Tag Archives: FPJQ

Posted in Media

Radio-Canada dominates Judith Jasmin award nominations

Apparently unaware that Friday isn’t the day to announce things you want actually covered, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec announced on Friday the nominees for its seven annual Judith Jasmin awards.

The awards, considered the most prestigious in Quebec journalism, will be handed out at the FPJQ’s annual conference in St. Sauveur on Nov. 17.

Radio-Canada dominates the nominations, with nine overall and at least one in every category except opinion. Five of the nominations are reports done for Enquête, the rest for regular Téléjournal newscasts. La Presse and L’actualité also have multiple nominations with three each. Other nominees are Le Devoir, Le Droit, Jobboom, MSN.ca, La Voix de l’Est and The Gazette, all with one each.

Quebecor media outlets are notable in their absence (except for Jobboom), either because they never submitted stories or because what was submitted wasn’t nominated.

The nominees are below, along with links to the reports where they are available online so you can read or watch them yourself.

Entrevue / Portrait

Journalisme de service

Enquête

Nouvelles – Médias nationaux

Opinion

Nouvelles – Médias locaux et régionaux

Grand reportage

Posted in Media, Opinion

I don’t want to be a professional journalist

Members of the Fédération professionelle des journalistes du Québec are being asked to vote today until Thursday on a proposition to establish the “title” of “professional journalist”, in an effort to improve journalists’ working conditions and give them more power to maintain their integrity.

The goal is a laudable one. But here’s why they should vote “no”:

When the FPJQ first decided to consider this idea in the fall, I wrote a blog post panning the idea. I picked apart the argument for creating a professional journalist status, as well as the supposed perks having such a status would give people. I also criticized the examples given of France and Belgium, where such statuses exist but whose media environments aren’t nearly the same as ours.

My primary concern wasn’t so much that journalists were getting more rights, but that these rights would be given only to those people deemed worthy of them.

Journalism has existed as we know it for decades without needing any type of formal accreditation system. So, I asked, why should we establish one now? What problem is it solving?

Still, because a big study on the issue hadn’t been released, I held off on a final judgment. Maybe it would convince me that I’d been wrong, that the perceived disadvantages of such an accreditation system would be vastly outweighed by the positives.

The famous report (PDF) from Dominique Payette came out in January.

I remain unconvinced.

Is this necessary?

It’s very clear from the material being shared with members that the FPJQ wants people to vote yes. There’s no effort at balance in the arguments here. No space given to the possible downsides of separating “professional” journalists from non-professional ones.

The Payette report into the state of journalism is also heavily biased in favour of this system.

Payette’s argument is that convergence (read: Quebecor) and the ease with which people can share information have had a detrimental effect on journalism, and establishing a professional title (though not necessarily an order like we have for doctors or lawyers) would somehow help fix this problem.

Payette makes her case based on a statement early on in the report:

Depuis quelques années, on observe au Québec une réduction du nombre de producteurs d’informations originales d’intérêt public, et ce, malgré la multiplication des plateformes de diffusion.

No source is provided for this statement, nor is it made clear who is doing the observing here. Yes, many newsrooms are smaller than they once were. But we also have many more newsrooms than we used to have, and lots of people are using different forms of media to get their message across. Is there really less original news of a public interest being produced? Has someone studied this to see if it’s actually the case?

Payette’s report notes that “l’information d’intérêt public est fragilisée par le développement de médias spécialisés ou de « niche »”, as if the creation of more specialized news sources is somehow a bad thing. I would argue the opposite, that instead of general-interest journalists learning the basics of an issue and giving a simplistic (and potentially wrong) explanation of it to the public, we now have experts in various fields willing to give in-depth analysis of issues.

Whether those experts are “journalists” is a good question.

The Internet and changing consumption habits have radically changed journalism. In some cases for the better, in some cases for the worse. That’s change, and we have to change with it.

But despite all the fretting about how journalists are being laid off and media empires are no longer what they once were, there’s little justification in the material I’ve read for the establishment of a massive bureaucracy that won’t actually regulate much.

Recommendations hard to swallow

Where Payette’s report gets really scary is in some of its recommendations. As I said in the previous post, some of the ideas for benefits of the professional journalist status sound good but should be applied to everyone.

  • The protection of sources, for example, should apply to anyone whose protection of a source is for a journalistic reason, not just someone who has a card saying they’re a journalist.
  • Preferential treatment for access to information requests would make a lot of journalists happy, but would hurt those who don’t have journalist status and want to get information. In many cases, non-journalists making access to information requests want to get data on themselves or a family member, and their needs are much more important to them than a journalist’s curiosity. And, of course, there are cases that gum up the system that come from journalists themselves. Quebecor’s massive access dump on the CBC, for instance, would now be given preferential treatment and make the problem even worse. (Thankfully, a suggestion that journalists’ A-to-I requests all be free of charge has been dropped.)

Then there are the recommendations that are just crazy:

  • Allowing journalists to leave work and take full paid leave of up to a year because they don’t believe their working conditions allow them to be fully ethical is just asking for years of litigation.
  • Restricting government advertising to Quebec Press Council members would create all sorts of problems. Could governments no longer advertise on billboards or on Métrovision or on specialty channels because they aren’t run by people who employ journalists?
  • Changing the law to prevent anyone who has been libelled from seeking any damages from media who follow standard policies about corrections gives those media less of an incentive to stop libelling people. I’m not suggesting that people should be able to sue for millions because of what’s written in the paper about them, but people who are wronged by the media (for example, being accused of a crime when they haven’t even been charged) deserve compensation.
  • Setting up a 1-800 number for the Quebec Press Council so people can get ethics advice sounds like a really stupid idea and a giant waste of money.
  • Requiring all professional journalists to pass a French language test and get regular French language training not only ignores the fact that that not all journalism in Quebec is done in French, but it also sounds like its goal is more about politics than it is about journalism. (The Suburban clearly wasn’t happy with this suggestion.) The report makes a case that language skills are vital to proper communication (though I don’t think too many people are failing to be informed because of journalists’ quality of French), but there are no similar recommendations for other skills journalists should have, like math, basic science or history.

The FPJQ’s vote isn’t necessarily to accept all the recommendations of the report, but this entire project is based on that report, and the association hasn’t rejected any of the ideas above.

The Payette report isn’t all bad. There are some decent recommendations here:

  • Allow freelance journalists to negotiate on a level playing field and ensure their contracts have a minimum standard
  • Allow journalists to represent themselves at access to information hearings, as non-journalists are allowed to do
  • Increase support for small regional independent media (through government handouts or other measures)
  • Having the government follow an open data policy and put raw data online as much as possible
  • Forcing municipalities to publish publicly-accessible documents online and provide adequate public notice of council meetings and their agendas

But none of these in any way require the establishment of a title of professional journalist.

Better or worse for new media

Some bloggers and independent journalists are praising the idea, thinking they will improve their working conditions. Nathalie Collard of La Presse went down to South by Southwest and concluded her vision of the media universe contrasted radically with the visions of young media entrepreneurs.

Criticism from journalists has unfortunately been very little. Most are quiet about it, perhaps unsure of their opinions. Some support the idea (like Le Soleil’s Pierre-Paul Noreau). Some hate it (like The Suburban and The Gazette – which makes it seem as if there’s a language divide here, but Voir’s Jérôme Lussier is critical too). Some don’t think this has been properly thought out. Le Devoir’s Josée Boileau asks the simple question: then what?

That’s a big question. The reports and recommendations kind of skip over the most important question of why this is even necessary, preferring to spend most of their time discussing how it would work (and even then, many of the not-unimportant details are left until later).

Some make a false comparison between independent journalists and artists. But this proposal wouldn’t establish a union for journalists, and artists don’t have a title or the same kind of ethics code that would be so vital for journalists.

Conflict of interest

The FPJQ is obviously in favour of this project, because it would give a legal status to the federation. It says people wouldn’t have to be members of the FPJQ to get official journalist status, but only members could elect FPJQ executives who decide who sits on the council that decides who can become a journalist.

The Quebec Press Council, a separate body whose membership is voluntary and whose powers are practically non-existent, also embraces Payette’s report. That might have something to do with the six-figure government handouts she wants the council to receive.

Judging from the fact that a preliminary proposal was approved unanimously at the FPJQ’s annual meeting, it’s likely this vote will also pass with a huge margin. Only FPJQ members are allowed to vote (and I’m not one of them), even though the decision – if it moves the government to action – would affect every journalist working in Quebec.

Then again, as far as this blog is concerned, whether I’m really a journalist could be up for debate soon.

UPDATE (April 6): Nathalie Collard has a letter from Le Devoir’s Louis-Gilles Francoeur saying he’s voting against this idea, not because he opposes having the title of “professional journalist”, but because he opposes having the FPJQ (as opposed to the press council) be the one to administer it.

UPDATE (Nov. 16): Disagreements over who should administer this scheme has resulted in the FPJQ being less than enthusiastic, and could mean abandoning the project.

Posted in Media

FPJQ award winners (with links)

Last weekend, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec held its annual meeting and journalism conference in Montreal, and part of that is handing out its annual awards for the best in Quebec journalism.

As usual, media reports about these awards are heavily based on whether those news outlets won any of those awards, as you can see from these gloating pieces:

As is usual with these kinds of awards, neither the list of Judith Jasmin prize nominees nor the list of winners included links to the articles or broadcast pieces in question. (It’s a problem I pointed out three years ago and many times since.) So I will attempt to provide them here.

Winners in each category are listed first, with their names bolded.

Prix Judith Jasmin

Prix Hommage

The Prix Judith Jasmin Hommage, honouring a career of achievement in journalism, went to Paule Beaugrand-Champagne, who has worked for various media outlets and is now retired. She was in the news recently for a piece in L’Actualité about the Journal de Montréal, written from the perspective of a former editor-in-chief who’s not pleased with the way the business is run these days. She has been previously profiled in Trente.

Grand Prix Judith Jasmin

  • Alain Gravel, Marie-Maude Denis, Emmanuel Marchand, Claudine Blais: «Collusion frontale» (Enquête/Radio-Canada).

Journalisme de service

  • Annick Poitras: «Comment vieillir riche» (L’actualité)
  • Pierre Craig, Claude Laflamme, Luc Tremblay: «Service à la clientèle» (La Facture/Radio-Canada)
  • Catherine Dubé: «Grippe A(H1N1), Tout savoir – Comment se protéger» (Québec Science)

Nouvelles / médias locaux et régionaux

Nouvelles / médias nationaux

Entrevue et Portrait

Opinion

Grand reportage

Chantal Guy happened to be in Haiti on Jan. 12, writing a story about author Dany Lafferière, when the earthquake struck. Despite being unprepared to cover a disaster zone, she turned into a news reporter and filed this story. Others followed after it over the next few days, until a team of journalists arrived from Montreal. You can read about her experience in this article, and find other stories about Haiti on La Presse’s Haiti page.

Enquête

Collusion frontale didn’t win in this category, but was given the Grand Prix.

It’s worth reading the FPJQ’s list of winners to see what stood out in the winning stories in each category.

Prix Antoine Désilets

The photography winners are always harder to track down, mostly because they’re poorly described and can’t be searched as easily as a headline on Google.

The winners are listed here, along with why they were chosen. All the finalists will be on display during expositions across Quebec, including one at the Maison de la culture Ahuntsic from Jan. 20 to Feb. 26.

Vie quotidienne

  • André Pichette, La Presse, for «Pluie désaltérante»
  • Normand Blouin, Reuters, Photo Solution
  • Marie-France Coallier, The Gazette
  • Yan Doublet, Le Soleil
  • Jacques Nadeau, Le Devoir

Nouvelles

  • Ivanoh Demers, La Presse, for a photo from Haiti
  • Normand Blouin, Reuters
  • David Boily, La Presse
  • Marco Campanozzi, The Gazette
  • Jacques Nadeau, Le Devoir
  • Philippe Renaud, Stigmat Photo

Photoreportage

Portrait

  • Sébastien St-Jean, ICI, for a photo of Denis Villeneuve.
  • Bernard Brault, La Presse
  • Alain Décarie, RueFrontenac.com
  • André Pichette, La Presse
  • Chantal Poirier, RueFrontenac.com
  • Alain Roberge, La Presse
  • François Roy, La Presse

Sports

  • Bernard Brault, La Presse
  • Judith Cailhier, Le Reflet
  • Benoît Gariépy, Journal de Québec
  • Olivier Jean, RueFrontenac.com
  • Daniel Mallard, Journal de Québec
  • André Pichette, La Presse

Multimédia

Other prizes and honours

  • The Bourse Arthur-Prévost, designed to encourage young journalists, went to Gabrielle Duchaine of Rue Frontenac, the second time in as many years that the bursary has gone to a journalist from the publication of locked-out workers of the Journal de Montréal. (Duchaine was also Rue Frontenac’s only nomination for a Judith Jasmin award, though there were two Antoine Désilets nominations for photographers. Though they didn’t win any of those awards, they can at least take comfort in the fact that the Journal de Montréal wasn’t nominated for anything.) Nancy Beaulieu, a journalist at La Voix de l’Est, got an honourable mention.
  • The Conseil supérieur de la langue française, which is independent of the FPJQ, handed out awards at the latter’s gala. Presse canadienne has a story. It gave its Prix Jules-Fournier for French language competence in print to Mélanie Saint-Hilaire, a freelance journalist who has worked for L’Actualité. L’Actualité links to some of her articles from here. The Prix Raymond-Charette, for broadcasting, went to Pierre Craig of Radio-Canada. Each prize is $5,000.
Posted in Media, Opinion

Show me your paper’s papers

It's not always so easy distinguishing journalists from the rest

At its general assembly on Nov. 28, the Fédération profesionnelle des journalistes du Québec will be debating a series of motions recommended by the organization’s executive committee. Among them is a demand for a parliamentary commission into the Journal de Montréal lockout, an update to its ethics guidelines to reflect the development of social media (a subject I’ve been invited to speak about at a panel discussion the day before), and a bill of rights for freelancers.

These things sound pretty good (though the wording of the demand for a parliamentary commission sounds like its goal is to get the government to publicly embarrass Quebecor and come down against the creation of the QMI Agency news service).

There’s also a motion to expand the definition of “Quebec”, as silly as that sounds, to include those media organizations that “étant établie au Canada, entretient avec le Québec des liens historiques et culturels“, which sounds a lot like they’ll accept francophone journalists from just about anywhere in Canada. I’m not necessarily against this, but it opens up a can of worms (will the FPJQ now have to deal with the Ontario and New Brunswick governments?) and reinforces the idea that there’s a French mediasphere and an English one, and the FPJQ is on the French side.

But the motion that really bothers me is a proposal to setup a certification system for journalists.

Continue reading

Posted in Media, Video

FPJQ conference video: behold the elegance

Projet J has uploaded two videos shot at the conference of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec held last month. The first video (above) asks the members present about the future of journalism, and has brief interviews with culture minister Christine St-Pierre and Dominique Payette, who will be doing a study into the status of media in Quebec.

The second video (below) focuses on the contested election for FPJQ president, eventually won by Le Devoir’s Brian Myles.

Perhaps I’m missing the big picture here, but the sight of journalists wining and dining at a fancy dinner while complaining about how poor they are doesn’t quite jive with me.

Neither does the B52s soundtrack.

Posted in Media

A study into Quebec media

Quebec culture minister Christine St-Pierre announced at the FPJQ conference that she has ordered a study be done on the future of media in Quebec. Dominique Payette, a professor at Université Laval and former journalist for Radio-Canada, has been put in charge of this study.

The scope seems to be pretty large, and could touch on everything from whether newspapers should be subsidized to whether the government should fund a news department at Télé-Québec. (My knee-jerk reaction to both would be “no”.)

Although the situation in Quebec media is different from the rest of the world (some would say we’re behind the times, which is a plus for newspapers and television networks), I don’t know if it’s so different that a study like this will bring any new insight into this debate that has already been over-analyzed by self-proclaimed experts all over the world.

More information at Le Devoir, Agence France-Presse (!) and Projet J, which has an interview with St-Pierre.

Posted in Media

FPJQ election: 3/4 for the unionists

The last big reveal of the conference of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, the election of president and board members, happened today, and it was mostly a victory for Martin Bisaillon and his pro-union group, even though Bisaillon himself pulled out of the race after the OMGSCANDAL.

  • For president, Brian Myles (Le Devoir), who replaced Bisaillon on the unofficial ticket, won against François Cardinal (La Presse).
  • For the “region” (i.e. not-Montreal) administrator, Michel Corbeil (Le Soleil) lost to Nathalie Deraspe (Accès Laurentides)
  • For the three other administrator posts, Isabelle Richer (Radio-Canada) and André Noël (La Presse) both won (because Myles ran for president, they only ran two candidates), along with Florent Daudens (Radio-Canada). Defeated were Yann Pineau (La Presse), Lise Millette (Presse Canadienne) and Maurice Giroux (Point Sud).
  • The post for freelancer was acclaimed, Nicolas Langelier being the only candidate.

These people will join vice-president Richard Bousquet (Rue Frontenac) and secretary-treasurer Philippe Schnobb (Radio-Canada) on the board. If we look at it from a straight party perspective, the unionists have two of five seats on the board and the presidency. Hardly a majority, but will this send a bad message to managers and media bosses in Quebec that the FPJQ is moving toward taking sides (even if they say the point is not to do so)?

Posted in Media

FPJQ award winners (with links)

Once again, journalists gathered together this weekend to pat each other on the back, handing out awards to honour the best of Quebec journalism over the past year.

And, as usual, La Presse and Radio-Canada were the big winners, and aren’t shy about showing it: La Presse, Radio-Canada. But Gesca’s Le Soleil and La Voix de l’Est also picked up awards, as did the Journal de St. François and H magazine. (Le Devoir also covered the awards even though it didn’t win any.)

The sole anglo winner is Sue Montgomery of The Gazette. And they’re very proud.

Since, like previous journalism awards announcements, nobody has thought to link news of the winners to the stories and photos they won for (Radio-Canada comes closest, linking only to its own reports), I’ve done so here for those I can find:

Prix Judith-Jasmin (writing)

See the FPJQ release for comments from the juries for each award

Prix Antoine-Désilets (photography)

See the FPJQ release for comments from the juries for each award

* Décarie’s photo was published before the lockout in January.

The 40 photos finalists will be on display at the Maison de la culture Ahuntsic – Cartierville from Jan. 14 to Feb. 20, 2010, as part of a tour of Quebec.

Other awards

Posted in Media, Opinion

When journalists become politicians

The race for the leadership of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, which is already being framed as unions vs. employers, is also causing a lot of journalists to campaign, and not just for themselves, like Nicolas Langelier.

Radio-Canada’s Philippe Schnobb wrote supporting the candidacy of François Cardinal, as did current president François Bourque, who (perhaps unethically) used the FPJQ’s website and internal means of communicating with its members to send not only a partisan message, but one that outright attacks one of the FPJQ’s own members and his bid for the presidency (he even went to the point of criticizing the guy’s Facebook status updates, which someone has posted online anonymously).

It’s not that I think Martin Bisaillon shouldn’t be judged based on his views, or that I agree with them, but this campaign got really dirty really fast, to the point of (anonymously) drudging up the angry Facebook updates of a guy who’s been locked out of his job for almost a year, as if it’s some sort of scandal that he’s on the wrong side of this legitimate debate.

Either way, it’ll be over this weekend, and these journalists can go back to shaking their heads at politicians who pull these kinds of things during campaigns.

On the happy side, meanwhile, the FPJQ’s magazine Le Trente has just launched its blog.

UPDATE: Like, as soon as I publish this, I read (on that same blog) that Bisaillon has pulled out of the FPJQ leadership race, citing these attacks as the main reason. Brian Myles of Le Devoir, who was running with Bisaillon, will throw his hat in for the president’s job against Cardinal.

Democracy in action, I suppose.

UPDATE (Nov. 13): Trente has an interview with the two (new) candidates for FPJQ president. François Cardinal, meanwhile, calls for a ceasefire in this ugly campaign.

Posted in Media

Should journalist associations take sides in union issues?

Next weekend, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec is holding its annual conference in Sherbrooke. Most journalists will be there for the seminars and workshops and other opportunities for training and networking that such a conference can provide. But these incentives are also a way for the FPJQ to get its members to show up to its annual meeting on Sunday to take care of the internal bureaucratic stuff, like electing a board of directors.

Normally that part is pretty boring, but this year, for the first time in longer than anyone can remember, the presidency of the association is being contested by more than one candidate.

On one side if Martin Bisaillon, a locked-out journalist with RueFrontenac.com, who would become the first FPJQ president locked out from his job as a journalist. He’s running on an unofficial slate that includes Brian Myles of Le Devoir, Isabelle Richer of Radio-Canada, André Noël of La Presse and Michel Corbeil of Le Soleil.

On the other side is François Cardinal, a columnist at La Presse. He’s not running with a team, but his candidacy was encouraged by current president François Bourque, who isn’t running again.

Though technically nominations are open until Saturday at 1 p.m., these are the only two expected candidates, and their platforms have been posted on the FPJQ’s website.

One issue

Bisaillon admits that his candidacy stems from a decision made by Bourque to criticize a proposed boycott by members of the National Assembly against journalists for the locked-out Journal de Montréal. Bourque said it would set a bad precedent for MNAs to dictate which journalists they would talk to and which they wouldn’t, and that such a boycott would go against the principles of freedom of the press that the FPJQ defends.

Bisaillon, who as a member of the locked-out Journal de Montréal staff has a clear vested interest in this debate, was harshly critical of that statement, which he interpreted as the FPJQ taking a stand against the union:

La Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec a suscité beaucoup de mécontentement ces derniers mois parmi ses membres, notamment en raison de la prise de position du président sortant sur le conflit de travail au Journal de Montréal. En janvier dernier, François Bourque s’était insurgé contre les députés qui disaient ne plus vouloir donner d’entrevue au Journal de Montréal en raison du lock-out décrété par Quebecor le 24 janvier.

Par cette prise de position, M. Bourque a rompu avec la tradition de neutralité de la FPJQ. Pis encore, son intervention a fait en sorte que les partis politiques à Québec se sont sentis libres de collaborer avec le Journal de Montréal en lock-out, alimentant ainsi un média privé de ses artisans. M. Bourque aurait du s’en tenir au principe de neutralité de la FPJQ dans ce dossier.

Les journalistes qui se présentent avec moi entendent maintenir cette neutralité comme valeur absolue. En revanche, nous ne pouvons pas ignorer la réalité qui nous heurte. Cette réalité est sombre : salles de presse atrophiées, lock-out ou menaces de lock-out, multiplication des blogueurs et autres «journalistes citoyens», banalisation de l’information au point d’en faire un objet de consommation.

Cardinal, while he doesn’t name Bisaillon in his platform directly, makes it clear that he doesn’t want the FPJQ getting involved in these issues and potentially alienating managers and media owners:

Imaginons maintenant une FPJQ plus radicale, une FPJQ qui se jette dans la mêlée, bref une FPJQ détournée de ses valeurs fondatrices. Aurait-elle la crédibilité nécessaire pour asseoir à une même table des groupes de presse aux intérêts divergents? Évidemment pas.

Certes, il y a du mécontentement au sein de la Fédération, avec raison. Appelée à réagir à chaud sur des dossiers extrêmement complexes et délicats, la FPJQ marche constamment sur des œufs, et en casse parfois. Ayant un large membership, elle déplaît à l’occasion à certains de ses membres, qui hélas s’y retrouvent moins.

What does neutral mean?

Both candidates say they want the FPJQ to be neutral in labour conflicts, but their interpretations of neutrality clearly differ. Bisaillon, a militant union man, thinks the association should sit quietly when the interests of unions and the interests of journalists are at odds (he does, however, think they should speak out against convergence, outsourcing and other issues that affect unions negatively). Cardinal apparently believes the association should ignore whether unions are at issue and focus on journalism and journalists first. (UPDATE: Cardinal clarifies his position via Twitter: “FPJQ doit s’impliquer lorsque la liberté de presse est menacée et que les journalistes ne peuvent plus travailler dans des conditions adéquates”)

The debate here is whether the FPJQ should support the interests of journalism or the interests of its members (most of whom are unionized). The answer isn’t obvious.

One insider emailed me this week to express concern about Bisaillon’s candidacy, worrying that union members would vote en masse for him and the association would be an extension of the unions, especially powerful ones like the Syndicat des travailleurs de l’information du Journal de Montréal.

On the federal level, the FPJQ’s best equivalent is the Canadian Association of Journalists, which frequently takes public stands on issues affecting media. In some cases, such as condemning job cuts at CTV and CBC, those could be seen as pro-union, but other issues it has stayed silent on, including the lockout at the Journal de Montréal.

There’s an instinctual force sometimes among unionized journalists (such as myself) to think that every union issue is also an issue of freedom of the press, that any dispute between employer and employee is a dispute between the good journalist trying to do a professional job and an evil media empire bent on cutting corners in order to make a quick buck.

Whether journalists actually agree with that stance, well, we’ll find out on Sunday.

See also: Cent Papiers also discusses this issue.

Posted in Media

FPJQ: Next time do a push poll

Transcript of a completely fictional meeting at the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec:

Hey guys, I have an idea. We should commission a survey of Quebecers and ask them about how they feel local news has eroded over the past few years. Then we’ll release it and maybe convince some companies to stop gutting local journalism.

Great! I’ll get on it right away.

Make sure to get it done before our big conference in December.

[later]

So what did you find out?

It’s not good.

What?

Well, it seems 80% of Quebecers think they’re getting good local journalism.

Seriously?

Yeah.

Dude, WTF?

We checked it twice. These are the numbers.

But that doesn’t make any sense.

I know.

Well what about the regions? I mean, with the Montrealization of the media, the numbers must be better for us there.

Actually, they’re worse. People in the regions are more likely to be satisfied with local news than people in Montreal.

What? What the hell is wrong with people? Don’t they know what’s going on?

I don’t know, man. It’s all backwards.

OK, ok. We paid a truckload of money for this. What are we going to do?

We can’t bury it.

No, we’ll have to release it. We’ll say we were surprised by the results.

No kidding.

Maybe someone at the conference can explain to us how this makes sense.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Everyone’s to blame for the state of media

According to Le Devoir, the FPJQ (Quebec’s professional journalists association) polled its members about the state of the media, and overwhelmingly they said that quality is deteriorating and sensationalism is replacing proper news judgment.

Naturally, management at the media outlets disagreed. Even the Journal de Montréal’s George Kalogerakis says with a straight face that they don’t sensationalize or exaggerate the news (full-disclosure trivia: He hired me for my first job at The Gazette, then promptly left the city editor position for a big-money offer at the Journal)

Patrick Lagacé, for his part, blames us, the readers. He says that with the Internet giving us access to so many points of view, we have no excuse not to be well informed about the news.

I think all three parties are at fault:

  • Journalists are increasingly lazy. The Internet brings all the information to you. You can rip off blogs, rewrite press releases, write about what you see on TV, or just rewrite what a politician tells you on the phone. Investigative journalism is the first casualty of a journalist’s busy schedule, and so local news tends to the tired old no-effort categories: he-said-she-said political battles, rewrite-what-the-police-PR-guy-told-me crime reporting, traffic accidents (also courtesy of the police PR guy), 100-year-old grandmas who want to see their photos in print, and of course the weather.
  • Managers are concerned not with promoting news stories that will change the world, but by making front pages that will get picked up at the newstand, or leading newscasts with ratings-rich attention grabbers. They’re editors but they’re also money people, and they know what people will pay for. Which brings us to:
  • Readers and viewers say they want more investigative journalism and hard news, but when nobody’s looking they’ll pay more attention to that Paris Hilton story than the 3,000-word feature on Sudan. Crap works because you buy it. You can’t turn around and blame these people for giving you what you want.

So how is this going to change? The Internet is one big step in the right direction, if only because it encourages the growth of niche communications. Major local media try to be all things to all people, and that worked in the past because there was no alternative. But now people with specific interests are finding others with similar interests, and those publishers who dare to be different are thriving.

The flip side to that is that when you get all your news from these niche sources, you lose the overall picture. Those world news stories you only pretend to care about go from I-just-scanned-the-headline to I-had-no-idea-that-happened. You end up knowing the most minute detail about the latest Battlestar Galactica episode but absolutely nothing about the political situation in Pakistan.

Time will tell us whether this new information access will increase or decrease our overall exposure to news.

Posted in Media

Awarding excellence in Quebec journalism (with links!)

As part of a weekend conference, the Fédération professionelle des journalistes du Québec presented awards for journalism. Radio-Canada was the big winner for the Judith Jasmin awards for reporting, and La Presse the big winner in the photo category.

The coverage in the media was as you might expect, each media outlet trumping its own successes and downplaying others:

What was particularly annoying about the announcement of the winners is that neither the FPJQ announcements nor any of the news reports about them contained links to the winners’ articles, video reports or photos. This is 2007, for crying out loud. It should be beyond obvious by now that online reports are incomplete without us being able to see what they’re talking about.

So as a public service, here are the winners of the FPJQ’s awards this weekend, with links to the original pieces where appropriate.

Prix Judith Jasmin (reporting)

Grand prize: La leçon de discrimination
Pasquale Turbide & Lucie Payeur
Radio-Canada (Enjeux)

The winner, a TV documentary tackling the hot issue of discrimination, is already available on DVD.

Investigative journalism: Du sable dans l’engrenage
Guy Gendron, Jean-Luc Paquette and Monique Dumont
Radio-Canada (Zone Libre)

An in-depth look at the Alberta oilsands which are booming like nobody’s business now that the high price of oil has made them profitable. It also explores the environmental and (hence) political angles of this industry.

Feature: Inde, poubelle de la planète techno
Noémi Mercier
Québec Science

Mercier’s report on how so-called “recycling” of electronics overseas is really just a long-range garbage dump apparently involved a lot of personal risk on her part.

Opinion: Femmes en retrait
Manon Cornellier
Le Devoir

Cornellier’s piece was recognized not for its original subject (the lack of women in power in politics), but for the clear, well-written way it was presented.

Profile/interview: Monique Lépine, 17 ans de silence
Harold Gagné
TVA

Gagné’s interview with the mother of École Polytechnique killer Marc Lépine was one of those epic scoops, even if it wasn’t timely. The interview itself became news all over the country as other outlets reported on it (The Globe, CTV, CBC, La Presse). The timing was unfortunately perfect, coming just days after the Dawson shooting.

The fact that a runner-up in this category was Sue Montgomery’s portrait of Dawson shooter Kimveer Gill (breaking the silence of his mother) says something, either about their selection criteria or about the state of the media.

National news: Hérouxville dicte un code de conduite rigoureux pour ses futurs immigrants
Katia Gagnon
La Presse

The article that started it all. A reporter talks about a small town called Hérouxville which has some odd ideas about race relations (they polled residents asking “are you racist?”, the answer was 100% “no”). The rest is history.

Local news: L’érosion des berges (video)
Hervé Gaudreault
Radio-Canada Baie Comeau

Honoured for one simple reason: He made the issue of soil erosion sound interesting. I’ll add that it proves that real journalism can in fact come from small markets.

Prix Antoine Desillets (photography)

Daily life: Bernard Brault
La Presse

A this-must-be-photoshopped silhouette of a vacationer in the Antilles. Brault was a finalist last year for another photo from the Antilles.

Sports: David Boily
La Presse

This spectacular photo of F1 driver Robert Kubica having his vehicle totalled (I think, there were a few photos that got picked up) made the AFP and Canadian Press wires and got published around the world.

Photojournalism: Olivier Hanigan
La Voie du succès

The words “acid attack” don’t evoke much emotion until you see the photos of these victims in a Bangladesh hospital.

News: Ivanoh Demers
La Presse

(I’m assuming it’s this photo – it’s part of a gallery with the rest.) A photo of mafia boss Nick Rizzutto being arrested, honoured for its excellent composition of elements denoting the once great man’s being taken down by the law.

Portrait: Bernard Brault
La Presse

Bernard Brault wins again, for a photo of a security guard at the University of Oxford. Chosen for the way it captures the essence of British style.

The winning photos will be on display in Montreal starting Dec. 4.

Prix Judith-Jasmin hommage (lifetime achievement)

This career award went to former Journal de Montréal justice reporter Rodolphe Morissette, who retired last year after 22 years of service.

Bourse Arthur-Prévost (aspiring rookie journalist)

This $2,000 financial award went to Marie-Hélène Proulx, who’s currently at Jobboom Magazine but has had her name just about everywhere since starting a freelance journalism career in 2003. Her magazine articles have already won grownup awards.

Prix Jules-Fournier (quality of language in print writing)

This $5,000 prize for quality of writing in a French-language Quebec newspaper went to Valérie Borde, an independent journalist who works for l’Actualité and writes about science.

Prix Raymond-Charette (quality of language in electronic media)

This $5,000 prize went to Hugues Poulin, Radio-Canada’s European correspondent.

These last two awards are sponsored by the Conseil supérieur de la langue française.