Another View on Censored Reporting of Robert Pickton Trial

Written by Kristin Schoonover
Wednesday, 28 February 2007

To the Editorial Desk:
I just wanted to say: Bravo. That was an excellent article.

I am so happy and relieved a journalist finally addressed the disturbing issues involved in the self-censorship of the Can. news community (tv, Internet, print media). I want to know what is happening, and more importantly, the public has a right to that access, and the media have an obligation to provide it.

People have a choice to avoid reading or watching, but for news media to condescendingly make the decision for me about what I can and can't know about the trial proceedings (when it is NOT under a publication ban as was the voir dire) is truly obscene.

What those women went through should not be further ignored, as it has been for far too many years. We, the public, need to keep the legal and judicial systems honest by paying attention to what happens, especially in such an historic case.

I have been aware of the missing women since 1989 from the advocacy of the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, who were circulating posters amongst women's groups and others to raise the issue and have a police investigation begin. I have read about the lives of many of the missing women ( ) years ago, and am incredibly relieved that evidence has been found and someone is being tried. There were so many failures involved from so many directions. I want to know what happened, what was found, and ultimately, I hope everyone learns things from the trial, e.g. how to avoid this every happening again.

Thank you for your intelligent, incisive, and brave article.

Kristin Schoonover, MLIS, BA (Adv.)

University of Saskatchewan

Editor's Note: the website link supplied by Ms. Schoonover is a comprehensive accounting of the Vancouver Downtown Eastside missing and murdered women. The site authors present each profile as a woman, daughter, sibling or friend. They do not dehumanize the women as "prostitutes" and "addicts", a tactic embraced by the main stream media. /ed

Are CTV and Global National Sanitizing News From The Robert Pickton Trial?

Written by D.L. McCracken
Friday, 26 January 2007

A disturbing trend has been slowly developing in the shadow of the beginning of the Robert "Willie" Pickton murder trial which will no doubt dominate the news over the next year. At this juncture the public have been privy to only minor tidbits of the unspeakable actions allegedly committed by "the pigman" and what we know is indeed troubling to say the least. It is now the duty of our national news providers to fill in the blanks and report to the public in a succinct and thorough manner.

But that's not what we're getting. If you have watched the national news broadcasts over the last few days, you will have already heard from CTV's Lloyd Robertson and Global National's Kevin Newman that, because of the disturbing nature of the facts coming out of the trial and because the facts may be too upsetting for viewers, they have decided to withhold certain aspects of the day's proceedings.

The only disturbing aspect of this trial to me is the sudden decision by national news broadcasters to censor their daily reports to the public which I believe still has the right to know. National broadcasters like CTV and Global have made the decision to protect our sensibilities by providing to us what they think we need to know. Nevermind that the public has the right to know everything no matter how disturbing that information might be. I want to know why the news we receive each day is suddenly being sanitized. Could it be that CTV and Global are of the opinion that we Canadians can't handle the gory details and we will be eternally grateful that big brother is still out there in the form of news reporters who are actively making decisions on what we can and cannot handle?

The facts surrounding the horrendous acts allegedly perpetrated by Robert Pickton will slowly emerge within the walls of a public courtroom. The daily proceedings are officially recorded and will become public record. Because this trial is being played out in B.C.'s Supreme Court, all Canadian taxpayers are funding the procedures. Many of us have followed this case from the beginning. By "beginning" I am referring to that period of time when local police had no choice but to take seriously the disappearances of so many women and were forced to thrust aside the prevailing opinions that the growing number of missing and dead were 'just one more missing whore'. But I digress.

The Canadian Constitution states that the public has the right to open courts and, with the exception of a decree from the bench that a trial be subject to publication bans, all other court records are considered part of a free flow of information to the public. The public includes representatives of the media as well as all individuals.

According to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Code of Ethics, Clause 5 - News Part (1), it clearly states that broadcasters have a responsibility to "ensure that news shall be represented with accuracy and without bias" and broadcasters will also "ensure that news broadcasts are not editorial". The CTV and Global National decision to sanitize the news from the Pickton trial strongly suggests that both networks are consciously presenting inaccurate and biased news simply because they are of the opinion that some details will be "too disturbing to report" and those details have been deleted.

Clause 5 - News, Part (2) of the Code of Ethics states "News shall not be....formulated on the basis of the beliefs, opinions or desires of management, the editor or others engaged in its preparation or delivery". The CTV and Global National decision to censor specific portions of the daily Picton trial proceedings has been formulated and presented based on the beliefs and opinions of CTV and Global, a violation of their own code of ethics.

Part 2 also explains that the "fundamental purpose of news dissemination in a democracy is to enable people to know what is happening, and to understand events so that they may form their own conclusions." Unfortunately the public will be unable to form their own conclusions because they are not being provided with all the information that is known to the above national news broadcasters.

It all boils down to the tried and true cliché that the public has the right to know. We expect our trusted national news broadcasters to present their daily stories on that principle. If said national news broadcasters suddenly stop working under that principle, the public's trust may wobble. CTV and Global have the absolute duty to present to their viewing public ALL of the news, disturbing and graphic as it might be. They have no right to assume that some of that viewing public are just too sensitive to be presented with certain facts. That is not their call.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics Administered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council can be seen here:

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Updated: August 21, 2016