This piece was about The Chronicle Herald‘s decision to print relevant as well as seemingly irrelevant personal information about accused spy Jeffrey Delisle. Within the industry this is called “running the phone book” on someone. I interviewed Nathalie Des Rosiers, head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and Dan Leger, at the time director of news content at the Herald.
We presented this piece as a “talk/tape.” That’s when the reporter comes in to the studio for a live interview with the host (“talk”), bringing along several pre-recorded audio clips (“tape”). I was the reporter and Niko Bell was the host.
Here’s the intro Niko read out:
This week, a naval intelligence officer was accused of espionage.
We know his name, his age, and where he lives.
We also know how old his children are,
how many pets he has,
where his girlfriend comes from,
his financial history,
Kevin Philipupillai is in the studio to tell us
why we know so much about
Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle.
Niko and I spoke about how Delisle is the first serving member of the Canadian forces in living memory to be charged with espionage. I introduced this clip from my interview with Dan Leger of The Chronicle Herald.
I’d asked Leger about the front page of the Herald from the previous day, January 18th. Delisle’s personal information was splashed across the page in big letters. Leger admitted it had turned into a media circus. He also said it was usually only murderers and pedophiles — Public Enemies — who got this kind of front-page treatment.
Niko and I then spoke about Delisle’s right to privacy and his right to be presumed innocent. I introduced a clip from my interview with Nathalie Des Rosiers, head of the CCLA. It’s often up to her to defend the rights of the people everyone else hates.
[Disclosure: my partner works for the CCLA.]
But Leger had mentioned another reason for printing so much personal information about the accused spy. It brought a third party into the conversation: the government. Here’s Leger again:
A publication ban would mean that a judge would order a complete media blackout and newspapers wouldn’t be allowed to print any information about the trial. Leger had said he’d been talking with other major news organizations, getting ready to fight any publication ban. In his words: “getting lawyered up.”
The mention of the government brought the newspaper editor and the civil liberties lawyer much closer together. When I asked Des Rosiers about Leger’s opposition to a publication ban, she re-iterated her concern for Delisle’s right to be presumed innocent. But she then said, between the government’s desire to keep the details of the case secret and the public’s desire to know as much as possible, she would prefer for the public to have access to all the information.
And then my four minutes was up and I quietly kicked myself out of the studio so Niko could get on with the rest of the show.