Jian GhomeshiThe Jian Ghomeshi story continues to be big news here in the Great White North. Nine women are now making allegations against the former CBC Radio star, and two of them have given their names. Canada seldom embraces big stories like this, and it’s been morbidly fascinating for the former journalism student in me to watch the coverage develop.

One of the most interesting angles I have seen on the coverage was this excellent profile in Toronto Life profiling Jesse Brown, the indie journalist who first broke the story. Brown had been trying to get a job as a ‘media critic’ in vain—Canada just doesn’t do that sort of thing, in spite of Brown’s belief that they should be—so he had been going it alone and crowd-funding his stories. Why then did he partner up with the Toronto Star for this one?

In short, because there is one thing Big Media still does do better than the indie scene, and that is to provide infrastructure. As the story relates:

“Originally, I was very eager to report the story myself. I have my own journalistic standards as to what would make this story newsworthy, and it met those standards completely. But I’m not a legal expert, so I wanted to know what could be done to make this bulletproof against a libel claim…that’s why news organizations have this thing called libel insurance, which I didn’t even know about at that point.”

In other words, Brown’s decision to pair up with the Star on this offers him a protection he couldn’t get on his own. If he does get sued for libel, for a story he wrote under the Star’s masthead, their libel coverage will apply and will protect him. Brown further points out that the Star’s name does carry some weight and make it harder for critics to “tar [him]  and smear [him] as some scurrilous independent blogger.”

Brown raises a good point about the machinery of Big Media here. I’d love to hear from Konrath or some of the other ‘Indie or DEATH!’ guys and see what they make of this. I give Brown credit for realizing that this story needed to be done properly, and if that meant bringing in help, he was willing to do that even if it meant sharing the credit. Is there a way for an indie guy to really do a story like this on his own? Is there a way for a ‘crowd-funded’ journalist to DIY not just the credibility, but the infrastructure of Big Media too? I don’t think there is. And I think Brown deserves the kudos he is getting both for the groundwork he laid on his own, and for the joint effort he turned it into with the help of Kevin Donovan at the Star.

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