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«Investigative Journalism in Montreal: “A Golden Age.” Giuseppe Valiante A Thesis In the Department Of Journalism Presented in fulfillment of the ...»

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Investigative Journalism in Montreal: “A Golden Age.”

Giuseppe Valiante

A Thesis

In the Department



Presented in fulfillment of the Requirements

For The Degree of

M.A. in Journalism Studies at

Concordia University

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

December 2013

© Giuseppe Valiante, 2013


School of Graduate Studies

This is to certify that the thesis prepared



and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of complies with the regulations of the University and meets the accepted standards with respect to originality and quality.

Signed by the final examining committee:

______________________________________ Chair Brian Gabrial ______________________________________ Examiner Lisa Lynch ______________________________________ Examiner Jim McLean ______________________________________ Supervisor Daniel Salee Approved by ________________________________________________

Chair of Department or Graduate Program Director ________________________________________________

Dean of Faculty Date ________________________________________________

iii ABSTRACT Investigative Journalism in Montreal: “A Golden Age.” Giuseppe Valiante Investigative journalism in Montreal is healthy and robust, despite a North American media landscape in flux, where newspapers across the continent have closed or significantly reduced staff. Newsroom budgets have shrunk across the continent, and the migration of print content to the web has not brought with it a comparative level of advertising. This thesis is a case study that researched how Montreal’s investigative journalism environment has fared in light of the perceived newspaper crisis.

The case study consists of a quantitative analysis of Montreal’s La Presse and The Gazette newspapers, which revealed that since 2009, investigative journalism articles increased in both papers. Additionally, through interviews with eight of Montreal’s mostprominent investigative journalists, I discovered three main reasons why the city has become a welcoming environment for one of the most costly and time-consuming journalistic projects: the rise of Radio-Canada’s Enquête program, which created a successful model for an investigative unit; a surge in whistleblowers coming forward and willing to risk their well-being; and finally, strong market competition and an adversarial newsroom culture. Investigative journalists in Montreal have uncovered severe cases of scandal and moral transgressions committed by Quebec’s elected officials and business leaders. Montreal’s investigative reporting has led to the resignations of big-city mayors and the arrests of prominent businessmen and members of criminal organizations. I demonstrate in this case study that there is a measurable increase of investigative work in the recent past and my interviews suggest that there is a perception among journalism

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Review of Literature

2.1 Defining investigative journalism

2.2 Investigative journalism and democracy

2.3 Obstacles that curtail the media from performing its role

2.4 Public Media, whistleblowers and organizational culture

2.4.1 Public Media

2.4.2 Whistleblowers

2.4.3 Organizational culture

2.5 Montreal governance and politics

3. Methodology

3.1 Quantitative analysis

3.2 Structured questionnaire and interview session

4. Results and Discussion

4.1 Content Analysis

4.2 Structure questionnaire

4.3 Results of unstructured interviews and discussion

4.3.1 Enquete

4.3.2 Whistleblowers

4.3.3 Organizational support and competition

4.3.4 The future of investigative journalism in Montreal

4.3.5 New media and investigative journalism

4.3.6 Collaborations: universities and foundations

4.4 Investigative journalism politician and stakeholder discussion

4.4.1 Politicians and investigative journalism

4.4.2 Collaborations with universities and foundations

5. Conclusion

5.1 Limitations

5.2 Suggestions for further research

6. Work cited


A Mainstream offerrings (print and television)

B Interview respondents

C Sample questionnaire and results table

D Timeline of events and investigative journalism articles

E Codebook for content analysis


1. Introduction In March 2009, the popular investigative journalism program Enquête, created by the French-language arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, broadcasted a report on the expense accounts of the former head of one of Quebec’s largest trade unions (Radio-Canada 2009). Jocelyn Dupuis, up until November 2008, was for 11 years the head of FTQ-Construction, a union of over 70,000 workers, representing the majority of unionized construction workers in Quebec (Ouellet 2013). Enquête journalists MarieMaude Denis and Alain Gravel reported during the 2009 episode that 34 expense disclosures, including 104 bills, revealed that the FTQ union reimbursed Dupuis $125,000 over a six-month period. The entirety of the expenses were for alcohol and food (Radio-Canada 2009). Gravel and Denis were tipped off to Dupuis’ questionable spending by a whistleblower named Ken Pereira, who was the president of an industrial mechanics union affiliated with the FTQ. Pereira told the investigative journalists that he feared for his life after he leaked Dupuis’ expense accounts (Radio-Canada 2009).

Moreover, Gravel and Denis reported during the same March Enquête program that Dupuis was friends with Raynald Desjardins, a well-known member of a violent and organized crime syndicate with ties to Montreal’s Rizzuto crime family (Woods and Edwards 2012). Desjardins would be arrested in late 2011 in connection with the murder of another known mafia associate (Ibid). Desjardins’ name reportedly appeared on some

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Enquête, and the Dupuis episode in particular, are critical components to the discussion of the current state of investigative journalism in Montreal. Enquête, according to the data collected for this thesis, was one of the sparks that led to an increase in investigative journalism across the city’s news organizations, and what influenced Enquête host Alain gravel to say we are witnessing a “Golden Age” of investigative journalism in Montreal (Gravel 2013). The Dupuis episode was Enquête’s first foray into a subject that has since become the main focus of Montreal’s news organizations’ investigative probing: corruption among Quebec society’s elected officials and business leaders.

This thesis is a case study into the investigative journalism environment in Montreal during the period between the years 2007 and 2012 (inclusive). I wanted to provide a detailed analysis of a special moment in time, in Montreal, regarding the ability of the city’s journalistic institutions to provide citizens with knowledge about those people entrusted with public money and public trust.

I wanted to determine, in the face of alarm being sounded about the fate of investigative journalism, whether the city’s journalistic institutions were able to function at a level that satisfied journalists and those invested in the outcomes of investigative journalism.

First, through a quantitative analysis of Montreal’s English and French-language dailies of record, I established that investigative journalism increased significantly in those papers between 2008 and the present. Secondly, interviews with eight of the city’s most prominent investigative journalists (print, online, and broadcast) indicated a general

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and suggested that three critical factors were responsible for this increase: the rise of Enquête; the emergence of whistleblowers willing to risk their physical and financial security in order to inform journalists; and lastly, strong market competition coupled with the support from corporate media organizations to produce long-form, in-depth, costly and time-consuming investigative journalism.

I planned to track the decline of investigative journalism in Montreal; instead I documented its revival. My original working hypothesis was that the continent-wide trends of cuts to newsroom budgets, to personnel and to other newsroom resources, would adversely affect the ability of Montreal news organizations to be viable producers of investigative journalism. It was not difficult to assume that Montreal news organizations were in trouble, based on the trends. The journalism industry in North America, particularly the newspaper industry, is currently in financial decline (NAA 2012). The Newspaper Association of America calculated that the U.S. newspaper industry revenue in 2012 decline by 2% (Ibid). The NAA tracked 40 companies that owned 330 daily papers in the U.S. and which represented about 50% of the country’s paper revenues. Among those companies, total print newspaper advertising declined 9% in 2012 and the growth in digital advertising did not cover the revenue gap (Ibid).

The Canadian news industry has not fared better. Canadians continue to read newspapers at steady rates, and circulation rates among the country’s newspapers have not dropped significantly over the last 10 years (Ladurantaye 2013). The problem is that advertisers are choosing to spend their money elsewhere. The major Canadian newspapers chains have reacted to this drop in revenue by cutting staff, reducing

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“Postmedia Network Inc., publisher of the National Post and nine other metropolitan dailies, is looking to cut $120-million from its operating budget as part of a three-year program. Sun Media has cut more than a thousand jobs over the last several years, while the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail have both looked to buyouts and outsourcing to reduce their costs” (Ibid).

The media landscape in Quebec is also scarred from the drop in advertising prices coupled with the financial crisis that began in 2008. One of the county’s largest media companies, Quebecor Inc., eliminated 400 journalist positions in November 2011 (Globe and Mail 2011). At the end of May 2013, the largest newspaper group in the country, Postmedia Inc., announced cuts across its chain of newspapers. Almost 50 journalists were to lose their jobs, more than 20 of them at The Gazette in Montreal. Quebecor, in June 2012, closed Montreal’s last-remaining English-language alternative weekly, The Mirror. Its counterpart, The Hour, was closed a few weeks prior (CBC 2012). Montreal’s only-English daily newspaper is not the only Montreal print medium that has suffered over the last several months. Two high-profile disputes over the past several years at the other two large-circulation dailies in the city have also made headlines because the papers’ administrators forced their employees to accept new contracts that included lower pay and lower benefits than prior deals (Denoncourt 2011).

It was initially assumed that based on these trends, Montreal’s news organizations beginning in the early 2000s, and particularly after the 2008 recession, would be unable to produce one of the most costly and time-consuming endeavors: investigative journalism. The Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting argued that the cuts to newsroom resources have disproportionally affected investigative journalism. The center

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in 2008 in response to the ongoing attrition of the resources and expertise from Canadian newsrooms necessary to produce in-depth investigative reporting on matters of significant public interest” (CCIR 2012). Ironically, the CCIR closed its doors in April 2013 due to a lack of funding (Tubb 2013). However, the ability of Montreal media to produce investigative journalism has emerged from the financial crisis stronger than before, according to journalist respondents interviewed for this thesis.

The results of this case study are important to the study of journalism because at a time when the news industry is in a financial crisis, this thesis provides a clear analysis of the factors that have led a major North American city to buck the trend. If we believe that journalism – particularly investigative journalism – is critical to the proper functioning of a democratic society, then this case study offers, perhaps not a “roadmap” on how to reproduce Montreal’s success, but at the very least provides tools with which to recognize signs and characteristics that must be preserved in order to sustain a healthy cadre of investigative journalists who monitor the leaders in society who are tasked with

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2. Review of Literature I contend that Montreal’s investigative journalists work in a socio-culturally situated media system that appreciates their role as watchdogs, a concept rooted in the Enlightenment. Montreal’s investigative journalists use a set of practices that serve the public, by first, giving citizens information they need to sustain their democracy, and second, by helping to reinforce and maintain the city’s culture. Through a review of the relevant literature, this chapter puts into context the reasons for which I chose to focus this case study’s quantitative analysis on two of Montreal’s largest paid-circulation daily newspapers and why I believe it was important to try and determine the health of investigation journalism in the city. This review discusses prominent literature surrounding the three main factors, which, according to journalist respondents, led to an increase in investigative journalism in Montreal. I also included a section on literature about Montreal’s governance, because I interviewed three municipal politicians whose views provided context and a different point of view with which to contrast the opinions of journalist respondents.

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