Posted in In the news, Opinion, Radio

CJAD and Bain: Calmez-vous

It seems everyone was up in arms on Thursday after hearing that CJAD radio had given Richard Henry Bain, the man accused of killing a man at Metropolis on the night of the election, a 40-minute interview in which he was given free reign rein to spout his political views, and on top of that deciding to schedule the interview to coincide with the same moment that Pauline Marois was announcing her new government.

Of course, much of the previous paragraph isn’t true, but that shouldn’t stop us from being outraged, right?

What happened

Here’s what happened on Wednesday, based on what we’ve heard from station management and CJAD staff during interviews since then:

Just after 9:30am on Wednesday, the CJAD newsroom received a phone call. Trudie Mason, who does morning newscasts, took the call. The man at the other end at first wouldn’t identify himself, but eventually said he was Richard Henry Bain and that he was calling from the Rivière des Prairies detention facility. By this point, Mason was recording the phone call.

Mason and the main identifying himself as Bain spoke for 38 minutes. Mason repeatedly asked him to comment on what happened the night of Sept. 4, when Denis Blanchette was shot dead and Dave Courage severely injured in what some suspect may have been a politically-motivated attack on premier-elect Pauline Marois. But the man wouldn’t answer questions on that subject, instead preferring to discuss his political views, including his opinion that Quebec should be split up into its sovereignist and federalist regions.

Throughout the day, CJAD worked to verify that the man speaking was, in fact, Bain. They held on to the story while they tried to verify the caller’s identity. In the meantime, there was a significant amount of discussion – more than Mason said she has ever had in her career on an issue like this – about how to handle the story. Newsroom staff checked the caller ID and asked people who knew Bain to identify the recorded voice. Eventually the confirmation came, from Bain’s lawyer, a bit before 3:30pm: The man in the recording was, indeed, Bain.

The next newscast being at 4pm, CJAD decided to break the story then. Care was made to restrict the amount of audio that went to air. In the end, less than a minute of audio from that 38-minute conversation was broadcast, and 10 seconds of that is just Bain saying his name and where he’s calling from.

There was a very basic discussion of Bain’s political views – and by that I mean there was about enough time to read out the slogan on a bumper sticker. Details were cut out and not aired. The first airing of the news story was immediately followed by a discussion between Mason and Aaron Rand on his show, that went into the process of reporting this story. You can listen to that discussion on this podcast, beginning around the 16-minute mark.

At the same time, a written version of the story was posted on CJAD’s website, with a timestamp of exactly 4pm. The written version includes no direct quotes from Bain, and no link to audio.

CJAD’s sister stations at Astral, NRJ and Rouge FM, also used French-language clips from Bain in their newscasts. You can hear their news story here and an excerpt of audio about a minute long of Bain talking in French.

Blind outrage

Unfortunately, most of this nuance never reached the Twittersphere. All many heard was that CJAD had aired an interview with the man accused of a politically-motivated killing. And so the condemnation was quick and severe. There was even a new hashtag created for the occasion, #NouvelleÉmissionCJAD, in which heinous criminals discuss subjects that their victims would no doubt find highly offensive.

But reading much of those comments, it was obvious how many of them came from people who had not heard the news story. (Many said so when I asked, even adding that they didn’t want to and should not have to hear what was aired in order to judge it wrong.) Comments on social media said the decision to air the interview was a slap in the face to victims, that it was dangerous, and even that it was intentionally scheduled to air at the same moment Marois was presenting her new cabinet as part of some vendetta the anglophone community has against the PQ leader. From the information presented, it’s very hard to come to either conclusion.

Far too many of those comments came from people who should know better than to condemn something they had not witnessed.

The outrage caused Astral to send out a press release Wednesday afternoon re-explaining itself.

It’s called journalism

There are some, when challenged on their outrage about this, who say that affording even 10 seconds of airtime to Bain is wrong, that people should not be hearing his political views. I’m sympathetic to that argument, and clearly CJAD was as well.

But the problem is that Bain’s motivations (assuming he’s guilty of what he’s accused of) are, in fact, very important and newsworthy. The man is already being described as an anglophone, even though he has what sounds like a francophone accent and seems to speak French well enough. And people assume this was an attempt on Marois’s life, even though there’s no evidence yet to suggest this.

It may be distasteful for journalists to interview (presumed) bad people, whether they’re convicted murderers or third-world dictators. But what they think does matter, even if we think those views are dangerous. They should be treated with care, perhaps even sanitized and heavily censored, but they should be reported.

So much of what makes this story important is based on the presumed motivations of the man accused of this killing. What the man accused of it says about his views becomes important as a result.

CJAD couldn’t pretend Bain never called them. It had to report the story. It did so carefully and deliberately. I might hesitate to say it was done “with restraint” as Dan Delmar tweeted, since the station did promote the story and slapped an all-caps EXCLUSIVE label on it when it was published. But what actually made it on air was tame.

Unanswered questions

There are some serious questions to ask about this case. The main one is how a man who is sitting in a detention facility had access to a phone for more than half an hour. It was a question that CJAD itself asked on air right away.

And there might be questions to ask of CJAD as well, about whether it was right to air even short clips of Bain’s political views rather than just explaining that Bain called the station and leave it a that.

But if you’re going to criticize them for something they did, please make sure you first have a clear idea of what it is exactly that they did.

Because, like with the shooting itself, context is everything.

Coverage

Unfortunately, I can’t find audio of the actual news story on CJAD’s website. But in addition to the Rand show link above, you can also hear about this from this podcast of the Andrew Carter morning show from Thursday morning.

28 thoughts on “CJAD and Bain: Calmez-vous

  1. wkh

    I agree the “outrage” is ridiculous.
    I honestly don’t think CJAD would air it during that time on purpose if they did so.
    :::whispers::: I don’t think most people who are frothing even listen to CJAD. I don’t think most people listen to CJAD, period.
    What bothers me is I felt initially like CJAD was unprofessional in letting a criminal blather on their airwaves (spare me the “alleged” crap). But in further thinking, I think Toula was right when she basically (paraphrasing, too lazy to go get our twitter exchange) said that it’s more like they exploited a mentally ill man for ratings. Really not cool.

    As far as his accent… what I find interesting is when RDI speaks of him it’s RICHARD HENRY BANE. (You know me, imagine my voice there ;-). This from the people who pronounce Shoomahker (as in Tommy and Michael) as Shoo-Mah-er. -) I mean really now. But that aside… I can fake the best de souche trying to speak Hanglish accent you ever heard in your life if I have enough liquor and am in the company of my family. Maybe he is? But maybe not. Daughter and I are convinced he’s a bilinguaphone OR a really pissed off de souche (BAIN? Does that sound anglais to you? ‘sti) who is super annoyed les anglais are in fact sleeping, and still in love with JFK and has an autographed copy of “While England Slept.”

    Reply
    1. Michael D

      @ WKH… If you’re referring in your above comments to someone named Toula, and seeing that I am familiar with the Transcon papers in the southwest….and please correct if I am wrong…but not knowing too many Toulas out there in radio and TV,,,,you must be referring to the lady who’s the editorial head of their papers in the southwest from LaSalle to Nuns Island..

      If we are talking about the same person, she has become part of the Anglo frustration, as under her watch, all English content has been eliminated from those papers, as it was down to just one page…she has caved in to her publisher or whoever she answers to…..

      I casually know the gentleman named Bob, who,in my opinion, has become or had become somewhat the local anglo print media voice or face in the area….he has written a column on the local educational scene, the only one in town as far as I know..

      He also had started a Celebrity interview monthly feature on their website..and had scooped up big names from Justin Trudeau to Olympic hero Jennifer Heil to Lloyd Robertson…he even interviewed British invasion singer Petula Clark..and asked questions that some of us wouldn’t think of asking…their likes and dislikes, for example…..Our family became hooked on his Celeb interviews, as I know for a fact, a lot of other people did as well…

      But now I am told they put restrictions on him that he couldn’t accept….like reducing in half the amount of words…Having come to knowhis passion about the respect he had for his interviewees, I know he wouldn’t want to water down these features..

      There aren’t really too much like him around, and a group like TTP would be well advised to hire him as part of their team..He seems to be the resourceful type.

      Reply
  2. Alex H

    I am loving where I live more every day. I feel sorry for my friends and family in Montreal that have to live with this crap.

    Reply
    1. Alex

      When you say ‘this crap’ do you mean the tragic death of Denis Blanchette? Are you also thinking about his wife and children who will never see him again?

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        Wow, talk about intentionally misunderstanding something. Are you sure you aren’t an aspiring politician?

        “This crap” as in the outage for CJAD running an the interview, “this crap” as in people (mostly wingnuts, I suspect) getting upset about them running it, “this crap” that any politician would feel offended that a news station did it’s job, and “this crap” because there is enough resentment and anger in the province that any of this is possible.

        “this crap” has nothing to do with a guy dying or his family suffering. That ain’t crap. That’s reality, and it sucks.

        Oh, let me add one more:

        “this crap” when jackasses like you entirely misunderstand something and start going off the handle.

        I love my new home, thunderstorms and all.

        Reply
  3. Mario

    I just do not understand how CJAD can be blamed in that instance. It may be of bad taste, somehow unethical but in no way illegal. In a way CJAD did the job cause we know there is a problem somewhere that needs to be adressed.

    On the french side Claude Poirier of TVA specializes in that kind of reporting giving interviews to witnesses or suspects that are bound to end up in court in many many other stories.
    It is a kind of journalism that is very popular on the french side of the media that involves anything and everything that has to do with sex,drugs,rock`n roll and blood. The goriest the better !

    The only thing wrong in that story is the fact that Bain got to use a phone in jail ,got to call wherever he wanted without being controled.

    Although i do not agree with the decision to air Bain`s comments ,i have heard worse things from official radio hosts over the years on CJAD…
    Have a nice day !

    Reply
    1. Kevin

      I have to agree with this. Poirier talks to the worst of the worst EVERY DAY and nobody bats an eye.
      Bain gets a 4-second clip on CJAD and it’s DAMN THE ANGLOS!

      Plus– what about Rouge? Bain called them as well and they aired an interview en français! Not a peep, not a word of condemnation for doing the same thing.

      Reply
    2. ProposMontreal

      And trust us, most smarter folks can’t stand Claude Poirier on air anyway.

      As a french Montrealer, blogger, and separatist, I do believe what CJAD did was in bad taste and a bad timing, but in no way illegal like it was mentioned. Sadly, Bain is newsworthy, whether he is being glorified is a different story and I don’t think it’s what the journalist was aiming for.

      For the silent majority of “indépendantistes”, this is a non issue from a radio station that has impact only on a select few.

      Reply
  4. Marc

    What CJAD should have done was make sure his lawyer was there with him, asking him to put her on the phone. As soon as that was not possible, they should have wished him a nice day and ended the call.

    But they didn’t.

    Now the entire dynamics of this case have been flipped over.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      What CJAD should have done was make sure his lawyer was there with him, asking him to put her on the phone. As soon as that was not possible, they should have wished him a nice day and ended the call.

      Why? It’s not the radio station’s responsibility to make sure he listens to legal counsel.

      Reply
      1. Marc

        If it were me, and not Trudie Mason on the phone, that’s what I would have done. It’s a question of ethics and safeguarding due process.

        Reply
  5. William

    CJAD could have said that he had called the station, they decided not to air his comments and leave it at that. It would have achieved the same journalistic ends (why does this guy have access to a phone).

    His comments were about as informative as that of any other CJAD caller, save for the fact that he’s, ya know, in custody.

    CJAD was all over social media with this, and while they said they wouldn’t broadcast his comments in entirety, they still allowed inflammatory rhetoric to rise again despite all the recent calls to “tone it down”

    Just more lip service to journalism by a ratings hungry business.

    Reply
    1. Peter McGill

      Yes, all my small-minded friends who can’t correctly pronounce words like library definitely still listen to CJAD. With great effort I try to flush CJADs button-pushing angry-news-of-the-day out of their minds.

      Reply
  6. Steve Kowch

    For the record, I think CJAD did nothing wrong. For full disclosure, I doubt anyone doesn’t know by now about my involvement with TTP Media to launch a new news and talk radio station to compete against CJAD.

    So that out of the way, in my role as a former news director and program director at CJAD and CFRB I’ve been involved in these kind of decisions and discussions. Jail house interviews are nothing new.

    The first thing they had to do was confirm he was who he said he was. The lawyer did that for CJAD.

    The next thing is what the hell do they do with this material. CJAD was right in not wanting to give the guy a platform to express his political opinions. I might have opted to use a clip of him talking about partition. I have always had an issue with thinking it is ok to paraphrase or even quote what someone is saying but think it’s wrong to let the audience actually him the person saying it.

    I have to laugh at those who think CJAD was breaking all kinds of ethics by even reporting the story. Really, CJAD is a news station. That is what they do and sometimes we in the media find ourselves becoming part of the story through no fault of our own.

    If anything, CJAD should be praised for how restrained they were in handling the story. I can only imagine if any of the French media (more so the tabloids than the broadsheet papers) would have handled the story.

    I think the bigger ethical question would have been what if the guy had talked about the shooting … revealed details about his alleged motive etc. What would you do then? He is innocent until proven guilty. Is it the role of the media to publish confessions before his day in court.

    In that case, my vote would have been to hold on to the interview until after the verdict was rendered in court. Or, to air it once the jury was behind closed doors to decide the verdict (newspapers do this all the time with information the jury didn’t hear).

    The big problem with this story is how people react to 140 characters on Twitter without having all the facts. Add political agendas, anglo bashing and now you have people claiming CJAD is an irresponsible and unethical radio station. Oh, and don’t forget the people who don’t like CJAD how they too use this story to pounce on them.

    Steve Kowch

    Reply
  7. Lorne

    I don’t think there would be any protest had they interviewed a convicted FLQ terrorist, from the people who are protesting now.

    Reply
    1. ProposMontreal

      Lorne,

      Yes there would have been a protest.
      They would have been a protest from other separatists that don’t believe that the FLQ was a good representation of the movement is now in 2012. After all, the FLQ were active more than 40 years ago, time to get with the program.

      [Editor’s note: The rest of this comment has been deleted. Please refrain from convicting people in comments, thanks.]

      Reply
  8. David Pinto

    Steve, you said:
    CJAD couldn’t pretend Bain never called them. It had to report the story.
    It had to report the story … uh, Steve, what story are you referring to? The fact that Bain called CJAD is a STORY?!?

    Reply
      1. Steve Kowch

        David … I’m surprised all your years in the Editorial room at The Gazette didn’t rub off on you. If Bain called The Gazette do you really believe your former employer would not have written a story about it?

        Reply
  9. Peter McGill

    And if Bain had called the Journal de Montreal would they have printed it? Of course! And it would be a best-selling day at the paper and everyone at the paper would go home happy and Separatists would be handed another reason to hate the english speaking population, which anyone who reads that rag can rightly consider it a specialty of the Journal de Montreal editorial policy.

    Reply
    1. Alex H

      Yeha, but they would have put “HENRY” in big letters and pointed out that the interview was in english. Such is Quebec.

      Reply
  10. Michael D

    Well, I am going the other extreme..”AD ahould have run a news special and ran the interview,but taking out the references to the night of the shooting, we don’t want potential jury panel members……but the other political rhetoric,the Montreal partition stuff, nothing new here, that’s been round for years anyways…and considering that the Island of Montreal has more people than a few of those of small Maritime provinces..why not?

    Would TTP have run something like what I am saying who knows……but a lack of competition in the anglo market was probably partly a reason for restraint..and maybe not to rock too many waves with the current CRTC deliberations going on in Ottawa with the Bell-Astral thing..

    So some thoughts to consider!!

    Reply
  11. Natalia Walsh

    First of all, I think the fact that Bain called CJAD is telling, in itself.

    Second, yes, they had full right and even obligation to report on the fact that he called. But did they have to air any of the audio (especially the part about Montreal separating from the rest of Quebec) during such a tumultuous time for Quebec and on the same day Marois announces her office – Uhm, No.

    In the end, the fact he called them, the fact they did give him SOME air time and the fact that they couldn’t wait until the end of the day to air it – all that doesn’t seem coincidental or innocent to me, not one bit.

    Reply

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