If you have already read some texts on this blog, you will have noticed that I often approach strangers in public places. In the case of Philippe and Christiane however, I contacted them directly. I wanted to meet this couple which carries on its shoulders a community newspaper named journaldesvoisins.com with a team composed of neighborhood residents. This newspaper became in no time an essential media given the wealth of information it offers on everything that happens in Ahuntsic-Cartierville. They graciously agreed to meet me, simply asking that Juanito, their Golden Retriever and the mascot of the Journal, be included in the photos. The meeting took place in their backyard, with a few interruptions during the passage of airplanes. The nuisance caused by the noise and night traffic of aircrafts over the borough is a cause that they particularly take to heart.
Philippe and Christiane have met at Collège André-Grasset, where he studied in Administrative Sciences and she, in Literature. Both spouses were born in Montreal. Members of their families had already been living in Ahuntsic for several years. In university, Christiane chose political science, while dreaming of becoming a journalist. For his part, Philippe did his Bachelor of Commerce at Concordia University, where he was photo editor of the student newspaper "The Georgian".
Philippe has long worked in banking institutions, mostly holding positions related to information technologies. In addition to his job, he has created a company that buys and sells stamps. He is proud to offer, out of its profits, a significant discount on several charitable organizations’ postage fees.
Christiane experienced more detours in her professional route. Rather than undertaking a journalism career upon graduating from university, she chose to take jobs offering a better work-family balance. Although the couple has four children - and now a granddaughter - it must be said that Christiane did not have the profile of a housewife.
While the children were young, one of her first jobs in a school board in Sorel made the family decide to reside in St-Bruno. As Philippe worked in Montreal and as the kids were very active, they constantly had to drive the kids around, on top of commuting to work. It is probably at this time that Philippe became an ardent supporter of cycling and active transportation! When Christiane was able to find a job in town, the family settled for good in Ahuntsic.
While she was employed in communications in the health network, Christiane was offered a severance package because of the elimination of her position. This trick of fate fortunately turned into an opportunity for her. It allowed her to spend a few months on personal projects and gave her the boost needed to become an independent journalist.
At first, editing and writing tasks for a large bank paid the bread and butter, but she was spending much more time working in journalism. She has written on a variety of subjects, ranging from neighborhood information to major social issues. She was also a pioneer of the Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec (AJIQ), of which she was vice-president at some point. Given Christiane’s busy schedule, Philip, for his part, was a pioneer of parental leave, taking advantage of every progress in work-family reconciliation measures.
Ahuntsic residents for more than twenty-five years, the couple has devoted much energy to their passions and to several community organizations. For example, Philippe has been a Scoutmaster for at least twenty years. It was also he who called me back one day in response to a request for information to the local birding club about a public group outing.
Their Journal des voisins, a non-profit organization (NPO), meets a real need in the community. Both are involved full time today in the organization, Christiane as chief editor and Philippe as publisher, webmaster and photographer, in addition to supporting the media advisor and treasurer. In all, nearly 20 people contribute regularly or occasionally to this independent media published in two formats. The first, a webpage of local news, is posted on-line every Friday. The second, a paper version published every two months, is now delivered free of charge to nearly 35,000 doors.
The team has also received recognition from its peers by winning several awards from the Association des médias écrits communautaires du Québec (AMECQ). However, the greatest compliment comes from their media competitor, which had to improve the content of its local edition since their arrival!
Want to know more? Go to http://www.journaldesvoisins.com/