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Alberta government must reinstate Rebel’s access to the legislature: CAJ

OTTAWA, FEB. 17, 2016 — Alberta’s government must abandon its attempt to block journalists’ access to the provincial legislature in Edmonton. The Canadian Association of Journalists reminds every government official who controls access to media lockups and press conferences that they do not control who gets to hold government to account.

Recently, Premier Rachel Notley’s director of communications, Cheryl Oates, as well as lawyers from the provincial justice department, unjustly blocked access to the legislature for journalists from Rebel Media, a conservative online news organization headed by Ezra Levant.

The National Post’s coverage of the ban on Rebel Media journalists reveals at least three inexplicable claims on the part of the government.

Claim #1: Governments deciding who is and isn’t a journalist.

“Our client’s position remains that your client (The Rebel) and those who identify as being connected to (The Rebel) are not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events.” — letter from Alberta’s justice department

The truth: No government gets to decide who can hold it to account.

Claim #2: News organizations are only news organizations if their owners are journalists.

“Our rationale on this is very simple and it comes down to one thing: It’s the fact that Ezra Levant himself has testified under oath that he is not a reporter and so we don’t consider him a reporter.” — Oates, citing Levant testimony from 2014

The truth: The government makes a poor case that Levant isn’t a journalist but, even if he weren’t, news organizations are still news organizations when their owners aren’t journalists.

Claim #3: Online news sources aren’t legitimate news sources.

“We didn’t allow bloggers or online news sources in … They (The Rebel) weren’t singled out.” — Oates, defending Rebel Media’s exclusion from a press conference

The truth: Online-only news operations are nothing new, in Canada or anywhere else. The CAJ rejects any blanket ban of online-only media, which are, in fact, legitimate.

“Albertans should be choosing what coverage of their government they want to read, not seeing government try to choose what coverage is suitable for Albertans,” said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 600 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.

For more information:

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
CAJ President
647.968.2393

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Postmedia cuts mean readers lose out on the truth: CAJ

OTTAWA, Jan. 20, 2016 — Postmedia may have forgotten that each reporting job it cuts means one less truth that won’t be told in Canada. But, starting today, the Canadian Association of Journalists will be making sure the company and its readers will be reminded of the fact.

Yesterday, Postmedia laid off 90 journalists at newsrooms in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Windsor, Ont., Toronto and Ottawa.

The list of those cuts includes David AlterLaura BoothJessica BrissonIan BusbyStephanie CoombsRyan CormierMatt DayColleen De NeveDave DormerDanielle DubeMargo GoodhandCon GriwkowskyLorraine HjalteChris HofleyGeorge JohnsonEric KoreenIan KucerakCorey LarocqueJulia LipscombeJohn MacKinnonBill MahMatt McClureKaitlyn McGrathCodie McLachlanBryan PassifiumeJason van RasselGwendolyn RichardsKeaton RobbinsTony SpearsRandy SportakMike Sutherland-ShawShelley WallisJohn K. WhiteDon WilcoxBrent WittmeierAlexandra Zabjek, and 54 others.

Many of them file at least one story per day.

As The Globe and Mail’s Selena Ross pointed out on Twitter, that amounts to thousands of stories a year that won’t be written — and, as Ross added, readers simply won’t know what they’re missing because readers “don’t know what they don’t know.”

“Cuts of any magnitude, in any newsroom, diminish the public’s right to know,” says CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. “Postmedia readers will, without a doubt, be left in the dark more often as a result of these cuts. Full stop.”

That’s why the Canadian Association of Journalist will be highlighting on Twitter all this week the stories those recently laid-off journalists shared with their readers—something they may never have the opportunity to do again.

The CAJ is Canada’s largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing more than 600 members across the country. The CAJ’s primary roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.

For further information:
Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ president, 647-968-2393, nick@caj.ca
www.caj.ca | www.facebook.com/CdnAssocJournalists | www.twitter.com/CAJ


CORRECTION—Jan. 21, 2016: This release originally included Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News reporter/photographer Megan Voss among those who lost their jobs. Voss remains employed by Postmedia. We regret the error.

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Purchase of Shaw Media sets stage for closures, consolidations

OTTAWA, Jan. 13, 2016 /CNW/ – The Canadian Association of Journalists is concerned a $2.6-billion sale of Shaw Media Inc. could lay the foundation for a series of negative changes to the broadcasting industry in Canada.

The purchase announced Wednesday involves selling the media assets of Shaw Communications Inc. to Corus Entertainment Inc. A plurality of shares in both companies is owned by the Shaw family.

The announcement is symptomatic of what can happen in a landscape dominated by fewer than a handful of corporations – the transfer of jobs and assets from one hand to another within a larger corporate structure to free up cash for other purposes. In this case – where the CAJ’s concerns lie – it will bring 15 television stations, 39 radio stations, 45 specialty channels and their associated digital properties under Corus’ management.

“This purchase only lays the groundwork for further consolidation and closures within the Canadian broadcasting industry. Such reductions, while favourable on a balance sheet, mean fewer options for those looking for original Canadian content on their TVs, radios and devices,” CAJ president Nick Taylor-Vaisey said. “They also mean fewer jobs, in Canada, for those who create that content.

“We urge Corus, should it choose to consolidate any of its properties, to preserve Canadian content and jobs in its newsrooms and production studios.”

The CAJ continues to hold its longstanding concern with the ongoing consolidation of ownership in the media sector and the negative impact this has on diversity of voices, availability of local news and information and opportunities for journalists.

The CAJ is Canada’s largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing more than 600 members across the country. The CAJ’s primary roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.

www.caj.ca | www.facebook.com/CdnAssocJournalists | www.twitter.com/CAJ

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

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CAJ stands up for editorial independence at Vista Radio

We sent this letter to Vista Radio on Wednesday, Dec. 9. A .pdf of the letter is available here.

Dec. 9, 2015

RE: Editorial independence of journalists

ATTN: Geoff Poulton, President of Vista Radio

Dear Mr. Poulton,

I write to you today in my capacity as the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. Our National Board was recently made aware of a concerning situation at Vista Radio properties that appears to threaten the editorial independence of journalists who work in your newsrooms.

A Vista Radio employee recently confirmed to the CAJ that the company made an offer to editorial staff to participate voluntarily in commissioned advertising sales during a chain-wide, one-day sales blitz. While we understand the challenges media owners face, and particularly the ongoing struggle even to maintain advertising revenue, we must oppose any effort to involve editorial staff in advertising.

The CAJ adopted a policy paper in 2007 that explains our position. We hold that separation of editorial and advertising operations are “critical to the long-term financial viability of a newspaper or broadcast outlet. If readers and viewers lose faith in a news outlet’s autonomy, they will abandon it.”

The policy paper on editorial independence offers a section on advertising guidelines that reinforce this principle:

“Complete operational separation should be maintained between editorial staff and advertising staff. Advertising staff should never attempt to influence new coverage in any way, whether it relates to a current client or not.”

The CAJ would strongly encourage Vista Radio to establish internal policy consistent with our policy paper’s recommendation to that end:

“All news outlets should create internally a list of guidelines for editors and advertising sales reps that clarify the segregation of editorial and ad functions…”

We understand that no journalist has been forced into ad sales, but clear rules that prohibit any breaches of the firewall between editorial and advertising operations can only enhance the credibility of any news organization.

I’d be happy to discuss this further, at your convenience. Please don’t hesitate to reach me at (647) 968-2393 or nick@caj.ca.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
CAJ President
(647) 968-2393
nick@caj.ca

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Canada loses more valuable storytellers: CAJ

**UPDATE: NOV. 19, 2015*** Further cuts at Bell have continued to stretch Canadian newsrooms. We continue to call for media owners to exercise good judgement and only cut news operations as a last resort.

OTTAWA / NOV. 7, 2015 / CNW – The Canadian Association of Journalists has written countless press releases in the wake of job cuts at newsrooms across Canada. We continue to watch as journalists and their audiences pay the price when publishers struggle to reconcile years-old industry challenges with their bottom line.

The latest cuts come at Bell Media, where the union representing journalists says 380 employees will be affected in Toronto and Montreal, including 290 from editorial and production operations. Stephane Giroux, a Montreal-based CTV legal affairs reporter, tweeted that the cuts affect all Bell-owned media properties. The company owns CTV, CP24, Business News Network, TSN, RDS, and 106 licensed radio stations.

“We feel for every journalist who loses a job, and every journalist forced to do more with less in a smaller newsroom,” said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. “The longer media owners struggle, the leaner our newsrooms become. Journalists lose, and so do their readers, listeners, and viewers.”

The CAJ is repeating calls for media owners to only cut news operations as a last resort. “Every time a newsroom loses a journalist, its audiences lose a fair and balanced voice,” said Taylor-Vaisey. “The hard-working journalists who remain save the day. But media owners shouldn’t rely on a strategy that pushes their newsrooms to a breaking point.”

The CAJ is Canada’s largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing more than 600 members across the country. The CAJ’s primary roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.

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

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RCMP interference in VICE News reporting is inexcusable: CAJ

OTTAWA, Nov. 3, 2015 /CNW/ – The Royal Canadian Mounted Police crossed a line earlier this year when its officers entered VICE News offices and demanded communications between a journalist and his source, says the Canadian Association of Journalists.

In February, after VICE reported on the actions and intent of a member of the so-called Islamic State militant group, the Mounties entered the news organization’s Montreal and Toronto offices. Officers ordered VICE to turn over all communications between reporter Ben Makuch and Farah Mohamed Shirdon, an IS militant who formerly lived in Calgary.

A court-ordered sealing order prevented VICE from reporting on the incident until Oct. 30. VICE is challenging both orders in court.

“Fighting terrorism by serving journalists with production orders and silencing them with gag orders for months on end violates Canada’s freedom of the press and is a waste of police resources,” said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. “Makuch was doing his job in the public interest. Police must respect every journalist’s right to protect their sources as they go about their work.”

Canadian reporters have a history of defending their rights in the face of police intimidation. When the Mounties raided Ottawa Citizen journalist Juliet O’Neill’s home in 2004 after she had reported exhaustively on Maher Arar’s case, they threatened her with prosecution under the Security of Information Act. The courts struck down the information-sharing sections of that law and affirmed O’Neill’s right of free expression.

Every time police inappropriately interrupt a journalist’s work, whether by demanding information or threatening prosecution, they pose a direct affront to the freedom of the press. “Journalists aren’t an on-call branch of law enforcement,” said Taylor-Vaisey. “The courts know that. It’s inexcusable for a police force to forget that.”

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 600 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this release inaccurately implied that the RCMP raided VICE News offices. We regret the error.

For further information: Nick Taylor-Vaisey, 647.968.2393, nick@caj.ca

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CAJ demands legal reforms in wake of B.C. secrecy scandal

KAMLOOPS, BC, Oct. 22, 2015 /CNW/ – The Canadian Association of Journalists demands British Columbia Premier Christy Clark take immediate action to reform the province’s records access law following the release of a report that indicates a breathtaking level of secrecy within her administration.

In that report, the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham found that government staff:

* deleted emails responsive to access to information requests and prevented others from producing these records;

* either wilfully or negligently failed to produce records that are potentially responsive to an access request; and

* failed to keep any sent emails, irrespective of the topic.

“Like too many other governments across this country, the Clark administration has repeatedly shown a callus disregard for the public’s democratic right to know what their elected government is doing,” said Canadian Association of Journalists president Nick Taylor-Vaisey.

“Denham’s catalogue of government secrecy requires nothing less than significant reforms to the province’s freedom of information law – a decades-old demand that has been repeatedly ignored by the BC Liberals.”

Taylor-Vaisey said that reform must include a legal requirement for public officials to document their decisions and punishment for those who don’t or destroy those records, as well the closure of a legal loophole that allows government to keep all of its policy advice secret.

“We are supposed to live in a democracy,” said Taylor-Vaisey. “But these are the actions of government that apparently doesn’t realize that.”

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with over 600 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.

For further information: Dale Bass, CAJ chair, 250-572-4620, dale@caj.ca; Sean Holman, CAJ vice-president, 403-397-4751, sean@caj.ca; www.caj.ca | www.facebook.com/CdnAssocJournalists | www.twitter.com/CAJ

Read the release on CNW.

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Newsrooms must confront sponsored content ethical dilemmas

OCT. 6, 2015 — Newsrooms must establish guidelines that clearly distinguish between what is journalism and what is advertising, says a new discussion paper from the Canadian Association of Journalists’ ethics advisory committee.

Content created to serve private interests is inherently different than content published in the public interest, says paper co-author Esther Enkin. “The CAJ ethics committee is clear that sponsored content does not meet the CAJ's own definition of journalism. But it's everywhere, and it's part of the working life of many of our colleagues,” she says.

“We hope this paper will spark a lively debate about the short and long term ethical implications of this ubiquitous model.”

Newsrooms confront two major ethical issues when it comes to sponsored content: potential deception of readers, and even self-deception within newsrooms; and conflict of interest involving journalists who both write critically and contribute to sponsored content on the same beat. The committee encourages newsrooms to acknowledge those issues and address them appropriately.

To read the discussion paper, click here.

The CAJ’s ethics advisory committee considers and provides advice on ethical issues faced by journalists through the course of their regular work. Members are appointed by the CAJ’s national board of directors, and the chair or co-chairs are appointed by the board from among the committee members.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 600 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.

For further information:
Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman and report co-author
416-205-2978

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
CAJ president
647-968-2393

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Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 CAJ Awards!

HALIFAX, June 6, 2015 /CNW/ – It was reporting that initiated a series of changes whose impacts are still resonating throughout Alberta.

The CBC Edmonton team of Jennie Russell and Charles Rusnell are the recipient of the 2014 Don McGillivray Award, given to the top investigative entry into the annual CAJ Awards program. Rusnell and Russell’s entry dug deep into the fractious and freewheeling spending of former premier Alison Redford during her short term in office.

Down came Redford as the revelations led to significant pressure inside and outside cabinet for her ouster. Frustrated with both the excesses of her tenure and the inadequacy of her successor to clearly show there had been enough change in the premier’s office, voters enacted their own at the ballot box.

The entry had been named the recipient in the Community Broadcast category earlier on Saturday, one of 14 categories awarded in the annual program. The winning entry in most categories received a $500 cash prize.

The recipients of all categories are listed below.

Please note that the media outlet listed is where the recipient worked at the time their entry was broadcast/published or where the particular entry was broadcast/published. Links, where available, have been provided in the titles of the recipients’ entries.

The recipient in the OPEN MEDIA category is:

Jon Wells
Remorseless
The Hamilton Spectator

The recipient in the COMMUNITY MEDIA category is:

Hilary Beaumont
The always-on stalker
Freelancer / The Coast, Halifax, N.S.

The recipients in the OPEN BROADCAST FEATURE category are:

Ric Esther Bienstock, Felix Golubev, Simcha Jacobovici
Tales from the Organ Trade
Associated Producers Ltd. / Shaw Media

The recipients in the OPEN BROADCAST NEWS category are:

Kathy Tomlinson, Enza Uda, Robb Douglas
Foreign workers McJobs
CBC News – The National

The recipients in the COMMUNITY BROADCAST category are:

Charles Rusnell, Jennie Russell
Aura of Power
CBC News Edmonton

The recipient in the CAJ / MARKETWIRED DATA JOURNALISM AWARD is:

Teri Pecoskie
Keeping Score
The Hamilton Spectator

The recipients in the ONLINE MEDIA category are:

Umbreen Butt, Britney Dennison, Allison Griner, Emma Smith, Aurora Tejeida, Jimmy Thomson, Carlos Tello, Mike Wallberg, Leif Zapf-Gilje, Peter Klein, David Rummel, Kathryn Gretsinger, Daniel McKinney, Kim Frank, Chantelle Bellrichard, Travis North, Peter Herford, Katelyn Verstraten, Yujuan Xie, Zhenzhen Zhang, Haiyan Wu, Xiaoqing Yang, Xiaohong Lin, Yonglin Yao, Yacong Luo
China’s Generation Green
University of British Columbia International Reporting Program / Toronto Star

The recipient in the PHOTOJOURNALISM category is:

John Lehmann
Portfolio entry
The Globe and Mail

The recipients in the SCOOP category are:

Andrew MacIntosh, Félix Séguin
Nouvelles Révélations Troublantes sur le Policier Ripou Ian Davidson
Le Journal de Montreal / Agence QMI – Quebecor Media

The recipient in the DAILY EXCELLENCE category is:

Janis Mackey Frayer
They would bury the children last
CTV News

The recipient in the TEXT FEATURE category is:

Jesse McLean
A daughter’s disappearing silhouette
Toronto Star

The recipient in the JHR / CAJ AWARD FOR HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTING is:

Trina Roache
Outside the circle
APTN National News

The recipients in the CWA CANADA / CAJ AWARD FOR LABOUR REPORTINGare:

Dave Seglins, Gord Westmacott, John Nicol, Heather Evans, Carla Turner, Jeremy MacDonald
Rail fatigue in Canada – A silent peril
CBC Radio One – The Current / CBC News

The recipients in the CAJ / CNW GROUP STUDENT AWARD OF EXCELLENCEare:

Danielle Semrau, Hannah Kost
The Vanishing Point
Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alta. / The Calgary Journal

Consistent with information in the entry package instructions, judges had the discretion to name between one and five finalists in each award category. There were a total 235 entries for the 2014 awards program.

Congratulations to all recipients. Your work has been outstanding – it caused change, embraced it and clearly demonstrates that Canadian journalists are successfully managing the change that is the constant in our industry.

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CAJ to Rogers: Don't abandon multicultural news

OTTAWA, May 7, 2015 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists believes Rogers Media is abandoning a necessary commitment to multicultural communities in Canada by choosing to shut down some multilingual newscasts at its OMNI-TV stations.

According to media reports, about 100 staff members across the country received layoff notices Thursday, with many focused on newscasts aired on OMNI stations in Western Canada. The cuts are in response to continuing financial losses within Rogers Media-owned OMNI and CityTV stations and there are suggestions the domestically produced newscasts in Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi and Italian have faced stiff competition from foreign-language specialty channels that are increasingly available as part of cable and satellite packages across Canada.

"OMNI-TV broke a lot of new ground in Canada, bringing relevant news and information to multicultural audiences in their own language, produced by people living and working in their communities," CAJ president Hugo Rodrigues said. "The loss of these newscasts will erase a legacy of bringing these communities news from afar and information on what was happening in their own cultural community in Canada."

The CAJ challenges Rogers Media make a firm commitment to investing in multicultural news and information programming across the entire media spectrum, as this is crucial to maintaining the strong and multicultural Canada in which companies like Rogers can prosper.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing over 600 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:
Hugo Rodrigues, CAJ president, 613-330-8396 cell, hugo@caj.ca

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