The TVA mosque debacle
It took almost three days, but TVA Nouvelles has finally apologized and retracted a story it published Tuesday about a Côte-des-Neiges mosque demanding a city construction crew not have women working on Fridays — and getting that request enshrined “noir sur blanc” in their contract, and several women being reassigned as a result.
The Parti Québécois and influencers like Marie-France Bazzo and Bernard Drainville were quick to denounce the mosque, and right-wing anti-immigrant group La Meute announced a protest at the mosque (it has since cancelled).
The story started smelling fishy almost immediately. The Journal de Montréal posted the TVA story to its website on Tuesday and assigned a reporter to cover it, but pulled the story quickly after discovering facts that contradicted TVA’s report. (The paper has yet to publish a single story about the whole affair.) The mosque issued a statement denying everything and expressing anger that TVA didn’t try to contact them for comment. La Presse summarizes the denials here.
The Quebec Press Council has received at least two complaints about the story.
On Thursday evening, TVA Nouvelles issued a “mise au point” in which it said the facts have “evolved” (you know, from true to false). It was instantly criticized for not including an apology. On Friday morning, another mise-au-point which included an apology and promises of an internal investigation.
Still, many groups still believe the story is true, and many stories published by other media, like The Rebel (which used the term “no-go zone”, suggesting irresponsibly that the area is dangerous), haven’t been corrected. In some cases, wild and nonsensical conspiracy theories have been concocted to save face.
Among the things the investigation should look at:
- Why did the journalist not attempt to contact the mosque before going with this story?
- Were any attempts made to verify what the contractor told her?
- Why did she insist on describing the demand as “noir-sur-blanc” despite never having seen it herself?
- Was she lying when she told the mosque’s representatives that she had “filmed” their written demand that women be excluded? Was her confrontational attitude during this exchange justified?
- Why did TVA broadcast and publish the story before seeking comment from the mosque?
- Why did TVA Nouvelles take so long to retract the story and even longer to apologize?
I’m also not too optimistic that the results of this investigation will be made public.
Other news about news
- The Chamberland Commission, which investigated police spying of journalists, has filed its report, recommending better procedures for investigations that involve journalists and a better separation of politics and the police. It also found that the actions that sparked the inquiry, warrants issued that allowed police to monitor journalists’ phones, were justified. The Quebec government wasted no time saying it would implement the recommendations. You can read the full report here.
- Another mistake — or maybe not? — this time in a report about NDP leader Jagmeet Singh supposedly launching a byelection campaign in the wrong riding. The Canadian Press ran a story that way, with the words “wrong riding” in the headline, but updated it later to say that Singh denied the event was a byelection campaign launch. That didn’t stop at least one editorial cartoonist from making fun of the story. (It’s unclear if there’s a policy at the Globe and Mail about editorial cartoons based on inaccurate stories.)
- The town of Chambly has made it illegal to record video of its council meetings, and threatens fines for people who contravene the regulation. Audio recordings and photography are still allowed. The FPJQ is unsurprisingly strongly against this move.
- The Niagara Region has apologized after seizing a St. Catharines Standard journalist’s equipment and forcing him to leave during a council meeting because of a misunderstanding over an allegation that someone was secretly recording an in camera meeting.
- The CBC has fired a reporter covering politics in B.C., Richard Zussman, for reasons that are still unclear but appear to be related to work he did preparing a book about the recent B.C. election. A Globe and Mail column made the move public, resulting in comments from the B.C. premier. The CMG union is backing Zussman, but other than vague references to conflict of interest, and codes of conduct, neither the CBC nor Zussman are giving details on what exactly he’s being accused of.
- Argentinian newspaper La Nueva Domingo wrote about Quebec City but included a photo of the CN Tower. Oops.
- The Canadian Press has finally ditched referring to the Coalition Avenir Québec as the “Coalition for Quebec’s Future.” Though it isn’t willing to accept CAQ unless absolutely necessary.
- CP writes about various media outlets’ policies about “unpublishing” content, usually at the demands of people mentioned in stories who don’t want information about them found when their name is searched on Google.
- The Washington Post has a new video series on how to be a reporter, in an effort to demystify the journalism process. They start by talking to the journalists who uncovered the allegations about Roy Moore.
- Montreal police has re-hired Ian Lafrenière as its head of communications.
- Mélanie Joly was in town last week to give a speech to the local board of trade. She proceeded to say nothing new about help for print media or taxing Netflix. I wrote about it for Cartt.ca.
- A controversial Supreme Court ruling has found that a man had a reasonable expectation of privacy for text messages he had sent. This could have significant precedent for how police deal with investigations that require access to texts.