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: http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/4907/1773

And, you might also be interested in this short documentary about Freedom Train 2012: http://www.yinkadene.ca/freedomtrain/

“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

Panelists:

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

Register: http://journalistinterrupted.eventbrite.com

Week Eleven: “We as a bar have so many other issues we should talk about.”

Have you heard the one about the prime minister, the bear, and the bar?

Tabatha Southey’s pitch-perfect column in the Globe, “A prime minister and his bear walk into a bar…,” is a must-read going into the final days of the 2015 election. Because in a way, it pushes back against the moments when we (I) have dismissed campaign distractions, and forces us to take a second, harder look at precisely what matters (and why).

In 2014, during Quebec’s provincial election, Quebecers were also faced with questions of belonging, and representations and rights of minority groups and religions. Reflecting this situation and the greater context of provincial politics, a group of independent media producers called their documentary about the Charter of Quebec Values “La charte des distractions.” Acknowledging campaigns may be trying to draw our attention away from other issues does not negate the need to critically analyze how so-called distractions work.

So while I may tend to agree with Southey’s imaginary bar patron who asks after the environment — or, for more clear perspective, the Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief quoted in this episode of The Current on CBC who notes the absence of clean drinking water in many indigenous communities continues to be overlooked  — I can’t look away, either. And so here are stories that take up both the environment, and questions of the niqab and citizenship rights, lingering on the challenges voters face:

  • In an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail, a former B.C. attorney general argues that, faced with a range of political positions on most fronts — including the environment — that may or may not be so different, the question of whether voters will allow there to be “two types of Canadians” ought to be a determining factor this election.
  • The Independent, a London, U.K.-based newspaper, offers a lengthy analysis of the Canadian election under the headline, “Anti-Muslim prejudice is a nasty theme of campaigning as the liberal nation’s democracy loses its way”, while another U.K.-based newspaper, The Guardian, touches on issues of the niqab and the “barbaric cultural practices” hotline — as well as Canada’s responsibilities on climate change and our record on oil production — in this opinion piece.
  • Canadian author Joseph Boyden, in this radio interview and Maclean’s article, argues: “The real issue is the economy, which is wobbly right now. […] The real issue is the environment, which is screwed. The real issue is First Nations issues. The fastest growing population in our country are second-class citizens, and yet we’re talking about niqabs.” (If you listen to the radio interview, the interviewer goes to great lengths to play devil’s advocate on what would constitute “barbaric cultural practices” at the start of the interview, while taking a pass on the opportunity raised to talk about oil and the environment.)
  • This piece was published over a week ago, but highlights how Thomas Mulcair engaged oil pipeline and niqab issues when he was on Tout le monde en parle, and why this careful engagement is important in Quebec.

The other paddle

Pulling back, the last days of the election are not without a number of questions about how the economy will fare after Oct. 19.

On climate change

Vote!

When I started this blog in August, I promised I wouldn’t tell you how to vote. And I still won’t tell you who I think you should vote for. (Chances are, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know.)

But, if you haven’t already voted in advance, do cast a ballot on Monday, Oct. 19. Here are some necessary details from Elections Canada.

Week Ten: Negotiating rupture and ways of life

Heading into the 1992 Earth Summit, or United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, then-U.S. President George Bush made clear, “the American way of life is not up for negotiation.” The following year, in a published chapter entitled, “Global ecology and the shadow of ‘development,'” Wolfgang Sachs argued Bush’s statement effectively yoked the right of countries to maintain their rates of economic and industrial development and expansion to the interests of maintaining the environment. He argued, further, keeping development as a core principle at Rio enabled international cooperation among a range of international actors, however, “it prevents the rupture required to head off the multifaceted dangers for the future of mankind” (Sachs, 1993, p. 3).

Heading into the last two weeks of Canada’s federal election, this word — rupture — is one I can’t help returning to. Have we had the honest-to-goodness rupture moment in this election? The moment when all the potential sacrifices, real-life impacts of climate strategies, and carbon taxes have been laid out before us, to judge and to weigh? Between media coverage and party platforms (as well as party advertisements), have voters seen all the options and all the plans? At times, it has seemed that, between troubling distractions and speeches emphasizing how the ways of life of middle class voters will be maintained and made better, discussion of serious change couldn’t be farther from this election.

Yet, rather serious people — people like former Bank of Canada Governor and current Bank of England Governor Mark Carney — talk openly about rather massive changes that need to be made, including, as the Globe reported from a speech Carney gave in London last week, “pricing in the risk of moving to a low-carbon future.” Soon after the Oct. 19 vote, Canada’s government will be expected to represent the country at Paris climate talks for a universal climate agreement, and the prime minister will have to engage with the notion of a “postpetroleum world.”

Meanwhile, according to a memo leaked last week, officials within Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs are looking for the post-Oct. 19 government to take up a more serious international role on climate change:

The memo recommends that the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development take a more active role in promoting climate change engagement by targeting programs at climate finance, clean technology and “climate-smart agriculture.”

“While the ultimate responsibility for multilateral engagement on climate change rests with Environment Canada, DFATD could encourage the new government to earmark resources for this purpose,” the memo says.

Cited work & recommended readings

Sachs, W. (1993). Global ecology and the shadow of ‘development.’ In W. Sachs (Ed.), Global Ecology: A New Arena of Political Conflict, pp. 3-21. London & New Jersey: Zed Books

McKibben, B. (2000). We’re all environmentalists now, right? Round one. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/roundtable/environment/mckibben1.htm

Vidal, J. (2012). Rio +20: Earth summit dawns with stormier clouds than in 1992. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jun/19/rio-20-earth-summit-1992-2012

New resources

Equiterre and Environmental Defence released a 16-page analysis of how the parties might tackle climate change last week, while the Anglican Church discusses “caring for creation” in its report, An Anglican Approach to Election 2015. (If anyone out there has seen similar resources from other religious groups, please send me a note!)

Other environmental news
Finally, speaking of politics and the Keystone XL