(Late this week because I survived the Great Steve Faguy Man Cold of 2017)
News about news
There was a Class A shitstorm in Quebec media this week about a piece by Andrew Potter (former Ottawa Citizen editor and current McGill professor) tying the clustertruck on Highway 13 during last week’s snowstorm to some greater social malaise in Quebec. It includes statistics suggesting Quebecers are more socially distant than the rest of Canada, but also had some head-scratching generalizations about restaurants offering two bills and bank machines dispensing $50 bills.
Reaction was swift, with columnists (almost all from francophone Quebec-based media) piling on to condemn it: Jérémie Bédard-Wien, Denise Bombardier, Dan Delmar, Bernard Drainville, Sophie Durocher, Sophie Durocher again, Joseph Facal, Patrick Lagacé, Patrick Lagacé in English, Josée Legault, Mylène Moisan, Michèle Ouimet, Nathalie Petrowski and Lise Ravary.
Le Soleil even did a fact-check, as did La Presse’s science blog, and even Maclean’s, all finding that Potter’s statistics about Quebec society were accurate, though his conclusion of a “pathological” problem was exaggerated (they say nothing about the anecdotal stuff like restaurant bills).
Potter finally apologized and distanced himself from his own story (earning at least some praise for that rare move). That wasn’t enough, though. McGill, after publicly throwing him under the bus, “accepted his resignation” from his job as head of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (a Maclean’s story says the resignation was not voluntary, citing anonymous sources who also say “numerous high-profile figures have contacted McGill since Monday to express their personal displeasure with the column”, which prompted figures as high as the prime minister’s office to deny involvement). McGill says academic freedom is not at stake, which convinced precisely no one.
The response prompted another wave of hot takes, this time mainly from anglo media (Paul Adams, Frédéric Bérard, Ann Brocklehurst, Michael Byers, Lucinda Chodan, Colby Cosh, Andrew Coyne, Raymond J. de Souza, Michael Friscolanti, Lysiane Gagnon, Matt Gurney, Allison Hanes, Trevor Hanna, Michael Harris, Joseph Heath, Chantal Hébert, Barbara Kay, Jonathan Kay, Philippe Labrecque, Josée Legault again, Peter Loewen, Emmett Macfarlane, Don Macpherson, Candice Malcolm, Éric Montpetit, Brian Myles, Joseph Quesnel, Aaron Rand, Chris Selley, Michel Seymour, Evan Solomon, Michael Taube, William Watson, Daniel Weinstock, Ira Wells, Margaret Wente, Suzanne Wexler, Peter Wheeland, Barry Wilson, three professors in Maclean’s, a discussion on CBC’s The Current, podcasts at Canadaland and Ricochet, and editorials from the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Maclean’s and Winnipeg Free Press, plus an untold number of letters to the editor and discussions on social media). The hot takes get even hotter, comparing this scandal to everything from a corrupt third-world government to the Rwandan genocide. And that awful episode of Canadaland was rightfully blasted by its own supporters on Facebook.
- Nominations for the National Newspaper Awards and Canadian Association of Journalists awards were announced this week. The Montreal Gazette is nominated for one NNA, for a photo by Dario Ayala, who has since been laid off by the paper. This isn’t the first time this has happened — Viktor Pivovarov, of the Moncton Times & Transcript won a National Newspaper Award for a photo of Moncton shooter Justin Bourque, but was laid off by the newspaper along with the rest of the photographers.
- Vice Canada journalist Ben Makuch has lost an appeal of an order to turn information about a source over to police. The judge found that the balance of needs favoured allowing police to compel him to turn over records of communications between him and accused terrorist Farah Shirdon.
- A man has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon: a GIF. The GIF was a strobe animation intentionally sent to Washington Post journalist Kurt Eichenwald to trigger a seizure, which it did. The accused is apologetic, as most trolls become when they realize there are real-world consequences to their actions.
- Facing criticism about a recent report about the chicken content in Subway chicken, including a big lawsuit from the chain, CBC’s Marketplace has published its entire correspondence with them.
- Meanwhile, another Marketplace story, this one involving people selling white power T-shirts in front of hidden cameras to test people’s reactions, was the subject of a report from the ombudsman, who found the stunt was “not journalistically justified”.
- The Quebec Press Council has released its latest round of decisions. Two involve Richard Martineau, and he went 1-1.
- The FPJQ is proposing a new international journalism fund, to finance staff and freelance journalists working around the world contributing to Quebec media.
Lori Graham on the CTV float
News about people
- Denis McGrath, Canadian television writer (and vocal Twitter critic of the CRTC and other bodies affecting Canadian television). Tributes from Bill Brioux and Diane Wild, plus many others on social media.
- Normand Grenier, founder of Grenier aux Nouvelles
- Richard Gosselin, Voix de l’Est journalist
- Laurent Laplante, essayist and former editorialist at Le Devoir and other papers — he wrote about his experience getting medical aid to die posthumously in Le Devoir
- Bob Robertson, comedian and co-host of Double Exposure
- Betty Kennedy, journalist, broadcaster and Front Page Challenge panelist
- Richard Wagamese, Canadian author
- Chuck Barris, creator of The Newlywed Game and other game shows
- Jimmy Breslin, New York City columnist (also from the New York Times)
- Bill Walsh, copy editor and author of the blog The Slot (tribute from the Baltimore Sun)