Friday, April 13, 2007


I'm still pissed at CTV and Bob Fife.

Last night on the news, I saw the father of one of the soldiers that was killed say that as soon as he heard the news, he knew in his gut that it was his son. Of course, that means that he would have had to wait for the phone call and the knock on the door to confirm his own instinct. What must those hours have been like for him?

Fife's report was pointlessly cruel. It also has far-reaching consequences, beyond the families affected this time around.

It's no secret within the news community when a Canadian soldier is killed. ISAF puts out a press release saying a NATO soldier was killed, the newsroom in Canada makes a call to their embed at KAF, and the Canadian switchboard says there's a communications lockdown. Bingo, you know the casualty is a Canadian.

So, given the fact that competing reporters and their news organizations know about these incidents, if not the details, well ahead of the official release, how pleased do you think they were when their decency was taken advantage of by Fife and CTV? How willing do you think CBC and Global are going to be to sit on their information the next time the CF takes fatal casualties, if they know that CTV is going to jump out in front of the pack at the first opportunity?

CTV has opened a big can of worms here, and one that can only hurt friends and families of our deployed soldiers.

I say that CTV should suffer some consequences as well. The CTVglobemedia Code of Business Conduct (pdf) states that:

Ethical behaviour, however, goes beyond compliance with the law. It involves thinking through the possible impact of our decisions on all interested parties – business and joint venture partners, customers, employees and their unions, the communities in which we live and work, suppliers, investors, government and shareholders – even when not required to do so from a legal or regulatory point of view.

This was an irresponsible, cynical, and needlessly hurtful decision to run with news of Canadian deaths before the next of kin had been notified. So tell the folks at CTV News how you feel. Tell them they can't callously disregard the needs of our military families at their whim.

E-mail Robert Hurst, President of CTV News at, and tell him he owes the extended military community an apology, as well as a promise never to let a fiasco like this happen again.

Update: David Akin half-heartedly defends his boss over at I've been privately informed by a member of the news media that the questions I've asked are the ones CTV should be pressed to answer:

Please tell me how breaking this story a couple of hours before anyone could confirm NOK had been notified was of benefit to the Canadian public. Please tell me how it was worth the trauma your bosses put military families through. Please tell me why CBC and Global won't follow suit and start finding ways to do an end-run around the embed agreement so they don't get left behind by a morally-bereft CTV News division.

I know the answers to those questions. And I know that CTV won't answer them, precisely because they know the answers too.

Brazen it out, never admit you're wrong - even when you are - and hopefully the whole thing will blow over. It's enough to make me ill.


Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

I think Fife did his job just fine. The army has no right to ask the media to keep quiet about a story. I don't believe their concern was with the families of the victims. They want to buy time to prepare a proper response with the government. And, oh, yeah, lets's not forget to tell their families. It's NOT the other way around.

Fife acted responsibly by not naming the victims, and that's what any responsible journalist should do until the families are notified.

If Fife had kept the news secret, the public in general would have been left with the feeling that maybe he was working for the army and NOT his viewers.

Shame on all of you for suggesting FIfe doesn't care about soldiers or families. I'm a journalist, and we have families, we have feelings, and yes, some of our relatives are indeed in the army.

1:58 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

I don't believe their concern was with the families of the victims. They want to buy time to prepare a proper response with the government. And, oh, yeah, lets's not forget to tell their families. It's NOT the other way around.

You've obviously been in the reporting business for too long, and not around the military for long enough. You have this EXACTLY WRONG.

The fact that you think Bob Fife "did his job just fine" tells me a great deal about you, none of it good.

2:23 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger Caveman said...

Mr. Angry Reporter... I guess you don't get it. You claim to have feelings, yet you are unable to empathise with our families. I can imagine my wife's agony were she to wait hours for confirmation after a piece of irresponsible reporting like Mr. Fife's. You obviously cant. Saying that some or your relatives are in the Army in this context is like an anti-semite saying he gets along just fine with his Jewish neighbours. Please, spare us the consipiracy theories about the Army's concern not being with the families, but with a cover-up. That comment makes you seem quite clueless and unprofessional. After 26 years in the Army, and having done my share of taking care of families during moments of crisis, I can confirm that you are so far off base, it's laughable. It's ironic that Canadians trust journalists less than politicians. Chew on that for a while before you try to defend the indefensible in front of people who know better than you. Shame on Mr. Fife and shame on you. The drive to get the scoop with no consideration for others sullies your profession.

2:25 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger TonyGuitar said...

There should be a 48 hour time laps.

OK to report promptly in general terms, as..

**LAV damaged in south east sector this morning.**

No details useful to the enemy such as damage and or injuries.

**Details in 48 hours**

Allows time to inform next of kin and keeps scorecard results away from the enemy until they are of less useful value. = TG
Posted by: TonyGuitar at April 13, 2007 2:49 PM

3:08 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

Caveman, your nickname says it all. You speak as if your perspective is the only truth, and you're too army-oriented to understand anything else, it's fine with me. But after 26 years in the army, you've obviously lost perspective of civilian life.

Don't give me lessons in journalism, and I won't give you lessons in esprit-de-corp.

And for the record, YES, I'm a media blogger. New at it, but blogger nonetheless.

3:43 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger Cameron Campbell said...

Ok, how's this:

I'm not in the military, and I never have been. I've got a journalism degree, some freelance experience, work at a University and hug trees in my spare time.

Fife was wrong.

And angry reporter, " They want to buy time to prepare a proper response with the government. And, oh, yeah, lets's not forget to tell their families. It's NOT the other way around." is a positive statement, one that you will have to prove.

Another thought: But after 20 years in the media, you've obviously lost perspective of military life.


4:08 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Don't give me lessons in journalism, and I won't give you lessons in esprit-de-corp.

Must be nice not to have to answer directly to your clients, Asshat.

I'm a media consumer, and I don't like the product on offer wrt military reporting. So I'm speaking up about it. When you're reduced to berating your clientele in blog comments sections, you need to take a good hard look in the mirror at how you got to this point.

Who's trying to stifle whom, here?

4:21 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

Babbling brooks, reporters don't answer accusations you make. I blog because I have issues with decisions taken by some media organisations, including those I used to work with. Here, I can bitch all I want, in French, in ENglish, in whatever form I want.

Doesn't mean I have to accept every anti-media comments I read.

For example, I'm French, I love Canada, but I don't like the way the media covers the ROC from here in Quebec. Do I make blanket statements about everyone here? No, I just buy the Globe and Mail, read some Western-Canada papers, and try to watch satellite news from elsewhere. I do SOMETHING about it. Can you say the same?

4:27 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger Caveman said...

Ah gentlemen, it only took Mr. Angry Reporter two posts to reveal himself as a troll. And not a very good one at that if a primitive like myself could suss it out so fast. I don't think a veteran journalist would have so little ability to express himself as this lad does, or resort to ad hominem attacks so quickly. But, nice try anyways.

And by the way, old chap, my moniker refers to my hobby of going into various caves for exploration and fun on my time off, not my political and social views.

4:33 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

Caveman, a troll is a troublemaker who comes into a discussion. I was sufficiently angered by the accusations against Fife to get into the debate. Call me a troll if you want, je dois bien commencer quelque part :-)

Nice caves in the Saguenay region. You should come and visit.

5:08 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Anyone else find it curious just how similar "The Angry Reporter" sounds to "aussiepressgal" over at SDA?

Apropos of nothing at all, I give you the definition of sock-puppetry.

5:35 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger cliffhanger said...

Hello everyone.
My husband and some of our friends (whom we consider family) are currently serving in Afghanistan.
I can tell you my feelings on this subject:
Dear Angry Reporter:
I want you to imagine that you just found out that a bus that your entire family is on crashed--with 6 passengers killed. Now imagine that you have to wait about 8 hours to find out whether or not it was your family that died.

6:06 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger rick said...

i had a call this afternoon from Robert Hurst i was not home at the time but i had sent a e-mail last night angry at the way they covered the last 2 deaths of our Canadian soldiers
so if the boss at CTV news called a local baker then they must be getting lots of complaints

6:18 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

Robert Hurst is one of the most respected news director in this country. You can bet Fife didn't go to air with his story without getting his clearance. And I'm glad to know he answers viewers complaints.

Cliffhanger, the media report tragedies EVERY DAY. And we NEVER wait for police clearance to report it, unless it involves the names of the victim. If they ask us to withold them we usually do.

But we don't withold news about major events just to make sure everyone is emotionaly ready to face them.

6:57 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger cliffhanger said...

8:42 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger cliffhanger said...

To all those who care about our military families:

9:19 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger cliffhanger said...

Dear angry reporter:
The scenario of knowing that there has been an incident causing deaths, and your loved ones may be some of the dead, is a scenario that most people may have to endure once in their lifetime, if at all.
With military families, it is a continuous scenario.
You have already stated that police sometimes ask that reporters withhold a story until nok is notified, and that you usually comply. So, one can only conclude that it is only with military families that you decide not to wait. Your bias is evident.
But hey, that's definately your right.

11:35 p.m., April 13, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Babbling brooks, reporters don't answer accusations you make.

That's part of the reason more people are turning to the blogosphere and less to traditional news outlets. The MSM dictates rather than discusses. But hey, if you want to keep your head buried firmly in...[remembering it's a family blog]...the sand, that's your problem.

I do SOMETHING about it. Can you say the same?

Are you remedial? What the hell do you think you're reading?

12:45 a.m., April 14, 2007  
Blogger Noid said...

American Digest makes an excellent point re the effectiveness of sending an email/letter to the editor:

Long story short: by all means, send an email to Robert Hurst... he'll probably enjoy knowing that he's getting extra attention. If you're really pissed about this, though, send an email to CTV's advertisers. Tell them what Fife/Hurst did, ask if the corporation agrees with these actions, and let them know that you will not be buying their product or service in the future as a result of their affiliation with CTV.

I don't know who advertises during Fife's broadcast, but it won't be that hard to figure out who to contact.

5:27 p.m., April 15, 2007  
Blogger Ryan R said...

Angry Reporter - I fail to see any practical value, or even any principled stand, in deciding not to simply wait a couple of hours to report on casualities of war, to ensure that next of kin can be notified beforehand. If you can point such value, or stand, out to me, please do so.

This early reporting does seem cruel, and all too reflective of the media's tendency to value speed in reporting over everything else (including quality of reporting, likely impact of their reports, accuracy of reporting, etc..., etc...). Now, I don't think that Bob Fife is a bad guy - he strikes me as one of Canada's better journalists, actually. He may have simply went with media-ingrained instincts to report on the news ASAP (i.e. to be the first ones to report the scoop) instead of taking the time to consider the impact of doing just that.

What Fife did was likely what he was told to do, and is in accourdance with this speed mentality that I've already mentioned. If we want more accurate news, and if we want news reporting that's more conscientious of its effects on the viewing public, then I think we need to curb this speed mentality a bit.

All in all, I do think that it is intolerably cruel to announce deaths of Canadian soldiers before next of kin can be notified, and it's rather heartless of anybody to suggest otherwise, particularly with out a compelling reason as to how such 'speed' is of practical or principled worth. I don't know about you, but I don't mind waiting a measly two more hours before getting all the details of any piece of war news... especially if that spares the families of soldiers two hours of wretched anxiety wondering if it's THEIR family member who has died, or not.

9:30 a.m., April 16, 2007  
Blogger Neo Conservative said...

"The Angry Reporter" has been busy... not blogging, mind you...

just seeding conservative blogs with a particular world-view...

He/she wants to know if I'm part of the "International Zionist Conspiracy".


1:18 p.m., April 16, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

I just heard the terrible tragedy in Blacksburgh, Virginia. 33 dead so far.

I think it's totally uncool for CNN, FOX, and all those other stations to even mention it, as police are still trying to notify the families of the victims.

This rush to throw this on the air, while parents of thousands of students now wonder if their sons/daughters are among the victims.

Your thoughts?

7:49 p.m., April 16, 2007  
Blogger Ryan R said...

Angry Reporter - Clever of you. Very clever.

Nonetheless, your implied analogy is a little bit like comparing apples and oranges. A couple reasons why...

1) The terrible tragedy in Virgina happenned on 'home soil' - i.e. if the maniac shooter is still alive, he poses a major threat to others beyond soldiers alone. By reporting that he's dead, you can help to curb panic as people will know that the killer is dead.

By the same token, if Canada was being invaded by the Taliban, I'd expect up-to-the-minute reports on casaulty figures for both sides, since the struggle would effect the immediate well-being of all Canadians, and could serve to calm nerves if we're winning.

It's a bit different when we have soldiers over in Afghanistan, and Canadians as a whole are safe from the Taliban.

2) Relatives of Virginia Tech students probably have an easier time getting immediate contact with them than they would relatives in the military. Most of these students probably have their cell-phones turned on at virtually all times, and hence could be reached immediately to ensure that they're Ok.

Again, very clever, Angry Reporter, but it doesn't make your case. Bob Fife, and CTV, should have held off on making their report until next of kin could have been notified.

9:56 p.m., April 16, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

I spoke from the perspective of a journalist doing his job. You may disagree with Fife's decision, but it was not unethical. In poor taste? Sensationalist? That's all debatable. But it met every media ethical guidelines I know.

I didn't mean to be cocky here. But it's still relevant.

10:36 p.m., April 16, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...


I just re-read one of your earlier post, and you do have a point. When we get a story, it is true that we're conditioned to get it out as quickly as possible. Even if we had no competition. It's in our nature. The same way obeying an order is part of being a soldier.

It's not because I'm a journalist that I agree with everything we do. I don't know what Fife's conditions in the field is.

When a reporter is on a foreign assignment, he's usually given a narrow window of what we call "feed-time". TV requires that we get the pictures out, usually via satellite. And unlike Jack Bauer in 24, we can't do it on a whim. We have time-frames and the likes. If we get the news, say, at 2pm, the window is at 3, and the next window is 24 hours later, we just go...QUICK!!! Get this out!

10:48 p.m., April 16, 2007  
Blogger Chris said...

And in essence people are objecting to your "damn the consequences of getting this out", given that in this case it involved inflicting real suffering and trauma on the families of those serving overseas. Rather than waiting to find out who was unfortunately lost, let's throw out a blanketstatement so EVERYONE has to worry. Yea, that's really responsible journalism.

3:55 a.m., April 17, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

And Reporter, that's why the networks pay to have reporters embedded at KAF - to report on stories like this one where they can actually get details.

I know that other reporters have had news of casualties and not released them until they could confirm that NOK had been notified. On a personal level, I was pretty sure Bob Girouard had been killed when I saw a significant spike in traffic searching his name in a post we'd written here. You didn't see me speculating about it on these pages.

I won't argue with you about whether what Bob Fife and his bosses at CTV News did met journalistic ethical guidelines, although I believe those actions contravened the plain meaning of the CTVglobemedia Code of Conduct. But I will say that if they did meet an ethical code, those guidelines need to be changed.

7:27 a.m., April 17, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

But Babbling, you didn't answer my question: do you think the media should have kept quiet about the Virginia massacre, according to the same concerns for decency you're claiming for soldiers?

That's the whole thing about guidelines. You can't go case-by-case. They're students, so it's OK. They're soldiers, so it's not OK.

7:38 p.m., April 17, 2007  
Blogger cliffhanger said...

Dear Angry Reporter
The main difference between these two stories is this"
Firstly, your statement:
"The army has no right to ask the media to keep quiet about a story. I don't believe their concern was with the families of the victims. They want to buy time to prepare a proper response with the government."
-It is the throwing a conspiracy theory into the mix that throws the whole argument off.

IMHO-to argue the point on the basis of comparing releasing an incident causing deaths of soldiers to an incident causing deaths of civilians, could be seen as a legitimate argument.

--but we also have to examine the possible reasons for breaking a communications blackout in a theatre of operations.
--There is no way to clarify with the reporter in question why he broke with protocol in this case.
--was it because he did not know about the protocol-
--was it because he knew, but felt, as you do from your statement, that it was just some conspiracy
--was it a legitimate, honest mistake

--one of the main differences between the releasing of deaths of military members before nok notification and that in the case of a civilian incident, is that it is not only the reporters that are asked to with-hold their story--but rather, a communications blackout in the theatre of operations--meaning that even soldiers cannot call home to assure their loved ones of their safety until nok is notified and the blackout lifted.
--there is also no way for their loved ones to call them
--and like I said in an earlier post, military families endure this not once, but many times during a deployment.
--I believe there are at least two seperate questions here:
--Is it okay to release this information, because it is sometimes done in civilian cases
--is it okay to break a communications ban in a theatre of operations
IMHO, it is more the second question that needs to be examined

8:08 p.m., April 17, 2007  
Blogger cliffhanger said...

To add to my post if I may--if we are going to compare the situation of an incident involving the deaths of soldiers in a theatre of operations, which causes a total communications blackout--to the situation in Virginia, then the situations may have to be made more comparable---for example--
The Virginia police have put in place a communications blackout that not only includes the media, but anyone present on campus when the incident took place--leaving those involved unable to contact their family and family members would have to have no way to contact their loved ones involved--
--Therefore I do not think it is simply a question of comparing situations, but rather a question of whether or not a communications blackout should be broken.
I am not a reporter, therefore, I am not sure about this, but do reporters in a theatre of operations agree to certain terms and conditions relating to communications blackouts, prior to their assignment in theatre?

8:34 p.m., April 17, 2007  
Blogger Ryan R said...

Angry Reporter wrote... I spoke from the perspective of a journalist doing his job. You may disagree with Fife's decision,... ?

I do disagree with Bob Fife's decision here. There's no 'may' to it.

... but it was not unethical.

Yes, it was unethical. The media is not the sole arbiter of what is ethical, and unethical, AR.

In poor taste? Sensationalist? That's all debatable.

Actually, I don't think it is debatable. To be frank, I haven't seen you put forward any argument to how it would disadvantage the general viewing public to wait a measely two more hours for a war news report to ensure that next of kin can be notified beforehhand.

I honestly don't see much of a debate here. I see you being quite clever, and doing a remarkable job in defending the indefensbile, and trying to avoid admitting the obvious - but the truth of the matter is that CTV should have waited for next of kin to be notified. Period.

But it met every media ethical guidelines I know.

Then perhaps those media guidelines should be changed.

Also, AR... as this Blog thread will soon be buried in the archieves of this site, if you want to continue discussing this issue with me, feel free to e-mail me at

Thanks, and have a good day.

10:25 p.m., April 17, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

I didn't respond because Ryan already had, and I pretty much think he covered it.

Besides, you're a guest here - I'm not obliged to answer a single one of your questions, you pompous twit.

11:32 p.m., April 17, 2007  
Blogger The Angry Reporter/Reporter en Colère said...

Cliffhanger, I won't email you but please feel free to add to my infant blog.

You have a point on what's ethical and what's not. Should they be changed? Maybe, but according to who's standards? Yours? The Army's? The social-activists? Either way, we'll never please everyone.

Someone asked if there were rules within the army as what embedded reporter can and can't say. David Akin answered that question in the group, and said that the CTV followed every rule imposed. I suppose it didn't prohibit him from reporting casualties. Who knows, maybe the army will change it.

Babbling brooks, thanks for allowing me in as a guest.

I just wish you'd go beyond name-calling when trying to debate with me. Idiot, twit...My daughter ends debates with these words.

But she's in grade 3. You're not.

1:57 p.m., April 19, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Wow. You've missed the entire point. Fife and CTV did an end-run around the embed agreement. They didn't break any rules, since they didn't use their embed for the story at all. But they took a leak and broke it in contravention of the spirit of the agreement, and in complete disregard for the families of deployed soldiers.

I'm objecting to the way they've weighed the value of breaking the story first, versus hurting the extended CF community. I think they came down on the wrong side of that value judgement, and I think they should be made to suffer some consequences for that miscalculation. Otherwise two things happen: 1) they don't learn not to do it again, and 2) the other news outlets learn that they can violate the spirit of the embed agreement with impunity, as long as they have some technicality to stand upon. In fact, the other news outlets learn that they have to err on the sleazy side in order to compete with CTV.

As far as calling you names...I'm not trying to debate with you. I'm trying to get you to go away. I'm perfectly capable of debating with those who reasonably dissent with my views. Check out other comment threads here and on other blogs if you're interested in seeing those exchanges. But your first comment showed that you don't qualify for that level of respect.

I call you names because your own actions have merited that level of response.

5:10 p.m., April 19, 2007  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Maybe the "Reporter" is Denis the Thug's twin.


5:24 p.m., April 19, 2007  

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