One, two, three, test: The summer's biggest J-stories
Not quite A-plus ready for J-Source's back-to-school j-quiz on the summer's biggest journalism stories? No sweat, read our top 14 picks and you'll be teacher's pet in no time.
Lloyd Robertson retires
After 41 years on-air veteran newscaster Lloyd Robertson retired, airing his last broadcast September 1st. “I can scarce believe it’s finally happening,” he wrote in an open letter posted to CTV’s website. He wasn’t the only one: hundreds left messages on the station’s online tribute page – and more than one journalist dedicated ink to Robertson’s departure – and influential career. Lisa LaFlamme replaced Robertson as top anchor, telling viewers and colleagues in June that there were two things she knew for sure: “The first thing is I am ready and I am excited about the future ... The second thing that I know for sure, is I will never be voted the most trusted man in Canada, but it is this man that really has taught me so much, not just about news judgment, but about longevity in the business and most importantly about leadership. So on Labour Day we get down to work.”
Robertson wasn’t the only one to retire this summer. CTV’s Dave MacDonald also left the station in June to pursue politics. And longtime CTV Winnipeg anchor and weather specialist Sylvia Kuzyk – who rivaled Roberston with 38 years on air – left the station September 2nd.
News of the World scandal
It didn’t matter if you lived in Britain: The News of the World scandal captivated journalists the world-round, and prompted ethical questions that transcended borders. The 168-year-old paper published its last issue Sunday, July 10 after the latest chapter in NoTW’s long phone hacking scandal. At the time, James Murdoch said in a statement, “The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself … Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.” In its farewell editorial, staff also acknowledged the paper lost its way, but added: “we hope history will eventually judge us on all our years.” For another perspective (and far more touching, if you’re a journo), there is the leaked video of Colin Myler’s final words to NoTW staff.
Goodbyes aside, the scandal prompted many Canadian journalists to look at accountability, our own relationships with sources, a history of journo scandals, muckraking back in the day, whether Harper is immune from such a scandal, plus tabloid journalism and crime reporting.
Working for free
In late June, journalism student Bethany Horne stirred up the old issue of unpaid internships with a fresh perspective. In her essay, published on J-Source, Horne said she won’t work for free, no matter how prestigious the internship. Other students can’t afford to either, she added, and that’s no way for newsrooms to bring diverse voices or fresh perspectives into a newsroom. “Unpaid internships,” she writes, “ultimately, are harmful because they restrict the kinds of people who can access employment by our media, and they perpetuate the problems that are already present, in terms of the race, class and origin of the people who hold media power.”
Horne’s story got pick-up in the Globe and Mail, where it inspired an article on unpaid internships, and plenty of comments on J-Source, where she was called both brilliant and naïve.
In July, CTV's Quebec City Bureau Chief, Kai Nagata, quit his job, posting the story of why, in great detail, on his blog. The post went viral, with reprints from both Rabble and The Tyee. Not only did Nagata get 1,400-plus comments on his blog, it also prompted several in-print responses from journalists. The National Post’s Jessica Hume slammed Nagata, writing: “Though written as a sort of manifesto, the truth is that Nagata’s post exposes little about journalism in Canada, and an uncomfortable lot about his own ignorance of the industry." Another young journalist, Joëlle Pouliot, tackled the issue in the Montreal Gazette, questioning whether Nagata unfairly hurt the reputation of young journalists. Months later, Nagata was asking his own big questions, along with another former, albeit older, broadcast journalist, Tim Knight, on The Mark. The two faced off in a debate: “Is TV news in Canada worth a damn?”
Sun Media ditches Ontario Press Council
After close to three decades of membership, Sun Media decided to pull its 27 daily and community member papers from the Ontario Press Council. The chain cited several reasons for quitting the council, chiefly taking issue with the OPC’s – perceived – politically correct mentality. OPC chair Robert Elgie said he was “disappointed” by Sun’s decision; others were more vocal. John Miller wrote this on his blog: “"Unfortunately, Sun Media's stated reasons for pulling out are as misleading and full of holes as some of its breezy tabloid news stories.” And, John Honderich penned a column in the Toronto Star saying the move heralded “a sad time for newspapering in Ontario.” Sun Media later agreed to talk to the OPC about their decision, but no promises were made on the outcome.
Trouble at Frank Magazine
In June, Halifax-based Frank Magazine fired the majority of its small newsroom, then wrote about it in the next issue. J-Source reported on the story behind the decision to print the inside story, why the newsroom was gutted, and where Frank, which had recently acquired a new publisher, went from there. The Frank firings were big news in Maritime media circles, and everyone from the CBC to the Halifax Chronicle Herald reported on the details – salacious and mundane alike. In all, three people – in a five-person newsroom – were fired; one resigned in protest. At the centre of it all: an article penned by the one remaining staff member (now editor) under the penname Eddie Cornwallis.
As it turns out, Frank wasn’t too happy with J-Source’s in-depth story: In response, Frank published a rebuttal (and, forgetting copyright laws, the J-Source story, in full) in its next issue, marking our first-ever appearance in the satirical mag.
Christie Blatchford leaves the Globe
The media world went atwitter in June when Christie Blatchford announced she was leaving the Globe and Mail and returning to the National Post as Postmedia’s national columnist. Blatchford, who officially made the move June 13, praised the Post in a press release announcing her move: “I’m glad to be back in the fold. It feels like my natural home. I never stopped reading National Post every day, I think it’s the prettiest and best written newspaper in the country. I’m really happy to be back.” Later, she told J-Source: “"The whole time I was at the Globe I still talked about the fact that my heart is with the Post.” She also compared her relationship with the Globe to a failed marriage, saying, “Both sides tried, but it inevitably collapsed in on itself. But we tried, so that's nice."
The accreditation issue
Thanks to the Payette Report, and Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications Christine St-Pierre’s later endorsement, accreditation has become one of the prickliest topics in journalism. When J-Source’s Alexandra Bosanac interviewed then newly-named Canadian Association of Journalists president Hugo Rodrigues in July, Rodrigues said he wasn’t sure where the CAJ stood on the thorny issue: “As of yet, as a national organization, we don't have an opinion on the bigger question of professionalization of journalists.” At the time, Rodrigues said the association was working toward having a constructive discussion, and forming a position. One month later, the president of the CAJ Montreal chapter, Roger-Luc Chayer, resigned, citing tensions between the chapter and the national organization – some of which revolved around the accreditation issue. The CAJ now plans to discuss accreditation at its mid-September meeting, and has polled members for their thoughts.
Big summer changes at RTDNA
After 49 years under the acronym RTNDA, the Association of Electronic Journalists voted to change its name in late June. The new name -- Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) – is meant to acknowledge the industry’s growing emphasis on all things digital. To cement this new focus, RTDNA also appointed its first-ever digital chair, Andrew Lundy, Director of Globalnews.ca, in early August. J-Source caught up with Lundy and RTDNA Canada president Andy LeBlanc shortly after the appointment to chat about the changes in the organization – and the industry. The resulting conversation is perhaps summed up best by Lundy, who said: “It’s a really exciting, jumbled world right now and we’re all figuring it out.”
Conrad Black goes back to prison
In June, a judge resentenced Conrad Black to 42 months, less time served. While Black had already served 29 months in jail, he had been out on bond pursuing various appeals. Two fraud charges were eventually reversed, leading to the resentencing. Black was back to prison this month, but before doing so gave a few interviews on his new book A Matter of Principle about – what else – his time in jail, his innocence, and the prison system. Here’s how Black described his prison time to Matt Galloway on Metro Morning: “No one is going to bother me there and it's not physically dangerous ... I wouldn't want to overstate it: it's not country club. It's quite spartan and you are subject to the authority of unskilled labour frequently masquerading as figures of much more natural or earned authority than they may actually possess. But as long as you don't aggravate the system they don't bother you very much. And, as I said, seven months can go quickly if you've got things to do.”
Reporting on Jack Layton’s death
The role of columnists, expressing opinions, and commenting on the dead were all hot j-topics after Christie Blatchford penned a much-slammed (but also lauded, to a much less extent) column following Jack Layton’s death. While Blatchford’s article started out criticizing the media coverage of Layton’s death, it quickly turned to picking on Layton’s much-circulated deathbed letter – and this is what drew much of readers’ ire. Following the blow-up, J-Source published an article by ethics editor Ivor Shapiro who asked whether commenting on the dead was really all in the timing: “There may be many good reasons to avoid commenting on it (such as, having nothing fresh to say), but for a columnist to refrain from expressing herself on so public and political an event on the grounds of nothing but timing and taste would seem a very, very odd choice. Perhaps, even, an unprofessional one.”
We also explored the advance obit, which allowed the Toronto Star to publish an in-depth obituary 20 minutes after news of Layton’s death broke, and how one young journalist learned that market size doesn’t matter when it comes to the essential skills of journalism.
The Angelo Persichilli debate
When Stephen Harper appointed Toronto Star columnist and Corriere Canadese editor Angelo Persichilli as his new director of communications last week, many politicians, journalists, and regular Joes and Janes were surprised. As Jane Taber writes in The Globe and Mail, “Angelo Persichilli does not fit the Harper mould.” Persichilli may be the 11th person to serve as Harper’s senior communications aid, and the sixth to act as director of communications since Harper became PM, but he is the only journalist. He also doesn’t speak French – and once penned a not-so-flattering article for the Toronto Star on Quebec and then BQ leader Gilles Duceppe, which included this line: “Canadians love Quebec but Duceppe may not have to work too hard to convince Canadians to let it go.” Both things have prompted a Quebec sovereignty activist to lodge a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. What does this all mean for journalists’ relationship with the PMO? As they say, only time will tell.
Huffington Post comes to Canada
Huffington Post Canada debuted in late May. Founder Arianna Huffington made the trip to Toronto for the launch, revealing she had been planning the move into Canada for some time. No wonder. Before debuting a Canada-specific site, 1.5 million Canadians visited Huffington Post in an average month. As for staffing: the AOL Canada team and the HuffPo Canada team have merged, for a total of 24 staff. New hires included: Kenny Yum and Rashida Jeeva of The Globe and Mail, as well as Brodie Fenlon and Lisa Yeung. Heather Reisman, Indigo Books and Music CEO, is the editor-at-large.
New publications, new people
In other news, summer was also the time of new publications and new people: Evan Solomon became the new host of CBC’s The House in September; Dan McIntosh became the new co-anchor of Regina’s News at Six; news sports mag Sportsnet Magazine was announced and Canadian Business editor Steve Maich left his post to become its new editor; Tom Clark and Patrick Brown joined Global News; Tony Burman joined Ryerson as the Velma Rogers Graham Research Chair; and J-Source’s own Ivor Shapiro became Ryerson’s new Chair of journalism; plus Spacing teamed up with re:place to launch Spacing Vancouver. Oh, and the Globe and Mail is building new offices.