Tag Archives: Journal de Montréal

Is Quebecor evil?

CORRECTION: This post originally stated that only one case of a scab working for the Journal had been proven. There are actually two that have gotten rulings from the labour board. Thanks to J.F. Codère for pointing it out in a comment.

N.B.: Une version française de ce billet a été publié dans Trente, le journal du Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec.

I’ve always liked to think of myself as open-minded. It’s a good quality for a journalist, and one that I don’t think enough of them have.

For most of this blog’s existence, there has been a major labour conflict at a Quebecor-owned newspaper – the Journal de Québec in 2007 and 2008, and the Journal de Montréal in 2009 and 2010. In between there have been all sorts of depressing news for journalists in general as the media industry seems to be in a state of slow collapse.

Like many of my journalist colleagues, my first reaction to Quebecor’s lockout of its two largest newspapers was to take the side of the workers. Whether or not I agreed with what they wrote when they were employed by Quebecor, they are mere pawns in the media game being played by the great Quebecor Empire. They are the Luke Skywalkers to Pierre Karl Péladeau’s Darth Vader.

But in my admittedly limited experience as a journalist, I’ve learned that situations aren’t nearly as black and white as they may seem to be. Society’s villains aren’t all Hitler-like caricatures of pure cartoonish evil, motivated solely by greed and hatred of puppies. And its heroes aren’t all pure good.

So while some may throw it out as a given, I sit here and ask myself a question that requires a lot of thought before I can answer:

Is Quebecor evil?

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Rue Frontenac hits the streets

The first edition of the Rue Frontenac weekly (a collector's edition!)

Rue Frontenac, the website run by locked-out workers of the Journal de Montréal, launched a paper version of its public-relations campaign on Thursday morning.

The first edition of what will become a weekly newspaper is 48 pages, all of them colour.

It has a cover piece by Gabrielle Duchaine on how some pregnancy crisis centres hide their militant anti-abortion stance in order to manipulate expectant mothers. (Online, the piece is presented as a Flash graphic.) There are also interviews with Guy A. Lepage (one of Rue Frontenac’s biggest supporters among the artistic community – the paper rewards him by devoting an entire page to showing just his head bigger-than-life-size) and Louis Morissette, a piece about how Quebecor has pulled ads from Le Devoir (supposedly as punishment for Le Devoir’s criticisms of the Journal), and the usual arts and sports news you’d find in a newspaper, plus some puzzles.

Notably, though, there is no wire content (and, of course, no advertorials). All of the articles are written by Rue Frontenac’s journalists. This means the paper won’t present anything close to a complete perspective on the news, but the point is to show that they can still produce serious, quality journalism worth its weight in gold.

Only time will tell whether it’s worth the price. It’s not cheap to print 75,000 copies of a newspaper.

This is the second time Rue Frontenac has actually printed on newsprint. A one-off special issue last year at the start of the Canadiens’ season appears to have been well received, at least enough for them to try again.

The paper has advertising, the vast majority of which is from other unions. There are also ads from sympathetic left-wing politicians including Québec solidaire’s Amir Khadir, the Projet Montréal Plateau team, and NDP MP Thomas Mulcair.

A man hands out copies of the Journal de Montréal for free outside the Mont-Royal metro station

It was 8:30am on Thursday as I came out of the Mont-Royal metro station, the heart of the Plateau. Just inside the doors was a man in an orange vest handing out copies of Metro. Just outside, another man in another vest handing out copies of 24 Heures. Next to him, a lady in a La Presse hat handing out free copies of La Presse. And nearby, what I had originally confused for a homeless man handing out free copies of the Journal de Montréal.

For the most part, commuters breeze by not touching any newsprint. Some will pick a paper they like, or just take the ones that normally aren’t free. Some collect the different papers.

What’s clear is that even here, in the plateau known for its “clique” and which elected Québec solidaire’s only MNA so far, any effect of the Journal de Montréal conflict on its newspaper’s popularity is invisible. People young and old, poor and rich were taking copies of the newspaper at the same rate as those who took La Presse or the free papers. The fact that it is heavily reliant on wire copy and overhyped articles from its remaining managers seems to be of little consequence to those rushing to work in the morning.

That, above all, is what Rue Frontenac has to fight: indifference to their cause from regular folk. The paper might put enough wandering eyes on the quality of their journalism to make an impact. Or it might just annoy Pierre Karl Péladeau even though it’s not doing him much harm. Or it might do nothing, coexisting with its writers’ previous employer for months or years as a settlement of the conflict becomes no closer to arriving.

A stack of Rue Frontenac papers at a metro on Mont Royal Ave.

Not seeing any Rue Frontenacs at the metro station, I made my way eastward in the direction of the giant Journal de Montréal logo. I eventually picked up a copy at a recently opened Metro grocery store near the Journal’s offices. I was a bit surprised by this. Even though there were spaces for all sorts of publications, the fact that a major company would appear to take sides in the conflict is noteworthy. (Though the fact that the paper is distributed through Diffumag allows it to reach a lot of distribution points quickly.)

(Micro Boutique, a reseller of Apple products, also took a stance with a half-page ad in Rue Frontenac.)

A Google map shows the hundreds of distribution points for Rue Frontenac, spread out all over the city and surrounding region as far as Valleyfield, St. Jean sur Richelieu and Assomption. There are also distribution points in the Mauricie, Sherbrooke and Outaouais regions, and subscriptions are available for an unpublicized price.

A van appeals to Cardinal Turcotte to stop a lockout

Just across the parking lot from the Journal’s offices (and ironically just after the point where Frontenac St. turns into Iberville St.), a handful of union members at the offices of Rue Frontenac chat jovially before they pile into a van with a giant photo of Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte on top. Even though this conflict has been going on for 21 months, morale hasn’t been as low as it had been expected to be. The rejection of a contract offer the union had considered insultingly bad brightened spirits and resolve even though it meant the conflict would last longer.

Maybe it’s naive. Or maybe it’ll work.

A typo in the website's address got by the proofreaders on Page 3.

More coverage

Journal de Montréal: 89.3% vote against offer

Workers of the Journal de Montréal have voted 89.3% against a contract offer that would have seen only 50 of 253 locked-out employees keep their jobs.

The offer was the result of negotiations held under a blackout, and while neither side would confirm that one was on the table (they wouldn’t even confirm that a meeting was being held to vote on it), some details had leaked out through the media, which notes that it is unchanged from the offer the employer tabled last month:

  • The deal would have seen only 50 of 253 jobs kept, among them only 17 journalists (out of 65), five editors and four photographers. The employer would choose who could keep their jobs
  • It would have required the shutting down of RueFrontenac.com, at least temporarily (UPDATE: No, it was permanent) and a promise not to launch any competing newspapers
  • Those losing their jobs would be prohibited from working for La Presse or Cyberpresse for a period of time
  • In exchange, the employer would offer unspecified severance pay to those losing their jobs

The vote is unsurprising, if only because 80% of those voting would have lost their jobs (and been prevented from seeking equivalent jobs elsewhere), and even though some of those might have been close to retirement and decided that some money was better than none, a strong feeling of solidarity in the union was more than enough to overcome those who were tired of the conflict and wanted a quick end at any cost.

Even though the lockout is in its 21st month, the Rue Frontenac operation is still in high gear, and is in fact gearing up. The union plans to launch a weekly paper version of Rue Frontenac this month. Meanwhile, there are hints of a parliamentary commission to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The union was quick to issue a release announcing the offer’s rejection (the blackout having been lifted). It includes this quote from union head Raynald Leblanc: “C’est une insulte envers nous, mais aussi envers tous les lecteurs du Journal de Montréal. Comment peut-on prétendre faire un journal de qualité avec aussi peu de personnel?”

Selon lui, le plan de Quebecor est simple. Moins d’information, plus de profits. En fait, la nouvelle salle de rédaction du Journal de Montréal n’aurait plus de journalistes à l’économie, ni aucun chroniqueur salarié. Tout proviendrait de l’extérieur, via l’Agence QMI, qui bafoue sans vergogne le principe d’étanchéité des salles de nouvelles.

Pire, l’entreprise a indiqué vouloir garder ses 25 cadres à la rédaction, ceux-ci se retrouveraient donc à superviser 32 employés. « Il est clair que l’arrogance de Quebecor est liée à l’interprétation restrictive faite par les tribunaux des dispositions anti-briseurs de grève. S’il y avait un tel ratio de cadres dans le système de santé, Le Journal de Montréal, Le Journal de Québec, TVA et LCN en feraient leurs manchettes et dénonceraient cette situation absurde », affirme Raynald Leblanc.

Quebecor also issued a release saying it was “profoundly disappointed” in the offer’s rejection. It gave its side of events in the next day’s Journal, downplaying the number of job cuts by playing around with numbers of part-time staff, those on disability or those near retirement.

Rue Frontenac, which stayed away from the story until after the meeting (becoming the only news outlet not to report on the story at first) simply pointed to other news outlets’ reports on the subject (for “objectivity’s” sake) and then published this rather non-objective piece on the subject.

LCN, to their credit, covered the vote fairly.

UPDATE: More commentary from:

Trente also interviews Leblanc on his feelings about the offer.

Rue Frontenac puts it on paper

Rue Frontenac's first attempt at a paper edition last September

You might remember last September, just before the start of the Canadiens’ season, the locked-out journalists and other workers of the Journal de Montréal published a special print edition. It was just a one-time thing, but it got read and now they want to try for something more permanent.

Last week, Rue Frontenac announced that a print edition would be made on a weekly basis (Thursdays) and distributed throughout the Montreal area (from St. Jerome to St. Jean sur Richelieu) starting in late October.

Like most newspapers these days, this one promises to have more features and analysis, keeping the day-to-day breaking news for the website.

The announcement was enough to prompt stories in other media:

From those stories we get some more details:

  • The paper will be called Rue Frontenac
  • Distribution will be a minimum of 50,000
  • The paper will be big – at least 48 pages to start
  • The union expects that non-labour costs will be paid by advertising and other revenue
  • Distribution will be through newsstands and in person by locked out workers (the other newspaper primarily distributed by handing it to people is 24 Heures, which is sure to make for some interesting mornings in front of metro stations)
  • BV!Media, which owns Branchez-Vous and provides online advertising for Rue Frontenac, will help supply advertising for the print product

The Gazette’s story also provides some stats on RueFrontenac.com: 300,000 unique visitors and 2.2 million page views monthly.

A paper edition was successful in Quebec City during the Journal de Québec lockout, mainly because there are no free daily newspapers in that city. In Montreal, there are two free dailies, three francophone subscription dailies, the weekly Voir, plus all the anglo publications, community newspapers and weekly news magazines.

It remains to be seen how many people will opt for the union paper over the many other options out there.

Fab Fabrice does the unfathomable

Fabrice de Pierrebourg

La Presse scored a major coup last week, hiring investigative reporter Fabrice de Pierrebourg, who has been breaking stories for Rue Frontenac since he and 252 others were locked out from the Journal de Montréal in January 2009, a lockout that just marked its 18-month anniversary.

De Pierrebourg was the posterboy for the lockoutés’ argument that the true value of the Journal de Montréal came from hard-working investigative journalists, which their newspaper has replaced with wire stories, freelance opinionators and overhyped reporting from managers.

Henry Aubin named him one of the “watchdogs of democracy” in December for his scoops about city hall and the municipal election campaign. He was just as useful before he got locked out, perhaps best known for breaching security at Trudeau airport to prove a point.

De Pierrebourg was also one of nine employees fired by the Journal for storming the office while locked out – as part of a peaceful but illegal demonstration – in July 2009. While Patrick Lagacé says it’s unrelated (because negotiations began weeks ago), de Pierrebourg tells Rue Frontenac that was the final straw.

The news of de Pierrebourg’s hiring was met with mixed reviews. It’s a huge move for La Presse (though not unprecedented – the guy who made the announcement was himself hired from the Journal de Montréal back in 2006).

And speaking of La Presse, I guess those financial problems that nearly forced them to shut down less than a year ago, until the union made serious concessions, are a thing of the past. Not only did they take on a new high-profile hire, but they’ve made 17 temporary workers permanent. (One of those workers I spoke to had no idea why, though that person wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.)

Aside from being good news for La Presse, de Pierrebourg’s hiring is also good for him. He has a proper job again. The anxiety and stress is gone.

It’s bad news for the Journal de Montréal (at least at first glance), which has lost a solid investigative reporter.

But it’s also bad for Rue Frontenac. And if the comments attached to its story are any indication, his now ex-colleagues are supportive of his escape but still saddened at losing a high-profile member of their cause.

The beginning of the end?

Though I hate to use the term “trend”, I have to wonder about who else might follow in de Pierrebourg’s footsteps. Bertrand Raymond, the most high-profile columnist on the picket lines, announced in January that he would “retire” – and never again return to the Journal.

Raymond has, of course, hardly retired. He writes now for RDS, putting out a column about twice a week on average. Like de Pierrebourg, Raymond has simply found an employer that he can live with.

Both Raymond and de Pierrebourg gave similar reasons for leaving: they couldn’t fathom the idea of going back to work for the Journal de Montréal, for Quebecor and the managers who put them out on the street.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Jean-François Codère, when I interviewed Rue Frontenac’s technology guy in January. I asked him how they would be able to work out their differences with their managers once the conflict ends, and he said he didn’t know. Codère has turned down other job offers to stay at Rue Frontenac, but can he and the rest keep this up forever?

The Journal de Montréal isn’t showing any signs of cracking. It’s still publishing seven days a week (soon it will be the only Montreal newspaper to do so), and so much of the work of producing it is outsourced that they’ve made it seem almost transparent to its readers. (The number of people who have moral objections to reading a newspaper produced during a lockout are far outweighed by people who don’t give a rat’s ass about it.)

De Pierrebourg said he felt bad leaving his colleagues at Rue Frontenac. He should. Not because what he did was wrong, but because whether he wanted to or not his departure hurts the cause of those still locked out.

As this labour conflict drags out into the long term, more departures like this are inevitable. Some who are close to retirement age will just decide to give up. Some who aren’t might take better jobs elsewhere. And as the union’s strike fund starts running out, the rest might not have a choice.

And as the cream of the crop gets poached, what’s left will be those who can’t get jobs elsewhere. Those who work in classified sales or other non-editorial jobs, who have spent decades in a highly specialized function that doesn’t translate well into the job market.

By then, the argument that the Journal is a lesser paper without these people begins to fall apart.

Evolution of a Habs scoop

Back in journalism school, one of my teachers put the class through a simulated process of editing a breaking news story for a multi-edition newspaper. A story would be written and edited, then new details emerge and get corrected, forcing a rewrite, and then the process would repeat itself.

I thought the exercise was a bit silly. I didn’t think real newspapers would function in such a way. As it turns out from five years working at a real, multi-edition newspaper, the exercise was surprisingly accurate.

Working as the late sports editor on Monday night, I went through this process with a relatively minor story.

Guy Boucher is the head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs, which is the farm team of the Canadiens. The Bulldogs play in the American Hockey League, and its players are routinely called up to Montreal to fill in for injured players.

There was a report that Boucher had gotten an offer to jump to the big leagues (even though he’d spent only a year with the Bulldogs, his first professional hockey team), becoming the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. On Monday came word that Boucher had turned down that offer.

Since the Bulldogs are related to the Canadiens, and Boucher is considered one of the candidates to replace Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin if he’s ever fired or quits (we don’t suspect either is imminent), this story was going to become the lead brief in Tuesday’s paper.

As the night went on, we received news from the Columbus Dispatch that the Blue Jackets had gone with their second choice, Manitoba Moose coach Scott Arniel. The brief had to be rewritten (it started off with “The Columbus Blue Jackets are still looking for a new head coach…”), but that was easily accomplished before first edition.

The scoop

At 10:59 p.m. Monday night, about a half hour after first edition, Rue Frontenac’s Martin Leclerc published a scoop that Boucher had accepted an offer to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It referred to three unnamed sources as confirming the news.

This news spread quickly, even at this late hour. A post on Habs Inside/Out was updated to reflect the new news, crediting Rue Frontenac. Habs-crazy broadcasters RDS and CKAC were reporting it, also offering credit where it was due.

Ironically, I learned about the story through a Canwest News Service report, also quoting Rue Frontenac. A Gazette editor later called to make sure I was aware of it.

Again, the brief had to be torn up and rewritten, starting with the latest news, but including the rest. (At this point there are three stories merged into one – Boucher turning down Columbus, Columbus hiring Arniel, and Boucher going to Tampa Bay.) An online story was also put together, crediting and linking to the Rue Frontenac report.

Few things are as embarrassing to a journalist – and a journalism organization – than having to admit you’ve been scooped. Because the report doesn’t list its sources – and because it’s late at night when usual sources are unavailable – there’s no way to independently verify the report. There’s no choice, really, you have to credit the news organization that broke the story. Otherwise, you’re putting your organization’s own reputation on the line if the story turns out to be false. It doesn’t matter how respected the other organization is, if they’re your only source you have to say so.

The multiplication of unnamed sources

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Rue Frontenac is the website published by locked-out workers of the Journal de Montréal, a Quebecor publication. To say there’s animosity between these two publications is putting it mildly. There appears to be a policy at Quebecor’s news outlets that the term “Rue Frontenac” is never mentioned, even when they put out a scoop like this.

But Quebecor, the Journal and its Agence QMI couldn’t ignore the story and let everyone else report it. So while RDS, CKAC and The Gazette prominently referenced Rue Frontenac, an Agence QMI story referred to “certaines sources”. A different Agence QMI story credits the Tampa Bay Tribune for the scoop.

Except when you look at the Tampa Bay Tribune story, it credits “Montreal sports television outlet RDS”. And RDS, you’ll recall, credits Rue Frontenac.

Later in the night, TSN managed to get what seemed like a confirmation on the story. But by then, many news stories were already referring to “multiple sources” (say, “RDS and CKAC are reporting…”), even though all those sources led back to the same source.

That’s a journalistically dangerous problem when it comes to these kinds of reports. Improper sourcing leads to the impression that news outlets have gotten independent verification of a story, which leads to more news outlets reporting on it with increasingly vague sourcing. Eventually everyone is reporting it because everyone else is reporting it, and it becomes common knowledge. Readers, viewers and listeners are left with the impression that everyone has verified the report, when in fact it’s just one guy who’s said something on the Internet.

In this case, it seems the story was true, so all the news outlets win their gamble. Nobody has to make any apologies for getting it wrong (and Quebecor doesn’t have to say it relied on a report from its own locked-out journalist while refusing to credit him).

The next time this happens, they might not get so lucky.

TVA journalist fired for plagiarizing Rue Frontenac

You probably didn’t know until this week about a journalist named Stéphane Malhomme.

It’s OK, though, because two years out of journalism school, and a month into a job as a web editor for Canoe, his journalism career is over.

In case you didn’t hear, Malhomme published an article on the website of Canal Argent, TVA’s business network, about this guy Martin Tremblay who is fighting the government over tax money he thinks he doesn’t owe them. Nothing particularly special about the story. It’s topped with a quote from Tremblay (from an “exclusive” interview on Argent), and has a bunch of background below.

The article has since been pulled, but Google Cache still has it, and it was republished through the Agence QMI service, and appeared in the Journal de Montréal.

It didn’t take long before the folks at Rue Frontenac, the website of the locked-out journalists and other workers at the Journal de Montréal, saw this piece and noticed that it bore a striking resemblance to one written by Martin Bisaillon that same day.

In fact, the resemblance was more than striking. Though the stories are not identical, some sentences and even entire paragraphs are. But Canoe’s story makes no reference to Rue Frontenac.

Rue Frontenac cried foul, and by the next day TVA apologized for the plagiarism and said it had fired Malhomme. (As a contract worker, Malhomme did not have job security from the union.)

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Journal de Montréal, I wish I could quit you

Recognizing, I guess, that despite not having most of its journalists the Journal de Montréal is still putting out a paper every day and people are still reading it, the union representing the 253 locked-out employees has released a new ad comparing the evil newspaper to some sort of drug, and Rue Frontenac to the nicotine patch.

It’s cute, but it just reminds me that people are still reading the Journal. And I don’t think most of them are trying to stop.

Meanwhile, the union has also put up a 13-question FAQ for those who want to learn more about their position and what’s at stake in this conflict.

Rue Frontenac on TVA

From TVA, Feb. 19

LCN’s website posted a story yesterday about Haitian prison escapee sneaking back into Quebec with evacuees. The Rue Frontenac kids protest that they broke the same story 10 days ago and the LCN story doesn’t mention them, saying only that “au cours des derniers jours, des journalistes montréalais se sont aussi intéressés à cette affaire.” (TVA and the Journal de Montréal are both owned by Quebecor, which has a reputation for not allowing its media assets to report anything that might put another in a bad light.)

In the video, though, which aired on TVA’s 6pm newscast Friday evening, you can see about the 1:40 mark a whopping two-second shot of Rue Frontenac’s website, focusing on the face of locked-out journalist Daniel Renaud. If you freeze-frame, you can even see the website’s address as part of his email underneath. (No mention of Renaud’s name or Rue Frontenac is made in the piece.)

So now locked-out Journal de Montréal journalists can say that the address “ruefrontenac.com” has appeared on TVA.

For two seconds.

Entrevue: Jean-François Codère, ruefrontenac.com

A week before the anniversary of the Journal de Montréal lockout, I went to Rue Frontenac’s offices and sat down with tech journalist Jean-François Codère, and asked him a few questions that had been nagging me.

You’ll have to excuse the background noise, because Gabrielle Duchaine couldn’t shut her bloody pie-hole and stop flirting with me I haven’t gotten around to getting an external microphone for my cheap new video camera.

Some highlights from the interview, for those too lazy to sit through a half hour of a talking head (or who can’t understand French):

  • Codère learned about the idea for Rue Frontenac in December 2008, at which point he undertook the mission to setup “something like Cyberpresse” in a month, in time for the expected Jan. 2 start of the lockout. (Last-minute negotiations pushed into the new year, delaying the lockout until Jan. 24.) The site is based on Joomla, only because they’re familiar with it and the union’s website is based on the same platform.
  • Though the few people organizing the website knew well in advance, and some journalists had an idea of it the week before the lockout, most of the 253 union members didn’t know about Rue Frontenac until the day of the lockout.
  • The three-week delay between the end of the collective agreement and the start of the lockout helped to build up the site, but training everyone on how to use it still took a while, and was the main reason for a four-day delay between the lockout’s start and the launch of Rue Frontenac. (Codère points out Patrick Lagacé’s complaint last year that they weren’t acting fast enough – he says he asked Lagacé about it when he visited Rue Frontenac at Christmas, and Lagacé admitted that nobody remembers or cares anymore)
  • Salaries are paid out of the union’s strike fund, but Rue Frontenac’s other expenses are expected to be self-funded, mainly by advertising and donations.
  • Rue Frontenac works with assignment editors, but most people just cover their own beats. The number of articles journalists might file in a week varies depending on the type of story and other considerations.
  • Non-journalists, like classified and business office workers, tend to do more picketing because there’s not much they can contribute to Rue Frontenac.
  • Most people Codère talks to are at least aware of what Rue Frontenac is, so he doesn’t have trouble getting interviews. (Codère’s experience may be atypical – he’s their tech reporter, so the people he deals with are more connected and more exposed to the website.) Most reporters also already have good relationships with their contacts.
  • Getting access to events like concerts isn’t that difficult, even though they’re the only purely web media accredited at the Bell Centre. They’ve negotiated photographer access to 15 of 42 Habs home games, and hope to get a better deal next year (assuming they’re still locked out).
  • Rue Frontenac uses the Reuters photo service to get images for international stories. But all the text is generated from Rue Frontenac journalists.
  • Working at Rue Frontenac is “fun” compared to the Journal, but Codère is a realist: It’s not profitable to do journalism the way they’re doing it.
  • Some computers come from MédiaMatinQuébec, others are personal laptops used by journalists (many of whom had to get old ones or buy new ones because their work laptops were confiscated after the lockout was called).
  • They enjoy not having to do stories about the weather, Boxing Day and other ridiculousness.
  • Codère has received job offers since the lockout, but so far he’s turned them down to remain a journalist.
  • Yes, Rue Frontenac asked for documents to submit a bid to do news for V (ex-TQS), but that was more to learn from the documents. Considering the CSN is still fighting for former TQS journalists whose jobs are being replaced by this subcontracting of news, actually submitting a bid would put the union in an awkward position to say the least.
  • What happens to Rue Frontenac after the lockout ends will depend on negotiations, but MédiaMatinQuébec’s website was taken down as a condition of the Journal de Québec workers going back. What kind of impact that would have depends on how long it will be, and how much work will have gone into Rue Frontenac. Codère’s ideal would be for the Journal to buy Rue Frontenac and all its content, but he isn’t holding his breath.
  • Despite the success of Rue Frontenac, Codère doesn’t think it’s feasible in the short term to have an online-only news organization without a corresponding newspaper. Newspapers come to you, he points out, whereas you have to go to websites. He thinks it will be at least a few years until a serious online newsroom can be financially sustainable.

And one thing that wasn’t in the interview: Rue Frontenac subscribes to digital television. But for some reason they prefer Bell satellite TV to Videotron cable.

UPDATE (Jan. 28):

Jean-François Codère talks about Rue Frontenac on CFCF's News at Noon

Seems CTV also got the idea that Codère was a good person to talk to about this anniversary.

Série Montréal-Québec: Flawless, says Journal

On Sunday, TVA debuted its newest Sunday-night populist attention-getter, the Série Montréal-Québec, in which 16 players from each city (each including two women, one guy over 40 and one guy over 50) compete in a meaningless eight-game tournament to determine which city is superior to the other.

I switched back and forth a bit between the TVA broadcast and an actual sporting event that actually mattered. What little I saw of the show consisted entirely of long, drawn-out American Idol-style (or, if you prefer, «Star Académie»-style) player introductions. It’s one thing when you’re introducing two or three people you’ve never met, but it gets old after the first few dozen.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one to notice that. Le Soleil’s Richard Therrien and La Presse’s Hugo Dumas showed an inspiring example of Quebec-Montreal unity by panning the show and its presentation devoid of any energy. The review from Dans ma télé’s Annie Fortin was lukewarm at best, with similar criticisms.

But then there’s the Journal de Montréal.

Journal de Montréal - Jan. 25, 2010

I find it ironic that Quebecor’s new Agence QMI put together an article (one written like a ninth-grade book report or the minutes of a school board meeting) that was good enough for both 24 Heures in Montreal and the Journal de Québec website, but the Journal de Montréal decided it needed to have one of its few remaining journalists- Michelle Coudé-Lord – write a redundant story reviewing the show (one, I should add, that was reprinted verbatim in the Journal de Québec – in fact, the latter had an identical two-page spread, only in black and white).

Then again, Coudé-Lord’s story has plenty of adjectives that the Agence QMI story was lacking, and her impression was so diametrically opposed to everyone else’s (including mine) that I can only conclude that she was in a different universe at the time or has become disconnected from reality:

La Série Montréal/Québec sera rassembleuse comme le fut Star Académie. On n’abandonne pas une recette gagnante. Attendez-vous à ce que le Québec se divise en deux au cours des prochaines semaines. Les joueurs sont attachants

Guy Lafleur a résumé fort bien ce qu’allait être cette série : «le hockey est un jeu qui nous rend heureux».

La présentation des joueurs a donné le ton. L’émotion sera au rendez-vous. Stéphane Laporte et Julie Snyder, le concepteur et la productrice de cette série, savent faire de la télévision pour et par le monde. Et encore hier soir ils en ont fourni la preuve.

Le portrait de chaque joueur nous le rendait fort sympathique. … C’était même touchant de voir les parents applaudir dans les estrades …

Loco Locass a interprété avec enthousiasme l’hymne national de Québec …

Montréal commence fort avec une gardienne de but … Ça promet.

Belle initiative de Guy Carbonneau …

Éric Lapointe a donné du chien à l’équipe de Carbo avec une interprétation enlevante de l’hymne national de Montréal.

Une belle réalisation de Michel Quidoz … Marie-Claude Savard, l’animatrice, fut solide et a su laisser place à l’évènement. …

That’s 16 separate praises by my count, and not a single criticism of the show. I would have reprinted the entire article here if I could do so without fear of a copyright infringement lawsuit. It’s surreal.

If I ever get married, I’m having Michelle Coudé-Lord write my vows. By then she’ll probably be a public relations specialist.

PR is about the only way I can explain both Journals taking two colour pages to present players from both teams.

Hell, it makes Jeff Lee (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Quebecor-owned Videotron) look tame in his video blowjob.

Despite what some conspiracy theorists might think, Quebecor-owned media were not unanimous in their praise. Roxanne Tremblay of 7 jours didn’t hold back on criticisms, and followed it up with a second-day story about the show’s problems.

But still, even though I’m skeptical of theories about media owners directly affecting editorial content on a day-to-day basis, I can’t help wonder if Coudé-Lord’s article is what Pierre-Karl Péladeau envisions for his newsroom of the future – one where unionized journalists don’t stand in the way of Quebecor’s self-interest with their silly journalistic ethics.

Journal de Montréal: One year later

I was going to have a whole deal about the first anniversary of the Journal de Montréal lockout, but it seems everyone else had the same idea, and most of them are more interesting and better produced than whatever I could come up with.

Rue Frontenac, of course, goes all out. Besides Bertrand Raymond’s retirement, there’s a really well-produced video from Alain Décarie and Olivier Jean about the first year of Rue Frontenac. Gabrielle Duchaine has a timeline of events, and Duchaine and Valérie Dufour keep it fresh with news stories about pressure from the Fédération professionelle des journalistes du Québec and politicians for the government to step in and put an end to this conflict.

La Presse’s Louise Leduc also has a dossier on the topic, with articles about the negotiations, concerns about the quality of journalism being produced by the Journal, and about the emotional impact of the lockout on staff.

In other media, a bit of acknowledgement: an article at Radio-Canada.ca about the FPJQ’s demands, a story in The Gazette, a 15-minute discussion with two locked-out journalists at Corus radio, and Quebecor-owned TVA throws up a Presse Canadienne piece. Philippe Gohier of Macleans’s Deux Maudits Anglais translates Pierre-Karl Péladeau’s recent rant about the threat of unions (which has caused a lot of reaction) and points out how disingenuous it is.

A bus driver reads the Journal de Montréal at a red light a year after the paper's journalists were locked out

But the most interesting piece to me is this one by Patrick Bellerose (the only person I’ve seen to bring anything original to Quebec89.com) that asks the simple question: Why are people still reading the Journal de Montréal?

It seems so simple, but this is the first I’ve seen any journalist covering this conflict actually talking to people on the street about it. And their answers are mostly the same: They read it because it’s there. They know about the lockout, but they don’t really care.

If Rue Frontenac is really going to succeed as a pressure tactic, that’s the sentiment that they’re going to have to change.

UPDATE: Projet J has an audio interview with Raynald Leblanc.

Bertrand Raymond retires from Journal de Montréal

Bertrand Raymond

It wasn’t a very well-kept secret, but on the one-year anniversary of the Journal de Montréal lockout, sports columnist Bertrand Raymond has filed his final column.

As Raymond explains it, he knew he would never be going back to the Journal shortly after the lockout, when a bailiff came to his home to collect his laptop and cellphone (which were Journal property).

Ce jour-là, j’ai su que je ne travaillerais jamais plus au Journal de Montréal. Je ne voulais plus jamais y mettre les pieds. Je ne me trouvais plus aucune affinité avec des gens qui me traitaient comme un criminel. C’était quoi, l’urgence d’un tel geste ? Que voulaient-ils que je fasse de ces appareils ? Que je m’en serve pour faire sauter l’édifice ? Nous ne sommes pas des terroristes, nous sommes des journalistes. Les médias ne font pas la guerre. Ils la couvrent. Ils la commentent. Ils la vivent pour mieux raconter aux gens ce qui se passe.

Peut-être voulaient-ils nous faire sentir bien petits face à l’Empire ? Peut-être cherchaient-ils à nous humilier davantage ? Qui sait ?

Nous soulignons aujourd’hui, chacun à notre façon, un bien triste anniversaire. Un an sans travail, ça ronge l’enthousiasme; ça gruge le moral. C’est une année inutilement perdue dans une vie qui défile déjà trop vite.

Je veux être certain de vivre assez vieux pour ne pas oublier cet anniversaire. C’est pourquoi je choisis cette date pour partir. En annonçant ma retraite d’un métier qui a été toute ma vie, je veux m’assurer de ne pas avoir à vivre une deuxième année de lock-out.

Raymond has worked at the Journal for 40 years, and has been a columnist for the past 24. He was fiercely loyal to his newspaper before the lockout, but then fiercely loyal to his union afterward, even going so far as to blast Yvon Pedneault for writing for the Journal de Québec during its lockout in 2008-09.

After a vacation, Raymond will remain a part of RDS’s Antichambre and la Ligue en question, and hinted about doing more for the all-sports network.

His departure is being noted by his colleagues, both at Rue Frontenac and in other media: La Presse’s Réjean TremblayThe Gazette’s Mike Boone and RDS’s Luc Gélinas devote columns to Raymond’s retirement. (UPDATE: Corus Sports also has a quick question-and-answer with Raymond about his best and worst moments, and Patrick Lagacé has a few words on his blog)

But I feel most sorry for Four Habs Fans, who will have to find someone else to make fun of. (UPDATE: FHF bids Bertrand goodbye in its own way)

For the record, this stands as the final column he wrote for the Journal, a column about Mark Streit published one year ago today.

UPDATE (Jan. 28): Rue Frontenac has an article and a photo gallery from Bertrand’s retirement party.

Journal union celebrates a year off the job with a party

The one-year anniversary is only days away (today is Day 363)

The Syndicat des travailleurs de l’information du Journal de Montréal held a press conference yesterday to advance the upcoming one-year anniversary of their lockout. I was working so I couldn’t make it, but there’s plenty of coverage in The Gazette, Presse Canadienne, Radio-Canada, Le Devoir, Metro (which has video of the press conference), and – to be fair – Quebecor-owned Argent does an acceptable job of getting both sides.

The STIJM also announced that they’re holding a party on Sunday – the one-year anniversary – at La Tulipe. Performers include Richard Desjardins, Tricot Machine, Louise Forestier et El Motor, Loco Locass and Jean-Sébastien Lavoie. Tickets are $20 and available only at the box office (assuming they’re not already sold out).