Rue Frontenac and donation priorities

There’s a debate going on, sparked by Steve Proulx, about whether Montrealers should be directing their donations directly to Haiti relief than by funding a trip by journalists from Rue Frontenac to cover the devastation.

It’s a simple argument, but there are a lot of nuanced points to consider on both sides:

  • Donations aren’t always a zero-sum game (though “donor fatigue” was brought into the lexicon after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in 2005). Different causes attract different people, and the difference may not be between donating to Rue Frontenac and donating to Haiti, but between donating to Rue Frontenac and keeping the money to oneself.
  • There are already plenty of journalists in Haiti covering it. Is there really an advantage to sending more of them, especially when they might put even more strain on the already struggling resources of the area? Especially when the stories they file, while very emotional, don’t provide much in the way of useful news?
  • People making these donations are grown-ups and can decide for themselves how much money goes to humanitarian causes and how much goes to fund journalism
  • If we accept this logic, then how will organizations like Spot.Us (Dominic Arpin notes the similarity between the two) that take donations for journalism ever be able to cover humanitarian crises?
  • Rue Frontenac is not a newspaper. It’s not a profit-making enterprise. Its purpose is technically as a pressure tactic in negotiations with the Journal de Montréal to get locked-out journalists and other employees back to work. It doesn’t need to send journalists to Haiti to prove itself.

I stopped by Rue Frontenac’s offices this week and had a chat with one of its journalists, Jean-François Codère. He argued that other news media sending journalists to Haiti (and everyone’s doing it – The Gazette, La Presse, TVA, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, CTV, CBC among others) at much expense rather than donating money to relief causes.

Personally, I see both sides. I prefer to give my money to the Red Cross than Rue Frontenac because I think what Haiti is suffering from right now is not a lack of western journalists. But I don’t blame anyone for wanting to put a few bucks toward their plane tickets (their salaries are being paid out of the union’s strike fund). It’s their choice.

In any case, they’ve already got money and are reporting from Haiti. Vincent Larouche has a report and Martin Bouffard has photos and a video.

9 thoughts on “Rue Frontenac and donation priorities

  1. wkh

    There’s something so rubbernecky about this that just sits …wrongly with me. I mean I don’t object to people going there and showing what’s going on, especially when they pull an awesome hero stunt like CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, but at some point viewing this from every angle is kind of perverse.

    I really wish there were more concrete direct relief efforts going on. Shit sitting on a tarmac because a “distribution plan” needs to be drawn up is assbackwards. So is the fact there are already adopted children who were simply waiting for visas (wtf does a dependent minor child of US or Canadian parents need a freaking visa for?!) sitting there in red tape bullshit waiting to come to their parents, who again, ALREADY adopted them.

  2. Shawn

    I don’t know if relief supplies are stuck at the airport for lack of a distribution “plan.” Rather, it would seem to be structural issues, such as impassable roads, but I could be wrong…

    1. wkh

      Here’s one, of many, sources that say essentially the same thing.

      “First, the government of Haiti must choose distribution points, the World Food program then works up a distribution plan and then U.N. forces in Haiti provide security with the help of the U.S. military to get the food out. The bottom line: it’s not going to happen until tomorrow.”

  3. Jean-François Codère

    Like you said, donations aren’t a zero-sum game. If, really, the choice is between giving your dollars to Haïti or to Rue Frontenac, then it’s not even a question. But it’s not.

    I will GLADLY hear arguments about this funding campaign by people who gave away ALL of their money to Haiti and who, as such, will eat Ramen noodles with their lights turned off until the situations settles over there.

    1. Shawn

      That’s true: people only people who have been reduced to abject poverty through donating all that they own have a right to question the self-righteous saints at rue Frontenac. Thank you for clarifying that, Jean-François.

  4. wkh

    did you notice that LaPresse sent EIGHT freaking journalists and EVERY single one of them is…



    They couldn’t find even one person of colour in what is Montreal’s largest newsroom representing francophonie across North America technically? Not ONE?


    1. Fagstein Post author

      How is that relevant?

      La Presse’s newsroom isn’t exactly all that diverse. In cases like this, I’d rather they send their best journalists than their token dark person.

      1. Shawn

        Which does open up the question: are there no prominent Haitian journalists at La Presse? I must confess, I can’t think of one. Given the massive size of the community in Montreal, that’s inexcusable, if so.


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