Remarks by Brent Jolly to the House of Commons Heritage Committee on Feb 27, 2024:

“Thank you for providing me with this opportunity to provide you with my comments on the current crises (I use plural, here) facing the Canadian media industry.

Je m’adresse à vous aujourd’hui en tant que président de l’Association canadienne des journalistes (ACJ). Pour ceux des membres de ce comité qui ignoreraient, l’ACJ est la voix des journalistes canadiens de tous les types de médias à l’échelle nationale et représente plus de 1000 membres à travers le pays.

For nearly a half century, the CAJ’s mission has been at the forefront of providing its members with high-quality professional development training opportunities and to engage in public-interest advocacy work that supports the right to know of all Canadians. This includes subjects such as access to information, transparency, and public disclosure (or lack thereof); source protection, and, broadly, to engage in public and legal advocacy efforts to ensure that Canadian journalists are free to exercise their constitutionally-protected rights to report on matters in the public interest.

Given that I only have limited time to offer some opening remarks, and in light of the outstanding quality of testimony offered by other witnesses who have already appeared before this committee, I will refrain from rehashing what has already been read into the public record.

My reason for presenting to you today is to communicate a clear and unequivocal message: many journalists in Canada are hurting.

We are hurting financially as salaries do not keep up to inflation or when staff positions are replaced by internships, or, not at all.

We are hurting emotionally; oscillating between the challenges of navigating an increasingly hostile world, while trying to ignore the deep feelings of anxiety about when the next ‘cutdown day’ will come. It’s a reality, a proverbial Sword of Damocles, that hangs over our collective heads.

We are hurting developmentally as professional development budgets have been slashed. Just think, talented musicians need to practice. Olympic-level athletes spend hours in the gym and developing robust dietary regimens. Journalists, too, need the training to ensure their skills are kept sharp in order to navigate an increasingly opaque and hostile world. But training has become a luxury and not a necessity.

Je vous mets au défi d’imaginer une profession aussi essentielle au bon fonctionnement de la démocratie où les conditions pour ceux qui sont en première ligne du combat entre la vérité, le mensonge et la désinformation sont aussi difficiles.

Seldom does a week go by when I don’t speak with journalists who have ‘played the game’ the way they were supposed to only to be left palms facing the sky about how to continue devoting their lives to the craft of journalism and the mission it serves.

Chacun d’entre nous est partie prenante à cet exercice. À une époque où les Canadiens sont plus divisés que jamais, le rôle de la haute qualité est essentiel, non seulement pour dire aux Canadiens ce qu’ils ont besoin de savoir, mais aussi pour répondre au « pourquoi » de ce qui se passe.

But right now, at this very minute, there are hundreds of early-career journalists who are working in communities across the country as part of the Local Journalism Initiative. Rather than thinking about their next assignment, I suspect many of their minds are on whether they will have jobs come April. It’s code red. Do you hear those alarms sounding?

Tout en appréciant l’intérêt de ce comité à organiser un forum national sur les médias, je crains que, comme l’a souligné M. Champoux, il y a quelques réunions, cet exercice arrive dix ans trop tard. Le temps presse, hélas.

The future of journalism is predicated on making tough choices. Perhaps unpopular ones. But to appropriate an old baseball metaphor: it’s better to go down swinging than being caught looking at strike three with the bat resting on your shoulder.

I look forward to having a healthy conversation with the members of this committee this afternoon and am happy to provide some insights on potential actions that could be taken.”

The CAJ is Canada’s largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing 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: Brent Jolly, president, Canadian Association of Journalists,

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