Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Christie Blatchford, "real" journalist

Christie Blatchford is what used to be commonly referred to as a "sob sister" -  a female journalist who covers human interest stories, heavy on the pathos angle. The term originated in the early 1900s when a relatively minor homicide was ramped up by a fevered press into the "crime of the century". A jealous man murdered his wife's lover. Three newspapers detailed 4 women writers to provide daily, tear-jerking coverage, and thus, the "sob sisters" monicker was born. It fits Christie, and her counterpart at the Star Rosie DiManno to a T.

It is therefore somewhat ironic that she chose to lambast "self annointed" citizen journalists in her column, taking them to task for a lack of accreditation, and I quote:

"First, journalism is not merely a collective of the self-anointed. For all that it may not be a regulated profession, neither is it just a coming together of people with cellphones, video cameras and blogs as receptacle for an apparently endless stream of unfiltered, unedited consciousness."

I see. Not a regulated profession. You just said a mouthful there Christie.

"In other words, just as you are not a physician or a lawyer merely because you say you are, much as you may want to believe it so, neither are you a journalist because you and your friends say you are or because your “writings” appear on a website."

Except that medicine and law are regulated professions, so that's not a fair comparison. Journalism is not, as you already stated. Anyone can call themselves a writer, artist, musician, car mechanic, home renovator, gardener, faith healer --  it seems there are a lot of unregulated professions, mostly in areas where the outcome is not life and death. I'm okay with that.

"You will have heard reports of various independent/alternative journalists who claim to have been illegally detained and threatened by the police."

Yes, you're right Christie, I have heard those reports. I heard a number of them in real time thanks to Twitter feeds from people who were actually there. There was also live coverage on CP24 throughout Saturday and Sunday. The attack of the riot police on peaceful demonstrators in Queen's Park, at Queen and Spadina, outside the Novotel Hotel and the detention center was well documented in real time both by real journalists from CP24 and by eyewitnesses. I was not actually there, and neither were you.

"But let us not pretend that these folks are working journalists or that they are the equivalent. 
They aren’t, for the most part.
Their work isn’t subject to editing or lawyering or the ethical code which binds, for example, the writers at The Globe. The websites on which they appear don’t belong, as do most reputable newspapers in this province, to the Ontario Press Council, a body which hears complaints against traditional journalists and publications."

I think you can leave out the sanctimonious reference to editing now that the Globe and Mail has fired half its editors and proofreaders. Face it Christie, running an article through a spill chuck is not real editing.

"Why should an alternative journalist (self-anointed, often with a demonstrable political agenda) be automatically assumed to be an infallible truth-teller or always accurate?"

In the first place, citizen journalists posting eye-witness photos and videos were actually there. It's a concept that I realize is rather difficult for you to grasp, since you prefer to sit in glorified segregation around the fake lake and slap your byline onto press-releases from the government, or Bill Blair.

In the second place, bloggers and other citizen journo's do not answer to advertisers, ownership, or the PMO. As to your point about a demonstrable political agenda, surely you jest. The Globe and Mail has a very clear political agenda, as does the NatPo, the Sun chain, CTV, Global, and just about every mainstream media outlet you care to name. At least bloggers are clearly voicing an opinion, not couching that opinion in the illusion of factual reporting.

"... the press pass doesn’t grant even traditional journalists carte blanche access everywhere.
In the midst of a riot, it is not a shield that can be waved to keep either police or rioters at bay. It is neither an avoid-jail nor get-out-of-jail-free card."

Look, there is no reason for anyone to be arrested for being a mere observer. The law does not require bystanders to intervene in a crime, nor does is state that observers are guilty of participating in crimes they observe. This applies both to citizens and journalists. Of course if a reporter breaks the law, journalistic accreditation does not provide an out clause. I have yet to see anyone claim it does. I think the problem people have is with the whole illegally arrested thing.

"Thus, in the G20 protests, journalists, real or self-appointed, traditional or otherwise, had no special rights to go where we wanted and no special badge of protection against arrest."

You're kidding right? Since when are special rights required to walk the streets of this city? Further, it's now common knowledge that no special police powers to search were ever actually granted. That was a fabrication from your BFF Bill Blair. I'm suprised you haven't  read about that yet. Or do you only read your own column?

"...I would point out that the area north of the Ontario Legislature was indeed designed as a protest area during the summit. It was never, however, meant to function as a no-go zone, to which the darling practitioners of the Black Bloc arts could retreat unchallenged and un-interfered with by the police to change clothes so that they might blend back with the regular crowd."

The fact is, that the time for police to interfere with the Black Bloc was when they made themselves visible by detaching from the crowd. D'UH! How stupid do you have to be not to see that? There may well be vandals hiding within the civilian population, but that does not give police the right to attack and arrest the civilian population as though all are criminal, or to accuse them of harbouring criminals. When you know they hide in the crowd, then detach to wreak destruction, then go back into hiding in the crowd, when would you, in all your wisdom, have gone after them Christie?

"... since with the wisdom of hindsight it is now apparent that everyone knew that the anarchists/Black Bloc types would try to wreak havoc on the city, why are the organizers of the legitimate protests not being questioned about their accountability? They too presumably knew – as did police and security forces – that their peaceful demonstrations likely would be disrupted; what steps did they take to stop such a hijacking?"

Wisdom of hindsight? Seriously? Your buddy Bill Blair had been saying for weeks before the summit that this would happen. It happens like clockwork at every summit. Hindsight my ass. And again, it is not the responsibility of the protesters to police the vandals. That's what the taxpayers of this country paid over a billion bucks to the police to handle. They didn't.

"...since “the sweeping powers” granted the police via the “secret” law saw them, according to Toronto Chief Bill Blair, arrest exactly one (1) person under the temporary regulation to the Public Works Protection Act, isn’t the angst-ridden, hyperbolic debate rendered, as someone brighter than me remarked recently, nothing but an intellectual exercise?"

No, it's an exercise in splitting hairs. Police illegally demand to search people citing a non-existent law. Anyone who doesn't comply is arrested for breach of peace. So technically, no one was arrested under the law which didn't exist, but like I say, that's just splitting hairs.

"It would quite one thing if the 1,000 folks who were detained on G20 weekend were detained under the temporary regulation. The discussion would be meaningful."

Oh I see. The discussion is not meaningful. Right. Move on folks, nothing to see here. Largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Brutal detention conditions. Police brutality. Kettling. Rights abrogated. But don't worry. Christie says it's not meaningful.

"But when it’s all said and done, it will turn out that most of those detained were arrested for breach of the peace or to prevent a breach of the peace, which is an arrest authority, not a criminal charge."

As I said above, this is bullshit. People were declining to be searched under a law that doesn't exist and then being arrested for breach of peace.

"In my view, it’s a vile authority too, generally speaking easily misused by police, and it may have been misused here as well."

Ya think?

Does it not bother you just a teeny tiny bit that your bud Chief Bill Blair spent over a week lying about what the law was?

"Finally, how amusing it is to see Toronto, press and public alike, whip themselves into a frenzy of outrage over alleged police inaction and then alleged police overreaction, when all of this, in terms even more stark, happened in Caledonia, Ont., from 2006 onwards, and no one gave a fig."

We are not talking about Caledonia. We are talking about the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. We are talking about illegal searches, a law that the chief of police made up on the fly, police brutality, a massive failure to catch the real criminals in the act despite the presence of 20,000 police and security forces, and totally inhumane detention conditions.

Try to keep up, huh? And if you can't, move over and let the bloggers and citizen journalists take over.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers


  1. I can't wait for the day that Blatchford gets caught up in some police sweep of protestors while going to get a cup of coffee. I guaran-fucking-tee you that you'll hear her shrieking "but I'm a journalist, I love cops! Don't you know who I am?" from sea to sea to sea the first time somebody with a shield and riot stick asks to see some ID.

  2. Now that is something I'd pay to see!

  3. It looks like Christie Blatchford thinks that if the Globe ever lets her go, she won't be a journalist anymore - that it is her boss, not her work, that legitimizes her worth. Gosh, maybe she's right.