Journalism Annual Convention
By Dave Yates
IF ABSOLUTE FIGURES ARE ANY INDICATION, then the
for Investigative Journalism is becoming a fact of life for more and
more journalists across the country.
Only two years old, the Centre attracted some 600
to its second annual convention at the end of March. That's an increase
of about 200 over the first convention held in 1979.
And there's money in the bank to boot. At the end
of last year, the
Centre was languishing in a surplus of funds to the tune of $12,532.16.
The Centre felt so confident in its financial
position that it
subsidized travel to the convention and handed out three grants to
journalists in the process of sniffing out what the Centre considers to
be top-notch stories.
Details surrounding the grants, the journlists and
their stories are being kept hush-hush so as not to tip off the prey.
The growing success of the Centre's conventions
may bring with it a problem.
Already there is talk of limiting attendance at
because the number of participants is becoming a mite unwieldy.
So far the Centre has been operated on a minimum
of money thanks to the
work of volunteers. But the day is coming when the Centre may have to
hire an executive director.
As the Centre expands, costs go up, but
discussions are being held with
the federal revenue department with the aim of obtaining the tax status
of a charity.
That would make contributions tax-exempt, making
the Centre more attractive to donations from the large media companies.
Nevertheless, the financial position of the Centre
will allow it to
continue to expand regional workshops across the country, which may
ease the pressure of numbers at the annual convention.
Plans are being made to hold next year's
convention in Montreal again,
but members want to get it into other cities in future years. Winnipeg
has been suggested as the site for the convention in two years.
Another ticklish problem is the question of
membership. Who should be
allowed to join the Centre and attend conventions and regional seminars?
Some journalists feel there is no place for
political party researchers
or people who flak for large corporations (See the exchange between
Gerry McAuliffe and Nick Fillmore, p. E22). While willing to share
their modus operandi with other journalists, reporters prefer to play
their cards close to the vest if people of other occupations are
But as one journalist pointed out, non-journalists
can easily find out
the proceedings of the convention by simply buying the tapes of each
Perhaps the most acute problem facing the Centre
is the need to attract newspaper editors to the fold.
While there was an abundance of reporters from all
media, as well as
ample representation of producers and researchers from radio and TV,
there was a sad lack of print editors.
Newspaper desk people appear to be a forgotten
group or they are seen as a force opposed to reporters working on the
Some of the convention testimony indicates a
disturbing gulf between reporters and desk people.
Louis-Gilles Francoeur had to pull an end-run
round his bosses at Le
Devoir to build his excellent articles on the fraudulent
construction worker's pension funds.
The idea for the stories was initially axed by Le Devoir editors
on the advice of lawyers.
So Francoeur, who churns out three to five labour
stories a day for the paper, had to do his research on his own time.
Such an account is not unique to Le Devoir, but is
a chilling indictment of how newspapers function across the country.
Yet the CIJ Review,
containing 52 pages of investigative stories, is eloquent proof that
editors want to publish good yarns.
The separatism between editors and reporters is
bred, in part, by the nature of the newspaper business.
The first editions of afternoon newspapers go to
press at 7 or 8 a.m., requiring armies of copy editors to work
Often they are cursing at stories by reporters
they have never even met.
Yet their cooperation and good humour is essential
handling and meaningful display of stories into which reporters have
poured a lot of sweat.
This gap of understanding is further accentuated
by the fact that large
numbers of desk people come from other countries and have little
experience with local customs and issues.
Certainly the benefits for desk people at a CIJ
convention are obvious.
Not only would they get truckloads of good story ideas, but they would
obtain a better appreciation of hurdles involved in digging out a good
Perhaps the CIJ might move to include more city
editors and managing
editors on panel discussions. After all, the inspiration for the many
good stories being done doesn't just grow from reporters.
Newsroom managers need to know how to apportion
time, effort, personnel
and money to get stories which give readers a more profound view of
reports on many CIJ convention workshops can be found in the following articles:
Tools of the Trade
Getting the Story
Canadian Journalism--Pension Funds
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