Will Anglophone journalists join Maclean’s Quebec cover story debate?

In an article called Maclean’s provokes civil war, The Globe and Mail‘s Norman Spector writes about francophone journalists’ reactions to the Maclean’s cover story that infuriated an entire province.

The cover of a recent issue of Maclean’s featured a smiling Bonhomme, beloved Quebec mascot, carrying a briefcase overstuffed with cash. The cover line read: “The most corrupt province in Canada”.

Spector quotes Michael Ignatieff, who was asked about the controversial cover in a scrum earlier this week. Ignatieff replied:

“‘I don’t know the term in French, but [the Maclean’s article] is Québec bashing. I don’t like Quebec bashing either in English or in French. … You have to criticize corruption in public life. However, it’s important to do it throughout Canada. To say that it’s only a problem in Quebec –and that’s what the article suggests – I think that’s just Quebec bashing.'”

Spector notes that the House of Commons has largely stayed out of the debate. “Instead,” he writes, “as should be the case, journalists themselves have begun to debate the soundness of the articles in question.

“By far the most interesting reaction so far has been that of Carole Beaulieu, the publisher and chief editorial writer of L’actualité. Like Maclean’s, L’actualité is owned by Rogers, and wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall of corporate offices in Toronto for this war of words.”

Spector provided a translation of an article Beaulieu wrote on her magazine’s site titled “Maclean’s and punctuation”:

“My journalism professors at Carleton – one of the bastions of anglo-Canadian journalism orthodoxy and rigour – would have given a big fat zero to the headline on the cover of Maclean’s.

“The article cites an American professor who, in 1968, concluded that ‘Quebec is perhaps the most corrupt province in Canada.’ Perfect. According to the journalism rule, the phrase should have been in quotation marks, and it should have been attributed. It’s his opinion. Not a fact. It would be a lot less pretty, but perhaps as sellable.

“Should the Québécois be concerned about recent cases of corruption and nepotism in the construction sector, the unions and in government? Yes. And they are concerned. All recent polls show they’re furious.”

She continued to question the journalistic integrity of the article, and listed a number of unanswered questions that Maclean’s could have focussed on instead.

She concludes:

“Regrettably, Maclean’s – which is owned by the same company as L’actualité – seems to have adopted the slogan : Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story”

Spector notes that while Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne has given an interview to TVA on the topic, Anglophone journalists have for the most part stayed out of the debate. Not so on the french-speaking side.