Evan Soloman, host of television’s Power and Politics and radio’s The House, was fired this week following allegations he collected about $300,000 in commissions for helping sell high-priced art to people he dealt with as a journalist.
Some believe the penalty is too harsh and he should have only received a sterned talking to — a slap on the wrist — rather than a firing.
Others feel he should have been dismissed in April when the CBC first discovered Solomon and his wife were operating this “side business.”
Given his reputation as a well-respected member of Canada’s media elite, many are running to Solomon’s side — including some high-profile politicians he’s interviewed over the years.
Others are questioning his past work as a journalist and now looking to puncture a hole in the solid work he’s done.
The union which represents the vast majority of CBC journalists decided to raise a few concerns: “As a union, we are concerned that there may have been a rush to judgment here and a disproportionate response to what at worst may have been an unintentional breach of corporate policy that had no impact whatsoever on how Evan conducted himself as a host and journalist," said the Canadian Media Guild.
The argument over appropriate response will play out over the coming days, sure. But let’s be clear about one major point here: this is not just a breach of corporate policy. This is a serious slap in the face of ethics, which are unfortunately vastly misunderstood by the public, and evidently misunderstood by the union representing the journalists who breathe those ethics each and every day.
The CBC’s policy puts it simply and emphatically, stating the employees of the corporation are prohibited from using their positions to "further their personal interests."
The Canadian Association of Journalists says something similar: “We do not report about subjects in which we have financial or other interests, and we do not use our positions to obtain business or other advantages not available to the general public.”
What Solomon did was break this cardinal rule and, if it was left under the rug of disregard, the corporation would, in effect, be throwing its journalistic reputation out the window.
Sure, the swift response likely had something to do with the PR disaster called Jian Ghomeshi. The allegations surrounding Amanda Lang altering coverage also kept CBC on its toes, as did the policy it had to implement when more media elite — among them Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy — were said to be in ethical breach for accepting speaking engagement money.
The CBC doesn’t need this type of attention as it struggles with budgets and federal funding. But this is not about the CBC in its entirety.
It’s about some high-profile members of the corporation that likely got caught up in “host culture.”
It’s important to separate the two.
And it’s even more vital to deal with the problem areas, such as Solomon, before the whole corporation is flushed down with the bath water.