4. When is a Jump Justified?

Jump interviews should be a last resort, after all other interview options have been tried, according to many reporters and producers interviewed for this story. Otherwise, they warn, journalists risk damage to their credibility when coming across as unnecessarily combative or unfair. As Dean Jobb points out, journalists should “treat sources and the subjects of stories with respect. They [should] think about how the public will judge their methods.” [1]

“One of the keys is for the reporter not to come across as predatory,” says Ron Waksman, a senior director and head of standards and practices at Global News. “These kinds of interviews we do because there’s no alternative. We have tried emails, we’ve tried phone calls.” That’s even easier these days, because, Waksman says, journalists can contact sources by many means, including phone calls, emails and social media accounts, before resorting to a jump. [2]

If repeated attempts at a conventional interview have failed, it’s likely because a source doesn’t want to talk. The majority of jump interviews lead to a “no comment,” or an outright refusal to engage with a reporter. [3]

So why bother trying at all? Jim Williamson, the current Executive Producer for the fifth estate, says it’s sometimes just as important to get the question on film as it is to get the answer: 

Some jump interviews yield substantive results. Others don’t. But the latter could still make for compelling television. As in the case of Sharon Stevens, footage can be dramatic if the source becomes visibly agitated or upset.

The fifth estate‘s Gillian Findlay says that in recent years, she has become less interested in using jump interviews:

Like Findlay, Waksman is hesitant to use jump footage purely because it’s good TV. Drama alone does not justify an ambush, he says:

In short, a journalist’s motives for filming a jump interview must be checked. Have all other attempts at a conversation failed? Is there real hope of a substantial response? Is it relevant to the public interest? Is it important that the viewer sees a question being posed?

Or is the interview only valuable because it’s good theatre?

These considerations would all be important to the fifth estate team as they investigated the case of Donzel Young.

Next: The Wrongful Conviction of Donzel Young

Works Cited

[1] Dean Jobb, Media Law for Canadian Journalists (Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications, 2011), 412.
[2] Ron Waksman, interview by Sam Colbert and Simon Bredin, December 11, 2014. Unpublished.
[3] Jim Williamson, interview by Sam Colbert, Simon Bredin and Arielle Piat-Sauve, December 11, 2014. Unpublished.