The man who broke the Jian story
Media critic Jesse Brown’s Canadaland podcast and website have produced some of the most talked about stories in the country in 2014, and he’s just getting started
Journalist Jesse Brown launched his podcast Canadaland in October 2013. But most first heard of him in the lead up to one of the biggest news stories of 2014 — the fall of Thornhill’s Jian Ghomeshi. He followed this up by hurling some rather unsavoury accusations at another CBC celebrity journalist, Amanda Lang. He’s become somewhat, ahem, popular down at the CBC offices, so much so that some eager beaver spelled out the words “Jesse Brown snitches get stitches” in kitchenette fridge magnets in a CBC office kitchenette. We tracked down the pugnacious podcaster to find out what comes next. So the “snitches get stitches” thing, my first reaction is that it must have just been a joke. Did you take it seriously? Personally, I think it was a joke. But there are lots of people on the fourth floor (where the message was found) that work on Amanda Lang’s show that might resent the fact that someone may have leaked information to Canadaland. So maybe they made a joke, but there may have been a current of hostility. But this is the business you’re in. Has it happened yet that you’ve lost friends or felt somehow cut off from people at the same time your popularity is on the rise? I’ve had a couple of awkward exchanges with people I consider personal friends, yeah. But for the most part, I’ve had tremendous encouragement from journalists, including CBC employees. How much did contributions to your site increase after you broke the Ghomeshi story? If you look at the chart, it shot right up beforehand from nothing.… We had lots of new listeners, and the increase in support was sharper before Ghomeshi rather than during. I was careful because I didn’t want to exploit it for patronage.… I didn’t turn the campaign off but kept it on down low. But Amanda Lang
seemed to generate a lot more activity. You used to work for CBC and left after your contract wasn’t renewed. Three of the major stories broken by Canadaland involve three of the most recognizable faces of the CBC. You’re not just getting back at the old boss are ya? No, I mean, I have very complicated feelings toward CBC. I have tremendous gratitude. CBC was a place that asked me in the door, taught me about documentaries, green-lit two of my shows.… I feel totally grateful for that experience.… My attitude is that what’s happening now isn’t right, and people should know about it. One theory is that I’m obsessed with the CBC. Another theory is that they have a lot more problems. Has anybody shaken their fist at you and yelled, “You’ll never work in this town again?” I was told, at one point, that I was on a blacklist at the CBC, by someone at the CBC.
You started a newspaper while at Northern Secondary School and immediately got yourself in trouble. A lot of your early experience involved pranks. Are you just a troublemaker? Well, I definitely have a natural aversion to authority. Usually in my life, to my detriment, I have this compulsive need to kind of ask questions, point out inconsistencies and hypocrisies or tell jokes. But journalism is the right place for that kind of behaviour.