What Jian Gomeshi and Jesse Brown showed us about the Canadian media

Jian Gomeshi had a bad week. A really bad week.

The floodgates opened when four women came forward with allegations of sexual violence in a Toronto Star piece last Sunday. Since then, the number of alleged victims has grown to at least nine. 

The investigation started four months ago when Jesse Brown, an independent journalist who has his own media criticism show, Canadaland, received a tip from an anonymous source saying that Gomeshi had been sexually violent with them. Brown did his due diligence and investigated the story.

Stewart Donovan, media studies professor at St. Thomas, thinks independent journalists like Jesse Brown aren’t just integral to the Canadian media landscape, but they’re often the best reporters out there. According to Donovan, Canada needs more people like Jesse Brown.

“The best journalism is still independent journalism,” said Donovan. “The really good writers are primarily independent journalists, and they’re going to rise to the top anyways.”

Stories like Rob Ford and Margaret Wente were all published outside of Canada before any Canadian news outlet started reporting. Donovan says we need more independent media outlets who will publish these kind of stories.

“We have to go to the United States to read about ourselves,” said Donovan.

Jesse Brown’s show, Candadland, has broken some incredible stories. Brown recently learned that CBC’s Terry Milewski had received NSA documents detailing CSEC surveillance programs, but chose to withhold those documents due to his own ideological stance. He’s also tackled Peter Mansbridge being paid to speak at events held or sponsored by oil sands companies.

Brown hit a road block when lawyers told him not to publish the Gomeshi story on his own. If Brown got even one detail of the story wrong, he had nothing to protect him from Gomeshi’s lawyers. He needed protection. So, Brown teamed up with Kevin Donovan at the Toronto Star.

Karen Pinchin, a freelance journalist based out of Fredericton says despite seeking protection, “what he [Brown] doing is incredibly brave.”

Pinchin says she loves being an independent journalist because it lets her cover what she’s passionate about.

“As an independent journalist, I have the immense privilege of writing about basically whatever I want as long as I can sell that story to an editor; as long as there’s a story there,” said Pinchin.

If the Gomeshi story landed in Pinchin’s inbox, she said she would have done the same as what Brown did.

“It makes a lot of sense that he would partner with The Star. They have an incredibly robust legal team,” said Pinchin. “When I worked at the Canadian Press, it had a very hands-on lawyer. There is a feeling of comfort, especially when you’re doing investigative [reporting], when you’re into those harder stories.”

Being a freelance journalist lets you tackle the bigger stories, according to Pinchin. The workload, and timeline of an independent journalist allow for it, since they choose what to report on.

“We can be the dreamers, we can be the ones who are letting our minds wander a little bit, we can follows those bread crumbs,” says Pinchin.

Donavan thinks the future of Canadian journalism is in the hands of independent writers.

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