What a blast from the past when I read about demonstrations held yesterday outside the media offices of two Canadian broadcasters CP24 and CTV. Anti-Fur protesters carried placards demanding that TV reporters stop covering the news clad in their stylish and expensive Canadian goose jackets or other jackets embellished with real fur trims.
Little did they know that this humble ex-chief news editor of CBC TV News once nearly lost his job after after decreeing that all reporters and presenters could not be seen on camera attired in these fashionable fur jackets. But it wasn’t anti-fur consciousness that impelled me. No it was my righteous indignation about how at a time of a grim economic downturn in Canada, our CBC reporters were as I told them in an intemperate internal memo : [ the wearing of fur coats] “says to our viewers that we’re rich and you’re not. Effective immediately no more wearing of fur coats on camera. No appeals please.” What I thought at the time was nothing more than a news boss issuing an edict became a front page news story ( including my memo) leaked by a reporter who was one of the prominent fur coat wearers. A Toronto Star critic labelled me an American transplant who was ignorant about Canadian fur traditions. I was lampooned in newspaper cartoons and attacked, predictably, by the Canadian Fur Council They wanted me fired and made their views known to CBC executives. What likely saved me was a meeting with the Fur Council arranged by our iconic CBC anchor, the late Knowlton Nash. He was well-connected with the great and good. After hearing the complaints of the Fur Council representative who demanded that I rescind the ban, Knowlton improvised a brilliant explanation. He told them that what ” John really was trying to say in an awkward and ineffective manner was that the real reason he banned the wearing of Canadian fur was that the fur coats were so attractive that they distracted our viewers from the content of the news stories.” The Fur lobbyists hadn’t thought about that problem but understood my journalistic concerns. They left my office without issuing any ultimatums. Knowlton Nash had saved the day and invented the “alternative facts” strategy. I kept my job. As far as I know, the ban still exists. I note that the anti-fur protesters didn’t march on the CBC.