Tag Archives: Sue Montgomery

Montreal Gazette loses veteran reporters, Pierre Foglia retires from La Presse

While students in Quebec were heading out on spring break last Friday, veteran journalists in two newsrooms were packing their boxes.

Friday was the last day on the job for five journalists and one administrative assistant at the Montreal Gazette. They leave as part of the latest wave of buyouts meant to reduce operating costs at the newspaper, which means they won’t be replaced. Instead, other staff’s responsibilities will be shifted to cover their work.

Sue Montgomery was the Gazette’s justice reporter. She covered the trial of Luka Magnotta and many other lowlifes before him. Reviews of her career inevitably bring up her trip to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, her coverage of the sexual abuse at Les Frères Ste-Croix at Collège Notre Dame, and her work with Antonia Zerbisias to create the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported in the aftermath of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.

She was also very outspoken, sometimes to the displeasure of her employer.

In her farewell column, she writes:

I became a journalist almost 30 years ago, not so much because I loved the craft of writing, but more to give a voice to those who aren’t otherwise heard. I wasn’t interested in the politicians, who never seem to say anything meaningful, or the boring businessmen, incomprehensible sports stars or fake celebrities. None seemed real.

I was drawn to and intrigued by the everyday people like you and me who experience extraordinary loss, suffering and injustice and still manage to somehow carry on. We can all learn from such stories — about the resilience of the human spirit, empathy and strength.

You can read some of her work here. She also did an interview with CBC’s Daybreak.

Peggy Curran was the Gazette’s city columnist, returning to a writing job after a brief stint as city editor. Curran wrote in an almost poetic manner about the city and its problems (if I was nearly as good, I could have described her style better), and like Montgomery she preferred the stories about real people.

She has a wicked sense of humour, too. Along a wall of portraits of journalists past and present who have received awards for their work, there’s a photo of Curran leaning on the wall of her cubicle. Below her is a cutout of what looks like a tabloid headline she cut out and posted on her wall: “PSYCHO IRISH BITCH”.

In her farewell column, she worries about the future of the industry she’s leaving:

Being a journalist is a job of great intensity, more so as deadlines have multiplied. The daily miracle is now measured in minutes since the last update.

To do this right requires abundant energy and unconditional love.

Curran has compiled her five favourite stories here.

Pat Donnelly was the Gazette’s theatre critic (sandwiching a brief time as literary columnist), spending her evenings attending previews and performances, some of which were very good and many of which were very bad. Though in her farewell column, she focuses on the good:

As a theatre critic, I was privileged to witness one of the most exciting periods in Quebec theatre history, when Robert Lepage was first making waves, the Montreal Fringe Festival was born and Montreal’s bilingual Les Misérables won the admiration of the world. Sylvie Drapeau starred in all the best French plays. The Cirque du Soleil went from one triumph to another. Montrealer Richard Monette ruled the Stratford Festival. The biennial Festival TransAmériques, founded by the indomitable Marie-Hélène Falcon, expanded to became an annual hybrid of theatre and dance. And La Licorne, my favourite francophone theatre, began to lead the way with English surtitles.

Though theatre tends not to be on the radar of most people, Donnelly did manage to stir up some controversy, when she highlighted the use of blackface at a year-end review show at Théâtre du Rideau Vert. The story spread for more than a month afterward as people (mostly white) debated how offensive it is for white actors to put on dark makeup in Quebec.

Donnelly has compiled some highlights from her career here.

Lynn Moore was a journalist in the Gazette’s business department. She specialized in natural resources until she became the coordinator of the business section, tasked with the thankless job of putting together a section with few journalists and lots of news. She was also responsible for commissioning freelance pieces, including many from me.

You can read a small selection of her stories (including several Jazz Festival reviews) here.

François Shalom also worked in business, where he specialized in aerospace, an important beat in the city that is not only home to big industry players like Bombardier, Air Transat, CAE and Héroux-Devtek, but also the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Air Transport Association.

His last day as an employee came on the same day that Bombardier did its first flight test of its CS300 aircraft, though he didn’t get a chance to cover it.

You can read some of Shalom’s stories here.

These five people were colleagues, and I could probably write a lot of the same things about all of them: they had a good sense of humour, they cared about their work, they cared about the organization they worked for and the damage it has taken from its reductions in staff and quality, and they were kind people who nevertheless had little tolerance for bullshit.

And the Gazette will be worse off for having let them go. (Matthew Hays articulates part of what the paper is losing in this piece for Rover.)

The Gazette also lost a member of its support staff: Helen Ciampini had the title of “executive assistant” but was effectively responsible, with newsroom manager June Thompson, for all the little things that kept the operation running. The Gazette has lost almost all of the administrative staff it had when I was first hired, and has struggled to cope as a result.

None of the departing staff have indicated any future plans other than vacation.

« Ceci n’est pas une chronique d’adieu »

On the same day the Gazette lost staff with a combined experience of more than 100 years, La Presse lost a columnist who just about matches that by himself. Pierre Foglia announced in his Saturday column that he’s retiring, though he plans to contribute occasional stories about books.

Foglia, who has been with La Presse since 1972, according to Presse Canadienne, has been described as a unique columnist with a poetic style and wisdom that made him the envy of his colleagues.

Journal de Montréal blogger Marie-Claude Ducas writes a piece appreciating Foglia. As does Louise Latraverse a week later in La Presse.

UPDATE: Roberto Rocha, who held jobs including technology beat writer and, more recently, data journalist, left the paper a few weeks after his colleagues.

More video of me (with bonus Midnight Poutine)

I got a visit at the end of January from two Concordia students putting together a package for their TV class about blogging. The result is the video above, which is very brief and probably doesn’t give you any insight you didn’t already have into me (except the fact that there’s an embarrassingly large pile of unread newspapers in my sparsely-decorated living room).

A bit more interesting is that they also visited Midnight Poutine’s Jeremy Morris, shadowing him and his new partner as they recorded a podcast (you can listen to that particular podcast here).

If you haven’t heard it, Midnight Poutine’s Weekend Playlist Podcast is a weekly podcast, about an hour long, that features music from bands performing locally over the coming week (almost always independent bands performing at smaller venues). Not only is it useful in that sense (if you like the music, you can go see the band that week), but it gives people a chance to discover new music they can’t hear on commercial radio because they’re too busy replaying that Black Eyed Peas song for the 10,000th time.

UPDATE: The team that brought us the video above also had this shortish video interview with The Gazette’s Sue Montgomery about her trip to Haiti.

Some Sunday reading on Haiti

It’s been almost three weeks since a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, leading to the deaths of over 150,000 people, leaving hundreds of thousands more injured, homeless or without access to the necessities of life.

Despite the various crises affecting the news media, the response has been immense, especially in Montreal, which has a large Haitian community. The major newspaper chains have sent reporters and photographers (and have now sent relief crews to replace those they originally sent), the TV networks have sent correspondents, almost every TV network in Quebec, Canada and the United States has aired a fundraiser for relief efforts, and Haiti coverage continues to dominate the news here. The question of whether it’s being covered too much was raised over a week ago.

I admit I was a bit surprised by all this attention. I expected major news organizations to send reporters, but not papers like The Gazette, the Journal de Québec or the Toronto Star. After all, it’s not cheap.

But as grateful as I am for all the attention, I’ve started to zone out with the Haiti coverage. Yes, there are lots of orphans, people are desperate, lots of people died. The anecdotes being told by the reporters are touching, but they kind of blend in after the 100th story or so.

Still, even more than two weeks later, there are still some stories worth reading. Here’s a few that have been recommended to me through social media:

  • Sue Montgomery, who left for Haiti shortly after the earthquake for The Gazette, writes about the experience of rushing to a disaster area on short notice. A lot of it is inside journalistic baseball (which makes it perfect for this blog’s readers), but it’s interesting to read just for the little anecdotes, like running outside half-naked during an aftershock, or paying $6,900 for a helicopter ride from the Dominican Republic.
  • Phil Carpenter, the photographer who was sent with Montgomery, also writes about the experience for J-Source.
  • Montgomery, in turn, recommends this piece by Peggy Curran, about the political history of Haiti and how much of a mess the country was in long before the earthquake hit. It’s a good picture of what happened to this country from the time it was discovered by Christopher Columbus to the reign of the Duvaliers.
  • Patrick Lagacé is tired of the bullshit going on in Haiti, from all parties involved. About how Haitians still believe in their country, despite the absolute mess it’s in. About how passive they are. About how the international community still clings to the idea that Haiti has some sort of government.
  • In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof isn’t anywhere near Haiti. Instead, he’s in Congo, where millions have died and gangs of thugs go around killing and raping people, and no one seems to care. He just wishes we paid as much attention to the non-natural disaster there as we did to the earthquake. (He has more on his blog.)

La Presse, Gazette up for National Newspaper Awards

It’s that time of year again when the National Newspaper Awards sends out a press release with a list of nominees, and each newspaper writes about what they’ve been nominated for.

The Globe and Mail far and away leads the pack with 15 nominations in various categories (including a sweep of the international reporting category), more than the entire Canwest chain combined. Following it is the Toronto Star with 8 nominations, La Presse and the Citizen with 6 each, and then the leftovers.

The Toronto National Post has only two nominations.

Here’s how Montreal did:

Also of local note, Globe photographer Charla Jones, nominated in the Feature Photography category for photos she took of Leonard Cohen in Montreal as part of this audio slideshow.

I’m still waiting for my NNA for my tireless reporting about local activities and blogs.

7,000 words and still the story is unfinished

J-Source has a short article by The Gazette’s Sue Montgomery about the story she wrote on Dawson College shooter Kimveer Gill. Despite it weighing in at 7,000 words and being nominated for an award, she considers it incomplete. Gill’s father and brothers wouldn’t speak to her (only his mother did), and the coroner hasn’t released its report about Gill’s death, which would have answered some lingering questions about how exactly he died:

Gill’s mother says her son had a bullet wound on his arm (where the police shot him) and one in the back of his head, leading her to suspect the police may have killed him. The police say Gill shot himself by placing a gun to his chin, yet Parvinder Gill says his face was intact when they prepared him for burial. What really happened? Why can we not see the surveillance camera tapes from inside the school that day? And why, if it was a crime scene, did the police drag Gill’s body outside to lie in the rain?