A Blogger Who is a Court-Approved Journalist
Date: Monday, November 27 2006
By IAN AUSTEN / The New York Times
Published: November 27, 2006
Many bloggers describe themselves as journalists. Last week Charles LeBlanc, a rooming house resident who lives on social assistance in Fredericton, New Brunswick, received a court decision establishing his journalistic credentials.
The confirmation came last Friday when a judge dismissed charges against Mr. LeBlanc of obstructing a police officer.
For the last two years, Mr. LeBlanc has been expressing his views on poverty and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder through a blog (http://oldmaison.blogspot.com). The idea, he said, came from benefactors who also provided him a small digital camera and a computer.
He declined to name the people, however, partly because at least one of them is employed by his favorite target: the many companies in New Brunswick controlled by the Irving family, which owns, according to a report on media ownership released by Canadas Senate earlier this year, all the English-language daily newspapers in New Brunswick.
In June, Mr. LeBlanc went to Saint John, New Brunswick, to report on a protest against a meeting of chamber of commerce and board of trade members from Atlantic Canada and New England. Protestors stormed the meeting. Mr. LeBlanc was among those arrested.
Officers from the Saint John police testified they are regular readers of Mr. LeBlancs blog as part of their effort to gather intelligence on protests. William J. McCarroll, the provincial court judge who heard Mr. LeBlancs case, wrote in his decision that 'Mr. LeBlanc is a blogger'. I'm sure that many, if not the majority of Saint Johners, are not familiar with this word.
After reviewing videotape from a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation crew at the scene, sometimes in slow motion, the judge found that it contradicted testimony of the arresting officer, Sergeant John Parks.
Members of the so called mainstream media were taking photographs and filming in the same area without interference from the police, the judge wrote in a 20-page decision. I believe its fair to say that the defendant was doing nothing wrong at the time he was approached by Sergeant Parks and placed under arrest. He was simply plying his trade, gathering photographs and information for his blog alongside other reporters.
The judge also said that the police had no right to delete about 200 photos stored on Mr. LeBlancās camera.
Mr. LeBlanc said he had considered improving his skills by studying journalism at a local university. That is, until its journalism department accepted a donation of 1 million Canadian dollars from the Irvings. Do you think I could study in a classroom listening to an Irving employee? he asked.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 29, 2006]