Friday, August 24, 2007

My Favorite Montebello Website....



I am no journalist.

But I am interested in how the process works, which is why I get involved in protracted (and mostly fun) discussions/arguments with folks like Mr. Ian King (and occasionally with more shy and retiring pro-journos offline).

And one of the things that almost invariably comes up is the point that bloggers/citizen journalists don't break stories but instead just comment on all the stuff that is generated by pros who don't let their personal views get in the way of their reportage.

And I understand that point on a whole lotta levels*.

However, understanding that point is precisly why I find the best citizen journalism so compelling.

Take Jennifer Smith's Montebello stories, for example.

Jennifer, as far as I can tell, has no strong affinity for any one group, but she is politically aware, and for a number of reasons she decided to attend the recent Ottawa and Montebello protests with her teenage son.

This is not something she does all the time as she 'reported'** at the time:

It really has been a while since I've gone to one of these things. I turned up about half an hour early, and there were already tables for the Communist Party, the Marxist-Leninists, CUPE, the Steelworker's Union, the Committee to Free someone whose name I've forgotten (sorry), supporters of U.S. war resistors, and a couple of guys with signs saying "9/11 Was an Inside Job". It was oddly comforting when the Raging Grannies turned up and started singing.

I was a little concerned that I couldn't find the Council of Canadians right away (they turned up later), but I was even more concerned at the number of disparate groups who seemed at least as concerned with pushing their own, often conflicting agendas as they were with fighting the SPP.

I guess this is how it's done now. Maybe it always has and I've just forgotten

All fine and dandy, right, and interesting too, especially for those Canadians of a certain age (like me) who often feel exactly the same way when we show up at one of these things.

And then there is the way we feel when we take our kids with us.

Because I know that when I take my kids I want them to see that they can make their voices heard about things they feel are important.

And then there is that other important idea - which is that I want them to see stuff with their own eyes once in a while - free of the TeeVee's google-eyed goggles.


When we go to these things together there is also the little niggling worry that something untoward might happen.

And sometimes, as Jennifer found, this little worry can blow-up to the size of the Stay-Puff Marsmallow Man very, very quickly:

As the march was wrapping up, a largish group has stopped by the fence, so I went to see what was up. All I could see was a cordon of police officers surrounding someone who was apparently being detained or searched. I spotted the top of the person's head and for about ten seconds I thought it was my son.

It turned out to be a different teenaged boy. The story floating around the crowd, for what it's worth, was that he was arrested for having a can of spray paint in his possession, which he had apparently been using earlier to paint stenciled picket signs. I have no idea if this was true or not, but they put the kid into the back of a police car and took him away with no violence and hardly any shouting.

And it is precisely that insertion of the truly personal into the reportage that I find so fascinating about Citizen Journalism.

And, as noted above, such insertions are antithetical to most professional journalism.

Which is why I like to pay attention to the best of both of them.


*But one level I do not understand is the one that prevents professional columnists, who have the freedom of voicing their opinion, from telling us what they actually know.
**It has to be noted that Jennifer does do some freelancing, which may explain her ways with the wizardy of wordmithing, but I don't count that as being involved in day-to-day pro-stuff.
Update: Certainly didn't want to suggest that Paul Willcocks is either shy or retiring - although judging by appearances (and performances - Go Rafe!) he appears to be a slightly different breed of pro-media cat. Regardless, Mr. Willcocks most definitely does have a few interesting comments to make about this topic in the, where else, comments.


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