After her speaking engagements and personal relationship with a Royal Bank of Canada board member plunged the CBC into a conflict-of-interest controversy this year, senior business correspondent Amanda Lang is leaving the network for an undisclosed new television job.
Her last day as host of The Exchange with Amanda Lang and as a contributor to The National will be Friday, CBC News general manager and editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire informed staff in a memo Tuesday.
In addition to assuming a new position that McGuire described as “outside the CBC in television,” Lang will be devoting more time to writing.
“Amanda’s two decades of experience as a business reporter furthered our commitment to quality business coverage,” McGuire said.
Lang told the National Post she could not add anything to the CBC memo but would have “more to say in the near future.”
The business correspondent is the third marquee personality to leave the CBC in the space of a year. Jian Ghomeshi, host of the radio show Q, was fired last October over sexual assault allegations, and Evan Solomon, host of Power & Politics, was fired in June after it was alleged he used his position to broker art deals.
Lang, who moved to the CBC in 2009 from the Business News Network, came under scrutiny in January after the media criticism site Canadaland reported on her intervention in CBC coverage of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
Lang, it was revealed, had challenged CBC investigative reporter Kathy Tomlinson in 2013 over a report on RBC’s outsourcing of work. During a conference call among CBC journalists, Lang disagreed with the investigation’s conclusions and the exchange between her and Tomlinson was “confrontational,” a report from the CBC ombudsman later concluded.
On The National, Lang conducted an interview with then RBC president Gordon Nixon, in which he dismissed the investigation’s conclusions. Without advising her bosses, she wrote a column in The Globe and Mail defending the outsourcing of labour and calling the whole controversy “a sideshow.”
Two years later, the incident would generate a flurry of complaints to the CBC after it was reported that at the time of her clash with Tomlinson, Lang was romantically involved with RBC board member Geoffrey Beattie and had been scheduled to give a paid speaking engagement at a conference sponsored by RBC and the outsourcing company mentioned in Tomlinson’s report. (That engagement was later cancelled.)
In a review published last May, CBC ombudsman Esther Enkin said Lang’s involvement in the RBC coverage was a violation of CBC policy. The fact that Lang was in a relationship “with a member of the board of directors of the very bank under scrutiny” made her interview with Nixon problematic, Enkin wrote.
“The demands of open and transparent journalism and the potential for the perception of conflict of interest were real and present,” she concluded. “It is unfortunate that a journalist with Ms. Lang’s seniority did not understand that at the time, nor was she as aware as she needed to be about the fact that CBC’s own policy says employees are obliged to bring any potential conflict to management’s attention.”
In response to the controversy surrounding paid speaking engagements by Lang and others, including The National anchor Peter Mansbridge, the CBC in January barred its on-air journalists from accepting money for speeches.
In a January column in The Globe and Mail, Lang defended herself against the allegation of an ethical lapse. She said her intervention in the 2013 report on the Royal Bank reflected her opinion — “a consequence of my time and experience as a business reporter” — that the initial story was flawed.
“I’m not sure how to convince people that my principles, integrity and career are fundamentally important to me, that I have no trouble understanding right from wrong and reporting honestly and independently,” she wrote.
HarperCollins announced Tuesday that Lang’s followup to her 2012 bestseller, The Power of Why, will be published in the fall of 2016.
The book will focus on “the virtue of discomfort,” advising businesses how pain can be beneficial. “That requires us to let ourselves live with ambiguity, and hard truths, in a way that we aren’t wired for,” Lang said in a news release.
With files from Jake Edmiston