Tag Archives: Journal de Québec

Journalist, criticize thyself

This is why people don’t trust the media anymore: La Presse says TVA isn’t covering the Journal de Québec situation fairly, because both are owned by Quebecor.

There’s this thing with the media that’s always annoyed me:

  1. Journalists love to talk about their industry with other journalists
  2. People love reading about the media (within reason, of course)
  3. Journalists are hesitant to write about matters that are “in the family” (owned by the same company) or within the media outlet itself, whether because of paranoid self-censorship or orders from upper management not to pursue a story
  4. Journalists and their media outlets will never talk about their competition, unless it’s to report something bad about them, in which case they go all out.

La Presse isn’t immune to this. Neither is The Gazette (the paper I work for), nor any other media outlet I can think of. And the larger the corporate empire, the worse the problem gets.

Why can’t they be more honest about themselves? Giving a union boss criticizing a platform to criticize you makes you look bad, but denying that union boss a voice makes you look worse.

Remember: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

One year and counting

A bit of union propaganda from the locked-out and on-strike workers at the Journal de Québec, who have been out of work for a year, and are still producing a daily newspaper off raised money while their old one deteriorates. Today, they’re encouraging people to boycott the Journal de Québec to protest the continued lockout.

UPDATE: Today’s special issue (PDF) is 56 pages, and filled with ads. Meanwhile, Steve Proulx argues that while he isn’t taking a position either way, it’s worth noting that the Journal’s current contract gives some rather extreme benefits to workers: high salaries, four-day weeks, paid days off on their birthdays, etc.

Local newspaper union news

La Presse: According to Michel Leblanc, an agreement in principle has been reached between the union and employer, which will remove the disparity between newspaper journalists and online journalists, and would bring back the blogs that were suspended in September, including that of Tristan Péloquin (remember him?). No word yet from official sources. Patrick Lagacé confirms, saying there will be a general assembly on March 19 for union members to approve the deal.

Le Journal de Montréal: Steve Proulx quotes Le Trente that a strike (or lockout?) is on the horizon, because the manager-to-employee ratio is high. JdM employees are paid generously (so much so that my colleagues were shocked to hear pay rates for equivalent jobs there), and Quebecor might look toward building on the “success” of the Journal de Québec. (See some analysis by Julien Brault) (UPDATE March 5: Proulx has an update based on statements from some anonymous sources within the Journal)

Le Journal de Québec: Tomorrow, the 10-month-old lockout/strike will set a new record for a labour dispute at a French-language Canadian newspaper, eclipsing the previous record set by Le Soleil in 1977. (The irony, of course, is that the Journal itself owes much of its early success to that very dispute.) Mario Asselin is starting to lose his zeal for the fight.

The Gazette: Also management-heavy in preparation for new contract negotiations this spring, the paper has decided to lay off 46 employees in its Reader Sales and Service department, transferring call centre operations to a centralized centre in Winnipeg as of May 30. The union is fighting the move, calling it a violation of a contract clause against outsourcing. (UPDATE March 5: The layoffs have been put on hold while arbitrators sort out the union issue.)

Journal de Québec: 9 months and counting

Locked-out and striking workers at the Journal de Québec have asked for an arbitrator to finally help put an end to the conflict that’s been going on since April.

The seemingly unsustainable situation, where the paper has been relying on quasi-legal Canoë, Journal de Montréal, wire service and management workers to put out the paper while the unionized workers have been publishing a competing free paper five days a week, has gone on so long that union members are being offered subscriptions to the Journal, and MédiaMatin has started a classified section:

MédiaMatinQuébec classified section

The Journal is clearly not ready to back down, and as long as the union gets support from its solidarity-bretheren (the latest is the Réseau de transport de Longueuil) as well as overwhelming moral support from the public, they’re not about to fold up shop either.

Le Devoir’s 6 big media issues for 2008

Le Devoir looks at six big issues the media will have to tackle in 2008:

  1. What do we do with TQS? Its current format isn’t working, what should we change it to?
  2. How do we finance television? Should cable providers be forced to hand over money to over-the-air broadcasters?
  3. How long will the Journal de Québec situation go on? MédiaMatinQuébec has been running for eight months now, and the two sides are just now getting together to talk. What will an eventual agreement say, and how will that affect other media?
  4. How do we handle journalist multitasking? Media are expecting reporters to write, take pictures and edit video reports without paying them anything extra. La Presse’s union has already ordered journalists to stop blogging. The Journal de Montréal is knee-deep in union issues about convergence (which is in part why it doesn’t have a real website). Will the media eventually realize that more manpower is needed to produce for different media, or will the quality of journalism drop as journalists spend more time formatting stories than finding them?
  5. How will online distribution royalties be handled? The WGA will solve this eventually when it reaches a deal with U.S. movie and TV producers. But Canada has problems too. Quebecor is still trying to figure out how to get more programming onto its crappy Canoe.tv site. Will content creators get what they deserve, or will they be screwed over en masse?
  6. Will we have Internet CanCon? Or will the pseudo-CanCon we already have get even worse? How will the CRTC deal with the blurring of the line between the Internet and cable providers, television/radio broadcasters and telecom companies?

Do you have any answers?

If only bus drivers had writers like these

Via Martine, the WGA, the American writers union which is currently holding us hostage by denying us House-isms on strike for the rights to more than mere pennies from DVD sales and all of nothing from online publishing of TV shows and movies, isn’t lying down or holding useless marches with picket signs. They’re creating media to rally support for their cause.

In essence, it’s a tactic we’ve seen before but on a much larger scale. When CBC employees were locked out in 2005, they started producing blogs and podcasts to keep communication going. After it was over, the blogger for CBC Unlocked, Tod Maffin, was given the job of running Inside the CBC, a decidedly uncorporate, uncensored blog about the inner life of the Mother Corp., with its blessing.

Locked-out journalists at the Journal de Québec are still, since April, putting out a competing daily newspaper as part of their pressure tactics. The move has rallied support among other unions (who have helped them financially) politicians and newsmakers (who refuse to deal with Canoe reporters, a fly-by-night “wire services” and other scabs) and readers (who have cancelled subscriptions and are picking up the competing paper).

With Hollywood, the tactic that’s getting the most play is online video (ironic since the dispute is over how little they get paid for online video). Writers for popular shows like The Office, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have been cracking jokes on YouTube, and the actors are coming out to support them. Some like McDreamy and co. talk calmly about the issues, others like Sarah Silverman make the funny, and then there’s Sandra Oh.

The latest campaign, called “Speechless“, involves short black-and-white clips of actors in a world without scriptwriters. Most of them are of the actor-stands-blank-faced-and-says-nothing variety. Others are pretty funny. There’s a new one every day.

Some of my favourites below:

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Lise Payette joins Le Devoir

Lise PayetteLise Payette, the journalist turned radio personality turned TV personality turned politician turned TV writer turned TV producer turned newspaper columnist, has joined Le Devoir seven months after quitting the Journal de Montréal because of her steadfast refusal to cross picket lines.

Payette quit the Journal in April because her columns were being republished in the Journal de Québec, whose editorial employees had just been locked out. She refused to cross picket lines, and declared that her articles would no longer appear there.

Payette’s leftist leanings, combined with her sovereignist politics as a former PQ cabinet minister make her a good fit for Le Devoir. Let’s hope she takes a few readers with her.

Her first column, which discusses how the Yvettes destroyed her political career and how she never thought she’d write for Le Devoir, appeared this morning.

Kicking a reporter out: Good for journalism?

Québec solidaire kicked out a Canoe reporter from a Quebec City meeting on Sunday. The reason was simple: the reporter was replacing locked-out Journal de Québec workers, and because QS is all crazy-leftist and such, they’re not about to accept a scab.

But is that an acceptable reason for kicking a journalist out of an open political meeting? Where do you draw the line between legitimate interference and scary Stephen Harper-style cherrypicking of reporters?

Journal de Québec problems not hurting bottom line

A new financial report from Quebecor Media thumbs its nose at striking and locked-out Journal de Québec workers, saying that profits have exploded since the work stoppage in April.

It’s funny how giant media conglomerates are swimming in profits but still feel the need to cut cut cut journalism jobs.

And while the Journal is saving a lot of money in salaries, it’s hard to say how sustainable it is to run a newspaper without journalists. (Though no doubt Quebecor would love to find a way to make it work.)

Journal de Québec lockout: six months later

LCN has a report on the Journal de Québec strike/lockout, which is now 6 months old. Naturally, the union-says-this/employer-says-that news package doesn’t disclose the fact that TVA/LCN and the Journal are owned by the same company.

Meanwhile, workers on the picket lines were warmly received by union leaders across the country, and their strike paper MédiaMatinQuébec is still going strong with the help of enthusiastic advertising from local businesses.

UPDATE (Oct. 26): I totally missed this feature by The Gazette’s David Johnston on the lockout/strike, as well as an accompanying analysis piece on crossover reporting. Both concentrate on journalists being asked to take photos or video in addition to writing articles, which saves money but produces crappy quality of both.

Quebecor’s newsrooms 99.9% separate

Quebecor Media is getting a slap on the wrist from a committee setup to oversee the separation of its newsrooms. They found three instances where the Journal de Québec took photos from TVA, which violates the promise Quebecor made to the CRTC to keep their newsrooms completely separate.

I think the cat’s out of the bag when it comes to merging newsrooms. Quebecor has already combined its online properties into the monster Canoe. They’ll just keep finding ways to consolidate their assets without pissing off the CRTC too much.

Another thing that’s interesting about this situation is that two of the three instances happened while the Journal de Québec was in a labour disruption (which is still going on, by the way). The union might have something to say about that.

MédiaMatinQuébec: Changing the face of labour stoppages

This blog supports MediaMatinQuebec

On the occasion of MédiaMatinQuébec’s 100th edition, blogger Tetoine is encouraging bloggers to show support for the Journal de Québec employees’ alternative paper.

Since the workers at the Journal were locked out (or began striking in sympathy for locked-out workers) in April, what might seem like a simple labour disruption has truly taken on a life of its own. The workers, who wanted anything but picketing outside the offices of the paper where no one would see them, started their own paper, giving it away free.

In the months since, the Journal has been trying to use the courts to shut MédiaMatinQuébec down, claiming that it’s disloyal of striking employees to start their own paper. Quebecor lost that battle last week.

To keep the Journal running, management has been running wire copy, unedited press releases and stories from the Journal de Montréal (despite objections from the journalists writing them), and producing the paper with the help of 14 extra managers they suddenly decided to hire just before the contract expired last year. (The employees won a case last month getting four employees declared “scabs”) To show how seriously they take this matter, they also cancelled employees’ subscriptions to the Journal and banned MédiaMatinQuébec from what few stores they control.

The workers, meanwhile, have been busy. Producing a free paper every day hasn’t been easy or cheap, but they’ve been getting a lot of financial and moral support from labour unions, politicians (PQ, NDP) local businesses, fellow journalists, and of course the Quebec City reading public. They’ve handed out millions of copies, and launched a website at mediamatinquebec.com. They’ve even started stealing away advertisers.

But when it comes down to it, the only real winner in all this is Le Soleil, which is taking advantage of the strike to position itself as the Quebec City paper, and starting to recoup some of the readership it lost to the Journal after Le Soleil’s workers went on strike 10 years ago.

I don’t necessarily blindly support the workers in this case, and I certainly don’t support the Journal. But it’s hard not to be impressed with what’s been done and how they’re still going five months later. Stoppages at transit authorities and cemeteries stopped only after threats from the government. Since the populace doesn’t care much about a paper not producing original journalism, this stalemate looks like it could go on forever.

So long as organized labour keeps funding MédiaMatinQuébec and puts food on its employees’ tables.

For more details, consult this timeline of events.

Scabs at the Journal de Québec

The Journal de Québec have won a case before the Commission des relations du travail du Québec, which ruled today that four employees of the newspaper were illegally working as scabs during the labour conflict which has dragged on since April. The Journal was criticized by its union for a sudden increase in the number of managers just before the lockout began.

For more information on the labour conflict, you can go to MediaMatinQuebec, the website setup by the locked-out workers.