How Canadian Breaking News Coverage Outshined U.S. Cable

News can vary from station to station, but CBC's coverage of Wednesday's Ottawa shooting is being lauded by some while U.S. cable is catching flak.
Posted at 1:08 PM, Oct 23, 2014

Depending on where you live, you might have heard different details surrounding Wednesday's shooting near Canada's Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario.

MICHAELA PEREIRA VIA CNN"The new information that we're getting is that there were numerous gunmen this morning at that war memorial."

ROD WHEELER VIA FOX NEWS: "I have a friend who's with the Ottawa Police Department, and I texted him a few minutes ago, and here's what he replied back ... "

JIM SCIUTTO VIA CNN"Terror on Canada's Parliament Hill."

PETER MANSBRIDGE VIA CBC"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."

That last one was Peter Mansbridge from Canada's CBC. The first three were with U.S. cable news channels Fox and CNN. All of them were covering the same hectic situation where a gunman who shot and killed a Canadian soldier later died in a standoff.

MANSBRIDGE VIA CBC: "And often rumors start in a situation like this. We're trying 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."

WOLF BLITZER VIA CNN: "One gunman has been killed; one or more gunmen may still be on the loose. ... Right now, Parliament Hill in Ottawa on lockdown. ... An emergency situation on steps of the War Memorial in Ottawa as well."

There's a noticeable difference in the way each network decided to cover the breaking news. CBC, with a slower delivery, reminded viewers multiple times it wouldn't report anything until it received confirmation. That stood in contrast to CNN's more fast-paced coverage, which seemed to try to get as much information on the air as possible.

It didn't go unnoticed on social media, either — folks on Twitter were quick to point out the difference between the two. 

Media watchdogs at home did the same. Mediaite wrote that Mansbridge "exemplifies" the difference between U.S. and Canadian breaking news.

A writer at TVNewser lauded Mansbridge's coverage, saying: "It wasn’t loud and urgent. It was quiet and somber. And as such, it felt very, very important. It felt proper."

And a television critic at The Globe and Mail took issue with the idea that CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield, a Canadian herself, seemed to be painting the picture of an "innocent Canada" by insisting guards at Parliament Hill were unarmed until a journalist she interviewed confirmed the opposite.

Of course, that same critic was more or less criticizing all the breaking news coverage, even Canada's, saying it mostly failed.

On The Media's "Breaking News Consumer's Handbook" gives several suggestions for monitoring breaking news coverage and point-blank refers to early network reports as often "sketchy." It recommends skepticism of anonymous sources, outlets quoting other outlets and any suspicious images that might be Photoshopped.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Thompson Rivers University / CC BY NC SA 2.0.