Journalist or writer?

I have met former journalist Carey Gillam several times over the years while reporting in the same agricultural and commodity circles.

On pages 48 and 49 this week you can read more about her and her recent book about the threat that she feels commercial agricultural practices bring to society — specifically, glyphosate use and related genetically modified crops.

And in all those years, from the early 2000s to 2015, I read her stuff frequently on the Reuters news feed. As a regular Producer reader, you too would have consumed her work. Many times we wrote about the same people and events and our stuff was quite similar.

It was good, solid reportage with no inkling that she would one day start using those tools of reporting to write pieces that would take sides.

There are those in journalism who would condemn a reporter or editor for leaving the craft and our trade’s expectations of reduced bias and balanced story-telling for advocacy work or documentary production with a mission.

But I don’t.

I might take issue with some of Gillam’s premises and the way she places elements of her stories and reporting into context.

I might take some professional umbrage that she still describes herself as a journalist. However, she is free to do that, considering that there are many who do within the media industry and still display significant bias.

Fox News can often be offensive to journalists. Some in Canada say CBC is biased news.

However, I would suggest that most of journalism’s critics simply don’t like the results of the inquiries, rather than finding fault with the quality of the work. This is especially true if it calls into question the efforts or ethics of beloved political parties or shows a poor understanding of an under-reported sector such as agriculture.

What Gillam has done is moved from telling stories without filtering for all of the facts to filtering for facts she finds helpful to tell her stories. It’s a fine line.

I have often gone looking for people to tell a facet of a story that I felt needed greater representation. Did it provide great balance? Maybe, maybe not. My intentions were right: not trying to prove a point but more fully tell a tale.

While I would no longer refer to Gillam as a journalist, she could be called an investigative writer or just dead wrong.

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