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Bridge Built At C.D.N.P.A. Press Seminar
Special Editorial Section

by Barrie Zwicker

MONTREAL — "I want to buy your column," London Free Press editor Bill Heine said to Evelyn Dumas, editor of the separatist weekly Le Jour. Dumas's twice-a-month column is syndicated by Southam News Services.

It was not a typical exchange at the seminar on the press and the confederation debate here Oct. 16-18. But it showed that the most ambitious national editorial seminar sponsored to date by the Canadian Daily Newspaper Publishers Association (CDNPA) and Canadian Managing Editors Conference (CMEC) was instrumental in establishing at least one bridge between the two solitudes.

Heine, in a workshop earlier, had suggested his paper was giving its readers about all they could take on the national unity question. Another of the 80-odd participants — mostly senior editors — suggested readers were being "Quebecked to death."

After hearing and questioning an imposing lineup of speakers including historian Desmond Morton, former Quebec cabinet minister Eric Kierans, and Quebec premier Rene Levesque, participants generally were asking out loud how they could improve the quality, and even increase the quantity, of copy their papers carry on Quebec and other regions of the country.

A couple of personal observations:

  • A much-heard comment was that Levesque "certainly has charm" and "is a tremendous speaker." My impression was that these opinions were a means of avoiding the conclusion that Levesque has a great deal of fact and consistent argument to back his views.
  • Whether the media in Quebec generally have favored the Parti Quebecois is a subject of debate. But the behavior of at least two English-language broadcast reporters following Levesque's speech to the seminar was shockingly antagonistic.

Of 32 reporters gathered around Levesque, CJAD's Robert Vairo gained the premier's attention by shouting loudest, then asserted: "You've crapped all over the media." This provocation was in response to Levesque's having documented two cases of media distortion and philosophized on the need for "honesty and modesty" in the craft Levesque has plied longer than he has been a politician.

Levesque's forbearance in the situation verged on the saintly.

Published in Content's SOURCES December 1977

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