New Brunswickland

New Brunswick needs fearless new media start-ups like Canadaland to take root in the province.

(Andrea Bárcenas/AQ)
(Andrea Bárcenas/AQ)

Jesse Brown, the podcaster of Canadian media coverage who broke the Jian Ghomeshi sex scandal, told a class of about 50 St. Thomas journalism students Thursday that his show Canadaland is largely fed stories by disillusioned journalists.

What better place to find disillusioned people than New Brunswick?

Canadaland made waves in the province last week for information originally uncovered by former Telegraph-Journal reporter Shawn Berry, which didn’t see the light of day until it reached Sean Craig, Brown’s lone employee.

Basically, after Berry found that Murray Guy, former assistant managing editor of the Times & Transcript, was a guest at a provincial government meeting at its Larry’s Gulch fishing resort, the story was squashed.

Parent company Brunswick News Inc. publisher Jamie Irving delegated the decision whether to publish the story to Telegraph-Journal editor John Wishart, who opted not to publish a story and told Times & Transcript managing editor Al Hogan to discipline Guy. Hogan apparently did not do so.

The investigation brought to light that Hogan and Guy tried to have Guy’s name removed from the resort’s guest list. The two no longer work for Brunswick News.

Brown said he received a legal letter from a Brunswick News lawyer – essentially a warning that in their view Canadaland published misleading information about the company.

He admitted to the journalism class he was afraid. This is the first major legal action he could face alone. But Canadaland is still working on the story.

It’s inspiring to see new media making an impact in the province, even if it is an outside source making the scene.

Brown said the Feb. 17 article, What the hell is going on in New Brunswick?, was edited to show that the internal investigation at Brunswick News was led by its editor-in-chief, not its ombudswoman as originally reported. A question of whether Jamie Irving was in on the decision when Guy went to Larry’s Gulch in 2008, allegedly with permission from senior management, was changed to reflect that Irving wasn’t publisher at the time.

He said after the panel show at STU Thursday night that he was considering making a formal note of the changes, though by Sunday morning that had not materialized.

Brown didn’t appear knowledgeable on New Brunswick’s forests, the topic of the show, either. He asked the journalism class for questions to bring to the forestry panel, and didn’t cut off or follow up on long-winded non-answers.

I was at a loss to understand documentary filmmaker Charles Thériault talking timber prices, but veteran CBC reporter Jacques Poitras, also on the panel, felt compelled to tell the crowd he is no quack.

I spoke with Thériault afterward. His website, Isourforestreallyours.com, hosts video series on the mismanagement of New Brunswick’s public forests, and he seems to know what he’s talking about. He’s working on a documentary about the forestry industry now, though he has only crowdfunded about $4,000 of his $40,000 target in a year.

He observed the people willing to speak their minds in New Brunswick are usually retirees. Like himself, they don’t have a job to worry about.

Thursday night’s audience was a sea of grey hairs, with few young adults save for journalists, journalism students and members of the hosting party, the NB Media Co-op, an activist or citizen-journalist outfit that has voiced discontent towards mainstream media.

Why isn’t there a media outlet workers and activists trust to investigate their concerns for them?

Poitras talked about covering an industry-led letter-writing campaign in 2011 while on the panel, which asked the government to allow more cutting in public forests in the face of a proposed cutback. Three years later, a 20 per cent increase in hardwood cutting was allowed on public land.

Canadaland rattled the province’s cage like I have never seen. While mainstream news reaches an indifferent audience and activist news an insignificant one, a middle-ground of fearless journalism done on-the-cheap, seems to have struck a cord in the province.

New Brunswick needs new news.

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