Feathers everywhere!

Today at at exactly 3 p.m., a group of locals, most of whom were only somewhat acquainted with half the rest and had never met the other half, gathered at Place des Arts and began hitting each other with pillows. It was organized by mysterious unknowns at the same time as a similar event in Toronto (CP story on that here) organized by Newmindspace (the people that brought us the metro party in March).

In what I can only guess was a big coincidence, the event coincided with the big open-house launch of Police Week in Montreal. The SPVM, SQ, RCMP, firefighters and Urgences Santé were all there, and brought all the cool stuff from the canine unit to the armored vehicle.

So when a bunch of kids gathered on the steps at Place des Arts with pillows, you can imagine their surprise. At first they did nothing, but monitored the situation (one officer spent quite a while on a cellphone talking to head office a block away). Eventually they started talking to photographers, looking for someone in charge. They harassed one in particular for reasons I couldn’t understand (basically he refused to provide them with identification, what with him not having done anything wrong). But there were no arrests, no injuries, no tickets issued. Everyone just went on their merry way (after picking up most of the feathers they had left behind.

The conversation with the photographer (a student working for The Link at Concordia), which I tried my best to overhear casually, struck a nerve when the officer questioned his media credentials. He asked the photographer how he can trust that the guy is a legitimate journalist.

That’s what bothers me. The same thing happened to me during the metro party. I didn’t have a journalist ID with me, so I got the third degree. But journalists shouldn’t need identification. They shouldn’t need a photo ID issued by their publisher. A journalist is anyone who tries to inform others of what’s going on.

Once you set rules on who can become a journalist, then you take a small step down a slippery slope.

Anyway, back to the pillow fight. There were cameras all over the place, but so far only one set on Flickr and one video on YouTube. If you’re on Facebook you can see the photo page for the event here.

Later in the day I got a call from The Gazette probing me for information about it, so you’ll probably see a photo and caption in tomorrow’s paper.

UPDATE: More photos on Flickr. Not as many as the bajillions from the one in Toronto, but still enough to give you an idea of what went on.

3 thoughts on “Feathers everywhere!

  1. princess iveylocks of western

    That’s really quite entertaining timing on the pillow people’s part. Better venue selection required in future!

    But, on a more serious note, I would say the rules of “who can be a journalist” are well established by now. I also have to disagree with your definition of “journalist” — a bona fide journalist is someone who’s paid for his/her efforts and as such is responsible for adhering to professional standards.

    It really bothers me when journalists expect to be treated seriously and then pull the “everyone is a journalist” line. If there’s a fire down the street and I run from door to door telling people, that doesn’t make me a broadcaster. Not everyone who diagnoses illness is a doctor; not everyone who argues a point is lawyer; not everyone who reports on a story is a journalist. There’s a distinction between doing something casually and making a livelihood from it.

    Reporting for money implies that the person is trained to report professionally and takes their work seriously, as opposed to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing and may [intentionally or not] cause trouble (libel, reporting false information) by their ignorance. This is what I would be concerned about, as a police officer.

    But why should it matter if the kid was a j-list or not? Are citizens not allowed to take pictures in Montreal?

  2. Josh

    My understanding was that the photographer in question actually snapped a few pictures *of the officer*, and that was what prompted the officer to have a chat with him. Just have a look at one or two of the photos in the facebook group and I think you’ll agree that it’s possible it went down that way. And if it did, I can’t say that I blame the guy.

    I agree with princess to a degree: There is no law against taking pictures in Montreal (those who want to *publish* pictures on the Web or elsewhere should really be aware of Quebec civil law, though), but the nature of journalism is changing.

    I get half my news from links from blogs, now. Sometimes, the first place I’ll hear about something (and I know I’m not the only one in this case) is from a post on a blog. Sometimes, it’s not even a quasi-professional blog, either.

    How many people do you think first heard about the VTech shooting via a decidedly non-professional blog, or someone’s facebook or something else along those lines? How many people do you think learned the details of it from Wikipedia? My feeling is that it’s an awful lot.

    Last thing: Lots of people without journalism degrees go on to have successful journalism careers (Peter Jennings, for one ultra-famous example) and on the other side, lots of people with journalism degrees go onto work in other fields. If we’re slapping labels on people, who gets to decide what to make of those people? I have a journalism degree, but I’ve never published anything outside of the student press in the four years since I graduated. That really should mean that I’m *not* a journalist – but I could be working on a freelance piece for all anyone else knows.

  3. princess iveylocks of western

    Good point, Josh — our education doesn’t always match our occupations. (I am a retired music major.) I still think that transmitting news through Facebook, blogs, Wikipedia, etc., is more a “word of mouth” technique than journalism. But, verbal communication is an authentic and time-honoured method of learning about the world… as with mainstream journalism, it then boils down to how accurately the information is conveyed and received, how much you trust the source, and who their sources are. Most bloggers link directly to their sources, and this establishes transparency on their end. With others (particularly known extremists or rumormongers) I would be more sceptical. It’s a matter of trust.


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