Jesse Brown has come to be widely known as the reporter who broke the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, but he doesn’t consider himself to be a celebrity despite his growing popularity.
“I don’t claim to be any kind of white knight,” he said Tuesday night during a talk at Ryerson. “True celebrity would be a curse I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.”
The independent journalist, known for his critiques on stories in the media, became the subject of much attention after he revealed the allegations of sexual assault against former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi in a story in the Toronto Star in October of last year.
Through his Canadaland podcast, Brown expresses his frustrations with mainstream media like CBC and reporters at top newspapers, such as the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente. He said at Ryerson that they aren’t held to the same standards as lesser-known journalists and that have the ability to make mistakes he could never get away with.
“There’s a sickness that happens in institutions when you realize (there are) two sets of standards: one for the talent and stars, (and) one for the rank and file,” he said during his talk that was hosted by Ryerson journalism professors April Lindgren and Greg Elmer.
Brown’s story on the former host of CBC’s popular radio show Q appeared in the Toronto Star in a collaboration with the newspaper’s investigative reporter, Kevin Donovan.
Brown said he chose to sell his story to the Star because it afforded him greater legal protection from Ghomeshi, who he feared would try to discredit him and prevent the story from going to press.
“It would’ve been potentially ruinous if I broke the story myself,” he said, although he already had four sources before he went to the newspaper.
This wasn’t the first major story that Brown has uncovered.
On his podcast and website, Brown reported that CBC’s Amanda Lang was in a conflict of interest when the journalist accepted paid speaking jobs from RBC, a company she reported on. He also later revealed that she was in a relationship with a board member from the bank.
Brown previously revealed that the corporation’s Peter Mansbridge took paid speaking jobs from oil companies he reported on.
“(If you’re) in journalism, you’re going to be scrutinized,” he said. “Journalists have a commitment to the truth.”
Brown now has a reputation at the CBC offices. A photo with a threatening message, allegedly taken inside a staff room at CBC’s Toronto headquarters, has been circulating on the Internet. The picture shows magnets on a fridge spelling “Jesse Brown snitches get STITCHES.” Brown responded to it by saying that although he finds it “terrifying,” he himself has not received any threats.
By Eman Ali, Calvin Dao and Kyanna Vassell