Monday, April 4, 2011

The transition: School blog to professional blog

This is it. My last blog post as a journalism student. But I'll try not to make it my last blog post ever.

I've resented blogging since the beginning (as you can see from my earlier posts), but in the past few months, I've learned why it comes in handy - especially having a focused blog.

More than five people that I've come in to contact with in the journalism industry and through freelance gigs I've taken have mentioned they looked up my blog - and that they feel like it gave them a good idea of who I am and how I think about things before they've even met me.

And I feel like that's worked to my advantage. None of the comments have been negative, I think because I've tried to keep the blog focused and professional. But what I didn't realize is that my random weekly thoughts on journalism have been an expression on how I feel about the industry and what kind of journalist I want to be.

So I can't promise I'll update it weekly, but when I encounter new experiences in the professional world and change my thoughts about journalism, I'll try to remember to come back and share them - because in a way, they're like an addition to a resume.

(Image from

Monday, March 28, 2011

New election, new electoral system?

With a federal election upon us, I've been doing some research for journalism class on proportional representation, a different kind of voting system in which the popular vote is proportionally reflected in the number of seats received by each party.

While the details of it all can get confusing, here's a great demonstration of why I think it's necessary.

Here are the number of seats gained by each party in the 2008 federal election:

Conservatives: 143
Liberals: 77
Bloc Quebecois: 49
NDP: 37
Green: 0
Independent: 2

And this is the number they should have received if the popular vote was proportionately reflected:

Conservatives: 117
Liberals: 80
Bloc Quebecois: 31
NDP: 55
Green: 21
Other: 4

A few other notes of interest from the '08 election:

• 940,000 voters supporting the Green Party elected no one, while fewer Conservative voters in Alberta alone elected 27 Conservative MPs.
• In the prairie provinces, Conservatives received roughly twice the votes of the Liberals and NDP combined, but took seven times as many seats.
• New Democrats: The NDP attracted 1.1 million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 49 seats, the NDP 37.

Maybe instead of just changing up parliament this federal election, we should think about changing up the way we elect our representatives.

Just a thought.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Do media empires ruin journalism?

Over the weekend I watched an intersting documentary called "OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism". It explores the affects of large-scale media corporations on the integrity of journalism and what kind of "news" the public receives, using Fox News as its main example.

The most interesting interviews in the documentary are those with former Fox News employees, who reveal how they were forced to push a right-wing point of view or risk losing their jobs. One employee said, "there's no sense of integrity as far as having a line that can't be crossed."

It really made me think about the media industry and the kind of organization I want to work for, particularly with the upcoming launch of Sun TV.

I posted the documentary below.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Winnipeg's Great War": A plethora of information

For journalism class, I read Jim Blanchard's book, Winnipeg's Great War: A City Comes of Age, a 267-page book crammed full of details about how the war affected Winnipeg and its citizens.

First of all, I'll let you know I'm really not a history fan. So I likely didn't enjoy the book as much as others might. I'm also not from Winnipeg, so I don't think I was able to relate to the places/people in the book as much as others might have.

But I was able to appreciate the amount of work Blanchard put into the book. There is an extensive amount of details - from numbers to facts to quotes from newspapers, books and personal letters - which all help give readers an idea of the impact of war on a relatively new and growing city.

While I felt overwhelmed by the details as I was reading, I understand why they are there - if I were writing a paper on Winnipeg during the First World War, it would be an unbelievable source to use.

And though I did find the book had a few dry spells for me, a reader not too interested in numbers and names and random facts, the book also incorporated some really interesting personal stories, including the story of Alec Waugh, the son of a former Winnipeg mayor and a young soldier. Waugh kept returning throughout the course of the book, as did a few other characters.

However I would have really liked to see more of these interesting characters interspersed in the book. It would have helped it move along more like a narrative and provide a bit of relief from the details.

I also thought the ending was very well done. While I got lost in the first 200 pages and sometimes couldn't tell what I was to deduce from the long chapters, I thought the ending did a good job of summing up the emotional, economic and cultural change the war had on the city of Winnipeg.

I think what journalists can learn from this book is the power of weaving a story around really people. The real people were the most interesting part of this book - they provide readers with someone to empathize with and relate to. And while sometimes it's difficult to find a real person for your story on a tight deadline, it's worth trying.

Journalists can also learn that, while sometimes a lot of research goes into our stories, what matters isn't how much work we did and all that we found out, but what our audience wants to hear. What is most important to readers? How much information is too much and will overwhelm our readers? How much is necessary to accurately convey the story in a balanced manner?

I think John Hersey's Hiroshima did a better job of balancing necessary fact with the experiences of real people. It was easy to read and really engaged the reader with its six main characters, real people going through a very real tragedy. But I realize Blanchard did not have the luxury of interviewing Winnipeggers who experienced the First World War. I think it would be interesting to compare Hersey's work with a historical fiction account of Blanchard's book, where characters like Alec Waugh are brought to life through assumptions about their thoughts and actions (based on fact). I would much rather read something with a strong narrative pulling me through the book, but I think Blanchard did the best he could with the research resources he had available.

In our discussion with Blanchard, I was interested to hear that he conceded to the advice of his editor and cut some of the details from the book while it would have been hard for him to see all that work done for naught. I was also interested to learn that he uses hundreds and hundreds of recipe cards to keep all of his research organized - and that he wrote his first two drafts by hand. Staying organized is one of the hardest parts of collecting research, and now I see how recipe cards that can be sorted, reordered and laid out in front of you can be useful.

Overall, I think Winnipeg's Great War does contain a lot of valuable information about Winnipeg from 1914-1918, something I think needed to be documented well. For Winnipeg history buffs, the mix of fact with personal stories is likely the right combination for a great read.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Like trying new things? Be a journalist.

In reflection, I think too many of my blogs have been about my concerns about journalism and my future in it. But on Friday, I got another good reminder about why I do it and thought I should share.

For a sports journalism assignment, I decided to try fencing - and share it with an audience. Keith came with me to shoot (and I owe him one), and I got suited up and took a few lessons in the basics.

Fencing has always been one of those things I've been interested in, but didn't know much about.

And if I hadn't gotten this sports j assignment, I likely would never have tried it.

It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the sport - the best way to describe it is a physical chess match.

So here's to trying new things. And to journalism for helping me do it.

(Image from

Monday, February 28, 2011

Always do more

In our journalism class the past few weeks, we've had presentations from various health professionals on how they want journalists should report on things like suicide, viruses and pandemics and evidence-based health studies.

I've enjoyed each presentation because I've learned about who I can contact and partner with to gain good information for health stories.

But I've also found myself frustrated. I want to be a responsible reporter who does lots of research and thinks about all of my audiences and how to write/produce a thoughtful, interesting and timely story benefits my reader.

But will I always be able to do that by my five o'clock deadline?

I've barely started my journalism career - I've barely got my toes wet - but already I'm feeling pressure. Some external, but mostly internal.

I like longer-form, research-based journalism. But with Twitter, Facebook and blogs, journalism seems to be getting shorter, punchier and quicker - and, I'm editorialising here, worse.

I don't think I'm one who thrives on hard, breaking news, so I hope with a few years of general reporting under my belt, I can find my niche somewhere where can take my time and feel like my work is quality, useful, fair and substantive. And hopefully someday, I'll end up somewhere producing documentaries or writing longer pieces for Macleans or the Globe and Mail.

Or I'll be left always wanting to do more.

(Images from,,

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lessons from the Intern Queen

Earlier this week, I read an article (tweeted by Duncan) about the Intern Queen, Laura Berger.

Laura had 15 internships during her 4 years of college. The highlights? Internships at MTV, FOX, BWR Public Relations, and NBC.

Now, she's the CEO of her own online company, Intern Queen Inc., that "helps students find and apply for internships while also educating them on how to make the most of their experiences". She also goes around and speaks to students on campuses across the US. (I think we should bring her to RRC).

The site has been so successful, she was recently listed number 5 on Business Week's Young Entrepreneurs 25 under 25.

She's got some great blog posts about how to get internships, but since our class will be coordinated with our final internships, I decided to share her post on how to behave on your internship. Enjoy!

What To Do and What NOT To Do During Your Internship

During the first week of an internship, you should arrive on time. An email should be sent to your hiring manager asking about parking, food, dress, etc one week prior to your first day at the job.

If you are sitting at your desk with nothing to do you should approach your employer and ask if there is anything you can do to help. If they don’t need help ask if there is anyone else in the office you can help.

Whenever you meet someone in passing, you should introduce yourself. If you are in the breakroom with others don’t be afraid to extend your hand and meet everyone around you. When you go back to your desk write down their name. If you aren’t sure of their last name try to look on your company directory and figure it out. Once you know the person’s first and last name, try to get their email address. Keep this information stored so that at the end of your internship or job you have all of your contacts properly stored .

Whenever your boss calls you into their office, go in with a pen and paper. NEVER go in their office without a pen and paper. This shows that you take your job seriously and that you begin each task with a sense of urgency and importance.

Don’t sit on Myspace, Facebook, or LinkedIN while on the job. Make it a point to keep your personal social activities separate from work.

Don’t give close friends your work email account. Have them email your personal account. This will help you to separate your work from your play.

(Photo from