Separate op-eds have been published, in The Globe and Mail and on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), addressing what the authors perceive as the watering-down of press credentials and its impact on the recent G20 protests. In a Globe article entitled Self-anointed G20 'journalists' should get real, Christie Blatchford writes that "just as you are not a physician or a lawyer merely because you say you are, much as you may want to believe it so, neither are you a journalist because you and your friends say you are or because your "writings" appear on a website."
A recent American survey revealed that 52 per cent of bloggers view themselves as journalists, up from just 33 per cent in 2009. Two weeks ago, EditorsWeblog covered an announcement by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) callings for feedback journalists who believe their freedom of expression was compromised during the G20 protests. CJFE's announcement specifically referred to four complaints files by 'journalists' against the Toronto Police. But Both Blatchford's Globe and Mail article as well as Ira Basen's CBC report both call into question how many of those complainants should be considered journalists and how this grey landscape may be difficult for police to navigate.
One interesting observation in Basen's article related to the case of Jesse Rosenfeld, who, according to eye witnesses, was roughed up and detained by Toronto police during a demonstration on the first day of the summit.
Basen writes that "[Rosenfeld] has been widely identified in the press as someone who writes for the British paper The Guardian, one of the world's most respected newspapers. But, in fact, he doesn't actually write for The Guardian, which has some of the strictest editorial standards anywhere. He blogs for a Guardian site called Comment is Free, where just about anyone can say just about anything they want.
Rosenfeld, who was refused media accreditation to the summit, has speculated that he might have been singled out by Toronto police because, in an earlier blog post, he accused them and the RCMP of "systemic racism. He doesn't offer any real proof for that charge, but on Comment is Free, unlike The Guardian, he didn't have to.
Basen later writes that "[t]he democratization of media, the ability of people who were previously denied a voice in the mainstream to now have their voices heard is undeniably a cause for celebration. But the actions of the Toronto police during the G20 summit have exposed what is perhaps an unintended consequence of this new media reality: When everyone is a journalist, no one is a journalist."
Journalists for the National Post, the Globe and Mail and CTV were all detained at some point during the weekend. The Toronto Star warned its reporters to "hide press credentials until you need them. Protesters often don't like the 'corporate media." As it turned out, TV trucks from both the CBC and CTV were attacked by protesters.
It is still too early to predict how the growth of citizen journalism will impact the press accreditation process. The problems encountered at the G20 by Jesse Rosenfeld and other citizen journalists are likely to occur again in the future. Baset writes that "everyone in that crowd had some sort of camera-equipped mobile device, which meant that, in the minds of the police, almost everyone was a potential journalist. That meant they could either give special treatment to everyone or to no one. They chose no one."