Monday, December 04, 2006

A student journalist from Halifax writes about Charles arrest and the banning from the New Brunswick Legislature!!!


Pictures 120
Originally uploaded by Oldmaison.
Vol. 12 | November 2006
New Brunswick's amateur journalist

Charles LeBlanc fights for bloggers to share press privileges -- and rights

By: Vanessa Green
Date: Nov. 24, 2006

"I consider myself a journalist," says LeBlanc. "But a journalist with an opinion." (Courtesy oldmaison.blogspot.com)
"I consider myself a journalist," says LeBlanc. "But a journalist with an opinion." (Courtesy oldmaison.blogspot.com)

When two police officers arrested Charles LeBlanc at the Reaching Atlantica business conference in June, he was thrown to the ground and handcuffed. LeBlanc then yelled, "I am a blogger, I am a blogger. I was just taking pictures!"

The 47-year-old Fredericton man was charged with obstructing a peace officer at the conference in Saint John, Brunswick. At the preliminary hearing, Harold Doherty stated his client was not part of the protest but was covering the event for his blog and that he was arrested "arbitrarily and without justification".

LeBlanc's camera was confiscated by the police and his pictures of the event were deleted. LeBlanc believes he was treated unfairly and had the right to cover the event as a reporter.

"I consider myself a journalist," says LeBlanc. "But a journalist with an opinion."

LeBlanc's blog, oldmaison.blogspot.com, features his personal opinions about a variety of political and social issues taking place in New Brunswick. His blog, which has been up and running since December 2004, receives 500 hits a day, according to LeBlanc.

The self-proclaimed "independent amateur journalist" and his opinions are well-known at the New Brunswick Legislature and at political events around the province. A week after his arrest at Saint John, LeBlanc was labeled a security risk by the Legislative Administration Committee (LAC) of the New Brunswick Legislature and was given a barring notice by the Sergeant-at-Arms which permanently banned him from entering any buildings or stepping foot on any property at the legislature.

"The reason he was expelled from the legislative grounds was harassment of staff of the legislative assembly including the security detail," says Loredana Catalli-Sonier, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick.

Catalli-Sonier would not explain what type of harassment or whom LeBlanc had harassed but she did state his barring had "nothing, absolutely nothing" to do with the fact that he was a blogger and that LeBlanc had been warned several times about harassing the legislative staff. "All employees have a right to a healthy and secure work environment," says Catalli-Sonier.

Not everyone at the legislature feels LeBlanc's barring was justified. "To bar somebody from the legislature such as Charlie LeBlanc is ridiculous," says Abel LeBlanc, a Liberal MLA from Saint John Lancaster, New Brunswick. (Abel LeBlanc is not related to Charles LeBlanc.) "He is no harm to anybody. He expresses his opinion."

Abel LeBlanc also says that banning anyone from the legislature is a serious issue and that the problem was not dealt with in a reasonable manner. "If everyone should have a fair trial then all the evidence should come out and we should weigh it," says Abel LeBlanc

Charles LeBlanc says that he was never warned that he was bothering anyone. He believes the real issue for the ban is that legislative staff does not like him covering issues in the house.

"You have at the legislature reporters reporting the news. Next thing you know you got a blogger that is starting to see things, and starting to blog things," says the Memmramcook native. "And they don't want that."

LeBlanc says he started blogging because he disliked the control of media ownership in New Brunswick. J.D. Irving is a large New Brunswick-based company that deals in forestry, petroleum and food processing. The conglomerate also owns the publishing company Brunswick News Inc. And Brunswick News owns nearly all the English language newspapers in the province including the three largest papers, the Moncton Times and Transcript, the Moncton Telegraph Journal and Fredericton's The Daily Gleaner.

"I used to be able to write [letters] against the Irvings or for the Irvings. But then the Irvings decided enough is enough and they cut me off," says LeBlanc, who asserts he's written 500 letters to newspapers in the last 15 years.

After being restricted from writing letters to the editor, LeBlanc began blogging with help from some friends who donated a computer and a camera to his cause. LeBlanc says he has complete editorial control of what gets put in his blog; he even takes his own pictures. "If you get a column in a paper, you've got to go to the editor, to the publisher to the owner. At my blog, I am the editor, the publisher and the owner" says LeBlanc.

Although LeBlanc has no university or college education or journalistic training, the political activist says that before he was banned, he spent 30 to 45 minutes a day covering the legislature in New Brunswick.

"Reporters investigate a story for about 24, maybe 48 hours, and that's it. They move onto the next one. A reporter would investigate an issue, ask the questions to the Premier, and maybe ask again in a year," says LeBlanc. "A blogger could ask maybe once a month. A blogger is a pain in the butt."

LeBlanc reaches a large audience and is aware of the influence his blog has in the community. "If I confront a bureaucrat or a politician and I ask them a question and they say that is none of your business, I say no problem, you will be blogged in 15 minutes, talk to you later. [Then they say], 'Hold it one minute. Oh you want to talk now? Let's talk.'"
Are bloggers "journalists?"

Prior to his barring in June, LeBlanc fought to become a legitimate member of the Press Gallery at the New Brunswick legislature. His request was denied.

According to Dan McHardie, the President of the New Brunswick Press Gallery, bloggers are allowed to cover the legislature as long as they are representing a credible news organization. "I told Charles LeBlanc that as an unaffiliated blogger, he doesn't qualify to sit in the gallery under our constitution's guidelines," says McHardie.

In the constitution of the New Brunswick Legislature, 'media' include daily newspapers, news services, weekly papers, periodicals, accredited electronic media and television. McHardie says the Press Gallery's constitution allows journalists from all types of media into the Press Gallery but on the condition that those members of the press are affiliated with a recognized news source.

McHardie believes LeBlanc's situation is not about whether bloggers are journalists, but about the liability of the Legislative Gallery.

"There was a concern about anyone who is a blogger who all of a sudden has access to MLAs and cabinet ministers without having superiors," says McHardie, who's been a political reporter for the past six years. "When I have concerns with reporters here, if I get a complaint from the Premier's office, or opposition office, I can phone their news director and say, 'Listen, there is a protocol for the gallery members.' There is no structure like that for the blogosphere."

But LeBlanc isn't the only blogger who considers himself a journalist. On July 19, 2006, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published a study that stated that 57 million Americans read blogs. The study also says there are 12 million bloggers in America and 34 per cent of those considered themselves journalists. That's about four million self-proclaimed journalists in cyberspace at this very moment.

As a blogger, LeBlanc is denied media access to the legislature because he is not representing a recognized news organization. But like many other self-proclaimed journalists, being an independent and unaffiliated news source was exactly why LeBlanc started blogging in the first place. So the question arises, "Should unaffiliated bloggers be granted the same access and privileges as accredited journalists?"

"Bloggers have the potential to be valid journalists," says Lisa Taylor, a former journalist currently working as a lawyer in Halifax "The titles are absolutely meaningless. Journalism isn't who you work for or where your material gets its public airing. It's about the principles you rely on in your day to day work."

Like McHardie, Taylor admits that the issue of how to monitor bloggers' ethical standards is a tricky one.

"No one is telling you what to write. That is the double-edged sword," says Taylor. "It is by far the greatest thing about blogging and the most dangerous and scary thing about it. There is no set of checks and balances. It is really dangerous that someone can just put things out there with out any sober second thought or without a clear-headed second set of eyes."

Taylor also says that being able to become a professional journalist without any formal education in journalism can be challenging.

"This is always the problem with our profession. There is no official sanctioning. Wouldn't it be easier if everyone had to have this degree and write this test and then suddenly, presto, you could put journalist after your name," says Taylor. "But anybody can do it."

Taylor, who worked at the CBC for more than 10 years, believes that despite all the controversy surrounding regulating blogs, they have the potential to alter the practice of journalism.

"If you listen to journalists who represent established media organizations they will paint with a broad brush who bloggers are -- they are always kooks, the fringe element with an ax to grind, and that might be true," says Taylor. "But there might also be people with really good ideas about communication and the tools and the skill and the ability to put it out there."

The idea that blogging will truly challenge journalism in the future is debatable. Catherine McKercher, an author, journalist and associate professor at the Carleton University School of Journalism, believes blogging, as we know it today, may only be a blip on the radar of mass media.

"I think we need to be careful not to have extravagant expectations about any new medium," says McKercher "You've probably had people say, 'Oh, blogging is radical, this is new, and this is going to change everything.'"

As of the current state of blogging, McKercher believes there are still a lot of issues to be sorted out.

"I am just not convinced that citizen journalism is going to replace journalism. I think most citizens really aren't trained at how to see things," says McKercher. "I don't think they know how to observe, how to interview, how to put together a narrative. I don't mean to dismiss them as playing no role, but I think they are best seen as supplementary to reporting."

If there is one thing that Taylor, McKercher and McHardie can agree on is that blogs are still in a state of change and what they hold for the future is unknown.

"I think that blogging is an interesting social phenomenon. In the early days of the medium or of any communication form things are fluid, things change and things evolve," says McKercher. "So I don't think what we see now as blogging will be considered blogging in the future."

But until then, Charles LeBlanc will continue being a journalist "with an opinion" in the blogosphere. "The only thing we have left in New Brunswick is blogging," says LeBlanc. "And I am doing a job that I love to do."


Click below for website -

target="_blank">Charles
Blog

9 comments:

Senior Citizen Computer User said...

Dear Mr.Leblanc

This story should keep the so-called heat off of you from doing what your doing with your web site.

I wish you all the best of luck, and nothing but good things in the future.

I don't balme you from saying you have an Opinion to express,last time I heard, it was called Freedom Of Speech. That's what I thought I fought for in Korea on behalf of Canada, and where there is no Freedom of speech to this day in North Korea, and China for that matter and in other East Asia and other Counties around the World for that matter.

Sorry for any spelling typo's, my old eye's just aren't as good as they used to be, and I'm being rushed as there are other complex residents here wanting to use the Computer.

Have a great and Happy Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Charles it's time to take down your counter the trial is over.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with the journalist versus blogger argument by the that journalist of recognized media is different from independent blogger/journalist. If there are complaints about a journalist's lack of professionalism being raised, the journalist, just like police, bureaucrats and politicians have to render account of their action to a professional body within their company or department or the parliament, but if a blogger is unprofessional, crosses boundaries of decency like you often do with those that dissagree with you, there is no process or possibility for redress. In the case of a blogger, the only recourse for a person would be to, lay criminal charges, sue civilly and in default if no assets can be part of the judgement, seek emprisonment and this at the expense of the tax payer. Why would society take/absorb such a liability ?

Anonymous said...

Charles, it's disgusting when people call you a journalist.

To be a journalist you have to balance the freedom you have with the responsiblity to be accurate and fair. All the times you've called people bigots, nazis, racists, etc shows you're neither.

If you wonder why you shouldn't ever be considered a legitimate member of any press gallary, read through your blog entries.

As for this being a job, well that's one way to look at it. Or in fact, you could look at it accurately and realize you're on social assistance and doing nothing to change your status.

There are jobs out there for you Charles, lots of them and they have nothing to do with Irving. But you'd have to be willing to work, to not use ADHD as an excuse and to realize your never going to make the money you did at the Shipyard. You've bitten the hand that fed you far to much for that.

But you won't. You'll wallow in your infamy and content yourself with your pointless barking.

Charles LeBlanc said...

The cowards are coming out big time!!!!

1- Racist? The only guy I call a racist is Brian Grant from Gulf Operators. < Irving company >

I called the company racists and they are.

Bigot- I'm a bigot because of my stand against Quebec. I called other people bigots because of their ignorance towards a issue.

Welfare - Yes, I'm on welfare. < Not proud of it > but that's the way it is.

Work - I am working very hard but I'm not paid for it!

Journalist - I could be called one but i'm a colunmist. I write stories with an opinion.

Sued - How can you be sued for speaking the truth???

reporter - I report news!!!!

Cowards - People who leaves nasty comments and to scared to sign thier names.

A Nonny Mouse said...

Welfare - Yes, I'm on welfare. < Not proud of it > but that's the way it is.


If you aren't proud of it, why won't you put an honest non-joking effort into looking for a paying job? There are thousands of jobs out there that ARE NOT Irving or government. Spend a few days, type up your resume and go to some businesses. You know enough people, you CAN find a paying job. Prove everyone wrong instead of just calling everyone cowards. Even a part-time job would leave enough time for you to go on the internet for several hours a day.

Charles LeBlanc said...

I got one question for ya?

Would you hire the biggest blogger in New Brunswick to work for ya????

Sad eh???

Anonymous said...

"Sued - How can you be sued for speaking the truth???

reporter - I report news!!!!

Cowards - People who leaves nasty comments and to scared to sign thier names.
# posted by Charles LeBlanc : 8:09 PM"

Sued, speaking the truth: When allegations are made one must be able to prove same and hearsay is not an admissable format (in court anyway). News: there is gossip and there are stories that can be corroborated by facts. I come here to scan light or potentially interesting stories. As for cowards too scared to sign their names; this blog is your personal diary that you are sharing with the WWW. It is entertaining and sometime interesting but its not CNN or a court of law where you or contributors are testifying under oath nor is it meant to be. Lighten up Charles, it's all in good fun. Keep up the good work !
p.s: you can call yourself a journalist, there is nothing wrong/illegal in making that claim !

Anonymous said...

Keep working Charles, but the blog has focused on you a fair bit lately-hey, thats not work!:) However, the 'work' thing is interesting, after all, you are interviewed often on that radio station, so should be given the same amount of money as the DJ who is hosting the show.

Even the cowards have points though. To be taken seriously there are standards, and investigation is one of them. Its not enough just to 'hear' something and post it. Pictures of people working at the soup kitchen is great to see, but its not exactly 'news'. We don't hear word one about what all the politicians are doing. Who is your local MLA? How about reporting on the MLA's in Fredericton at least. What are they doing? Do you see them go into the legislature?

What about their constituency offices, what about walking in and asking for an interview. Even a report of a brush off from an assistant is newsworthy. That's especially important in your riding if your own MLA won't talk to you.

The internet is a massive resource, you don't even need access to politicians to get news. Take a look over at hawkeye.blogspot.com, there's a guy who digs up all kinds of dirt on the Nova Scotia government.

THAT is work, taking pictures of dogs isn't exactly work. But to the posters above, why don't you just mind your own business. Hell, there isn't an industry in New Brunswick that doesn't get subsidized to a greater extent than Charles. Why not go tell some nurses, doctors, lawyers, forestry workers, fishermen, anybody who ever collects EI (theres a lot), teachers, developers, construction workers, to go get a job that doesn't get government money.

And of course since NB gets one third of its money from equalization that makes everybody in the province a welfare recipient to a certain extent.

So just get over it. The injustice is that Charles doesn't get paid. Want him to stop getting welfare, go up to the 'donate' button and put some money in you freeloading jerks. Talk about welfare, look who doesn't want to pay for what they're doing!