About the CAJ

The problems of the Canadian Association of Journalists have landed
on J-Source. Given my role as editor of the Townhall blog and comments discussions, a
disclosure: I am one of the many who left the CAJ in 2005 following the
Stevie Cameron affair. I left for two reasons: the censure of Cameron and the
response of the CAJ board to those members who criticized their censure
of Cameron.

It’s a weary stupid saga and it will not be retold
here; anyone with the heart to look it up could follow the breadcrumbs
via Bill Doskoch’s blog, starting with his fine summary.

2004/2005 I was the volunteer moderator of the CAJ’s online discussion
forum. I had been associated with the CAJ or its precursor since 1979,
including as a national board vice president, and Halifax chapter
president. Because I remained keen on advocating for, and fostering
discussion about, journalism, I joined with several other ex-CAJ people
to found the Canadian Journalist blog  — which gained tens of
thousands of readers, later agreed to join the web site of the Canadian Journalism Project, and which  evolved into this Townhall blog of  J-Source.

policy, and the blog’s policy, has been largely to avoid the CAJ and
its issues, not least because those who left wished to move on from
what had become an unpleasant dispute unworthy of journalism
professionals. That’s mainly why I regret that the fevered discussion
about the CAJ’s crisis has now somehow ended up here — I would have
much preferred that it take place elsewhere, such as on the CAJ’s own
forum, CAJ-list — or better yet on a CAJ web site that could be less of an embarrassment and which the CAJ could have and should have built for itself long ago.

I will say I agree with Deborah Campbell’s statement
that the CAJ can’t move on until it deals with its egregious past.
Additionally, I think the CAJ needs to define itself and its mandate
before it deserves anyone’s support: what is it for?
The lack of a clear answer to that key question, and the resulting
sloppy direction of the CAJ, were in my opinion the root cause of the
Cameron fiasco, which was but one (albeit grotesque) symptom.

do think that an association of all journalists is badly needed in Canada.
The CAJ history includes some good work under some good people of good
will and big minds. I know that some CAJ people now who are of good
will and have big minds. But while once I thought that the CAJ could
become Canada’s needed association, I no longer think so — though I
would not mind being proved wrong should the CAJ’s fundamental problems
be somehow fixed.

Having said that, I protest the CAJ’s
characterization of its own continuing importance. There are many
organizations representing, advocating for, standing up for writers and
journalists in Canada, from science writers to book authors to
political writers to associations dedicated to freedom of speech to
guilds. We all exist within a marketplace of ideas, and I find the CAJ
— always slim but now anorexic with less than 1,000 members, of which
few are senior or well-known journalists — overweening in its
presentation of itself as the voice of Canadian journalists. The CAJ
does not and will not — at least until it fixes itself — speak for me.

And on the topic of the CAJ, I speak here only for myself.