Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Video & the Journalistic Eye:: Montréal Gazette & The Matthew Besner Case


image:: vidcap from video posted on Montréal Gazette website

I was doing searches on the Lachine Canal in Montréal, as I'll be visiting the area shortly, and I came across a sad story of a man who died on its south shore. Here's a blog post from Footprints at the River's Edge that was posted when Matthew Besner went missing, along with news updates. While the police do not expect foul play, how and why Matthew got into the canal is a mystery.

The Montréal Gazette posted an 18 second video of the recovery scene, which caused a bit of controversy. The gist of it being the nature of video with respect to journalistic integrity. Catherine Wallace wrote a story chronicling the story and the fallout of the video::
"Does video have more emotional pull than still photos? Does it, as one reader said, make things more real? And if that's the case, should we apply different standards for video than we use for still photos, whether we use the photos in the print paper or online?
Did it make a difference that the video was posted on our YouTube channel, which is how we handle all our videos, as most news organizations do? Is YouTube more associated with entertainment? Or was the video viewed differently when not accompanied by the news story that ran with it at montrealgazette.com? 
Would it have made a difference if the video were more polished - if there had been a voiceover from a reporter or some text relating the facts of the story?"
My initial reaction to the video [warning to those who may find this too graphic or an invasion of privacy] on its own is that it does contextualize the remote location, as Catherine Wallace mentions, but the video packs an emotional punch.


It's not graphic, but it paints a somber picture of a death scene, near an iconic landmark of Montréal, on a lonely canal bank while snow falls. It also strikes me as an invasion of privacy, specifically, the showing of the covered body. 

I think what could have changed things is contextualizing the video within a larger picture of solving an open mystery. So, I do think more text imploring anyone who may have seen Matthew in the vicinity or have any information regarding the case. Social media has the power of allowing for content, including video content, to be shared quickly. Because of this, I'm glad the Gazette is keeping the video online. This could help figure out what happened, which I feel makes this situation different than one where posting a video could be construed as serving voyeuristic purposes.

I've chosen to post the video not just to illustrate a question of journalistic praxis with the advent of social media, but also to help get the word out on this case. As of last week, the police don't have any idea why he was at the canal. Here are links to the Montréal Police {SVPM} contact page [Eng/Fr.]

Twitterversion:: [blog+video] Montréal Gazette reports on a death along the Lachine Canal & controversy erupts w/video of the scene. @Prof_K


1 comment:

sumo champ said...
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