If you recall, the allegation was made by CTV's Jean Lapierre. He said the Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez was simply repeating a question written for him by a CBC reporter when he asked Brian Mulroney about any contact Mulroney might have had with government officials with respect to the wireless spectrum auction.
The question was asked while Brian Mulroney was sitting in front of the Commons ethics committee answering questions about his dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber. Of course, that had nothing to do with the wireless spectrum auction. That Rodriguez went in this direction caused fireworks:
But that was nothing compared to the explosion that followed. When Jean Lapierre made his allegation, everyone forgot about the wireless auction, and the focus shifted dramatically to the question of collusion. Was the ethics committee just a front for the CBC? Is it right for a CBC reporter to use a Liberal MP as a sock puppet to pose questions covered by perjury laws? And just how does this reflect on Pablo Rodriguez and the Liberal Party?
Of course, the Liberal Party claimed there was no collusion. Pablo Rodriguez rather comically showed pieces of paper on which he claimed he wrote the questions.
Turns out, though, that there was collusion. CBC reporter Krista Erickson has been named, and punished:
January 21, 2008
Letter to complainant from J. Cruickshank
Dear Mr. Finley:
This letter is in response to your complaint to the CBC Ombudsman about "collusion" involving one of our reporters during the recent Mulroney/Schreiber hearings in Ottawa, during which questions were asked about lobbying efforts by Mr. Mulroney directed toward the current federal government.
Following an investigation by senior management of CBC News, we have determined that our reporter Krista Erickson did, in fact, provide questions to a Member of Parliament in the lead up to the Ethics Committee meeting in December.
Those actions, while in pursuit of a journalistically legitimate story, were inappropriate and inconsistent with CBC News policies and procedures, specifically under our Principles, Sec. 3:
"Credibility is dependent not only on qualities such as accuracy and fairness in reporting and presentation, but also upon avoidance by both the organization and its journalists of associations or contacts which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality. Any situation which could cause reasonable apprehension that a journalist or the organization is biased or under the influence of any pressure group, whether ideological, political, financial, social or cultural, must be avoided."
Our investigation determined there was no bias in related news coverage. However, our reporter, acting on her own, used inappropriate tactics as a result of journalistic zeal, rather than partisan interest.
CBC News management has made the decision to reassign its reporter from the story and to Toronto, effective Jan. 21.
Given the potential risk to the journalistic credibility of our Ottawa bureau, its reporters and CBC News generally, we have chosen on an exceptional basis to make the detailed outcome of our disciplinary process available to you, our employees and the public at large.
I trust this addresses your concerns.
It is also my responsibility to inform you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman.
The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC's journalistic policies.
The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at the address shown below, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at email@example.com
Box 500, Station "A",
cc. Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman
So by aligning herself with the Liberal Party, Krista Erickson has made the CBC look like it is somehow under the influence of the Liberal Party, and that is a violation of the standards and practises that govern her job.
The CBC is careful to say that they have concluded that Krista Erickson was not trying to help the Liberals.
In any case, Krista Erickson is off the Ottawa beat. Starting today, she'll be covering Toronto stories, and presumably she'll be steered clear of political stories for some time to come.
Will this be seen as satisfactory? I think so. Though some people will still see the CBC as a pro-Liberal organization, the effect of this public slapdown will be that reporters for all news organizations will be careful in their dealings with the Liberal Party.
More importantly, though, it makes Pablo Rodriguez look like a pliant fool, fronting for the CBC instead of representing his constituents. Any future appearance on the ethics committee will now filled with irony. It also begs the question of whether the Liberal Party deliberately lied when its spokespeople said there was no collusion.
The CBC said there was collusion, and Krista Erickson was guilty of it.
That means one of two things:
One more question. Did Pablo Rodriguez get anything out of this?