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Oct 24 / King Kaufman

Lennay’s Law in action in CBC’s level-headed coverage of Ottawa shootings

It’s easy to forget that when you write about sports, you’re potentially writing about almost anything. Politics, economics, race, violence, substance abuse. There’s almost nothing that gets covered on news sites that couldn’t, somehow, end up on a sports site.

So while a rampaging shooter like the one who terrorized Ottawa this week doesn’t figure to be a part of sports coverage, it could happen, depending on where or at whom that shooter shoots, or threatens to shoot.

That’s why I think sportswriters, not just hard news folks, can get a lot out of this Mother Jones report by James West, headlined “Canada’s Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame.”

West notes that while the situation unfolded live with lots of sketchy details and unconfirmed rumors, the CBC’s coverage, anchored by “the unflappable Peter Mansbridge,” was very different than what we’re used to in the U.S.:

This live bit of level-headed reporting by Mansbridge, from around 11:10 a.m. Wednesday, should be given to journalism students around the country. It basically contains everything you need to know about why CBC did its audience proud:

MANSBRIDGE: And so, the situation is, as we say, tense and unclear. And it’s on days like this—we keep reminding you of this and it’s important—it’s on days like this, where a story takes a number of different pathways, a number of changes occur, and often rumors start in a situation like this. We try to keep them out of our coverage, but when they come, sometimes from official sources, like members of Parliament, you tend to give them some credence. But you carefully weigh it with what we’re also witnessing. It’s clear that the situation is not over. It is clear the police are in an intense standby situation and continue to be on the lookout, and until somebody blows the all-clear on this we will continue to stay on top of it and watch as the events unfold.

West continues: “Exacting and painstaking, but never slow or boring, Mansbridge weighed the credibility of every detail, constantly framing and reframing what we knew and, most crucially, how we knew it.” (Emphasis in the original.)

That’s a great example of Lennay’s Law in action. Here’s video of the quoted coverage.