Remember about a month and a half ago when Canadaland scribe, Sean Craig, revealed some less than ethical behaviour from the CBC’s senior business correspondent, Amanda Lang? It inspired me to write a piece about certain of my own ethical lapses: those being all the cookies and coffee I’ve consumed at city hall.

After posting that, I kept tabs on the Amanda Lang story, curious to see how it would turn out. That included reading John Doyle’s call in the Globe and Mail for Lang’s resignation. And I was surprised to find out from Doyle’s piece that Lang did a speaking gig in Regina on Jan 19.

Doyle seemed unimpressed by the Leader Post‘s coverage of that event. He wrote,

The other day, Lang was in Regina to speak to the Chartered Financial Analysts Society of Saskatchewan. The Regina Leader-Post reported that “the peppery CBC business journalist” had loads to say on innovation and productivity.

At about the same time, in The Guardian, no less, George Monbiot was writing about the Lang story, the CBC and the controversy as an example that “those who are supposed to scrutinize the financial and political elite are embedded within it.”

The Jan 20 Leader Post piece Doyle references was written by Will Chabun and titled “Lang praises the power of innovation.” It doesn’t mention the then-brewing controversy once and that seemed odd. I considered writing a blog post at the time but opted not to. I enjoy reading Chabun’s stuff and he sounds like a decent guy so I thought, heck, I’ll send him an email, see what happened.

He was away when I first tried to contact him but we finally connected last week.

My original email was long and full of apologies and exposition because I was pretty nervous about sending it and I didn’t want him to think I was planning to write a sarcastic hatchet job (because I wasn’t, believe it or not). But it boiled down to three questions:

1. Why did you write about Amanda Lang’s talk in Regina but not mention the controversy surrounding her (a controversy that deals, in part, with conflicts of interest related to taking paid speaking gigs)?

2. Did you consider interviewing Lang while she was in Regina and asking about the allegations of ethical lapses or did you not get a chance?

3. Are there any formal or informal expectations or limits on a piece like the one you wrote about that Chartered Financial Analysts Society event that would make it in some way inappropriate or inadvisable for you to include mention of the Lang ethics controversy?

Here’s Will Chabun’s response in full…

Here I am:

When I indicated to the CFA association that I’d be attending, I also asked for an [interview] with Lang at which I intended to ask about this issue. It was turned down.

When I arrived at the event intending to schmooze, find her and ask about it, my RSVP was lost or misplaced and I cooled my heels in the lobby for 35 minutes. When I finally got in, everybody was seated. No chance to buttonhole her or even find her.

She was scheduled to speak around 8:20 p.m., I was told. Instead, another speaker (Don Drummond) was inserted ahead of her and she didn’t begin speaking until 8:55 p.m. – remember that time, as I had a 9:30 p.m. deadline to have my story written and filed. I was hoping she’d make a reference to the allegations off which I would refer to the allegations.

With a deadline approaching, I left the banquet venue (the main stage) at 9:20 p.m., got into the glass-walled room near the main entrance, booted my computer and wrote. Did she make any reference to the accusations at the end of her remarks? Dunno as I had to leave and file.

I picked that glass-walled room so that if I saw her leaving, I could run out with my digital recorder and interview her. Didn’t see her, though. (There are many ways out of the Conexus Arts Centre.)

Bending the deadline between all recognition, I wrapped up around 9:55 p.m., grabbed my recorder and headed back into the banquet area to find her and interview her. No sign of her. None of the people with whom I talked there knew where she was. Very frustrating day.

Will Chabun

I don’t know… it all sounds pretty reasonable to me. I’ve definitely been in situations where crap has gone awry and the story I filed didn’t turn out the way I hoped. (I’ve done plenty of awesome interviews you’ll never get to read because I pressed the wrong damn button on my voice recorder.)

Still, if I’d covered Lang’s Regina talk, I might’ve snuck a “disgraced CBC personality” or “under a cloud of suspicion” into my piece. (And if I hadn’t, Prairie Dog’s Grand Poobah Whitworth likely would’ve.)

In the end, this is all just a little local footnote to a much bigger story that ended with a major change to CBC policy. They’ll no longer be approving paid speaking appearances for their on-air staff.

It’s the least they could do. But I wonder how Lang feels about the change? Not to mention Rex Murphy and Peter Mansbridge, two other celebrity talking heads who’ve been outed for taking corporate cash? This little shift in the ethics guidelines is going to hit them right in the wallet.