30-year industry veteran asks newsrooms to extend the olive branch before the white flag
On October 12, 2017, veteran crime reporter Kim Bolan was honoured with the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Jack Webster ceremonies, recognizing outstanding achievement in B.C. journalism.
During her acceptance speech, the 30-year Vancouver Sun veteran shared her vision of the future of journalism—a future in which newsrooms put aside their differences and cooperate for the good of the story.
The LJR spoke with Bolan about why collaboration matters—and her hopes for solidarity among journalists.
During your acceptance speech, you called for unity across the profession. What do you mean?
What I mean is that traditionally, news organizations—and journalists specifically—compete with each other. We want to get the scoop, we want to beat the other news organization to the story. But I think because of the dire times that we’re in, we need to be more collaborative, and we also need to recognize good work when it’s done by the competition.
So not just collaboration, but also promoting other journalists’ work?
Or just acknowledging. Journalists traditionally have been kind of petty. If someone else has a scoop, we shoot it down. I think we need to acknowledge the good work done by others. I also think it’ll help counter the fake news narrative. If we’re more open, more transparent, giving more credit to other journalists where credit is due, I think it actually bolsters our own reputations. It’s the right thing to do morally, but honestly, I think it helps us all do better in terms of gaining consumers.
Do you have any memories where working with competing journalists helped make a story?
Yeah. Years ago at the Sun, we did a joint immigration series with the CBC. It was before they had a real online presence; in fact, it was totally before they had an online presence. So we kind of worked together to do all the research. We did news stories, and they did radio and TV stories, but we collected the material together. Some of those big collaborations I think can produce some really great work.
Have you had any reaction to your Webster speech in recent months?
I would say yes. People tell me, “Yeah, we need to do that.” The problem is we’re also under the gun just with the workloads that we have. Our workloads are bigger because our newsrooms are smaller. It’s very hard to take time to step back to look at the industry and say, “What can I do to maybe change to improve things?”
Are there any specific things you’re doing right now to promote solidarity within the industry?
I’ve had discussions with journalists. I haven’t been able to take it further because I’ve got a bunch of things happening in my own life right now. So it’s something I hope to spend more time on—but right now I’ve done nothing more than talk to other journalists.
What would you suggest other reporters do to foster collaboration with other newsrooms?
Well, I think they can maybe suggest it. All I’m doing is throwing out ideas. I’m good at that, but I’m a working journalist with another part-time job, so I’m pretty pressed for time myself. But if you don’t talk and get the ideas flowing, then you’re never going to see anything new come along.
We’re still going to compete most of the time. I’m not naive. I get that we’re trying to bring in ad revenue. These [collaborative] journalists, they’re not phoning each other every day and continuing to cooperate and collaborate. But they did for this significant project—and it was a good thing.