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J-F Chaumont/ : Le Journal de Montréal loses another sports journalist
Credit: J-F Chaumont will now cover the activities of the league that pays his salary.

The news was slipped to me yesterday, but I thought it would still be exclusive at 11:00 this morning. This was to misunderstand the curiosity of the only journalist who dares to cover the sports world (and not just sports) Réjean Tremblay.

The news is now out : Jean-François Chaumont will be leaving the Journal de Montréal tomorrow after a decade of writing for the daily.

Chaumont, 43, has had enough of writing for Le Journal: he has decided to leave on his own. He will join Dave Stubbs, Guillaume Lepage and a handful of other journalists on the NHL editorial team(, having presumably agreed to take the job vacated by Robert Laflamme’s retirement. Journalists who are now flirting with the job of public relations officer, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Journal’s sports section has thus lost Yvon Pedneault (a member of the Hall of Fame who passed away a few months ago), Réjean Tremblay (who decided to swap Québecor for RNC Média), Louis Butcher (it seems that F1 no longer attracts as many click passions ), Mathieu Boulay (he was transferred to economics due to the fact that he covered, among other things, boxing, a sport that is not at the top of the sports boss list) and J-F Chaumont. For the moment, it’s unclear whether Chaumont will be replaced or not.

Let’s go Jo (Bernier)! We’re counting on you!

Chaumont will most likely write all his texts in French, for the Francophone bent. It remains to be seen whether his writings will then be translated. His mandate will be to cover the Canadiens, of course, but also the league’s French-speaking players.

J-F Chaumont will now cover the activities of the league that pays his salary.

(Credit: TVA Sports)

First, I must say I’m happy for Chaumont, a nice guy. He had to have had enough of his Journal job to accept a lower salary (and reduced benefits) elsewhere. Good luck with your new project J-F! Everyone deserves to be able to improve their professional situation as they see fit.

But secondly, I can’t help thinking that there’s something a little disturbing – even unhealthy – when a recognized journalist leaves a supposedly free and independent media to join an entity at the heart of its coverage.

Let me explain.

Yes, Chaumont will still be out there, covering NHL players and teams… but he will now be paid not by an independent media outlet, but by the NHL. It’s understood that he won’t report everything he sees or hears, and that his columns will be tinged with a certain restraint. That’s to be expected.

The fact remains that the mainstream media keeps harping on about the importance of keeping trained journalists in the field – which I agree with 100% – and here, journalists are being sent to work under the guidance of cover stories. They’re asked to cover a property that belongs to whoever signs their cheque. It’s special, everyone’s special.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you has never been truer or more applicable than here. When was the last time you saw a La Presse journalist investigating La Presse, or a Québecor journalist investigating PKP? That’s what I thought…

At least Chaumont must be thinking that the NHL doesn’t require daily clickbaiting….

Yes, the future of media is pretty gray right now, and yes, hopefully real journalism will stick around. Just because it’s sports doesn’t mean that people who’ve done 3 or 4 years of university journalism have to turn into PR people more than anything else.

This latest media-to-league migration should serve to remind us that the real threat in sports journalism is the media that partner with the teams they cover (98.5, TVA Sports, RDS, etc.), the teams and leagues that now hire journalists to provide neutral coverage of their product, and the Web giants that marry up with leagues like MLS to control the product. When the descriptors, analysts and hosts of Montreal CF games, for example, are paid directly by the league (via Apple TV), you can’t expect neutral, objective coverage. So much for journalistic purity.

But that’s the new reality we’re living in.

It’s the revolution that’s happening before our very eyes.

And that’s why a balance between traditional media and independent sites like mine remains essential to the health of our milieu. Otherwise, who’s going to dare criticize and put out real stories?

In brief

– Mattias Coccaro is closing in on Montreal.

– Since we’re talking about J-F Chaumont this morning, I invite you to read his recent piece on Jacques Martin and the difficulties he’s currently facing in Ottawa.

– At 16, school should be the priority. Period.

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