I was listening to Newstalk 1010 this morning where the host was talking to a newspaper columnist about the case of Marie-Maude Denis, a Radio-Canada journalist who is being forced by the courts to reveal her sources.
Her story led to arrests, and now one of the parties on trial are claiming a variety of things, and that her source had a vested interest.
Canada never had the same protections for journalists as they have in the US, and mostly never needed to as journalists tend to be highly deferential to authority. This case is interesting in its own right, given the defence has used an effective strategy for its own fishing expedition, but considering the trial would have evidence that is not the actual story Denis filed, I am not certain how relevant putting her on the stand to make her reveal her sources would actually be.
Should she be compelled to reveal her sources? I would say no, but journalists often make promises they cannot keep in the hopes of getting information.
But the conservation about this case was more interesting to me, with the typical snooty assertion that everything was great until the waters were muddied with bloggers and citizen journalists.
Except Denis is not a citizen journalist.
And the argument falls apart on other factors: journalists, particularly in Canada, were never disciplined the way they should have been if they wished to be the ones entrusted with disseminating information. You need no special training or licence to be a reporter, for instance. There are no standards; ergo, there is no discernible difference between a “real” journalist and a citizen journalist — one is in the army, and the other is a mercenary.
They both do essentially the same thing, but journalists have a little more money to show for it.
So it is not as if journalists were ever prepared. They could have been more effective at their jobs, and then the differences between their work and the citizen journalist would be obvious. You cannot use a Clubhouse Excuse why journalists have become weak and unable to fight back when people they have slagged in their stories retaliate. You put out a mediocre product; you cannot whine when the knock-offs look the same or better than your work.
The segment also brought up the case of Antoine Trépanier, another Radio-Canada reporter who was arrested for “criminally harassing” a source he was trying to interview, even though she had not exactly turned down his request when that would have been enough to make him not ask her again.
I am not unfamiliar with those kinds of sources, though the first time it happened was when I was just starting out and I was asked to write an advertorial about a store and the “source” who kept putting it off, but always said to “call him back” called my editor to complain I was “harassing” him. Never mind that it was advertising and it was paid for by the store’s owner and then told the man (who was the manager) to give me a quick interview.
You get people like that all of the time — those who do not know how to decline a request. The police should not have arrested him — they should have spoken to him, he could have easily provided proof that the potential source had made no indication that she felt harassed.
The problem is that the profession never got its act together. It never had standards the way way a surgeon has standards. We never progressed was a discipline, and that’s why everything got destroyed. People who are doing bad things can easily take advantage of that weakness, and that shouldn’t be happening in 2018.
Because it doesn’t matter if there are citizen journalists or bloggers — if you have a system, the results elevate your work over the amateur versions of it. It is no excuse, and yet journalists whine about their glory days, never realizing it was that glory that brought them to their ruin in the first place…