Can Leslie Roberts return to journalism?
leslie roberts

Most people entering journalism school have big dreams for themselves in the media—anchor, lead foreign correspondent, daily political columnist. As we near the end of our four years here, many have tweaked their goals, taking positions at advertising and public relations firms that promise a salary large enough to pay rent and put food on the table (these people have either given up or smartened up, depending on who you ask). Throughout our time in school, we’re taught how to work around the strong line between journalists and PR agents to get what we need. Apparently—untaught to us—straddling it is one of them.

Last week the Toronto Star reported that Global News suspended lead anchor Leslie Roberts indefinitely after Kevin Donovan uncovered he co-owned BuzzPR, a firm whose clients have appeared on Roberts’s shows. Roberts hosts The Morning Show and Toronto News Hour and is the executive editor of Global News. Yesterday, Roberts resigned from Global.

Various BuzzPR clients, such as Jacque Somerville, have appeared on The Morning Show and other Global segments. Others, like the app Checkout 51, have garnered praise from Roberts on air. Roberts told the Star that although he is creative director and has an “equity” stake in BuzzPR, he has never taken a salary or payment for having clients on the show and credits their appearances to the work of other employees.

But what Roberts didn’t do was tell his colleagues or viewers that he was reading pitches and giving media training to clients of BuzzPR, possibly the same companies that wound up on Global.

Global spokesperson Rishma Govani said the network takes “matters of journalistic integrity very seriously.” We’ve seen other networks try to protect their stars until it’s no longer possible—most recently with the Ghomeshi affair—and that’s probably the worst thing Global could have done. Roberts was groomed to be the centerpiece of the network’s news coverage, and with him as anchor, it pushed passed CityNews into Toronto’s top three most viewed dinner hour newscasts. But that doesn’t seem to have phased Global, whose two internal investigations were swift.

So what does Roberts do now? He initially told the Star he’d resign from BuzzPR, and that at the anchor desk, nothing becomes between him and a story. But if his work at BuzzPR didn’t affect Global, why keep it a secret?

Even if Roberts works as a journalist again, he’ll always be the newscaster who brought on his own clients. It will be difficult for anyone to trust him—if that’s fair or not—whether he’s doing lifestyle or hard news.

Integrity is the toughest thing gained and easiest lost in journalism, but it’s the most essential to producing any piece of quality work. Even if this conflict of interest didn’t affect 95 percent of Roberts’s coverage, viewers aren’t obliged to trust him anywhere, as we often feel when someone’s behind the anchor desk.

Roberts told the Star, “I agree this doesn’t look very good.” And it probably won’t ever, even if he somehow gets back on television.

 

Thanks for Damien D. for the photo. 

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21 comments
  1. I am still surprised about Leslie Robert’s departure from Global News. It’s funny in retrospect though, I didn’t think he looked satisfied there the last few months. He was not smiling much. I don’t think his intentions were underhanded. I just feel he got bad advice. What I liked about Leslie was his soft serious approach to the story. He was relaxed delivering the goods. I took it hard and have not been able to get in touch with him through social media to offer my support. I think he needs his space and I respect that! Yes I feel he has more of a future in journalism if that’s what he wants! Maybe this door may have shut for a reason and he has new aspirations. From what I can ascertain he is on a marvelous trip around the world. I just returned from a breathtaking cruise and know travel cleanses the soul. I will be looking forward to his next endeavour although he may not be visible. He has supporters. Feel bad he doesn’t even have the PR job now. Someone will give him a break. Best wishes to Leslie! Good luck!!!

  2. He was the best in the industry and will be missed, we watched him every night and there was no better. We all make an error and usually it is on the advise of another person been there done that. Sorry but the new network should respect the person and not the law as such. This man who I have meet is an honest very devoted person to his job with great respect he resigned from the wrong job. Hope we soon see him back on a station who appreciates a true honest news person

  3. I gained a lot of respect for him when he’d join the radio show on 640 am radio to give his opinion on the day’s news. I found him to be an intelligent and thought provoking individual. That’s when I started to watch him on Global news.

  4. Leslie Roberts always looked too good to be true. He came across as a Goody-two-shoes
    There was always something, Not Quite Right with that phony, politically correct attitude and that pearly white smile of his. He always looked too good to be true, and as they say if it looks too good to be etc.etc. Mr. Perfect it turns out was not so perfect. He’d be lucky to get a job in the mail room of any radio or TV station in this country. No sympathy from me on this guy.
    Gordon C. Dancey.

  5. It is now April and I still miss Leslie. Global was all I ever watched. It,s not the same without him. He was very good at his job. Nobody can ever replace him. Patricia Carpenter

  6. I miss Leslie Roberts since he left Global. Watching global news is no longer the same for me. Often I turn off the TV or switch the channel to something other than news as there is no longer anyone in news who keeps me captivated as Leslie did. Really sad don’t you think?

  7. i don’t know where to start….Leslie you are better than this. You must have known you would be found out…..sure we miss you…..shame on you

  8. I feel everyone has made a mistake at some point in their life, at least he admitted his guilt and resigned. I hope that the Global Station will bring him back. You have other people sitting at the desk reporting the news and to tell the truth they are very boring, and not well prepared. He did a fabulous job! Thanks for listening.

  9. Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes has bad judgement. I look forward to seeing him on TV again even if it is not Global. They aren’t the only TV station.

  10. 5 months have passed since Leslie Roberts left Global News, and I have yet to find a new supper hour news program that I am as faithful to. But then, no one will ever be able to replace him!
    He made a mistake, as we all have done at some point. I for one would watch him if he should be on another news show. The internet is just not the same!
    In my opinion, Global made a big mistake! I seldom watch anything on Global now!

  11. As I sit here watching Global news @ 5:30, I can’t help but think of Leslie Roberts, I truly miss his smile and his style of bringing the news into our homes. I was so shocked to hear of his business conflict of interest that resulted in his resignation. I don’t totally understand, the whole deal nevertheless, did Leslie really have to resign I would have thought a suspension without pay would be just as effective, “Just Saying” Miss you Leslie good luck!

  12. This happens many times in the media, especially with Native Advertising, look it up. The problem was Leslie was potentially profiting, not the producers. He should have known better though, but does not deserve banishment.

  13. I REALLY REALLY MISS Leslie. He was the only reason I watched Global News. I’m very disappointed in Global’s shortcomings. They act as if they are so CLEAN, and yet, I wouldn’t be surprised of all the dust bunnies under their welcome mat at the front door. If you would think with your brains, and understand your public viewers, you would have reprimanded him and moved on. NO you have to let him go. Wasteful. I guess he will end up on NBC,CBS, ABC, FOX, MSNBC, or better yet, somewhere in CANADA that appreciates his worldly talents and soft spoken approach to delivering the news, no matter how hard some of the stories are to relate. I think you owe the viewers an apology at the very least. It would be nice. but not possible, due to your holier than thou network attidude.

  14. Was shocked to hear Leslie was not on global anymore. It was bad enough he left the 11 o’clock hour that we looked forward to watching every night with Carol McKenzie but now to hear he was gone completely from global was so very sad. Just can’t see what he did justifies his dismissal / resignation ( every things so damn politically correct) . Good luck Leslie hope to see u again on another news network or maybe even your own talk show!!

  15. I not only miss Leslie on The Morning Show, I still miss Rosy Edeh, Chris Rheys and Antony Robart. I rarely watch the show now although Carolyn and Jeff are good newscasters/hosts.

  16. I do miss Leslie Roberts, I have send message to Global TV everyone is given another chance in life, put him on probation and start out at global TV. no one is perfect in life.
    he made a mistake, not really sure of his mistake conflict of interest. not to interfere with Global TV. or have some sort of business entity.

    Has global. tv lost business all of this? A great guy Leslie, should start all over again.
    please have him back at Global.

  17. You lost the best news caster in the business. Does global think they are that great they do without this man , they are wrong. Too many viewers are watching news else where. Shame on global. Best of luck too Leslie and hope to see him soon on news somewhere.

  18. I think Leslie Roberts did make a mistake and he has paid for it. I also believe that Global over reacted in firing Roberts and in effect black balling him for future employment in the media business. Truth is the Global has made and continues to make strategic errors on programming and on air personnel that have dogged them in the past few years. Their morning show is a true waste of time and energy and they should look over at Breakfast Television for inspiration. Roberts was a cool and professional news person and one look at any of Global shows now proves that they need him. Give the guy a second chance. He is not a bad person and he certainly can help the Global Shaw network.

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