Though the directive that sought to ban soon-to-be-retired Fifth Estate host, Linden MacIntyre, from the airwaves was reversed, the point remains that executives at the CBC seem unwilling to connect the dots surrounding a longstanding culture of sexism in their ranks.
MacIntyre, who gave a lecture at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College on “Toxic Stardom” Wednesday afternoon, pointed to a larger culture at the CBC which supports, rather than challenges, the narcissistic and bullying behaviour of egotistical men.
“CBC is now sustained in the trenches by a whole lot of new recruits who are enthusiastic and ambitious and gifted, and who desperately want to get a foothold in media. And desperation and vulnerability will go together, and then if you put that in a place where there is an influence driven by ego, narcissism, a kind of abusive personality, you start moving along a continuum. It starts with just a sort of obnoxious, ‘Run down and get me a coffee.’ It moves into a sense of entitlement that allows you to make greater demands and be a bigger bully.” (via the Globe and Mail)
Because MacIntyre pointed specifically to CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge and now-deceased host of Morningside, Peter Gzowski, the managing editor of CBC News Network, Jennifer Harwood, sent out a memo late Wednesday “announcing interviews that had been previously scheduled with Mr. MacIntyre in advance of his final report for The Fifth Estate had been cancelled.”
It appears that the CBC is still invested in protecting their stars…which is exactly what MacIntyre was criticizing:
“The problem with the culture is that it nurtures that kind of celebrity, and it nurtures that kind of entitlement, because stardom tends to put a rosy glow over the whole institution, and makes the managers who cultivate the stardom look competent, and effective. And it makes them a little bit starry, too.”
MacIntyre went on to say that “the Ghomeshi thing was always a problem.”
In Harwood’s memo, titled “Standing up for Peter Mansbridge,” she writes, “[MacIntyre made] a disgraceful comment that is unfair and untrue. It’s time to stand up for Peter. And stand up for what’s good and right at the CBC.” Harwood went on to say that, as such, “The NN Execs and The Fifth Estate are aware that we are cancelling all Linden MacIntyre interviews on NN.”
But how did Ghomeshi become Ghomeshi? How was he able to get away with what he did for decades? Is the CBC culpable at all?
I will admit that I’m loath to criticize our public broadcaster publicly. The CBC has been the soundtrack to my life since I was a child. My father listened every morning and now so do I. The funding cuts that are ongoing are appalling and disheartening. The work the CBC has done over the years is incredibly important and continues to be. We need them. But that doesn’t mean I won’t — and that others should not — be critical when it comes to what sounds like an ongoing problem.
Journalism is an industry rife with misogyny. Its history is one of a boys club — and those boys got away with a lot as result.
Even Mansbridge and Gzowski.
Both men are surrounded by rumours of womanizing and narcissistic behaviour which, no, is not the same as beating, choking, and sexually assaulting women, but it does exist on a continuum of sorts. As does the CBC’s still-vested interest in protecting its stars.
MacIntyre was not accusing Mansbridge and Gzowksi of abuse — he was pointing towards that continuum, that tradition:
Because Ghomeshi has always been arrogant, he’s always been obnoxious — in the sort of the passive way, where he’s always been so vulnerable: ‘You can’t hurt Jian,’ even though he hurts other people. And his tantrums and his workplace relationships: ‘Well, he’s very rigorous, he’s a perfectionist, you know?’ So he is allowed to bully and abuse people. You know, that’s the way it works, that’s what you put up with, whether it’s Mansbridge, Gzowski, whatever. They were not like shrinking violets, either. So along comes Ghomeshi: ‘Oh, yeah, he’s in the tradition of that.’ But somewhere along the way, it crosses a line. It does cross a line.
I would imagine that, as far as workplace-equality goes, the CBC is actually more accountable than many other news organizations. They are unionized, for one, and they are publicly funded. But look at what’s happened and imagine, then, what could have — and likely — has gone on in other news rooms and media institutions for years.
The “boys club” tradition that has existed in journalism since its birth is slowly being hacked away at, but unless we are willing to look at the culture of sexism and misogyny as part of a continuum that has been supported by bosses and executives — as well as other journalists and producers — we will never be able to fully confront the culture that allowed for Ghomeshi’s abuse and the ongoing issues in the industry.