Open Letter to Jian Ghomeshi

October 27, 2014

Dear Mr. Ghomeshi:

I believe that you have been naïve in thinking your private, personal life would not – and should not – touch your professional and public life.

I’m not taking a position on whether the accusations related to your sexual proclivities are factual. There are other forums better equipped to make that determination. But let’s just say, hypotheticallty, that the accusations are indeed frivolous, and all your sexual activities consensual, as you claim. I believe the CBC is still well within its rights to terminate its relationship with you.

It’s true that as Canadian citizens, we all enjoy certain rights to privacy, religious observances and sexual preferences. But in our media-driven society, we also must know  – and accept  – that we are held to a different standard when we choose to become public figures earning our keep in front of camera or microphone.

Mr. Ghomeshi, when you chose to become a media personality, you accepted a certain level of responsibility and accountability for all your behaviours. As an on-air broadcaster, there is a spotlight on you and everything you do, even when you’re not “at work”.  You must exercise judgment as to whether conscious behaviour modifications are in order, but it doesn’t appear that you got this part of the message.

The rules of engagement for you as a rock star with Moxie Fruvous are much different than the rules of engagement as co-creator and host of CBC’s Q, even if it is your rocker status that landed you the CBC gig. We, the general public, expect more shenanigans from rock musicians. If you were still just with MF and not a public figure with the CBC, your current circumstances would hardly make news. The game changed when you sat in that chair and turned on the CBC microphone for the first time.

Many years ago, in 1988, I was hired into my first paid media job as a TV reporter at a television/radio station in a mid-sized community in north-central British Columbia. I still remember one of the first things my new boss told me.

You are now an extension of your employer, he said. Everything you do, at work and after work, on company time or your own dime, becomes a reflection of you AND the employer. Everyone will be watching you and everything you do, he said, whenever you are in the company of any other person. You drink too much at a bar and get obnoxious? People notice. Have a series of intimate relationships? The other person in every one of those relationships very likely goes on to talk to others about what you did together, how they saw your human frailties in a different way than the people who watch you on the news every night.

Back then, in my 20s and single, it was a significant thing. It meant that I dressed and prepared myself differently than I might otherwise for a simple trip to the grocery store. I may have preferred sweat pants but instead chose to shower, dress and apply makeup. My colleagues from that station and I often chose to socialize in one another’s homes rather than go out to the bars – – because we knew people would be watching, talking, judging.

Over the next 15 years, as I worked as a television news reporter and anchor in Edmonton and Vancouver, this fact of life stopped being so strange. I did experience some difficult interpersonal incidents that I believe simply would not have happened were I not a recognizable face on the nightly television news. No, I was never as high profile nor as accomplished as you, Mr. Ghomeshi, but I do believe the same principles apply.

And so, Mr. Ghomeshi, as uncomfortable as this time may be, you are currently experiencing the consequences of choices you have made. It may not be fair, depending on facts as yet determined, and it most certainly is a traumatic time for you. You may have engaged in purely consensual relations and may be innocent of the charges being leveled against you by disgruntled ex-lovers. But by choosing to engage in the kinds of activities that you admit to enjoying, without restraint, when you enjoyed a high profile, public position of some notoriety, you have brought this all on yourself.

– Boni Wagner-Stafford, B Clear Writing Services


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