CBC sinks to new low of press release journalism

 Will they correct the misleading story on the wheelchair ramp at Brackley Beach?


CBC’s code of journalistic ethics says that “The information conforms with reality and is not in any way misleading or false.” Yet in the case of their June 18th story they claimed Parks Canada had spent $500,000 making Brackley Beach more accessible. Parks Canada spent the money but the beach is not accessible by any reasonable standards.
Will they correct the story or is this another example of the lazy and arrogant news reporting at CBC Charlottetown?
How did they get the story wrong? Essentially the reporter and editor were sloppy or lazy and presented the Press Release or equivalent from Parks Canada as fact. That’s not news coverage.  Parks Canada spent $500,000 building a ramp for wheelchairs and CBC rounded up three uninformed people to say it was accessible. But they didn’t check the facts. The ramp is not accessible.

The ramp is 18 feet off the beach. By National Building Code standards the ramp would have to be at least double it’s 500 foot length to allow a gentle rise that wheelchair users could negotiate it. The steep rise used on this ramp is suitable for short ramps and a much smaller rises. Did CBC check their facts?
The CBC code says,

The information conforms with reality and is not in any way misleading or false. This demands not only careful and thorough research but a disciplined use of language and production techniques, including visuals.

The information is truthful, not distorted to justify a conclusion. Broadcasters do not take advantage of their power to present a personal bias.

The information reports or reflects equitably the relevant facts and significant points of view; it deals fairly and ethically with persons, institutions, issues and events.
Get the facts is what the editor should have instructed the reporter. “How do you know that the ramp is accessible?” is the obvious question once you get past Parks Canada’s statements.
CBC Charlottetown often falls into the trap of taking government agencies at their word. When they reported the Autism story in June, it would have been a typical Ministerial press conference (Minister says this and that) except for the genuine emotion of one parent of an autistic child, Ronnie Nicholson. That was good TV News theatrics that elevated the story to some level of truth.
In the Brackley Beach story, the reporter asked two people who happened to be at the beach what they thought. Well guess what, they were walking not using a wheelchair and didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. The reporter could have figured that out but he did not get “the relevant facts and significant points of view” called for in the journalistic standards. It was shoddy journalism probably caused by some deadline to get the story in the can for supper time.
The result was a story that didn’t “conforms with reality” and was “misleading or false.” According to the story the beach is now accessible. The facts are people in wheelchairs should avoid Brackley and go elsewhere perhaps Stanhope.
I suppose the reporter can be forgiven for rounding up the usual suspects in the Marcia Carroll (PEI Council of Persons with Disabilities). She’s a sort of innocuous person to say something pithy if not completely stupid on any disability topic. Marcia is quoted on camera as saying there is a battle between the disabled and the environment. Thanks Marcia. Why are we singled out when all of mankind is basically fighting the environment. If Mother Nature moves a dune over the highway in the National Park, it’s OK to move the dune for able folks but not move a bit of sand for the disabled.
So, is CBC going to correct the story or just arrogantly stand by the mistakes?

Click HERE to read more columns by Stephan Pate.

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