I guess determining that the whole Fredy Villanueva thing and police not getting along well with young brown people has all been settled now, L’Actualité has ended its Montreal North blog. (Well, actually it’s made it “dormant”, which is kind of like when my ex-girlfriend said our relationship was just on a break – it’ll be forgotten about quickly.)
Quebec Superior Court has sided with the media in a legal battle with police over notes, video and photos from the April 21 Habs riot. The material, which was seized by search warrant after the event, will be returned – unopened – to the media outlets they came from.
When I first wrote about the battle in April, I was unsure of my position, but leaning toward the idea that because journalists did not make any promises of anonymity to their subjects, there should be no reason why they can’t co-operate with police.
But after the more recent riot in Montreal North, where a La Presse photographer was attacked, I’m leaning more toward the idea that journalists can’t do their jobs properly if they can be forced to act as an arm of law enforcement (especially when that law enforcement sits blocks away waiting for backup while the journalists enter the war zone).
I won’t for a moment defend rioters, but I take some comfort in the legal precedent that journalists won’t be seen as cops. Of course, anything they end up publishing can still be used by police, so it’s still a good idea to avoid journalists, or not riot in the first place.
For those wondering when a politician would exploit the shooting and subsequent riot in Montreal North for transparently self-serving purposes, Affiliation Quebec’s Allen Nutik just sent out a press release:
As a champion of minority rights, AffiliationQuebec calls on Quebec’s cultural communities to select effective candidates to run under the AQ banner in order to elect relevant representation to send to the National Assembly.
The tense situation in Montreal North offers a unique opportunity for these communities to ‘break free’ from Quebec’s nationalist agenda, and to play a direct role in their own governance.
It’s amazing how many new causes are dummed up every hour to replace the apparently inadequate “kids mad ’cause cops shot other kid.”
On a slightly more serious note, an analysis of Toronto media coverage of its susprise breaking news. Toronto media were caught especially off-guard because the incident happened in the middle of the night on a weekend, when few (if any) people are on the job.
Montreal’s media got lucky, in that the riots started before midnight, before newspapers were put to bed and everyone went home for the night. In addition, the top story was about the police shooting that prompted the riot, so newspapers (like mine) could combine the two together and not have to rip apart their front pages.
La Presse has the best roundup of the action (including a column by Patrick Lagacé, who was on the scene and has some stories to tell about it), as well as the best photos from photographer David Boily. LCN was on the scene live with its helicopter coverage, and though suffering from the usual breaking-news confusion saying-stuff-off-the-top-of-your-ass time-filler, was enough to keep us journalists glued to the set. (LCN/TVA reporters, meanwhile, repeatedly ignored police demands to retreat to a safe area once shots had been fired, making the anchor’s half-transparent “are you ok?” clichés seem almost silly.)
The best anglo coverage came, of course, from Canadian Press, whose reporter Andy Blatchford (a former classmate of mine) had a story filled with quotes.
Unfortunately, most of the other media are playing catch-up today, and you’ll see more photos of day-after busted up businesses than the riots themselves.