The Supreme Court of B.C. is expected to decide on Tuesday whether to intervene to resolve a conflict between several journalism organizations, including The Narwhal, and the RCMP.
The conflict arose after the police force began limiting access for journalists reporting on the enforcement of an injunction prohibiting the blocking of logging roads in the Fairy Creek watershed, where hundreds of people have been arrested in recent weeks. The area, which sits on the territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation and Ditidaht First Nation, is considered to be the last intact valleys of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island and protesters say they are defending it.
The Narwhal and other media organizations, including the Canadian Association of Journalists, The Discourse, IndigiNews, Ricochet, Capital Daily, Canada’s National Observer, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), are asking the court to modify the injunction order so that it directs the RCMP to allow media access if there is no operational reason to restrict journalists.
The media coalition alleges the RCMP has “intentionally excluded” journalists from the area as it conducts arrests in secret. The RCMP says it has been addressing media needs while also trying to ensure public safety. This has resulted in a system where the RCMP has asked journalists to “check in” at a designated place and time. The system also requires journalists to be escorted by an RCMP representative at all times.
For journalists and members of the public, the case has significant implications about whether the RCMP has the power to engage in a major enforcement action, while preventing journalists or members of the public from seeing all that unfolds.
Here are four key details about the case.
1. The Canadian government says it is opposing the media application even though it agrees with journalists, because it thinks the application for improved access is ‘meaningless’
The attorney general of Canada told the court in the federal government’s submission on June 25: “The relief sought by the applicants is a bare declaration of law, with which Canada does not disagree. However, such declarations are meaningless and should not be granted by courts. A declaration of law will only be granted if it will have practical utility by settling a live controversy between the parties, and not where it is merely restating law.”
2. The RCMP provided incorrect information to journalists covering the conflict
At times, the RCMP has been unable to provide accurate information to journalists about what is going on at Fairy Creek. For example, on May 21, the RCMP told journalists that no enforcement was planned and didn’t arrange any meet up. “However, there was later a last-minute decision to remove protesters from tree stands,” wrote the attorney general in the submission.
The RCMP then sent media relations officers to meet journalists at an access point, but did not escort journalists into the enforcement area due to claims that “sensitive police tactics were being used.”
“Since that time, it has been clarified that the information was incorrect and that the methods are not sensitive,” the attorney general admitted. “As a result, policy changed to allow for media access during such operations.”
3. The RCMP provided incorrect information to the court about the conflict
In a sworn affidavit, RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko made a series of false statements regarding journalist Brandi Morin, who was on assignment for Ricochet on June 2. Sturko alleged that Morin informed her that two people travelling with her should be allowed inside the enforcement area since they were members of the media.
Morin subsequently submitted her own affidavit, backed up by recordings, that show she stated that the two women were “not members of the media” and that she was profiling them as part of her coverage.
“I can advise that Sgt. Sturko noted the mistake and raised it with our [federal Justice Department] representatives counsel before the hearing,” RCMP spokesperson Dawn Roberts told The Narwhal in an email. “During the hearing the mistake was acknowledged in court. So to be clear, Sgt. Sturko was quick to identify the mistake and ensure same was raised and corrected during the hearing before the Judge.”
4. The federal government and RCMP believe their actions are ‘reasonably necessary to carry out their duties’
The RCMP and the federal government have argued in court that they believe their approach is reasonable due to security and safety concerns. They say the area where officers are conducting arrests is hazardous, with dense vegetation and limited area for police to clear obstacles and enforce the injunction. They also say that a lack of cell phone coverage in a large part of the area makes it difficult to communicate.
The government also asked the court to consider other factors that could restrict access, such as whether journalists are acting in good faith in a news-gathering activity, whether they are not actively assisting or advocating for protesters and whether they are not obstructing or interfering with police.
There did not appear to be any evidence that any journalist covering the conflict or seeking to cover the conflict was not acting in good faith.
The court’s decision in the case is expected Tuesday.
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DeFiance Media Launches To Cover Blockchain-Based DeFi Business And Culture – Forbes
DeFiance Media, a video-news startup focused on coverage of the business and culture of the fast-growing decentralized finance (”DeFi”) sector, has launched with a presence on OTT and digital broadcast services reaching 65 million homes in the United States and abroad, and a new website providing enhanced coverage.
“We’re not taking the ‘Bloomberg for crypto’ approach” of some competing services covering parts of the blockchain world, Scarpa said. “None of them went on TV. We’re only streaming (video). If you look at mass media, and the way they’re portraying the decentralized narrative, there’s a real hole (in coverage) there, for covering it in a positive way.”
The 24/7 channel will feature a mix of original programming from notable personalities, third-party creators such as Hardcore Finance, news from across the world of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens and related areas, as well as related areas such as biotech, the artists and creators using NFTs, artificial intelligence, “connected living,” alternative energy, and “regenerative culture.” Other programming will come from partnerships with high-profile blockchain and cryptocurrency conferences.
“Our job is really more akin to a Huffington Post in terms of curation for these contributors,” Scarpa said. “We enable them to goose their personal brands. That’s our job, to increase carriage, to amplify their voice, promote what their doing.”
Scarpa said he was “adamant” about including cultural coverage of the blockchain space, particularly with NFTs, where many musicians, artists and other creative talent are eagerly jumping in.
“They’re in the space now, they’re artists doing really interesting work,” Scarpa said. “They’re really the cultural fabric of the community. If we were only a financial network, DeFiance wouldn’t be broad enough to be something providers want to carry.”
Scarpa, whom I’ve known socially for many years, served as New York bureau chief in the early days of CNET, which undertook in the 1990s to cover the emerging internet and tech industry in a focused way. Scarpa said he is taking inspiration for DeFiance from the approaches CNET took to industry coverage back then.
Services carrying the startup’s content include aggregators such as Local Now, Select TV, NetRange, Glewed TV, as well as Twitter and Amazon
-owned Twitch. The services reach a combined 50 million U.S. households and another 15 million outside the country.
Initial shows include Bitcoin: Culture Conversations, whose episode feature interviews of former Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, venture capital stalwart Tim Draper, actor Adrian Grenier and skateboard icon Tony Hawk, and musicians Blond:ish and Fab Five Freddy. Weekly programs will be hosted by Patrick Tsang, Sarah Austin, Matt McKibbon, Ted Moskovitz, Mike Matsumura, Alex Chizhik, Shimon Lazarov, Steve McGarry, Siraj Raval, and Freya Fox.
The company hopes to make money several ways: with ad-revenue shares from carriers, branded entertainment/sponsored content, events, content licensing to Getty Images and similar outlets, and transactional markets, among other potential opportunities.
DeFiance is based in Puerto Rico, and has a studio in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, Scarpa said. But in keeping with its core subject matter, the operation is heavily decentralized, with contributors and programming coming from numerous cities.
The company has been raising a seed round of about $2 million, Scarpa said.
It counts among its investors and advisers a number of notables in the blockchain world and related areas, including investor Brock Pierce, who is long-time chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation; Eric Pulier, founder of Vatom; Doug Scott, founder of gaming culture company Subnation; Hong Kong investor and podcast host Patrick P.L. Tsang; Good Human co-founder and former Warner Bros. Entertainment VP James Glasscock; and Craig Sellars, co-founder/CTO of cryptocurrency services company Tether. Sellars and Pulier are credited as pioneering creators of the technologies behind NFTs.
NASA Invites Media to Next SpaceX Cargo Launch to Space Station – NASA
How HuffPost Canada's digital impact and untimely demise changed Canadian news media – Poynter
Mel Woods found out they no longer had a job from a group chat.
The Vancouver-based journalist was working as HuffPost Canada’s only worker in the western region of the country, covering viral and trending stories as an associate editor, up until the outlet’s unceremonious March 2021 demise. BuzzFeed bought HuffPost in November 2019 and, just two weeks after the newsroom’s decision to unionize, closed HuffPost Canada and left 23 staff without their jobs.
It’s another data point in a long list of recent closures and contractions on the Canadian media landscape.
Many of those laid off have landed positions elsewhere. Woods now plies their trade at Xtra — a Toronto-based outlet focused on 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives — and others have surfaced as staff at The New York Times, CBC and Politico, among others. Some left for public relations gigs, and others are currently working as freelancers. The announcement of the closure just one week from the meeting, Woods said, left some staff scrambling.
“For somebody who was suddenly unemployed, it was a very, very busy week because we had to sort out what happened and when, and what the unionization played into it, what severance played into it and why it had happened because it caught all of us by surprise,” Woods said.
HuffPost’s union, CWA Canada, had never faced a closure in its history. President Martin O’Hanlon said the ceasing of operations points to BuzzFeed’s lack of understanding of the Canadian media landscape.
“I don’t think it says a lot about the Canadian media industry, per se, I think it says a lot about BuzzFeed. And I think it tells you that BuzzFeed is just interested in America, and in making as much profit as possible,” O’Hanlon said. “… They don’t give a damn about Canadian journalism is the bottom line.”
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed said: “BuzzFeed announced a restructuring of HuffPost in March in order to break even this year and fast-track its path to profitability. As part of these changes, we made the difficult decision to close HuffPost’s Canada and Quebec operations. The incredibly talented teams there have made enormous contributions to the political and news ecosystems in Canada — from extensive, award-winning coverage of the federal election, to relentless reporting on how COVID-19 exacerbated a long-term care crisis, and a powerful investigation of how mental illness is responded to as a crime. We know this decision was painful for everyone affected, but we are confident that these journalists will continue to do powerful and impactful reporting in the years to come. We continue to do everything we can to ensure their transition is a smooth one.”
The announcement certainly wasn’t easy on the staff of HuffPost Canada. The all-hands meeting in which the closure was announced, which Woods said was predicted within the staff to be announcing a new U.S. editor-in-chief, had the password “spring is here.”
But the closing of HuffPost Canada is more than another sad story to add to the layoffs seen at other newsrooms in Canada, most publicly at Global and Postmedia. HuffPost’s Canada’s coverage won awards posthumously. Woods won an award from RTDNA Canada for examining gender and transphobia more than two months after the outlet officially closed.
The skill and success of the staff was partially due to the culture and the diversity of the newsroom, Woods said.
“The fact of how quickly folks have been snapped up by other places is proof of the respect that was had for our newsroom,” Woods said. “We kind of sprinkled our seeds everywhere.”
Woods likened the HuffPost style that they have taken to Xtra as “serving (readers) their vegetables, but in a good way,” through a metrics and service journalism-focused approach.
Some of those seeds appear to have taken root elsewhere. New approaches to digital journalism in Canada, including what service looks like to staff and readers, is a common thread in discussions with Canadian newsroom leaders.
The Canadian Association of Journalists recently completed data collection for their first diversity survey, modeling their work after the News Leaders Association in the U.S. Meanwhile, CBC made the decision to turn off all Facebook comments on news stories for a month beginning in mid-June, which editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon attributed to a data-gathering exercise mixed with a want to protect the mental health of journalists. It is a policy that they have since extended to the end of October.
HuffPost Canada’s digital impact, and its dismantling, points toward a future for Canadian journalism that must consider the health of its readers and staff while acknowledging the changing needs of digital media.
CBC’s decision to direct the tenets of service journalism toward its own staff hints toward an industry that is understanding (at a glacial pace) just how worn down it is and how building back means doing so with care. At this year’s Michener Awards, a ceremony dedicated to public service journalism and its impact on society, APTN journalist Kenneth Jackson acknowledged what it means to sit with the impact your work makes, on subjects, readers and staff.
“If you want to do service journalism you can’t fly above it,” he said, “you gotta get down and wear it.”
BuzzFeed appears to have worn its decision, as have the journalists who had to face the consequences.
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