Several journalists from Francophone community media have left their posts to join Radio Canada teams outside Quebec in recent months. A situation has intensified over the past two years, according to several community media outlets. In some cases, Radio Canada issues direct invitations to submit requests to journalists, causing community media embarrassment.
Three journalists have left Akadi Nouvel for Radio Canada in the past two years, including two since the start of the year.
Community media journalists have also been seen going out to Ontario Public Broadcasting Corporation during the same period.
In the West, a community radio station has recorded five departures for Radio Canada in five years, a blow because the staff needed to operate the media are four journalists.
Another community radio station cites Leave and Direct Seek in the past two years.
The situation is the same in newspapers, in both the East and the West.
“It’s rare for two years to go by without seeing someone leave for Radio Canada, but in the past two years we’ve gone to great lengths to balance things out and create better conditions for our employees,” says Sophie Gollen, Executive Director and Editor – President of La Liberté in Manitoba.
In many areas of the country, community media maintain important partnerships with Radio Canada. In order to maintain good relationships, many preferred to speak with a closed microphone.
No raid, but ‘disruption’
According to Francis Sonnier, CEO of Acadie Nouvelle in New Brunswick, “Radio Canada operates like a company that does its job by hiring – not by recruiting – journalists from the community media at times.”
“My role is not to say who should do what. The only surprise at this moment is the intensity of their recruitment procedures. I fear that there is a certain defect.” [entre Radio-Canada et les médias communautaires] “It does not settle over time,” explains Frances Saunier.
According to Marc Francois Bernier, Professor of Applied Ethics and Journalism at the University of Ottawa, what bothers more and more societal media is “the unfair dimension, because Radio Canada is nonetheless a community. A country with billions and few budgets, it can hurt an already fragile small media.”
The imbalance between community media and Radio Canada is partly due to the salary level according to the stakeholders contacted. Community media can hardly compete with the salaries offered on Radio Canada.
Sophie Gaolin of La Liberty concurs.
Retaining journalists in the local media has always been a challenge. Our media cannot compete with the salaries and benefits offered by a company like Radio-Canada. Community media budgets aren’t always stable either. The job security that Radio Canada provides is attractive to our journalists. “
Community media are seen as “after-school schools” or “starting points for journalists to Radio Canada.”
“We are training,” says a person who heads a community radio station in the West, who preferred to remain anonymous [les journalistes]Radio Canada comes to search for them, sometimes directly. We understand this fact, but it is clear that when we have good employees, that we ourselves have been trained and to whom we have devoted time and energy, we want to keep them and not be stripped of our resources. “
Return to community media is seldom present. Community media realize that they have no privacy and that they cannot prevent a journalist from leaving, whatever the reason. But they unanimously affirm, to varying degrees, the ease with which Radio Canada is successful in recruiting from home, causing instability that they can take “months” to recover from.
Labor shortages are widespread
Generally speaking, all media are currently facing a labor shortage and the situation is precarious in Canadian Francophonie. Radio Canada is no exception, according to Mark Bechet, a spokesperson for Radio Canada.
“Since March 2020, at Radio Canada, we have 200 vacancies to fill. […] We are having a hard time recruiting to our stations in the regions, because the profession of journalist is perhaps a little less attractive than it has been in past years.
But Frances Saunier of Nouvelle Academy reminds us, however, that “we are not on equal footing” with Radio Canada.
The issue of recruiting journalists can pose an ethical problem, according to several media outlets interviewed, when candidates are being questioned directly; Attitudes recently reported frequently by knowledgeable sources in some community media.
Mark Bechet vehemently refutes this possibility: “There is no straightforward recruitment process. Candidates apply for vacancies, publicly posted, through our online platform. The candidate profile is ongoing.”
However, he admits that there may be exceptional cases, “but if we were informed of this, we would educate the Human Resources Director accordingly.” […] We will intervene quickly. “
Louise Impault, former director of Radio Canada in Atlantic Canada and current president of the Société Nationale de l’Acadie (SNA), explains that she is not aware of this recruitment method.
“Every once in a while I saw journalists switch from a community newspaper to Radio Canada TV or Radio Canada, which seemed to me just a change or career path. I’m not saying it wasn’t there.” [de sollicitation directe] And I’m not saying there was anything. I can’t talk about something I’m not familiar with, “she notes.
Adds the person who recruited several journalists on behalf of Radio Canada, “I didn’t hire any of them just because of their reputation. […] There are very serious employment standards. Of course, pay scales may be more interesting than other media. But we do not employ facing the client as they say! “
She acknowledges that Radio Canada’s reputation helps with recruitment, but when jobs become available, the process is monitored by the unions, Louise Empiault says.
“Now, if the positions open with us, will we refuse to accept a request that comes from a local media? Mark Bechet asks. No, not for a position that is publicly posted.”
Sophie Gulin, La Liberté director in Manitoba, believes that if the call to apply is direct, the situation could become detrimental for community media.
You cannot blame people for wanting to change employers. But you have to understand that direct petitions are disheartening to many editors who are constantly trying to train new people and see their efforts at the service of local Radio Canada. “
Mark Bechet asserts that Radio Canada deals with its relationship with community media not out of a desire to harm them or steal their resources, but as “cooperation and partnership for the purpose of imparting knowledge”. There is support and sharing with them. Our desire to create a very strong media community remains across the country, through Radio Canada as well as through community media. “
It also specifies that cooperation takes place in several regions, for example to cover major events such as electoral debates.
He trains according to the chefs on the spot
While the community media interviewed agreed on the importance of maintaining a good relationship with Radio Canada, most explained that the partnership or cooperation sometimes seemed so complex that there was competition to achieve French-speaking audiences.
There is nothing to stop many community media outlets from claiming to appreciate their cooperation with Radio Canada in cases where it is fair.
For Sophie Gulin, Radio Canada’s practices with regard to local media differ according to the directorates stationed in the regional stations.
When I took charge of the newspaper, I had the opportunity to develop an excellent relationship with the Media Director of Radio Canada Regional Station. He assured me that he would not be recruiting straight from my newsroom. From the start, I created an atmosphere of trust. “
The relationship grew as the newspaper went through a tough patch.
“When the newspaper’s finances ran low, we spoke to each other and he was able to hire [certains de mes] Great journalists may find themselves without a job. In this case, I was happy that my colleagues could continue to work on their favorite profession. “
Others suggest that the quality of the relationship with Canada’s regional radio stations depends on the leaders in place.
Marc Francois Bernier, Professor of Applied Ethics and Journalism at the University of Ottawa, notes that “this injustice is great. [en matière de ressources financières, …] Objectively it harms the small media required in the community markets it serves. Wouldn’t there be a way to make up for them, like a little school clubs? Maybe Radio Canada should think about its employment strategy and the impact it has on small media. “