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Nathalie Collard: Look at my words, not at me

Like other La Presse scribes, Nathalie Collard appears larger-than-life in a window of the La Presse building

It wasn’t Nathalie Collard’s idea to become La Presse’s new media columnist.

Not that she was against the idea. But it was her boss that first suggested it. Collard had written about media issues for Voir and La Presse, but for the past five years was writing editorials as a member of the editorial board.

When she got that job, she told me during a recent interview, “I said I would stay for five years.” And she was coming up on that five-year anniversary, so she decided to run for her life before she becomes like André Pratte … err, that it was time for a change.

At the end of March, Collard started a new weekly column on media issues, as well as an accompanying blog. There was no introduction, no grand entrance, she just dove in and started writing.

Not inside baseball

“I’m not writing for journalists,” Collard said, explaining that her column and blog shouldn’t be seen as a newspaper version of Trente or Wired. “I’m addressing everyone. Journalists will read me, but so will my mother.”

So, for example, she wouldn’t write about the latest debate over freelance rates, but she might write a piece about copyright in general.

Collard sees her job as trying to explain the issues affecting media to a general audience that reads La Presse. Media is used in the broadest term here. She might write about the latest tech experiment at The Gazette, the local community radio station and whether Tou.TV will be accessible on the iPad, but also about travellers using Twitter or a vox-pop box installed on St. Laurent.

Though that general outline seems clear, the specifics are not. “I just started,” she said, “I haven’t yet found the tone I want to have. I’m really in a period of experimentation.”

I asked her if she thought there was too much or too little media self-reflection in Quebec. She admitted that there’s a lot of talk about journalists. “If we talked this much about doctors or professors,” she said. “Maybe there’s a bit of narcissism. But at the same time, it touches everyone. Everyone watches the TV, listens to the radio, reads the newspaper. They don’t always stop to think about it.”

So while a dozen journalists losing their jobs is given more weight than a dozen factory workers losing theirs, maybe it’s because people are more directly affected by the former.

Collard also says there isn’t that much talk about media in Quebec. There’s Trente, but most people are unaware of it. There’s the New York Times and U.S. media blogs, but not much in francophone Quebec that’s really exploring the topic and making people think.

She synthesized her thought into this little sound bite: “We talk too much about journalists but not enough about media.”

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