CBC v. CBC: the fifth estate on the unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi
“Our story tonight is not an easy one to tell. Many of those you’ll hear from are our colleagues. But we are telling it because five weeks after Jian Ghomeshi was fired, important questions still have no answers: what did managers know? When did they know it? What did they do?”
And with those words, the fifth estate’s Gillian Findlay began last night’s much-anticipated episode.
The fifth estate told a story of a charismatic young man’s rise to fame within the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and how his flagship show quickly became an arena for promoting his own celebrity. But last night’s episode was about more than rehashing Ghomeshi’s past and re-exposing details of the scandal.
In what was sometimes an uncomfortable episode to watch, but absolutely necessary, the fifth estate produced a one-hour investigation unearthing the inner malfunctions and miscommunications that occurred at CBC. In the midst of the media frenzy surrounding the high-profile former CBC employee, the fifth estate sought to set the record straight by answering questions about the timeline of events, who knew what, and when specific decisions were made.
Through its own investigation with Q staff, the fifth estate found that, unlike what CBC management was saying, there was no investigation undertaken over the summer to look into allegations of workplace abuse and assault—at least not to the Q employees’ knowledge. Findlay cornered Chris Boyce, CBC’s executive director of radio, with her persistent questions. Boyce continued to refuse to answer her questions, stating that this was what lawyer Janice Rubin was looking into. When Findlay pushed Boyce for more answers, he appeared almost at his breaking point, unable to remember what happened and arguing that he doesn’t hold the same responsibility as the police in this story.
By highlighting the untold stories of Q producers Brian Coulton and Sean Foley, the fifth estate cast away any doubts of biased reporting. Coulton and Foley—who brought their information and concerns to CBC managers in early July—still feel as though their faith in the public broadcaster has been shaken following this incident.
Perhaps using the fifth estate to air details of what looks like a mismanaged crisis is part of CBC’s concerted efforts to quickly move on from this downfall and literally scrub away any association with Ghomeshi.
This subsidiary investigation on behalf of the fifth estate was a difficult exercise of self-analysis and reflection, but CBC succeeded in doing so graciously, without avoiding the hard-hitting questions. The fifth estate reminded viewers that as a corporation of journalists, it was their duty to tell this behind-the-scenes story—reminding everyone they are first and foremost journalists.
Image courtesy of the fifth estate.