Canadian journalism received another body blow to its credibility this week. Leslie Roberts, anchor and executive editor of Global News Hour in Toronto, was suspended indefinitely for trying to be a journalist and a public relations flack at the same time.
The Toronto Star revealed that Roberts, who presents the day's news to 118,000 Toronto-area television viewers each evening, is a part owner of a public relations firm whose clients often appear on Global. Some have been interviewed by Roberts.
The Roberts affair is yet another example of journalistic integrity being run over by personality journalism promoted in the desperate efforts to garner more viewers, listeners, or readers. The personalities become bigger than the news operation itself. Bigger than the decades-old rules designed to protect integrity, accuracy, and fairness in the news.
Last year the CBC was forced to change policies that allowed on-air personalities to make paid speeches to groups that they report on. For example, millionaire news reader Peter Mansbridge took big bucks for speaking to lobby groups that often are in the news.
Too often journalists these days forget their purpose: to watch, listen and to report as fairly as possible what they see and hear. Those who want more than that - power, prestige, adulation, and an expensive suit with an Order of Canada pin in the lapel should be pursuing other lines of work.