New Brunswick

CBC won't add conflict of interest disclaimer to Oland documentary

CBC has no plans to add a disclaimer or pull The Oland Murder, a four-part documentary series that aired last week and was co-produced by the daughter of Dennis Oland's defence lawyer. 

Documentary was co-produced by defence lawyer's daughter, but CBC maintains she had no editorial input

Dennis Oland, acquitted after a second trial for the first-degree murder of his father, Richard, was interviewed for CBC's 4-part series, The Oland Murder. The documentary was co-produced by Caitlin Gold, the daughter of Alan Gold, who was Dennis Oland's lead attorney. (The Oland Murder/CBC)

CBC has no plans to add a disclaimer or pull The Oland Murder, a four-part documentary series that aired last week and was co-produced by the daughter of Dennis Oland's defence lawyer. 

"She had no editorial input at all, and if she had, then that would be a different conversation," said Chuck Thompson, CBC spokesperson.

Last week, CBC News learned that co-producer Caitlin Gold Teitelbaum is the daughter of Alan Gold, Oland's top defence lawyer.

The revelation called into question the corporation's transparency and application of its Journalistic Standards and Practices, known as JSP.

Caitlan Gold, the co-producer of The Oland Murder. (CBC)

The JSP says CBC news operations should "refrain from any involvement with stories in which a member of our immediate family (including in-laws) has a strong stake."  

CBC defended the credibility of the documentary in an email to CBC News on Friday and reiterated that statement Monday, saying it believes "the documentary gives viewers a fair and thorough account of the trial and its impact on the Oland family; it met all of our JSP guidelines."

The Oland Murder began airing on CBC Television on March 4. The documentary delves into the retrial of Dennis Oland, who was charged with the murder of his father, Richard. 

Dennis Oland was convicted by a jury in 2015 but was acquitted by Justice Terrence Morrison at a retrial last July. 

CBC commissioned the documentary series and signed a contract with Seven Knots Media Inc., an independent production company. 

Journalism professor urges transparency 

CBC leadership has not come nearly clean enough about who knew what and when, said Lisa Taylor, a journalism professor at Ryerson University.

Taylor worked for CBC News for a decade and has worked for the corporation from time to time in training roles since then. 

She said the relationship between the co-producer and the defence diminishes the value of the documentary. 

"We're supposed to come to the table and be upfront and candid about not just anything that is a true conflict or presents true bias, but just something that would give people pause."

"I think now that this otherwise really compelling story will be compromised in so many people's eyes."

Not all divisions of CBC have to adhere to the corporation's journalistic standards and practices because CBC is not just a journalistic organization. 

"There's so many divisions within this entity that is the public broadcaster, but on the public-facing stuff it's just the CBC," Taylor said. 

Lisa Taylor, a Ryerson University journalism professor, said CBC should put a disclaimer on The Oland Murder documentary series. (Ryerson University)

The lead producer of the documentary series, Deborah Wainwirght, told a court last year that she would adhere to the same standards as CBC journalists. 

Taylor said the public would expect the same standards across different divisions anyway, as most viewers and listeners wouldn't be able to distinguish what's produced by CBC News and a documentary produced by the corporation's entertainment section. 

"The public doesn't understand that this is not a product that comes from the news division."

CBC News reporters Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon and Robert Jones were interviewed for the series without being told about the Gold connection. 

The documentary features unprecedented access to the Olands and was heralded in the Globe and Mail as "terrific true-crime storytelling." 

The Oland Murder, a four-part series based on the murder of Richard Oland and the criminal trials of his son, Dennis is being broadcast on CBC. (The Oland Murder/CBC)

In an interview with CBC's Information Morning Fredericton, Wainwright cast aspersions on the local on-the-ground journalism, suggesting she brought less of a bias to the story.

"I think perhaps the timing was right, and the fact I was from the other side of the country maybe seemed like I came with less of a bias," Wainwright said.

"I didn't know the Olands. I didn't know anything about New Brunswick, so I think I came with an open mind."

During the interview, Wainwright did not reveal that Gold Teitelbaum's father was Oland's defence lawyer.

Thompson doesn't know if Gold Teitelbaum was always part of the production team or if she joined at a later date. 

Reason for access

Gold Teitelbaum did provide Wainwright and her production crew access to Oland and his defence team, Thompson confirmed. 

When asked to do a live on-air interview, Thompson said he thinks he's already given CBC News journalists enough information. 

Taylor said a disclaimer should be added at the top of each of the four parts of the series that states the connection between the co-producer and the Olands, and someone from CBC's national leadership should make themselves available for an interview. 

"As taxpayers and as audience members we deserve a lot more insight."

With files from Jacques Poitras, Information Morning Fredericton and Information Morning Saint John


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