Posted in Media, Montreal

Monitor vs. Citoyen: Lots of whining, little journalism

NDG Monitor

Back in March, after the NDG Monitor shut down its print operation after 83 years and decided to go online-only to save costs, the borough of Côte-des-Neiges-NDG relaunched its borough newsletter Le Citoyen to make it more newspaper-like. The Monitor’s Toula Foscolos took this as a direct attack on freedom of the press and blasted the paper in a (now-online) column.

Two weeks ago, she did it again, criticizing the paper for being a mouthpiece of the government (which it is).

This prompted a nasty response from borough spokesperson Michel Therrien, saying Foscolos is bitter about the Monitor shutting down and is taking it out on the borough (via Andy Riga). His letter in turn prompted a nasty response from Foscolos, who said it’s her job to criticize the borough newsletter.

Both sides are being a bit childish here. A government official complaining that a newspaper is too critical is kind of absurd on its face, no matter what they may think the journalist’s motives are. But Foscolos’s response, which talks about how the paper’s number changed and that’s why she didn’t get his messages, sounds like the kind of stuff I used to hear from student politicians who thought it better to have an hour-long public screaming match about miscommunication than a two-minute phone call that would have resolved the issue.

What annoys me is that with all the bitter exchanges back and forth (Foscolos is helped out by supportive letters she publishes from her readers) is that the Monitor and Le Citoyen are basically the same. Both of them republish press releases without commentary, write fluff stories about community events and do little original journalism – Le Citoyen because that’s not its function, and the Monitor because it doesn’t have the budget to report. Instead of spending what little precious time she has doing original reporting, Foscolos leafs through the borough newsletter and complaining that it’s not a newspaper.

This city already has enough self-important blowhards who nitpick the media instead of doing original reporting. It doesn’t need more.

One thought on “Monitor vs. Citoyen: Lots of whining, little journalism

  1. Toula

    From one blowhard to another…

    I have a love-hate relationship with your blog, Steve, and, while I usually just limit myself to chuckling when reading it and move on to the other more important things, this time I am forced to respond because I find your analysis of the situation a tad simplistic.

    First off, my latest column did more than simply criticize Le Citoyen for being a mouthpiece for the current administration. That’s old news. My main intent was to criticize the mayor for promoting BIXI bikes and cycling paths while NOT promoting the use of helmets. I find that irresponsible.

    I agree with you that my response to Mr. Therrien’s letter was a lengthy one, but I felt it important to clarify to him and to readers WHY he had not received a response. I do not like to be accused of ignoring someone who is trying to reach me, whether it be a reader or someone calling to berate me.

    You are certainly entitled to your ‘take’ on things, but what I do take strong exception to is the fact that you compare Le Citoyen and The Monitor and deem them as the same. Hardly!

    Do we publish press releases? You bet! Hence why those stories don’t have a BYLINE. They are simply meant to quickly inform readers of an event in their community. If it merits further investigation, a reporter is assigned to the story. If it doesn’t, a simple announcement is all that’s required. What you so flippantly refer to as “fluff stories” many residents love to read and, in my opinion, are at the core of community reporting. As for investigative reporting, we do as much as our budget will allow for – no more or less than other community papers, as far as I can tell. You may deem it insufficient, but it still doesn’t stop many other “more reputable” news sites from culling our little news stories and using them as a starting point for their in-depth stories.

    Despite the many limitations you seem to find with The Monitor, we strive to present ALL points of view and cover ALL angles, something that Le Citoyen does not and never will.

    As for continuing the feud by publishing, as you seem to imply, only the letters in my support, I would be more than happy to publish any letter in support of Mr. Therrien. I’m simply waiting for one.

    I also find it rather funny that in previous blogs about The Monitor you seem to begrudge our website the fact that a good chunk of our content comes from other Transcontinental websites. Does the company that you work for not do the same? What is cross-posted is what is deemed of general interest to all readers – no matter where they reside. What’s wrong with that? It isn’t there to take the place of local news. It simply supplements it.

    Yes, I know… extremely long, once again.
    My apologies…

    Toula

    Reply

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