We talk to Canadian Association of Journalists past president Paul Schneidereit about the association's response to the professionalization issue in Quebec, its vote against creating the title, and why the issue's not dead yet.

We talk to Canadian Association of Journalists past president Paul Schneidereit about the association's response to the professionalization issue in Quebec, its vote against creating the title, and why the issue's not dead yet.

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J-Source: Can you explain the process of how you came to a consensus. I know you were gathering opinions on the issue before the meeting – there are a lot of very strong opinions on this subject.

Paul Schneidereit: I would never claim that our view represents a consensus of all members. We said we would take a position after doing appropriate consultation. We invited our members to send in their views. We had a very spirited discussion around the board table. We met in Toronto on the 17th, and 18th of this month as a board. At the end of that process, a motion was put forward to the effect that we would take the stand we did, and it was voted on and passed. In the end, while our position may not please each and every person who has an opinion on this matter, we felt we went through a process that was fair. At the end of the day, the board was accountable to its members. If members feel this is not what they think, in sufficient numbers, they can let us know.

J-Source: If you weren’t trying to reach a consensus, how did you weigh the opinions from the opposing sides?

PS: I’m not sure how to answer that. I personally have a point of view. My point of view was very much the point of view we came out with. I argued my position. Others argued what they thought. We went with the will of the board.

J-Source: Can you go into more detail of the CAJ’s position – what exactly will you be submitting to the Quebec government?

PS: If you go to our website, the actual full text of our submission is there.

J-Source: What reaction have you had?

PS: We’ve had very little reaction so far. It went out Friday. I’m certainly not aware of any ground swell of opinion where people are saying, ‘No, we don’t agree with that.’ I’m sure there are people that don’t. What I would say is that the subject of professionalization in its generic form is still out there. There are people who are supportive of the idea who feel, or may have felt, that the Quebec proposal wasn’t the way to go there, but still feel that a road can be found. Personally, I’m quite doubtful of that. I am, and have been for a long time, a critic of the concept. But there are certainly people that feel maybe there’s a way to do this. I don’t question that they have good intentions. Really, this position that was taken Friday very specifically deals with what Quebec was proposing.

J-Source: Yes, I’m sure people are not done talking about the issue yet. I’m sure the discussion will continue now that that particular can of worms, so to speak, has been opened.

PS: It’s interesting. People who feel strongly that this is something we should be looking – you have to respect the fact that they’re concerned about the public’s attitude toward the credibility of journalists and journalism, and they’re looking for ways to fix that problem, to address it. I don’t question for a second that either the problem, or the sincerity in trying to find a solution, are authentic. I just think that this is a mistake. Professionalization as an answer is a mistake – but that’s my personal opinion, in a larger sense. We certainly haven’t taken any position in the larger sense.

Now, there was another motion passed at the meeting, which we didn’t issue a release, that said the conversation about professionalization in the larger sense has to go on. Next spring’s national conference will be in Toronto, and I’m sure there will be session and discussions devoted to that.