Canada's Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame
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Sid Shniad
2014-10-22 22:32:36 UTC
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Jones Oct. 22, 2014Canada's Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put
American Cable News to Shame—By James West*

Police set up a perimeter near Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Canada. Errol
Mcgilhon/QMI Agency/ZUMA

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation today gave a master class in calm,
credible breaking news reporting.

Anchored by the unflappable Peter Mansbridge, news of the shootings in
unfolded live on the CBC much like they do here in the United States: lots
of sketchy details, conflicting reports, unreliable witnesses, and a thick
fog of confusion. All of that was familiar. What was less familiar was how
Mansbridge and his team managed that confusion, conveying a concise and
fact-based version of fast-moving events to viewers across Canada and the

This live bit of level-headed reporting by Mansbridge, from around 11:10am
Wednesday, should be given to journalism students around the country. It
basically contains everything you need to know about why CBC did its
audience proud:

MANSBRIDGE: And so, the situation is, as we say, tense and unclear. And
it's on days like this—we keep reminding you of this and it's
important—it's on days like this, where a story takes a number of different
pathways, a number of changes occur, and often rumors start in a situation
like this. We try to keep them out of our coverage, but when they come,
sometimes from official sources, like members of Parliament, you tend to
give them some credence. But you carefully weigh it with what we're also
witnessing. It's clear that the situation is not over. It is clear the
police are in an intense standby situation and continue to be on the
lookout, and until somebody blows the all-clear on this we will continue to
stay on top of it and watch as the events unfold.

Watch below, courtesy of the CBC:

The broadcast was deliberative and deferential to the facts even when they
were sparse. Exacting and painstaking, but never slow or boring, Mansbridge
weighed the credibility of every detail, constantly framing and reframing
what we knew and, most crucially, *how we knew it*. He literally *spoke*
the news as it happened, using his experience not to opine nor fill the
gaps in his knowledge, but to provide the necessary support for his team's

Getting things wrong during fast-moving live coverage is, of course,
common. Coverage of the Washington Navy Yard shooting last year got the
details wrong early and often: It misstated the perpetrator's name, age,
and how many guns he had. Following the Boston Marathon bombing in April
2013, there was false coverage about the identity of the bombers, and
anonymous sources leading journalists to nonexistent bombs and arrests. *On
The Media*'s handy "breaking news consumer's handbook"
<http://www.onthemedia.org/story/breaking-news-consumers-handbook-pdf/> is
a great round-up of the reporting errors that get repeated every time there
is a mass shooting.

No newscast, especially live news, is immune to mistakes, and during the
initial haze of leads and counter-leads, it's easy to point fingers. But
for the six-some hours of CBC broadcasting I watched off-and-on (mostly on)
today, I never once felt lost in the wall-to-wall speculation that has
characterized so many recent breaking news broadcasts in the United States.

It seems like others on Twitter agree that CBC did pretty damn well today:

Mike Wickett @*mwickett* <https://twitter.com/mwickett>

Exactly right. @*cbcnews* <https://twitter.com/CBCNews> and @
*petermansbridge* <https://twitter.com/petermansbridge> covered today’s
awful events properly: calmly,

carefully and accurately. http://via.wickett.ca/1FEbRIO

Arash Madani @*ArashMadani* <https://twitter.com/ArashMadani>

CBC, by the way, has not gone to break in over two hours. Peter Mansbridge
has barely exhaled.

Grand work by our public broadcaster.

James West is senior producer for the *Climate Desk
<http://climatedesk.org/>* and a contributing producer for Mother Jones. He
wrote Beijing Blur
(Penguin 2008), and produced award-winning TV
<http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/> in his native Australia. He's been to
Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner
after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.
RSS <http://www.motherjones.com/rss/authors/132797> | Twitter
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