News Editor's Blog·EDITOR'S NOTE

As Russia's war with Ukraine continues, here are some of the decisions we've made at CBC News

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine well into its third week, here are some of the journalistic decisions we’ve made at CBC News — and the unusual circumstances we faced while trying to tell this important story.

Significant resources dedicated to often risky job of bearing witness to the war

A Ukrainian soldier guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday, March 12. (Evgeniy Maloletka/The Associated Press)

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With the Russian invasion of Ukraine well into its third week, I wanted to take a moment to explain some of the journalistic decisions we've made and the unusual circumstances we faced while trying to tell this important story.

The first rule of journalism is to bear witness — to see for ourselves the events that shape the world so we can report back to Canadians the facts, the context and the truth of those events.

To that end, we have dedicated significant resources to the story of Ukraine. We deployed journalists, hosts and field crews to the war zone and nearby countries, including Poland, Latvia and Slovakia, not to mention Finland on the Russian border.

WATCH | Inside a hospital in Ukraine struggling to care for patients:

Inside a Ukraine hospital struggling to care for patients

2 years ago
Duration 2:44
Featured VideoAdrienne Arsenault visits a children’s hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, that's been overwhelmed with patient transfers from areas of heavy fighting in the country.

Their work has been outstanding and not without risk. We have witnessed harrowing scenes of war. We have taken Canadians deep into a country under siege and told the stories of desperate people fleeing their homes while under attack.

I am grateful for the countless hours and risks our journalists have taken to bring this story home to Canadians.

Images of war

Photos and video of the carnage of war are always challenging for a news organization — and never more so than in the age of social media, which can be rife with misinformation, propaganda and unverified images. We rely heavily on visuals that we gather ourselves, but we can't be everywhere.

We make every effort to verify content from other sources. We lean on reputable news organizations and agencies. And we will always be transparent with our audience about the origins of images we publish and broadcast.

A young girl sits in an improvised bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 7. (Evgeniy Maloletka/The Associated Press)

We've had a robust discussion within our newsroom about showing images of people killed in this conflict, and specifically their faces. Our Journalistic Standards and Practices has a section on war coverage that details the competing priorities we are obliged to consider: "We reflect the reality of the situations we report. We also respect the sensibilities of our viewers, listeners and readers."

To this we would add a third priority: The need to respect the dignity of those killed by war and the people left mourning them.

Yet we would also never want to minimize the reality of this war or somehow erase the lives ended by it. It's a difficult balancing act. We use graphic images, but sparingly and with warnings — and only as much as is needed to tell the story. We will never sensationalize death and graphic imagery.

On rare occasions, if we show a dead person's face up close, there will be a specific focus and a story to tell about that person. At the same time, we will not shield audiences from the truth of the war, which again is one of significant human death, casualties and displacement.

Language and pronunciation

We've had a few questions from the public about how we pronounce Ukrainian names and cities, such as the capital Kyiv. We've heard concerns about inconsistency.

The CBC pronunciation of Kyiv is KEE-ef, leaning heavily on the first syllable. The pronunciation changed several years ago, around the same time the spelling "Kyiv" replaced "Kiev." While language does evolve, we generally change place name pronunciations only to reflect a true shift in how people in English-speaking Canada refer to a country, or to match widespread shifts in transliterations (such as when Bombay became Mumbai), or to eliminate pronunciations that are truly problematic.

It's important to note that we do not try to make it sound the way a native Ukrainian speaker would pronounce it. Rather, we're trying to reflect an English Canadian pronunciation, as we do for other place names such as Paris and Mexico. Of course, hosts who speak Ukrainian will say Kyiv in the way that's most natural to them, which might well involve very subtle vowel and consonant sounds that diverge slightly from the phonetic KEE-ef.

WATCH | Kyiv versus Kiev why how you say it matters:

Kyiv versus Kiev: Why how you say it matters

2 years ago
Duration 1:01
Featured VideoThe way you say Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, is significant and can even be interpreted as a political statement. Here’s how to pronounce it.

Reporting from Russia

On March 4, we temporarily suspended our reporting from within Russia after President Vladimir Putin signed a bill introducing a prison sentence of up to 15 years for spreading information that goes against the Russian government's position on the war in Ukraine. The legislation criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Russia deems to be "fake" reports about the war.

As the only Canadian news organization with a permanent bureau in Russia, we do not want to stop reporting in the country. Again, job No. 1 is to bear witness. But we needed time to assess the law to ensure we were not putting at risk our team in Moscow. Our bureau there remains open and staffed. We will continue to report on what's happening in Russia, in some instances from outside the country. We assess the situation daily. We believe strongly in a free press and unimpeded access to accurate, independent journalism in Ukraine and Russia.

Pandemic divisions, cost of living

Even with so much of our attention focused on Russia and Ukraine at the moment, we continue to do significant journalism on other important issues facing Canadians.

To mark the second anniversary of the World Health Organization's COVID-19 pandemic declaration, we began reporting on an extensive survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with CBC News. The majority of respondents to the online survey said the pandemic has significantly disrupted their lives, pulled Canadians further apart, brought out the worst in people and weakened their compassion for one another.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which is marking its second anniversary, has pulled Canadians further apart, brought out the worst in people and weakened their compassion for one another, according to the findings of a new survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with CBC News. (Rob Kruk/Radio-Canada)

However, it wasn't all doom and gloom. A large majority of Canadians (70 per cent) said they are thankful to be living in Canada during the pandemic. You'll see much more reporting in the weeks ahead on other results from the survey, including which politicians and public health officials rated well for their handling of the pandemic, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on families and our workplaces.

The survey hints at some of the COVID-related divisions we saw on display in Ottawa just three weeks ago as police moved in to dismantle an illegal occupation of the city's downtown core. Our continuous coverage of the protest and subsequent police crackdown saw record audiences log on and tune in.

For the past month, we have done more than three dozen stories on affordability and the high cost of living in Canada. The series, called Priced Out, looks at the forces making everything more expensive — from food, gas and housing to the cost of raising a family. We still have more stories to come, including a look at wages and the rising cost of education.

A woman in Montreal loads groceries from a shopping cart into the trunk of her car. Inflation in Canada is making everything more expensive — from food, gas and housing to the cost of raising a family. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

As noted in an earlier blog, our commitment to climate change journalism is ongoing. Look for the series Our Changing Planet to continue throughout this year. Here are some recent stories.

It is a privilege to tell these stories and to bear witness on behalf of Canadians. Thank you for your continued trust in our journalism.


Brodie Fenlon

Editor in chief

Brodie Fenlon is editor in chief and executive director of programs and standards for CBC News.