2018 is a milestone year for the CAJ

Dear CAJ supporters,

Before 2017, few of us might have guessed we'd see a sitting U.S. president retweet a doctored video of himself wrestling a news organization to the ground. But that bizarre, dangerous, joke of a tweet, which incited violence against journalists, symbolized what was often a surreal year for those of us who report the news—especially in the U.S., but also in Canada.

When we looked back at 2016 a year ago, we remarked on what was a shocking, scary year for journalists—but also a hopeful one. That may be something of a new normal. 2017 brought its own carnage to our industry, but also reason to be cautiously optimistic.

One of the CAJ's earliest statements of the year offered rare commentary on press freedom south of the border, urging Donald Trump's administration to give equal treatment to all news outlets. Only two weeks later, we joined an international coalition to condemn criminal charges against Justin Brake, a reporter who was just doing his job—and is still fighting that legal battle.

At our annual conference in Ottawa, the biggest we'd hosted in a decade, we put Heritage Minister Melanie Joly in the hotseat and heard from keynotes who got us thinking about objectivity and building trust with our audiences. As always, we closed out the conference with an awards gala that honoured the best journalism of the year. (Only a few weeks later in Ottawa, we named 2017's EU/Canada Young Journalist fellows.) 

At our gala, we shone a spotlight on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, an ambitious, growing broadcaster, with our Charles Bury Award. Later in the year, we teamed up with APTN to launch a new award that responds to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendation—and we're also joining forces with Journalists for Human Rights to honour an emerging Indigenous voice.

One of our favourite moments of each gala is the presentation of the Code of Silence award to a particularly secrecy-prone government department. We handed out that "honour" in Ottawa, and later expanded the dubious award in cooperation with three other press-freedom groups. Check out the latest "honourees" here.

In 2017, the CAJ twice testified at House of Commons committees: we added our voice to the urgent national debate on the future of local news in June, and urged the government to fix its broken access-to-information law in October.

We also need to recognize excellent advocacy on the part of our friends at Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, who lobbied hard for federal press-shield legislation that became law this past autumn.

In October, we made changes to Media magazine and launched a new series of how-it-was-made pieces. From Canada's opioid overdose epidemic to the Fort McMurray blaze, we invited top journalists to share the triumphs—and challenges—behind their award-winning stories. 

We learned in November that Postmedia and Torstar cynically swapped and closed dozens of publications, putting hundreds of journalists out of a job. Then, in December, we complained loudly when a reporter in Ontario's Niagara region had his notes and equipment unlawfully confiscated by municipal officials. That advocacy worked: the regional municipality apologized, admitted wrongdoing, and pledged to do better.

In 2018, the CAJ turns 40 years old, an achievement worth celebrating at our annual conference in Toronto on May 4-5. We already know some of the battles we'll fight this year, including the next stage of Ben Makuch's fight for press freedom at the Supreme Court. Whatever comes our way, we'll always make sure that we're a leading voice on the most important issues facing Canadian journalists—and also take time to celebrate the excellent work happening in newsrooms every single day.

Happy New Year,

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
CAJ President

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