Bikers, sex and libel chill: The Quebecor debacle, part deux

Image courtesy of Fagstein’s Photoshop skills

Image courtesy of Fagstein’s Photoshop skills

So thin skinned, these journalist types.

Last week, you’ll recall, we were treated the news that Maxime Bernier, our dashing foreign affairs minister, was in a pas de deux with Julie Couillard, a scrumptious young lady who was once, you know, dating a biker who was later found dead in a ditch. She was also married to a high-ranking member of a Hells Angels puppet club. 

Whatever. We all have our skeletons, and Bernier has committed far worse sins – like nearly derailing Canada’s diplomatic effort in Kandahar, for example – than dating an ex-biker chick with a murky past.

The story, and mock outrage, hit hard the following day, with news outlets across the country fronting the story, usually with the accompanying picture of Mme. Couillard sauntering up to Max’s swearing in ceremony wearing something perhaps more suitable for Crescent Street than Rideau Hall.

Were you to have only read Quebecor-owned Le Journal de Montréal or watched the Quebecor-owned TVA or Quebecor-owned LCN, however, you wouldn’t have known Mme. Couillard’s name. You would have also noticed that Mme. Couillard’s face was frustratingly difficult to discern, as it had been fuzzed out. Naturally, Quebecor’s competition pointed out as much, with varying amounts of glee. Le Soleil’s Richard Therrien wrote a piece noting editorial staff at all of Quebecor’s print and broadcast concerns were given an order to anonymize Mme. Couillard.

On his blog, Patrick Lagacé pointed to a column by La Presse’s Vincent Marissal, written the day before Le Journal blanked Mme. Couillard’s face, noting a certain chumminess between Max and Pierre-Karl “My-dad-started-Quebecor-and-eventually-made-me-president” Péladeau. 

Now, Quebecor has sicced its lawyers on Gesca, owners of La Presse, as well as Mr. Therrien and Lagacé. The company wants Lagacé’s offending blog post removed (though not from the archives, should Quebecor decide to sue) and that the company apologize for the insinuation that Max’s relationship with Pierre Karl had compromised Quebecor’s integrity.

In their hasty retreat to their lawyer’s office, the folks at Quebecor have apparently forgotten that irony, not only the chance to stick it to the competition, makes for great newspaper copy. In blurring Mme. Couillard’s face, the province’s reigning crime, bikers and boobies tabloid self-censored itself on a story about crime, bikers and boobies. The irony is so fat and sweaty it could ride around on a Harley.

If that isn’t a news story, I give up.