Summer updates

“Tout Cela Est…”


In 2014, in the midst of Quebec’s provincial election, Mariam Esseghaier, Marie Eve Lefebvre and I finished and released our online documentary, “Tout Cela Est…: Communicating the Charter of Quebec Values/Communiquer la charte des valeurs québécoises.”

Since, we’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on the video project, how it was meant to intervene in the Charter debate in 2013-14, and how we might recommend others approach similar mixed academic-journalistic-activist interventions given limited time and resources. With thanks to the Canadian Journal of Communication‘s special issue editors, Sandra Smeltzer and Leslie Regan Shade, as well as to everyone who ever took time to be interviewed, to translate parts of the video, to help us with our website, to ask questions during conference presentations, and finally to edit or recommend changes to our Research in Brief, here is our final written piece, “‘It won’t go viral’: Documenting the Charter of Quebec Values and Talking Theory on YouTube.”


Twelve years later …

Today I dug up a story I wrote for The Standard in St. Catharines, Ont., published Dec. 29, 2004. As I described in the tweets below, it’s a story that has always stayed with me, but one that has more resonance at the moment, as we hear of more people risking so much to seek asylum here.

For more resources on the Safe Third Country Agreement, see:











Journalism futures

I’ve published two pieces this fall that take up questions of the future of journalism in Canada, both written since the latest announcement of another round of Postmedia buyouts and Rogers Communications Inc.’s decision to scale back its magazine printing schedules.

My review of Vivian Smith’s (2015) book, Outsiders Still: Why Women Journalists Love–And Leave–Their Newspaper Careers, appears in the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication.

My story about Taproot Edmonton, a new project to enliven local journalism in Edmonton, appears in J-Source.

Both of these pieces raise questions about what journalists’ working lives will look like in the future.

For further reading & listening:

“As the ink fades,” by Jaren Kerr

“Women and newspapers,” on Canadaland


“Freedom Train: Mobilizing alternative media”

An article I have been working on for some time was published in the International Journal of Communication in August. Here is the abstract:

“In 2012, as efforts grew to move more Canadian oil into international markets, members of a group of First Nations communities undertook a cross-country protest to protect their lands from pipeline encroachment. This analysis of documents produced and shared by organizers of Freedom Train 2012 maps modes of mobilizing participation across media spaces. Drawing upon alternative media literature, this article proposes a turn from analyzing how protest movements use media tools to how protest movements can be understood as forms of alternative media. The article concludes by advocating further study of alternative media practices to attend to how traditionally marginalized voices and cross-community communication networks contest industrial, governmental, and mainstream media power.”

Here is a direct link to the article:

And, you might also be interested in this short documentary about Freedom Train 2012:

“Towards a blueprint for a new free press”

For those who missed Journalist Interrupted at MacEwan University in May, you can find streamed video from the event here or read J-Source‘s live coverage here. Co-organizer Brian Gorman and I also wrote an op-ed for The Edmonton Journal, which you can read online here.

I would love to hear from anyone who has had time to further reflect on the event. For me, it was a markedly hopeful and inspiring evening.

Journalist Interrupted: Discussing a new free press, May 26 in Edmonton

I began working at The Edmonton Journal in 2005, as a paid summer intern. I had left my job at The Standard in St. Catharines, Ont., for the chance to work at a major urban daily.

I was thrilled to find so many people milling about the Journal‘s newsroom on my first day. Sports, lifestyle, entertainment, and editorial folks worked in other areas of the newsroom, and there was a whole team of photographers. Support staff sometimes transcribed reporters’ taped interviews, and kept everything running so smoothly. People had time to mentor me and the seven other interns. They read our work, shared their expertise, and led workshops to improve our interview skills. More than one person could take time to craft feature stories, go on the road, or assemble binders dedicated to cracking the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy system. There were librarians who supported our research and many different editors to argue with and challenge us through the day.

picI was living the journalism dreams I had adapted somewhere between the first time I saw a printing press in the basement of my hometown newspaper office, and when I graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism.

After my first summer, I moved onto the crime desk for a one-year contract. I was then made a permanent reporter, and eventually found my way to the Alberta Legislature beat before getting to cover the environment. By the time I left in 2012, I had mentored summer interns, perfected the art of packing fast to hit the road when necessary, planned feature story packages, and got to assign stories and edit copy on weekend shifts.

But my journalism dreams do not quite square with the realities of today’s newsrooms.

In some ways, my journalism career was very small compared to the fascinating opportunities afforded by new and alternative media. In other ways, however, it is difficult to replicate as new newsrooms, with fewer people and different approaches to coverage, emerge.

In the last decade, newsrooms across the country have cut people, sections, and/or distribution services in order to reduce costs.

This year, for example, The Journal was hit by a whole new round of layoffs. It was gut-churning to watch from the outside, as fragmented social media updates tumbled in from friends and former colleagues. From the inside, former editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand offered a great deal of insight here, and reporter Jana Pruden made it real in a series of Twitter updates you can read here. According to reports, Postmedia was again scaling back costs across the chain in an effort to turn a profit. The Journal’s newsroom would be merged, more or less, with that of the recently-acquired Edmonton Sun’s.

These kinds of cuts and scale-backs have impacts on communities, how they see themselves, and democracy.

If mainstream outlets fall back, what happens to journalism now?

Against this backdrop, earlier this year I reached out to Karen Unland, a former Journal editor, a new media entrepreneur, and one of my very favourite people on the planet. I wanted to do something, to explore the effects of a swiftly changing journalism landscape for people living in Edmonton, in Alberta, and in Canada.

It seemed fortuitous, really, that the annual National Newspaper Awards–an event that celebrates the best print journalism in Canada–would be held in Edmonton in May.

Karen approached Brian Gorman, an assistant professor of communication studies at MacEwan University and the author of the recently released Crash to Paywall: Canadian Newspapers and the Great Disruption.

Together, we hatched a plan to bring media practitioners, educators, and Edmontonians together to talk about “a blueprint for a new free press.”

We have so many questions for the panelists who have agreed to join us. Questions like: what happens now? what will journalism look like in the future? how will it be funded? what does it all mean for communities?

If you’re in Edmonton on May 26, come out and contribute your thoughts and your questions. Here are the details:

Journalist Interrupted: Towards a blueprint for a new free press


When: 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Thursday, May 26, 2016

Where: CN Conference Theatre, MacEwan University – Room 5-142 (105th Street Building) 10700 104 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4S2