Occupy Wall Street

Last Saturday in Lower Manhattan’s financial district, 5,000 Americans demonstrated at a peaceful protest against Wall Street’s unregulated speculations that ultimately caused the global financial meltdown. A few hundred of the strong-willed camped out on the streets and continue to voice their concerns. Yesterday, police began arresting protesters for setting up tarps to protect themselves and their media equipment from rain.

I can’t help but wonder why media organizations aren’t getting more footage for themselves. It seems as if the New York Police Department specifically attacked protesters who were protecting their video equipment under a tarp from the rain: the more coverage, the more the public is riled up. When looking at the footage, you see an overwhelming amount of protesters pulling out their cameras and shooting videos.

And those who predicted a media blackout  of the protests are proven correct because citizens’ hand-shot YouTube videos provide the main evidence of the aggressive arrests. This kind of footage is reminiscent of the G20 in 2010.

Although the videos continue to be re-posted  by online news organizations, the mainstream news should be covering this protest themselves with thoroughness and precision alongside these protesters. Luckily, citizen journalists know that video evidence keeps the people’s power alive. Global Revolution  has been live streaming the protests since Saturday, despite one of their videographers being arrested, and they continue to do so now.

Posted on September 21, 2011

 "Have typewriter, will travel."

    After struggling with dementia for years, Thomas Van Dusen Sr. died at the age of 90. The Quebec native was a fixture on Parliament Hill for 45 years, as a reporter and then as a political hand for prime ministers like John Diefenbaker, Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney. Though he held a special place in his heart for the Conservatives, Van Dusen didn't discriminate, working for Liberals like Mitchell Sharp. As a fountain of political knowledge, he joined the Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1947 and worked for the Ottawa Journal throughout the ’40s and ’50s. Like many shoe-leather journalists of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, Van Dusen spent tireless hours at his typewriter. He was part of a group of old school reporters who spent years perfecting their craft and paving the way for today's journalists. But he seemed to always make time for his wife of 64 years, Shirley Hogan, who stayed at his side at a time when many male journalists preferred to fly solo. The pair had seven children, most of who will be carrying on the name their father has made in journalism. Of the seven, five have carried on their father's motto: "Have typewriter, will travel."

Posted on September 14, 2011

Where were you on September 11, 2001, when you heard the news? I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. I was walking home from school with my two younger brothers and we found my father watching the little black and white television in our kitchen. It only picked up three channels—two if there was a snowstorm or if it was particularly windy out—and I used it mostly for watching hockey games. "Two buildings in New York City were hit by planes," my father said, as we watched the horrifying images on TV. In the days to follow, I remember watching more television and listening to radio interviews with eye witnesses, survivors and family members of those who'd been killed in the attacks. Long before I considered going to university for journalism, the events of 9/11 made me really think about the importance of journalism and how journalists deliver news to different audiences. 

Ten years later, it's safe to say that journalism and how people get their breaking news has changed. In 2001, there was no YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. Smart and camera phones were not nearly as advanced as they are now. But today, some of Twitter's worldwide trending topics are "#neverforget," "Today is 9-10-11" and "#GodBlessAmerica." The National Post invited readers to share their stories by writing in or using the hashtag #np911. CBC's The Strombo Show did something similar with the hashtag #Sept11MakeTheCall. And many of the best stories marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11 use multimedia. If you visit the The New York Times website, you can listen to a collection of all the audio from the flights that day.  

There is also plenty of anti-Muslim propaganda and 9/11 conspiracy theories marking the anniversary. Slate's Jeremy Stahl writes,"As long as there is public distrust of government—and with the financial crisis, the collapse of the economy, and the recent debt ceiling debate, public opinion of Washington is at a record low—there will be conspiracy theories." The best method of separating the truth from the misinformation is common sense. As the Toronto Standard's Bert Archer writes, "A healthy skepiticism is just that, healthy."


Posted on September 11, 2011


Oprah does it every month—and everything Oprah touches turns to gold—so it must be good form.

Such is not the case when Sarah Thomson, a provincial Liberal candidate and publisher of the Women’s Post, graced the cover of her own publication not once, but twice. Thomson’s magazine is free and published in Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina riding. She first appeared on the February-March 2010 issue headlined, “Sarah Thomson: Toronto’s Next Mayor,” during her Toronto mayoral bid. Suffice to say, Sarah Thomson is not Toronto’s current mayor.

She appeared, yet again, on the Summer 2011 cover headlined, “Sarah Thomson Weighs in on the Tough Choice Facing Ontario Voters.” This headline may not be as bold as her first, but she is definitely not weighing in on anything—rather, she is cashing in a cheque of shameless self-promotion. The last time she pulled this trick, the cheque bounced. There is nothing new about Thomson’s latest shenanigans. In fact, Frank Stronach appeared on the cover of his own Focus on York in 1988 to no avail.

Despite her claims that she went on the cover for lack of a suitable substitute, it is blatantly obvious she has propaganda written all over the magazine. Of course, Sarah had no one for the cover: she planned to appear on it herself. To say that Thomson decided to appear on the cover of her own magazine without ulterior motives would undermine her intelligence. She hopes that the extent of her knowledge about covers and cover lines increasing circulation and readership will place her on a platform unreachable by other political candidates. The results, however, are debatable. 

Thomson said her cover and accompanying editorial are in no way campaign literature and, therefore, not a campaign expense. A political figure plasters herself on the cover of her own publication and expects the informed public of Toronto to raise nary an eyebrow?

Twice she took the front page of a publication for which she is at the helm. Twice she attempted to rally troops at what she figured would be an advantageous start to her political campaign. Though once bitten, she most certainly has not shied away to media obscurity. Provincial candidates go into full election mode this month. We know that Thomson has already covered one of her bases.

CORRECTION: The magazine Frank Stronach put himself on the cover of was Focus On York, not Magna and the time was 1988, not the '70s.

Posted on September 07, 2011

 From Christie Blatchford's cold criticism to Tabatha Southey's moving memories

The death of opposition leader Jack Layton inspired a rare moment in Canadian culture: a national outpouring of emotion. The collective reaction resulted in press coverage spanning from personal lamentation to cold, detached criticism. The finest work inspired reflection on the big picture of Layton's contribution to the national dialogue. Some of the clumsiest articles inspired national outrage. Below is a collection of memorable reporting on a truly memorable man.

The personal reflection: Now Magazine, "Jack Layton, 1950-2011 An Inspired Progressive Politician Dies”

Michael Hollett recalls a snowy walk with his newborn son, when Layton biked by and stopped to say hello, snow caught in his moustache.

The classic newspaper obituary: Toronto Star, "Jack Layton dead at 61"

Joanna Smith's obit on Layton became a story in itself when the strange circumstances surrounding its filing came out: she had just completed the preliminary draft the Saturday before his death. Layton died Monday, August 22, 2011. Though Smith had hoped to speak with him for the story, she still crafted an obit that captured his character. It contained a comprehensive personal history and charming details, including Layton running for student council just so the Rolling Stones would play a school dance.

The feature-style obituary: The Globe and Mail, "Layton to next generation: 'I want to share with you my belief in your power'"
Jane Taber's piece captures the emotion surrounding Layton's death. Her dramatic lead encapsulates the connection between Layton and Canadians, especially since her article is in part a reflection and an account of Layton’s posthumous letter to Canadians.

The cold critique: National Post, "Layton's death turns into a thoroughly public spectacle"
Christie Blatchford's take on Layton's death created a public outcry. Blatchford criticized the public and fellow journalists for their emotional reactions. Critics objected to the content of the column, as well as its timing.
Blatchford's subsequent response, “Testing the limits of civil discourse,” did little to illuminate her intended point. She highlights individual insults, but misses the big picture and fails to respond to the reason behind the reaction.

The journalist's reaction: Toronto Star, "The end of the story"
Kathy English's column tells the strange circumstances of Smith filing her obit so close to Layton's death.

The tearjerker: The Globe and Mail, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone"
Tabatha Southey's column eloquently summarizes Layton’s relationship with and profound effect on Canada. It ends with a line summing up the reaction many had to his death: "I'd taken it for granted that whether or not I believed he could realize it or applauded all the methods he used attempting to achieve it, Jack Layton would always be there, articulating, more often than not, my vision of what it meant to be just and Canadian."

Posted on September 06, 2011