The election's in a few days, and Canadians are buzzing about this video. Stephane Dion is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Conservatives say it shows that Mr. Dion is not ready to lead. Liberals say it shows that Mr. Dion, who has hearing problems and was working in his second language, did not understand a question that was a bit harder to understand than it needed to be.
The question, as asked by Steve Murphy: If you were prime minister now, what would you have done that Mr. Harper has not done?
This is your standard "what would you have done about this problem?" sort of question, although my version of the question is definitely simpler than the way Mr. Murphy phrased it. The leader of any national party should be able to answer this. Mr. Dion did answer, but as you can see from the video, he had several false starts.
I am interested in this video for what it says about journalism ethics. (Yes, I've been writing about this topic a lot lately. I'll move on to something else eventually, I promise.)
This is called a "do-over". In taped TV and radio interviews, it's common to ask questions a second time if the person asks to start over. There are no real rules about when this is appropriate, but in general, it is done if the person does not understand the question or catches himself in an error that was only a slip of the tongue. ("Did I just say there are fifty dogs at the shelter? That was wrong. There are only fifteen dogs at the shelter. Can we start that again?") There is an agreement between the interviewer and the interviewee that the flubbed bit will be edited out of the final product.
In this case, the CTV team agreed to start again. Not just once but several times. Then the producer decided to break the agreement with Mr. Dion.
It could be argued that one do-over would have been overlooked, but that in this case, it was news that the candidate asked for so many do-overs. I think that's why CTV did this.
But still, this is a clear example of a network breaking its word. Interviewers need to be above that. If Mr. Murphy and his co-workers felt they were taking part in an interview that itself was news because of the way it was conducted, they should never have agreed to edit those parts out.
Journalism relies on trust. The public must be able to have faith in the news media, but trust is earned, not given away. If the reporter agrees to edit certain things out, he has to do that. If one do-over is permitted but three are not, the reporter has an obligation to say so: he can't make any agreements that would lead the interviewee to believe otherwise. CTV screwed this one up from the start.
I honestly don't know what this video says about Mr. Dion's ability to lead, but I do know what it says about CTV.
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