Of special interest for Quebec readers

When my colleague Chris Curtis announced he was leaving the paper, the Montreal Gazette, a couple of weeks ago, I was saddened. I didn’t want to see him go.

Chris is a reporter with an enormous heart. He’s passionate about Indigenous issues and those affecting other minorities, and his reporting on them has brought about increased awareness and change.

Writes Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal: “Christopher Curtis is a leader in bringing awareness of urban Indigenous struggles. His writing has helped me move mountains to create and implement new services.”

His reporting at the Gazette, of course, hasn’t been limited to Indigenous issues. His articles have led to the reopening of a homicide investigation as well as the creation of a homeless centre, among other things. He has written some 2,000 articles in his 9 or 10 years at the paper, and he has won much acclaim. In his own words: “2,000 articles give or take, a Canadian Association of Journalists award, a National Newspaper Award nomination and 13 elections (three provincial, three federal, three municipal and four band council).”

He even touched the hearts of many Quebec separatists and Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Jean-François Lisée when he covered their campaign for the paper during the last provincial election. Many party faithful felt he covered their campaign better than the French media did. That’s because Chris has a folksy way of connecting with the salt of the earth sometimes. He not only covered the issues, but he covered the heart and soul of the party as well with social media hits from the campaign bus and stops along the way. The French media reported on his coverage! (I don’t use exclamation marks in this blog very often.)

Said Patrick Lagacé, a columnist with La Presse: “Chris is a one-man riot. He’s the kind of journalist who burns the soles of his shoes, describing what he sees and feels as he exposes injustice.”

And did I mention that Chris is a mere 32 years old with no strings attached? That’s why he is able “to bet the farm” on “an experimental new model of journalism” that will allow him to do more in-depth reporting, or “context-rich” as he puts it, on social injustice issues. No more weekend traffic stories for him, which inevitably come with general reporting beats on big city newspapers.

His vow to certain Indigenous Peoples in Quebec is: “My promise, to the people who feel they never got justice, is to dedicate the next chunk of my life to untangling the system that clearly isn’t working for them.

And I’ll be following along, as will many other readers who subscribe to his crowdfunded investigative journalism. His articles will also be available on the independent-journalism Ricochet website, but as Chris puts it: “My articles will be available to everyone on Ricochet’s site, but I’ll only be able to keep writing them if you help pay my salary.”

I can’t think of any other young journalist I would pay to follow — though, I suppose my digital subscription to the New York Times is helping journalists of all ages there.

Writes Chris in his pitch on Substack.com:

“I’m partnering with Ricochet Media, a crowdfunded, non-profit national outlet that will edit and publish my journalism free for everyone to read. If you pay to join this mailing list you’ll be helping make that journalism possible, but in addition to doing your civic duty you’ll be getting a little something just for you.

“Every week I’ll write you an email. Sometimes it’ll be funny, sometimes it’ll be sad, sometimes it’ll be both. It’ll be the story of where I’ve been, and where I’m going. Think of it like your front row seat to the reporting process. Just this week I snuck into a garbage dump for a story. Imagine where I might end up next.”

So, it will be entertaining as well as informative.

There’s no telling how long his “test of a new model of journalism” will last, but I think it’s going to be a great ride — well worth the price of admission no matter how it turns out.

You can read more about Chris in his debut piece on the Ricochet site, titled: Why I’m quitting Postmedia to test a new model of journalism

— Jill