A two-tiered press in Quebec

Something funny is going on in Quebec. Not “ha ha” funny but curious and even, in some people’s opinion, a threat to freedom of speech in the province.

Quebec Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre has announced she wants “a new model of regulation of Quebec media.” Her plan is based on the conclusions of a government-commissioned report by Dominique Payette, a former Radio-Canada journalist, on the state of Quebec’s news media. Payette’s report suggested governments act to prevent “the conditions of practicing professional journalism” from deteriorating further, laying the blame on the emergence of new technologies.

The plan would include drawing up legislation to create a “status of professional journalist”—a “professional journalist” being one who serves the public interest, as opposed to those “amateur bloggers.” Under the system, state-recognized professional journalists would enjoy certain “advantages or privileges,” though these aren’t outlined in detail; a La Presse report suggests they would include “better access to government sources.” Notably, one part of St-Pierre’s consultation documents states that the internet today does not provide readers with “original information that respects the journalistic method.”

Organizations that represent journalists would hand out the special status. One such group, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, has expressed its support for the idea. Which is a total shocker, since wielding such power would likely give a healthy boost to its membership numbers (and the annual fees those members pay).

This fall, the government will hold public consultations across the province to discuss the idea.

Read Graeme Hamilton’s full story here.

Related links:

How did we get to the point where it seems entirely natural for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to describe political journalists appearing on its air as… ‘the insiders?’  Don’t think you think that’s a little strange? I do. Promoting journalists as insiders in front of the outsiders, that is to us, the viewers, the electorate…. this is a clue to what’s broken about political coverage in the U.S. and Australia. Here’s the way I would summarize it: Things are out of alignment. Journalists are identifying with the wrong people. Therefore the kind of work they are doing is not as useful as we need it to be.

Posted on August 26, 2011 at 10:37 am by editor ·

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  1. Written by Keith Maskell, staff representative, CMG
    on August 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    This is an interesting development. There are definitely pros and cons to having what would essentially be a professional designation for journos. If you’re looking for an accountant, you might hold out for someone who has their CA or CMA designation. If you need someone to build a bridge for you, you’re going to make sure that you hire someone with a P.Eng. And you don’t want anyone but an MD to operate on your mother’s gall bladder, right? Those designations are meant to reassure the client that the holder of the title knows what he/she is doing and is answerable for his/her actions.

    Nearly every freelance journalist has had the experience of trying – and sometimes failing – to obtain accreditation to cover an event. The theory behind the Québec concept – which the FPJQ has quiety been pushing for for years – is that having a professional designation would make it easier to winnow out the newbies and the hacks who are just in it to get a free full-access pass.

    The devil is likely to be in the details. Just what is going to be involved in obtaining the designation? Can we trust the FPJQ or the CAJ or any other organization to be fair, transparent, and, above all, consistent in granting the credential? And how will consumers know whether a given blogger is a “professional” journalist or not? To me it would feel a trifle pretentious to put “Keith Maskell, P.Journ.” in a byline… I’m pretentious enough as it is.

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