mansbridge emerged unscathed.

The short lifespan and blasé tone of the discussion was just another example of how Canada’s cozy media world is loathe to speak ill of itself. While the United States has mobs of writers ready to make hay of, say, Jonah Lehrer’s transgressions, its northern neighbor’s journalistic gentility allows Margaret Wente, a prominent columnist for Canada’s newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail, to keep her job after multiple charges of plagiarism.

In the middle of the oil-speech controversy was an independent journalist named Jesse Brown. On his website and podcast, Canadaland, he picked up the story and added to it by confirming that Mansbridge had accepted payment from the producers association. More telling than the revelation was Brown’s source: an anonymous journalist who had done the actual reporting and handed the information to Brown.

Jesse Brown, CanadaLand media gadfly

Jesse Brown, CanadaLand media gadfly

“The journalist said, ‘My news organization would not be comfortable with me reporting that,’ and this organization wasn’t the CBC,” recalled Brown. “That tells you what’s lacking in Canada.”

“There’s a kind of coziness to the media culture in Canada,” says Jeffrey Dvorkin, a one-time guest of Canadaland and a journalism professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough. (He also is a former editor at the CBC and ombudsman for NPR.) “Part of it is because media organizations are in such a precarious place, as they are in the United States, but the economy of scale means that everything is a little bit more fragile in Canada. Media criticism is seen as pissing in your own swimming pool.”

For the rest of the story see Columbia Journalism Review: Jesse Brown punctures Canada’s media bubble

Follow NJN