Journal de Montréal: One year later

I was going to have a whole deal about the first anniversary of the Journal de Montréal lockout, but it seems everyone else had the same idea, and most of them are more interesting and better produced than whatever I could come up with.

Rue Frontenac, of course, goes all out. Besides Bertrand Raymond’s retirement, there’s a really well-produced video from Alain Décarie and Olivier Jean about the first year of Rue Frontenac. Gabrielle Duchaine has a timeline of events, and Duchaine and Valérie Dufour keep it fresh with news stories about pressure from the Fédération professionelle des journalistes du Québec and politicians for the government to step in and put an end to this conflict.

La Presse’s Louise Leduc also has a dossier on the topic, with articles about the negotiations, concerns about the quality of journalism being produced by the Journal, and about the emotional impact of the lockout on staff.

In other media, a bit of acknowledgement: an article at Radio-Canada.ca about the FPJQ’s demands, a story in The Gazette, a 15-minute discussion with two locked-out journalists at Corus radio, and Quebecor-owned TVA throws up a Presse Canadienne piece. Philippe Gohier of Macleans’s Deux Maudits Anglais translates Pierre-Karl Péladeau’s recent rant about the threat of unions (which has caused a lot of reaction) and points out how disingenuous it is.

A bus driver reads the Journal de Montréal at a red light a year after the paper's journalists were locked out

But the most interesting piece to me is this one by Patrick Bellerose (the only person I’ve seen to bring anything original to Quebec89.com) that asks the simple question: Why are people still reading the Journal de Montréal?

It seems so simple, but this is the first I’ve seen any journalist covering this conflict actually talking to people on the street about it. And their answers are mostly the same: They read it because it’s there. They know about the lockout, but they don’t really care.

If Rue Frontenac is really going to succeed as a pressure tactic, that’s the sentiment that they’re going to have to change.

UPDATE: Projet J has an audio interview with Raynald Leblanc.

28 thoughts on “Journal de Montréal: One year later

  1. wkh

    It’s just my opinion that if a company can function just fine for a year of lockout (did you know there are actually people who have NO IDEA the JdM is on lockout? I mean hey they still produce a paper every day) that the union is largely ineffective and pointless. I mean what’s to stop them from doing this FOREVER?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The issue is a bit more complex than that. The Journal is still publishing because of all the help it gets from the Quebecor empire: 24 Heures and other publications produce local news, a Sun Media pagination centre lays out the pages, freelancers for the Journal and for Sun Media write columns. Some of this may be against the spirit – if not the letter – of Quebec’s anti-scab laws.

      Now you can argue that Quebec should be laissez-faire when it comes to labour and remove any legal protections that unions enjoy, but that might have some scary consequences too, especially in a field like journalism where lots of people are willing to work for nothing or close to it.

      Reply
      1. Jean Naimard

         

        Now you can argue that Quebec should be laissez-faire when it comes to labour and remove any legal protections that unions enjoy, but that might have some scary consequences too, especially in a field like journalism where lots of people are willing to work for nothing or close to it.

        That would not last long, at least for journalists. If journalists become precarious workers, they will manage to pass-on their concerns to the population. This is why Pédaleau’s lock-out is ultimately counterproductive, because the journalists there will be less willing to become mere mouthpieces of the filthy rich…

        Reply
      2. wkh

        I’m not arguing that. I’m just saying that to me it presents a problem when a business can move on and function entirely normally and produce the exact same product as before when a year long lock out has been in place. It says to me the protections given to workers vis a vis the unions aren’t working.

        That said…

        Wow I might be opening up a nasty cat fight here, but let’s face it, JdM readers aren’t exactly the type to really care now are they? JdM was handed out to my class in French immersion for immigrants because it was a beginner level simple read. No, really. I remember fuming and wanting to grow up and read Le Devoir just like my smart French friends. Reading JdM was something you did in private. (Why yes, I was hanging out and married to vastly over educated Francosnobs!). To this day, I wince when my current husband picks up the JdM to read when we go to Harvey’s. So yeah I’m gonna say it, I just don’t think the average JdM reader is sophisticated enough to give a shit.

        PS
        I can read Le Devoir now but I get headaches from trying too hard. La Presse is cool though.

        Reply
        1. Jim J.

          JdM readers aren’t exactly the type to really care now are they…So yeah I’m gonna say it, I just don’t think the average JdM reader is sophisticated enough to give a shit.

          Well, now that you’ve uncovered the elephant in the room for all to see, I’ll have to chime in and agree with this. Admittedly, I’m not a frequent (or even occasional) JdM reader, but my intuition is that JdM is basically the Toronto Sun, in French. Populist, soft nationalist, written for people who didn’t get beyond Secondary V. Not exactly the types who are going to devote a lot of deep and critical thinking to management-labor relations.

          To put it another way, when Allo Police folded in what, 2004?, those readers didn’t exactly migrate over to Le Devoir now, did they?

          At the same time, it may be possible that reader demographic is exactly the same people who belong to a union – most likely, a blue-collar union – but they may be more focused on their own jobs, rather than what’s going on over at a so-called “professional” union.

          Reply
          1. Fagstein Post author

            The difference between the Sun(s) and the Journal (besides the Sunshine Girls) is that the Journal is the most-read paper in Montreal, and while it’s populist and sensational and filled with fluff and faits divers, it also has a lot of serious reporting, and (because of its high readership) the budget to employ a lot of journalists to uncover a lot of stories.

            Of course, that last point is moot now.

            Reply
        2. Jean Naimard

          I can read Le Devoir now but I get headaches from trying too hard. La Presse is cool though.

          Must be because Le Devoir is “separatist” and La Praïsse (le quotidien français le plus épais d’Amérique) is federalist…(Duck — runs)

          Reply
    2. Heather H.

      It can’t last forever because right now, the JdM management team which fills the pages work 60 hours a week, and aren’t allowed to take time off during the conflict. The paper lost at least 20 per cent of its circulation, but made-up for it by distributing the paper mostly for free. The union reports that TONS of copies are piled-up every morning in strategic locations around the city.

      Advertizing revenues dropped by about $20 million dollars. Journalisticaly, the Journal failed to break a single major story over the last year. Its scab reporters are shunned and boycotted everywhere. Sports fans, their bread-and-butter, have abandoned the Journal in favor of La Presse.

      It’s a war of nerves, NOT a new business model.

      Reply
  2. Jim J.

    Why are people still reading the Journal de Montréal?

    If you can’t conceive an answer to this question on your own, it only demonstrates how blinded you are by union rhetoric.

    It’s almost as if you can’t accept that “ordinary” people don’t sympathize with union members who get a nice pay scale, more than decent working hours, job security, guaranteed wages and wage increases, and the right to file a grievance if someone in management asks them to help out with any other function that isn’t in their contractual, narrowly defined job description.

    …and, in my opinion, it punishes any rank-and-file employee who wants to show initiative, or willingness to go beyond their job description, or any other display that breaks with “solidarity” and subjects them to subtle and not-so-subtle reprisals from their fellow union members.

    Oh, and did I mention that employees are required to be in the union, and to fork over union dues, even if they disagree with the union’s tactics and own internal workings and politics?

    Yeah, why are people still reading the JdM? It really does boggle the mind.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      It’s almost as if you can’t accept that “ordinary” people don’t sympathize with union members

      But they’re not reading the Journal out of some solidarity with Quebecor or because they dislike unions, they’re doing it because they don’t care about the employees, and they don’t care that most of the local news and almost all of the original reporting has disappeared from it. That’s also true of the freesheets like Metro, but you don’t have to pay for those.

      … it punishes any rank-and-file employee who wants to show initiative, or willingness to go beyond their job description

      Does it? Is there some clause in their contract that punishes someone who wants to “show initiative”? Other than doing someone else’s job, which would certainly annoy me if I was that other person, I can’t imagine many contracts that would “punish” people for doing more work – provided they’re paid for it.

      Oh, and did I mention that employees are required to be in the union, and to fork over union dues, even if they disagree with the union’s tactics and own internal workings and politics?

      They’re also required to receive that “nice pay scale” and other benefits you mention. I never hear anyone complaining about that. If the majority of members disagree with the politics of a union, they can change that. Otherwise, they’re in the minority, and they have to accept that.

      And hey, if you don’t like it, you can always work for them as a freelancer. No silly union or salary or benefits to deal with.

      Reply
      1. Jim J.

        Is there some clause in their contract that punishes someone who wants to “show initiative”?

        That is a complete mischaracterization of what I wrote. As someone who is required to pay union dues (and yes, I benefit from the pay scale), I see a marked lack of initiative among a large number of my co-workers, who oftentimes will make snide comments if they see others who are doing anything more than what is expected of them. I imagine that a journalism union is no different.

        It is not the contract that punishes, but rather the culture of “solidarity” that unions try to promote among their members. Such culture discourages people from doing anything other than the narrow confines of their job description which, incidentally, makes it difficult for anyone to get promoted other than by the ‘seniority’ route, which is, to be blunt, bullshit.

        If the majority of members disagree with the politics of a union, they can change that. Otherwise, they’re in the minority, and they have to accept that.

        What if you disagree with the whole culture? That unions discourage meritocracy and promote complacency and doing the bare minimum? Hey, raises for everyone next year; doesn’t matter if you’re in the top 20% or bottom 20%. That is what punishes those who show initiative and rewards those who show ineptitude.

        you can always work for them as a freelancer. No silly union or salary or benefits to deal with.

        No third option for you, is there? How about that I’d like to have a permanent job on which I am judged by my own individual performance, rewarded accordingly, and those who can’t (or won’t, or don’t) perform, are rewarded accordingly? None of this garbage about filing grievances, or raises regardless of performance, or all that – rather, you are evaluated, rewarded, given opportunities to advance even though someone is more ‘senior’ than you, and we can all be judged as individuals.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          I imagine that a journalism union is no different.

          Don’t make assumptions. Unions aren’t all alike. A blue collar union, for example, is very different from a professional trade union.

          makes it difficult for anyone to get promoted other than by the ‘seniority’ route, which is, to be blunt, bullshit.

          I don’t know of a single union that requires promotion by seniority alone. Pay scale raises yes (to meet cost of living increases), but not promotion to a different job.

          How about that I’d like to have a permanent job

          “Permanent job” sounds like you want job security. The only way to enforce that is through a union. And if you don’t want job security, then you don’t want a permanent job.

          And as for rewards, nothing stops employers from handing out bonuses, raises or other rewards to any employee of their choosing. The problem is that most employers don’t do that, preferring to stick to the minimums set forth by the collective agreement. It’s as much a fault of management as it is the union.

          Reply
  3. Kevin

    And that’s the problem innit? We work in a field with hundreds of starving newcomers willing to undercut us at a moment’s notice, and the readers/audience DON’T CARE.

    Reply
  4. Jim J.

    We work in a field with hundreds of starving newcomers willing to undercut us at a moment’s notice, and the readers/audience DON’T CARE.

    Just thinking out loud here, but maybe it’s because the vast majority of people perceive (and correctly so, in my opinion) that journalists are not nuclear engineers, or heart surgeons, or firefighters, or nurses, or workers who have a really identifiable, valuable, and specific skill set, other than writing – and there are lots of journalists don’t even do that particularly well. And, standing behind you, are copy editors to clean up writing mistakes, fact-checkers to correct all the things you get wrong.

    The reasons that people are lining up to undercut journalists, for example, is the exact same reason that people aren’t lining up to undercut heart surgeons, or nuclear engineers. ‘Cause most people think that anyone can pretty much do it. (I would say that about 98% of the time, they’re absolutely correct.)

    I have this constantly increasing level of amazement that journalists somehow think that they are somehow special; whereas, in my (and, I think, many others’) opinion, you’re much more analogous to a guy attaching lug nuts to a Toyota on an assembly line, or a clerk who processes and stamps purchasing orders in a government office, or a bus driver.

    Reply
        1. Heather H.

          Media pay scales are nearly identical. La Presse reporters earn roughly the same as those at The Gazette, Journal de Montréal, CTV, CBC, Radio-Canada etc.

          And the payscale may sound yummy when you see that the top echelon is $90 000. But it’s worth noting that this high-end salary is reserved for very senior section editors or producers. Entry-level salaries begin at around $40 000 (and you’re unlikely to get a decent media job these days without at least a Masters), and it can take up to 15 years to reach an average of $75 000.

          Truckers at Molson actually earn more than that.

          Reply
          1. Jean Naimard

            Truckers at Molson actually earn more than that.

            ¿Duh? Well, yes, of course. Molçon truckers perform a much more valuable service to the bourgeois than journalists: they scoot about the Molçon beer that has so much to do with the dulling of the population so it will not get interested by politics and start electing politicians that would pursue the people’s interests (journalists would tend to, by unearthing scandals, make people get interested in politics)!!!

            Reply
          2. Jim J.

            Entry-level salaries begin at around $40 000

            Not to belabor the point, but what specific skill set and training do journalists have that you feel should result in a higher starting salary?

            Not to mention, what investment have you made? Have you spent several post-graduate years in medical school? Or law school? Or maybe dentistry?

            Did you opt for post-secondary education in a specialized, professional field, such as nursing or engineering or archictecture or information management?

            What about specialized vocational training, such as, say, welding or carpentry? A pretty competent plumber, I imagine, makes more starting salary than a journalists, especially after their apprenticeship phase.

            I’m still interested in the unanswered question: what is it, precisely, that journalists think makes them special? To my mind, it’s the refuge for people who got a B.A. in English literature or sociology.

            I mean, you went into this field, knowing full well (or, if you didn’t know, then that points to shoddy research skills right off the bat) that the barriers to entry to this so-called “profession” are pretty damned low, and now you’re complaining that others are crowding into the field and undercutting salaries? And for these newcomers that are making your life so hard, are they – on the whole – any less qualified than you were when you first started in this field? I’m going to imagine not.

            Reply
  5. Fagstein Post author

    Not to belabor the point, but what specific skill set and training do journalists have that you feel should result in a higher starting salary?

    None, which is why journalists don’t have a higher starting salary. Most starting journalists are paid peanuts – $25,000 a year maybe – working at some small-town paper or radio station. If they’re really lucky, they’ll end up at a big, professional news outlet and get an average, middle-class salary.

    I’m not saying people at the Gazette or Journal are living in cardboard boxes, but they’re not taking helicopters to work either.

    Reply
    1. Jim J.

      Okay, so I’ll go out on a limb here and say that we agree that journalists’ starting salaries are neither overly high nor overly low.

      However, if there exists concern among people already working in the field that people are crowding into the “profession” and driving salaries lower as a result, I’m going to say that is an efficient functioning of the market, and a reflection that the job is perceived as relatively low-skill (in relation to some of the professions I mentioned in earlier posts) and, as a result, should be low(er)-paying.

      Reply
      1. Jean Naimard

        However, if there exists concern among people already working in the field that people are crowding into the "profession" and driving salaries lower as a result, I’m going to say that is an efficient functioning of the market, and a reflection that the job is perceived as relatively low-skill (in relation to some of the professions I mentioned in earlier posts) and, as a result, should be low(er)-paying.

        Now I’m disappointed. I thought the english had a firm grasp of elementary economics (after all, they told us for 250 years that we are too stupid and don’t know anything about money to run our own country).
        What determines what salaries are paid is not the amount of training it takes, but simply the value the job has for the employer.
        That’s why snake-oil salesmen can rake oodles of money just for bullshitting and selling their crap…

        Reply
        1. Jim J.

          What determines what salaries are paid is not the amount of training it takes, but simply the value the job has for the employer.

          If your assertion is correct, you should be able to provide at least an example or two of a job that requires lots of training, but isn’t valuable to the employer and, hence, is paid very low. Or, an example of a job that requires very little training but is very valuable to the employer and, hence, is paid very high. (This second one is somewhat easier, as I describe later.)

          Despite your best efforts to portray it that way, this isn’t an either-or. It is axiomatic that if a job requires more training (vocational, post-secondary, post-graduate, whatever), then it’s almost always going to be more valuable for the employer.

          That’s why nuclear engineers are paid better than, say, workers who cut hair in a beauty salon.

          There are certain notable exceptions for really unpleasant jobs, such as people who clean up crime scenes or apartments where the resident died 3 months ago and no one noticed – not a ton of preparatory job training, but it does require a strong stomach and it pays pretty well, all things considered. Sanitation workers tend to be paid pretty well, also. There are also exceptions for certain dangerous jobs, but those can require a lot of on-the-job training. One immediate example that springs to mind is the sandhogs in New York City who dig underground tunnels for their waterworks system.

          Reply
      2. Fagstein Post author

        The problem isn’t so much that journalists are worried that market forces are driving salaries down (although nobody wants their own salary to drop), but that the market and short-sighted greed will drive the quality of journalism down in an effort to save money.

        If you want to see what kind of journalism that comes out of the “efficient functioning of the market”, go look at Examiner.com, Suite101.com or those community weeklies from Transcontinental. They pay nothing or close to it, and it shows.

        Reply
        1. Jean Naimard

          that the market and short-sighted greed will drive the quality of journalism down in an effort to save money.

          Wakeup-check: the same market & greed has also driven down the quality of pretty much everything else, too…

          Reply
  6. Castala

    And most of their readers don’t pay it.
    Quebecor did the same thing in Quebec City during the 14 months’ lock-out at the Journal de Québec in 2007-2008. They we’re throwing tons of free copies on the streets, to mainting its circulation numbers.
    But you’re right. And I guess the option of publishing a free daily news like union’s people did in Quebec was a better way to confront the empire than a website.
    At the end, “MediaMatin Quebec” was full of ads and still pleasant to read.
    And I will quote and old reporter that once said, in a FNC-CSN meeting: “I was in a camping somewhere in Western Canada, and someone had written this on the wall:
    There are so many examples of very popular products that are just crap.
    I know, I’m a snob.

    Reply
    1. Castala

      There’s a part of my previous quote who’s missing.
      My collegue saw on this wall: “Eat shit! After all, one million flies cannot be wrong!”

      Reply
  7. Jean Naimard

    Quebecor did the same thing in Quebec City during the 14 months’ lock-out at the Journal de Québec in 2007-2008. They we’re throwing tons of free copies on the streets, to mainting its circulation numbers.

    How about Zie Gazette*, which is also distributed for free. Almost everytime I go to my girlfriend’s and get in/out of the métro at Lionel-Groulx, there is a guy who hands out free copies to people (getting on/off the 211)?
    If I were subscribed, I’d be a bit miffed about that…
     
    * Daß Monträlrhödesische Zeitung

    Reply

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