CAJ AWARDS

The Canadian Association of Journalists is pleased to announce most of the finalists for its annual awards for outstanding investigative journalism in Canada published or broadcast in 2016. Check out the full list of finalists!

Join us at #CAJ17!

Photo courtesy heipei via Flickr

We are excited for this year’s national conference April 28-29 in Ottawa. As journalism continues to take a hit, with layoffs piling up and continued attacks on press freedom, we know it's not easy in Canadian newsrooms. And we also know this:

#JournalismMatters

So let’s rally. Join us in Ottawa for valuable discussions on press freedom, freelancing, interviewing, data, ethics and more—as well as networking opportunities with journalists across Canada.

Keep an eye on the #CAJ17 page as we announce panels, workshops, speakers and keynotes.

You can also register for the conference here.

THE Latest FROM THE CAJ

The White House must give the press equal treatment

In response to the White House's decision to exclude certain news organizations from an informal news briefing last week, the Canadian Association of Journalists is publishing an open letter, which you can read in its entirety below.

RE: The White House’s relationship with the press corps

The Canadian Association of Journalists adds its voice to those gravely concerned about President Donald Trump’s lack of respect for a free press. The President’s dangerous disregard for a free press started with tweets berating certain news organizations, and escalated recently when those same news outlets, and others, were barred from an informal press briefing.

Many of the CAJ’s members reported the news when former prime minister Stephen Harper attempted to manipulate, shut out, and ultimately bypass journalists both in the nation’s capital and across Canada. Harper’s approach to the press sometimes divided journalists, at least to some extent, as they reacted to rules imposed on the prime minister’s press availabilities.

We don’t intend to dredge up the past. But the CAJ urges Trump’s administration to offer equal treatment to every member of the White House press corps, and further to make no attempt to restrict a free press. We also urge every news organization to resist any government’s attempt—on both sides of the border—to divide the press or play favourites.

News organizations thrive on competition, but we’re worse off when we’re divided at the whim of a politician who decides, based on a desire to protect his own interests, that we don’t all have an equal right to report on his leadership.

Sincerely,

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
President, Canadian Association of Journalists

 

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Check out the latest Media Mag!

You might remember our New Year's message to members vowed to fight for and celebrate journalism in 2017. Well, we're going to start with a little bit of celebration. The CAJ presents its latest awards edition of Media Magazine, edited by the diligent David McKie, an investigative reporter at CBC News who takes time every year to contact award-winning Canadian journalists and ask them to tell the stories behind their powerful journalism.

Find the latest edition of Media here (and to read back issues dating to 1997, click here). The issue goes in-depth on journalism that won both CAJ Awards and National Newspaper Awards in 2016. As McKie reminds us in his opening editorial, these stories had serious impact. Just a sampling:

The Telegraph-Journal forced daycare operations to fire dubious employees, and become more diligent in their criminal background checks. The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s work prompted Winnipeg’s mayor to begin asking tough questions about working conditions. And Radio-Canada’s Enquête forced Quebec’s Liberal government to hold an inquiry into the treatment of Indigenous women in Val d’Or.

Anyone who scanned the last year's lists of award winners knows that reporting into the plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls won the admiration of judges across the board. The team behind the Toronto Star's Gone series—read it all here—won the CAJ's Open Media award, as well as the NNA for Project of the Year. In Media, the team behind the investigations pulls back the curtain on their reporting—and offers crucial lessons learned for all of us to ponder.

Every story in Media provides an opportunity to learn. In these pages, you'll gain insight into how and why journalists told their stories, but you'll also find invaluable tips and tricks that could strengthen your own work. We're so grateful that journalists continually share their wisdom with peers. As McKie concludes: "Be inspired. Make a difference. These folks did."


 

A few words of thanks go to the Atkinson Foundation and the Michener Awards Foundation for advertising in Media. Our final thanks is reserved for David McKie, Media's editor who spends countless hours of free time assembling every edition. If you have a sec, tweet him your thanks.

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Let’s fight for—and celebrate—journalism in 2017

Dear CAJ Supporters,

As our social feeds are inundated with friends and family bidding good riddance to 2016, we can’t forget that our hard work on behalf of journalists is constant, and doesn’t pay attention to calendars turning over into new years. There will be fights—and victories—in the year to come, and one year ending doesn’t somehow reset the counter. That said, we’d like to take a minute to reflect on some of our work from the past year. And then turn our attention to the future.

2016 brought newsroom cuts and consolidation, press-freedom violations, as well as steps forward and backward on access to information laws, and the CAJ spoke out on those issues repeatedly in national media. We also testified twice at House of Commons committees, on ATIP reform and the future of local news.

We teamed up with other organizations repeatedly. We joined a coalition of press-freedom groups as intervenors in an appeal of an RCMP production order that would force VICE journalist Ben Makuch to turn over correspondence with a source. We worked with Ryerson’s Centre for Free Expression and PEN Canada on a report into mass surveillance. And we spoke out loudly with press-freedom groups when police surveillance of journalists in Montreal came to light.

In May, we held our annual two-day conference in Edmonton, where delegates picked up must-have skills from their peers, learned about alternative storytelling and funding models, and heard from cutting-edge keynotes including Catherine Gicheru and Shadi Rahimi.

That conference concluded with the CAJ Awards Gala, which honoured the best Canadian storytelling of 2015. CBC News took home the Don McGillivray Award for Investigative Journalism for its investigative work on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

At the gala, we also launched a fellowship in cooperation with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. A few months later, we named John W. Murray as the program’s first fellow. Two weeks after that, we named the latest recipients of the Aga Khan-CAJ Fellowship for International Development Reporting, Frédérick Lavoie and Jennifer Yang. And earlier in the fall, we honoured the latest EU-Canada Young Journalist Fellowship winners at a reception in Ottawa.

All told, 2016 was a shocking, scary year for journalists—but also hopeful. No doubt 2017 will be no different, and our fight for journalists—and celebration of our craft—continues. Happy New Year.

Yours Sincerely,

Nick Taylor-Vaisey

 

 

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Welcome to the new CAJ.ca!

Dear CAJ members

As our previous membership management software and website were not meeting organizational needs or allowing us to provide the kind of service CAJ members expect and deserve, we have decided to migrate our membership management and website to a different company.

After a rigorous review of the available options, we have settled on Starchapter as the company which most thoroughly meets CAJ’s needs in a cost-effective and user-friendly manner. During this review, we evaluated a number of  options, looking at their usability, their advantages for members and, importantly, their privacy policies.

 Starchapter is based in the United States, something we took into consideration while preparing for the switch. We are assured member data housed on Starchapter’s US servers will be subject to a level of privacy and security commensurate with what it currently experiences. CAJ members’ payment information will now be processed by PSIGate, a Canadian company headquartered in Toronto. It will not leave the country.

We asked Starchapter to tell us under what circumstances it would disclose our data to authorities: the below is an excerpt from its policy available on the new website in full:

Vendor shall not (a) modify Customer Data, (b) disclose Customer Data except as expressly permitted by Customer or as compelled by law, or (c) access Customer Data except to provide the Service and prevent or address service or technical problems, or at Customer's request in connection with implementation, training, and on-going support matters.

 In other words, Starchapter will not sell or give away your contact data. Board members and administrative users may be contacted by email with software updates and Starchapter newsletters, but this will not affect members who are not on the board. 

We are satisfied the appropriate steps have been taken to ensure member privacy and confidentiality.

 CAJ’s switch to Starchapter will open up many new opportunities for members: better control over your membership and member status, access to forums and a cleaner, more functional overall web presence for CAJ . We look forwards to seeing you there.

 f you have any concerns or questions about this transition, please contact CAJ president Nick Taylor-Vaisey at nick@caj.ca or CAJ administrator Kat Eschner at admin@caj.ca.

 Yours sincerely,

 Nick Taylor-Vaisey

CAJ President

 

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Mass surveillance harms the public interest: report

TORONTONov. 14, 2016 /CNW/ - As it becomes clear that police forces in Canada are actively spying on journalists, and damaging freedom of the press in the process, a new report confirms that writers across Canada are so concerned about mass surveillance that some are self-censoring their own activities.

Chilling Free Expression in Canada, a revealing report that draws upon a survey of 120 writers and journalists, shows that the vast majority of respondents expressed concern about government and corporate surveillance in Canada and abroad, and that resulting infringements on their privacy is causing a disturbing number of writers to think twice about what they publish and how they conduct research.

Read the full report here

The survey illuminates a Canadian perspective on a conversation already happening elsewhere. The Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University, in collaboration with PEN Canada and the Canadian Association of Journalists, conducted the survey of 129 Canadian writers and journalists between May 27 and June 20, 2016.

Close to a quarter of writers and journalists surveyed reported that they avoid writing about certain topics because of government and corporate surveillance. A fifth said they refrain from conducting internet searches or visiting web sites on topics that may be considered controversial or suspicious. "Writers and journalists are society's eyes and ears," says Centre for Free Expression Director James L. Turk. "If fear of surveillance is causing them to self-censor, the public is being denied important stories, and we are the poorer for it."

More than 70 per cent of respondents agreed that most Canadians are unconcerned or unaware about government surveillance. That has to change, says CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. "We know that police actively spy on journalists, and that whistleblowers who trust reporters to protect their identities will now be less willing to come forward," he says. "Canadians must understand the gravity of that ongoing threat to the public interest."

"The freedom of expression, not just of writers and journalists, but of all Canadians, needs constant and vigilant defence," says Grace Westcott, Executive Director of PEN Canada. "Mass government surveillance effectively encroaches on that freedom, to all our cost."

The Centre for Free Expression in the Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson University is a hub for public education, research and advocacy on free expression and the public's right to know. Our work is undertaken in collaboration with academic and community-based organizations across Canada and internationally.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing nearly 500 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide public-interest advocacy and high-quality professional development for its members.

PEN Canada is a non-partisan organization of writers that works to defend the right to freedom of expression at home and abroad.  PEN Canada celebrates literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison and assists writers living in exile in Canada.

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Montreal police were wrong to spy on a La Presse journalist

OTTAWA, Nov. 1, 2016 — When Montreal police brazenly surveilled La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé's cell phone, they instantly damaged press freedom in that city and across Canada, said the Canadian Association of Journalists.

La Presse revealed on Oct. 31 that Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal investigators had obtained 24 warrants to track Lagacé's location and delve into his iPhone's metadata in search of his confidential sources. The inexcusable surveillance of a journalist's activities, which police chief Philippe Pichet called an "exceptional situation," was part of a larger internal investigation involving an SPVM officer.

The surveillance of Lagacé's cell phone is the second worrying infringement on press freedom in Montreal in just over a month. In September, the CAJ joined our Quebec colleagues in condemning the Surete de Quebec's seizure of Journal de Montreal reporter Michael Nguyen's computer. "The public interest would be better served if investigators focused on the subject of Nguyen's reporting," we said at the time.

When this most-recent infringement came to light, it was swiftly—and rightly—condemned by the municipal opposition, and Mayor Denis Coderre and Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux later reinforced the importance of press freedom to a functioning democracy.

"Journalists are not a branch of law enforcement. Whistleblowers trust journalists to tell their stories and protect their identities, said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. "We report stories in the public interest, and the confidentiality of our sources is often vital in that work. It's inexcusable for a police force to forget that."

The CAJ will always speak out against police forces who seek—and judges who wrongfully grant—warrants that interfere with journalists doing their jobs. The public must know when law enforcement agencies overstep their bounds.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing nearly 500 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide public-interest advocacy and high-quality professional development for its members.

For further information: Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ president, 647-968-2393, nick@caj.ca

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Newfoundland journalist should not be arrested for doing his job

OTTAWA, OCT. 28  — Journalists must be able to bear witness to events in the public interest without fear that they’ll face legal consequences just for doing their job, said the Canadian Association of Journalists in the aftermath of a protest at the worksite of the controversial Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador.

Justin Brake, a journalist and editor at the Independent newspaper in that province, had embedded himself with Indigenous protesters who’d entered the worksite in defiance of an existing injunction. Brake was the only reporter to enter the site’s perimeter, and one of only a few journalists covering the occupation.

On the morning of Oct. 25, Brake was named in a court-ordered subpoena that allowed the local sheriff to arrest any individuals who had violated the injunction received by Nalcor Energy, the proponent of the project. Brake left the site, but may still face charges—despite his assertion that he was acting solely as a reporter filing for the Independent.

“We want to know why a reporter’s name was not removed from the subpoena as soon as it became apparent that he was simply following a story and telling it to his readers,” said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. “It’s imperative that reporters be allowed to work in the public interest, as is our constitutional right.”

Authorities also have to recognize that all citizens have a right to observe, question and speak out about powerful interests in their communities. As mainstream news sources are less able to cover developing stories in remote areas, independent news sources and active citizens continue to speak truth to power. Their freedom of expression must be recognized.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing nearly 500 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide public-interest advocacy and high-quality professional development for its members.

For more information:

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ president

647-968-2393

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UNFCCC media accreditation for Rebel News Network

The letter below is a reproduction of the correspondence the CAJ sent to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. See the original letter here.

Oct. 13, 2016
RE: UNFCCC media accreditation for Rebel News Network


Dear sir or madam,

I write to you today in my capacity as president of a leading advocacy group for working journalists in Canada. It has come to the CAJ’s attention that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat denied a request for media accreditation to journalists who work at The Rebel—and who wish to report on the Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco that runs Nov. 7-18.

The CAJ encourages the Secretariat to reverse that decision and grant media accreditation to the two reporters and photographer who submitted applications. We disagree with the apparent rationale for the rejection of accreditation; namely, that The Rebel does not satisfy the four criteria set out for officially accredited online media; and that the organization was denied accreditation on the basis of publishing “advocacy journalism,” a term the UNFCCC website fails to define (which raises a serious concern that the label is provided arbitrarily).

The Rebel is an independent media outlet funded by subscriptions and advertising. The organization employs 21 journalists, consistently publishes original news stories that often go otherwise untold, regularly reports on provincial legislatures across Canada, and counts among its staff an accredited member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa.

The CAJ is a staunch supporter of free expression in Canada and around the world. We believe that The Rebel, a legitimate digital news organization, deserves a seat at the same table as the rest of the traditional, broadcast, and online journalists who will cover the Climate Change Conference in November. We encourage the UNFCCC secretariat to approve The Rebel’s application so it can report on issues of significant national and international interest.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
President, Canadian Association of Journalists

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CAJ condemns seizure of Journal de Montreal reporter’s computer

OTTAWA, Sept. 23, 2016 – The Canadian Association of Journalists adds its voice to those of its Quebec colleagues in criticizing the Surete de Quebec’s seizure of Michael Nguyen’s computer.

The computer was seized as a result of an investigation being conducted by Quebec’s judicial council based on Nguyen’s reporting of Quebec Court Judge Suzanne Vadeboncoeur behaviour published by the Journal de Montreal in June. The SQ are seeking information on the source of a video used as the basis for the reporting.

“Journalists are not police officers, officers of the court or part of law enforcement – to be so would threaten journalists’ independence that is vital to public-interest reporting,” said CAJ president Nick Taylor-Vaisey. “In this case, a journalist did his job in bringing a matter of immense public interest speaking to the integrity of those serving on the bench to light.

“Rather than seize this journalist’s materials, the public interest would be better served if investigators focused on the subject of Nguyen’s reporting.”

The computer in question is under judicial seal until a judge can rule on the validity of the search warrant used to obtain it. The CAJ hopes it will be excluded as necessary evidence and returned to Nguyen promptly.

The CAJ is Canada’s largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing nearly 500 members across the country. The CAJ’s primary roles are to provide public-interest advocacy and high-quality professional development for its members.

For further information: Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ president, 647-968-2393, nick@caj.ca

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CAJ on local news: Our submission to the House of Commons

The CAJ was invited to testify at the House of Commons standing committee on Canadian Heritage on the future of local news. Read our submission below. For the rest of our testimony, click here.

Thank you for inviting us to appear here today. I’m Nick Taylor-Vaisey, the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. I’m here today in that capacity, and do not speak on behalf of my employer. I’ll be sharing my time with Hugo Rodrigues, the CAJ’s past-president. Today, we’re speaking to you in Ottawa and from Toronto, but our National Board represents almost every corner of Canada. We see that as a strength, even if it does make our board meetings across several time zones tricky to schedule. It’s a strength because the CAJ is a truly national association of working journalists with members all over the country, and across all forms of media.

Before we offer you our thoughts on how the federal government can proactively, but non-intrusively, encourage high-quality journalism in Canada, allow us to tell you a bit more about our organization.

The CAJ was founded in 1978 as the Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organization that encouraged and supported investigative journalism. Over the years, we broadened our mandate, and now offer three primary services to our members: high-quality professional development, primarily at our annual national conference; outspoken advocacy on behalf of journalists and the public’s right to know; and an awards program that honours the finest journalism in Canada—both investigative and across several other categories—and is affordable for our members.

Our members are the working journalists who are responsible for outstanding reporting that changes lives, forces governments to do better for Canadians, and ultimately serves the public interest. They’re local reporters who keep their eye on city hall when few others are watching, and who simply report the news that better informs their community. Of course, our members are often the first to feel the brunt of layoffs that have cut so deeply across newsrooms.

We are here to provide two modest recommendations that would allow more storytelling in more local newsrooms, and help stem the tide of job losses, at least to some degree, in those same newsrooms. The first recommendation is that government provides incentives to prospective local advertisers in Canadian communities; the second recommendation is that government make it easier for non-profit journalism to take flight in Canada.

You’ve already heard in prior testimony to this committee, and you no doubt already knew, that media are facing a revenue problem. Advertisers are able to exploit digital opportunities that offer more eyeballs and a larger audience share. This has irrevocably shifted balance sheets at media companies across Canada — first it was the classifieds, then the national ads, and now it’s hitting us at every level.

Just this week, the Rainy River Record, a paper that has served its readers for almost a century, announced it will stop publication this month and shut its doors. Why? The Record’s publisher said two of its major advertisers, the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, have chosen to, as he put it, “shun newspaper advertising” in favour of global giants like Google. That closure represents yet another blow to all newspapers in both Ontario and across Canada.

Put simply: As revenues drop, many media owners cut expenses by laying off journalists. With fewer human resources in those newsrooms, less journalism is produced and journalists spend more time chasing audiences that generate potential new online revenue than they do investing in content. With less content available and the quality of that content dropping, audiences look elsewhere for the information they want. All the while, revenues continue to drop.

Bob Cox, the chair of the Canadian Newspaper Association, told this committee on May 31 the federal government “could find ways of encouraging Canadian companies to spend their advertising dollars here.” The CAJ supports that view.

We’re not proposing a regulatory solution to the pervasive revenue question that’s gone largely unanswered in many media companies, both big and small. To be certain, different markets face different pressures, and some have more success than others. But there’s a clear and urgent need to find creative solutions for those communities in need.

The CAJ does support, generally speaking, government making it easier to invest in Canadian media—for instance, a tax break for local advertisers who currently see no advantage in placing an ad in their local newspaper or broadcaster. We know that when local media can raise enough revenue from their community, they can thrive. Let’s offer an incentive for companies to invest in the journalism being done in their backyards.

When media companies can cover their expenses through the revenues they raise from advertising, they can and do invest in quality — content that informs Canadians about their roles and responsibilities in a civil society, that shines a light in dark places, speaks truth to power and comforts the afflicted.

We also think government can play a useful role in the nonprofit world, which can play a crucial role in public-interest reporting and public education. This is, of course, distinct from public broadcasters such as the CBC and its public-broadcasting counterparts, including Ontario’s TVO. The CAJ believes Canada should embrace non-profit journalism as other countries, including the United States, already do.

To cherry-pick one example, ProPublica is a charitable organization south of the border that counts itself as one among many so-called 501(c)(3) non-profits. That’s a reference to sec. 501(c)(3) of the U.S.’s Internal Revenue Code, and it allows qualifying organizations tax-exempt status for the purposes of, among other goals, public education.

Now, that doesn’t mean transforming local reporters into civics teachers, though we certainly find ourselves playing that role from time to time in our communities. ProPublica describes its investigative reporting as work that “shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.” Not exactly the sort of thing you’ll find in an elementary school classroom, but it’s certainly as valuable.

Non-profit journalism does exist in Canada. The Walrus Foundation, The Tyee Solutions Society and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network all operate as charities—and with success. They’ve proven that charities can fund journalism. But there are far fewer examples in Canada than there are elsewhere in the world. The Knight Foundation in the U.S. and the trust-backed Guardian in the U.K. are but two examples of journalism-focused philanthropic initiatives that simply have no equal in Canada.

Non-profit media organizations have created compelling, groundbreaking stories that educate and inform their audiences about how their society works. Civic education is lacking in Canada, and while non-profit journalism isn’t a panacea for this problem, any government action to create and foster a friendly business environment to invest in these organizations can only help enable more of them to get started and flourish.

The more media outlets — whether traditional, mainstream, online, etc. — that operate in Canada, the more informed our residents will be. And that only strengthens our democracy.

Thank you for your time.

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