Musings —10.30.2014 05:00 AM—
[I’m posting this early because I’m starting to think my first reaction – disbelief – was wrong. Really wrong. Time will tell, etc., but here is my stab at trying to understand this.]
What did they know, and when did they know it?
That’s a question that has its origins in the Watergate scandal, forty years ago. What did the President know, and when did he know it?
In the intervening years, in respect of assorted real and perceived scandals, it’s a question that you hear a lot. Most of the time, it’s reporters asking The Question about politicians.
In the past few days, the roles have been reversed. Lots of political people are asking The Question of media people: when did they know about Jian Gomeshi, and what did they do about it?
The sordid details are ubiquitous, now. Jian Ghomeshi – who, full disclosure, I knew and liked – is accused of multiple cases of abuse by at least eight women. Most of the complainants are anonymous, but at least one has gone on the record.
None of the allegations have resulted in charges. But all of the allegations have certainly resulted in nausea. As in, it is enough to make one want to throw up.
In the first few hours of the Ghomeshi story, quite a few of us felt that the state broadcaster had no place in the bedrooms of the nation, and said so. But as more details oozed to the surface, quite a few of us started to reconsider.
I sure did. And then I remembered something, from long ago.
In 1984, I was president of the student council at Carleton University, and a journalism student. I wasn’t very good at either, but that’s what I was when a good friend and fellow journalism student called me.
She was crying. She said that she had made the mistake of trusting a very senior reporter with a major TV network. When she didn’t agree to go out with him, this reporter started to threaten my friend. He told her she would never work in TV news, ever, if she didn’t do his bidding.
I’m a bit of a hot-head. I’m a walking Irish bar fight, a pollster friend once said, and it’s true. My friend was scared, and I was thoroughly pissed off. So I found out who the reporter’s boss was, and I called him up.
The boss received my complaint without evincing the slightest degree of empathy for my friend. Zero.
He said he’d look into it.
Here’s what happened next: (a) my female friend was being shunned (b) the reporter was being promoted (c) the reporter and the network were going after a Liberal candidate I was helping out.
I know this because, as I was squiring the candidate around some event in Ottawa, the very senior reporter walked in. “Ah, the famous Warren Kinsella,” he said, and proceeded to put together a hatchet job of truly epic proportions.
What happens next to Jian Ghomeshi is mostly up to the courts. What happens next to various alleged victims is mostly up to the victims themselves.
What interests me, mostly, is what happens next to the CBC. What did they know, and when did they know it?
The allegations were myriad, and had been well-known for months, we are now told. So, did the CBC investigate? Why not, if not?
And if they did, why did they not act sooner? It’s The Question, and it’s one to which the CBC had better have a damn convincing answer. (If it wants to survive, that is.)
Oh, and my friend? She went on to success after success, and is now one of the top PR folks in the country. The very senior reporter, meanwhile, is facing a criminal trial – on an unrelated matter – in the Fall.
And three guesses where he worked? First two don’t count.
You got it.