The Real Concerned Citizens of Thunder Bay Citizen journalism THUNDER BAY— If you call Pino Demassi a news hound, the Thunder Bay resident doesn’t disagree. “I have a love of news,” he says. “This is what I chose to do.” He is referring to his creation, The Real Concerned Citizens of Thunder Bay entity, an exercise in what he calls “citizen journalism”. TRCCTB is both a website and a Facebook page, inviting and publishing news from local citizens on a variety of issues. For Demassi, the venture stems from a lifelong interest in world events, and a frustration with local mainstream and alternative social media. “September 11 (2001) sparked my interest,” he says of his beginnings. “I wanted to know why did it happen, explore the story.” As his life took turns leading him to a variety of jobs across the country, Demassi’s interest never waned. And then, the unexpected: “I came down with Crohn’s Disease,” he recalls. “It’s an autoimmune condition I’ve had for about two years. It’s unpredictable, often painful. But I make the best of it—I don’t whine.” Making the best of it has brought Demassi to a full-time investment in TRCCTB.
provide clean-up services for playground areas, parks, etc. The crew gets support from the City of Thunder Bay and different agencies in town. For all its stated intentions and good works, the idea of “citizen journalism” begs the question about accountability on the part of those submitting and publishing news.
“I can’t do physical labour anymore,” he says. “I needed to adapt. I have a love of news, so I started sending tips to local media.”
“A lot of stories I get are from the court house,” Demassi says. “And people send me tips. If the story is in town, I check it out, talk to people, take pictures.”
Enter frustration: “Nine of 10 of my tips never got published, and for those that did, I didn’t get any credit, even for photos I submitted,” he says.
“I’m open to being sued,” he chuckles. “I’ve been threatened to be sued lots, but it’s never happened.” Demassi cites the court house documentation of cases on which he reports, as an unimpeachable source.
Demassi approached several local media as a correspondent, but hit another wall. “I was told, ‘no budget’, most of the time,” he recalls, “so I said ‘Screw it!’” His response was to open his own news website, with reliance on ads for revenue. Though the ad revenues are scanty at present, he maintains the website as a labour of love and determination. And he seems to be getting results. “There are almost 200,000 users on the website,” he says, “and about 18,000 in the Facebook news group. How many are lovers (of what we do), how many haters? I don’t know. I’m starting to ignore both the praise and the put-downs, and just do the work.” Though the website is entirely Pino, as he puts it, the Facebook page has several administrators. He urges anyone curi-
Pino Demassi believes “citizen journalism” fills a gap in local news coverage. | PINO DEMASSI ous to visit them both and make up their own mind. For Demassi, the community involvement work of TRCCTB goes beyond merely reporting news tips. The Facebook page, for example, also acts like a community bulletin board. He has seen members answering someone else’s need for an item or advice, on the page. As well, TRCCTB runs a community clean-up crew. Begun last year by two members of the Facebook group, the crew meets about every two weeks in a different location to
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“I’ve been interviewed by CBC and TVO,” he adds. “They had some hard-hitting questions.” Demassi stresses that TRCCTB isn’t out to replace local media, but expand what gets coverage in the northwest. “What we need is more media coming up here and doing stuff,” he says. “So much falls between the cracks.” To learn more about TRCCTB, visit: trcctb.com or the group’s Facebook page: facebook.com/trcctb. —Peter Fergus-Moore
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