It is the biggest media story in Canada, and in any other situation the semi-regular Q “media panel” would have convened to discuss it.
But whether it will do so remains unclear, with the co-creator and former host of the CBC cultural affairs show fired and under criminal investigation for sexually and physically assaulting women; questions raised about what the CBC knew, and when, about allegations of sexual harassment of staff members; a legal minefield stemming from unproven allegations; and a $55-million lawsuit launched against the CBC.
Early in the week, panel member Judy Rebick floated the idea of a discussion on the Ghomeshi situation to Q producers. “But the indication from them was they are not prepared,” said Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank, who sits on the panel with Rebick, co-founder of rabble.ca, and Jonathan Kay, who is taking over as editor-in-chief of The Walrus after a decade as the managing editor for comment at the National Post.
Cruickshank and Kay note that the panel could raise some critical questions that have not yet been fully answered.
“I think if the media panel is brought back, then it should deal with (the Ghomeshi situation),” Cruickshank said. “At this point, I think the panel would be reflecting on the transparency of CBC corporate, because I don’t think anybody is satisfied that they’ve really put forward the whole story.”
Leaked internal memos have given the public some insight — including that the “graphic evidence” that sparked Ghomeshi’s termination was first seen the Thursday before his firing — but top CBC executives have so far been largely silent and declined interview requests. The first public statement from CBC president Hubert Lacroix was released Friday and shared little new information.
“This scandal won’t end with Jian,” Kay said. “I believe CBC execs may lose their jobs if it turns out, as alleged, that this was brought to their attention in 2010.”
The media panel may return next week or the following week, Kay said, but he is not certain.
CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said that CBC is “looking at all aspects of the show and are making decisions like (bringing in the media panel) on a day by day basis.”
Kay — who penned a column on Monday headlined “Whatever the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, his show was a stunning accomplishment” — added that it would be tough for him personally to address the subject from an objective standpoint.
“To do such a panel properly, I would have to be prepared to walk into the studio ready to tear Jian’s reputation apart. And despite everything I know about this story on an intellectual level, it would feel emotionally strange to use the same mic to trash the guy who originally brought me into that studio a few years ago to be a panel participant,” Kay said.
“As a journalist, I should be able to distance myself from the guy and the story in such a way that I could speak about the story objectively. But humans aren’t robots. It would be tough for me.”
It would be tough for the producers on Q and those who knew Ghomeshi for a long time without suspecting anything, said Rebick Sunday. “But I think we need to discuss it … each and every one of us needs to deal with our feelings and talk about it because silencing is part of the problem.”
Rebick adds the media panel should discuss the way this story has put sexual violence against women on the front burner.
In particular she points to the way social media has driven the story forward – the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported started by now-retired Toronto Star reporter Antonia Zerbisias has sparked news stories around the world.
Questions continue to swirl around the long-term future of Q, which is syndicated on radio stations in the U.S. and other countries.
Next week, the show will be an hour long instead of the usual 90 minutes, and a mix of new and old content, according to Thompson.
“Given the events of this past week, we want to do everything we can to lighten the load for the Q staff next week,” he said.