Centre for Investigative Journalism
Annual Convention: Individual Reports
use of dramatization was questioned. It would have been more accurate
to tell the viewer scenes were created."
THE WORKSHOP BEGAN WITH A replay of "The Z
Project," originally aired
on the CBC's
The Fifth Estate Feb. 12. Producer Brian McKenna described
it as one of the toughest stories the public affairs show has ever
undertaken because, during the research, all their traditional sources
The segment investigated pay-offs made by
distilleries and wineries to political parties.
Since raw footage was unavailable for most of the story, a recreation
of some of the activities, such as the transfer of money, was shown.
Dramatic devices — ominous low musical tones and tribal drums, for
example — underscored the narrative. The most interesting scenes
showed Edwin Winner, chairman of the Pennsylvania liquor board,
attacking the camera when he refused to answer the reporter's questions
and Jordan Valley Wines sales manager Bob Waugh saying that, if he
wanted to market in Quebec, all it took was money.
McKenna admitted that such a story would
not have been possible without
the resources of The Fifth Estate. He said that, in cases where
interviewees would not answer or tried to run away, it was important to
get footage of the interviewer actually asking questions and not
getting any answers.
Wade Rowland, author of Making Connections,
questioned the ethical use of dramatic devices such as sinister music, on television to drive home
the point. On such CBC stories as the one dealing with CIA involvement
in Canada, the "hidden camera" technique was used. Effective — but is it ethical?
However, no one questioned the use of camera techniques
when they were able to capture people "lying on camera." But the use of
dramatizations were questioned, people in the audience
pointing out that it would have been more accurate to tell the viewer
that scenes were being recreated.
A selection of the videotapes that were left around for Convention members to screen certainly indicates that good TV investigative work, despite the cost of the medium and the demands of air-time, is out there, but that it isn't being heard about. Some selections: From BCTV in Vancouver, Lettergate, a report on the Socred scandal: From
Educational Television Ontario, videocassettes on the referendum in Quebec and an interview with Claude Ryan; from CTV Subliminal Messages the story of little black boxes that transmit subliminal messages and how they are used by retail stores and real estate companies to induce
(often unaware) employees to sell more; and, from CBC in Winnipeg,
The Insulation Game, an examination of the ripoffs and shoddy work in the
insulation industry in Manitoba.
Published in Sources May/June 1980
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