"That Was Then, This Is Now" explores the beginnings of some of Canada's favourite writers and journalists

All Tabatha Southey wanted to do in high school was get out. So, when she was 15, the Globe and Mail and Elle Canada columnist did just that. Six years later, after having worked as a waitress, a nanny, and a salesperson in a fine jewelry store and a Kensington Market vintage shop, Southey enrolled as a mature student in courses on film, 19th-century literature, and the history of Darwinian theory. Soon, she moved to New York with her boyfriend of the time, and once she returned to Toronto almost a year later, she had two children. Five days after giving birth to her second child, Southey moved to Los Angeles, where she stayed for about a year before moving back to Toronto.


One morning, another mother from her children’s school asked Southey if she was a writer. "She said it in the way you would say to someone, 'Do youever shut up?'" recalls Southey, who was always sharing funny stories. When she said no, the woman convinced her to try writing something and send it to a publisher. Months later, the children’s story she had written was published.

On the day the National Post launched in 1998, Southey ran into national affairs columnist Andrew Coyne at a party. Coyne, whom Southey had known since she was 16, told her she should come write for the Post. “I remember thinking, 'Things don't really happen this way; they don't just let people write for newspapers,'” Southey says. “I was thinking, 'These people have no idea that most of my life has been spent waitressing and working in retail.'"

After a year of receiving encouraging emails, Southey wrote a satirical piece called “Drunk With Men”—a parody of a Toronto Star column, “Dinner Date,” in which a writer would eat with a celebrity, pretend to be interested in his career, and end up with a recipe. Southey had recently divorced her actor husband, and thought getting drunk with various men, pretending to be interested in their careers, and reporting her findings was the only thing she was “qualified” to do. She pitched the story to the Post and Toronto Life, and the Post offered Southey her own column if she would let the Post run the piece. She never took the column, but she began writing for the paper on a bi-weekly basis.

At another party, Southey met Martin Levin, books editor at the Globe. When she told him she had been writing reviews for the Post, he asked her to come write for him. One of her Globe reviews caught the attention of an editor at Elle Canada, who asked her to write a column. After Southey began writing for Elle, the Globe also offered her a permanent spot, which she accepted. She still holds both columns today.

Image by Tony Hauser.
Posted on February 29, 2012

Is the biggest threat to the integrity of North American media the sexiness of its female journalists?

How sexy are they? On a scale of one to 10, how uncomfortable does their sexiness make you? Where do you think a bare shoulder or pouting lip falls on the sexy scale? Why are we even talking about this?

FishbowlDC's Betsy Rothstein, for one, thinks the issue is significant. Last week, she wrote about how "an unusual trend" is developing among female campaign and White House reporters "of the XX persuasion": their Twitter avatars are too provocative.

The story also includes three samples of the "sexpot" journalists" avatars. It turns out that Rothstein considers anything run through an Instagram filter risqué.

Rothstein spoke to Brad Phillips, president of Phillips Media Relations, about the "epidemic" of slutty Twitter icons. "More often, women have to fight to be taken seriously," he said. "I think it's unfair that women are judged on this. But my concern is, are they doing anything to undermine their credibility?"

No question, it's harder as a woman to be good at your job while simultaneously having shiny hair. Still, it's important to make note that cute reporters posting cute self-portraits is neither "unusual" nor a "trend," though saying that does allow for a trend piece to be born from a total non-issue. Moreover, makeup, bare collarbone, and a wink are far, far from being X-rated. Look, if someone's playing with her pigtails and sucking on a Ring Pop in her photo, it's clearly inappropriate. But why is it that Anderson Cooper can do this, but I have to put on a sweater?

Now if we could just get Betsy to cover her shoulders, the war would be won.

Lead image via via 
Posted on February 27, 2012

It was my first court reporting assignment in journalism school. I sat next to Christie Blatchford in the Toronto courtroom. We were a few metres away from a 15-year-old girl, watching her sob as she recounted the details of her rape and the murder of her best friend.

Beside me, reporters took notes and made sketches. I peeked at someone’s notebook and saw the words "gaping wounds" and "bloodied to a pulp."

"This is good stuff," someone whispered behind me. 

I had to take slow breaths to keep myself from crying. When we were dismissed, I beelined for the exit, bumping into the victim’s father on the way out the door. He was trembling. I called my mom on the way home. "I hate journalists," I told her. "I hate journalism! I shall become a painter instead."

The first thing I learned about reporting is the importance of the little details; one must note the colour of the wallpaper, the dog’s name, the smell of the room. But I don't understand why the public has to know all the details when it comes to sexual assault. As an example, take an excerpt from an assault case involving volleyball coach Luc Potvin: "He had groomed the victim over several months. He made her touch his genitals, simulated sex with her through their clothes, digitally penetrated her vagina and performed oral sex on her … mutual masturbation over the Internet in front of a webcam…." 

I agree that the public should be aware of the actions of this man. Disclosing the information could embolden other victims to come forward. Perhaps you could argue that the victim remains "anonymous" to the reader. But her friends, her fellow high school students, her hometown residents, her relatives—they all read the article knowing it was her. They read about her engaged in these acts. It’s highly visual, so it’s difficult not to imagine what it was like, not to have a sick feeling in your stomach as images are conveyed through graphic language. 

A recent article in the King’s Journalism Review by Marie Hanifen challenges the way journalists report sexual assault. In the article, Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter organizer Lee Lakeman says she understands both the need for and the implications of courtroom transparency. "I don’t have a problem with graphic,” says Lakeman.  “I have [a] problem with turning the violence into a kind of pornography rather than talking about violence as a force, and talking about who’s exercising that force."

One source in the piece says reporters call after an assault and ask her how women should be protecting themselves. These questions move the blame to the victim, putting the responsibility on her to protect herself. They disregard a greater understanding of the societal and cultural implications of assault, and the fact that the victim is just that—a victim. This reminds me of the Toronto Slutwalk, inspired by Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti’s comments in January 2011when he told a York University classroom that women should avoid dressing like sluts to avoid becoming victims. The way journalists paint victims is arguably another form of "slut-shaming."

Sexual assault coverage is multi-faceted, and my opinions are, of course, only based on what I know. For me, this is personal—I am personally connected to victims of sexual assault, I was personally affected when a friend took his life over allegations and suspicions that were irresponsibly reported in the media. These experiences do make me biased and sensitive. 

But we forget that it’s always personal for someone. Our sources are someone’s daughter, someone’s brother. If only for this reason, we must consider our intent when including "all the gory details." 

Lead image via Maria Hanifen
Posted on February 26, 2012

When I received an e-mail this past November from the Canadian Journalism Foundation about the Tom Hanson Photojournalism Award's call for applications, I was intrigued. I rarely open the dozens of subscription e-mails I get on a daily basis, but being an avid photographer, this one caught my eye.

The six-week paid internship at The Canadian Press's head office in Toronto offers up-and-coming photojournalists who have been working in the field for less than five years the opportunity to make a name for themselves by performing on the national stage.

I sent in two dozen photos, typed up a 1,000-word essay, polished up my résumé, and applied—knowing the odds of being chosen were slim to none. Alas, I did not win (please, hold your tears), but after looking at the portfolio of winner Michelle Siu, a Toronto-based freelancer, I could see I never stood a chance.

Siu has a special way of capturing all kinds of emotions, from sheer joy to utter despair. Take a look at her website and award portfolio and try not to lose yourself in her photos.


I wanted to get to know a little bit more about Siu, and help the journalism community get to know her better as well. After exchanging a handful of e-mails with her, it became clear that the Tom Hanson Award committee made an excellent choice; Siu is not only an excellent photographer, but she has the drive and know-how to succeed.

Let's all raise our glasses and wish Siu the best of luck during her time at The Canadian Press!

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Montreal, then lived in Saskatoon for a few years before moving to Mississauga.

How did you get into photography?
Two years ago I quit a full-time career, spent nearly all my savings on gear, and worked extremely hard to pursue a career I've always wanted but felt was impossible to achieve. So, like many, I've liked it at a young age, but it wasn't until later that I had the money and courage to pursue it.

What did you study in school?

I took media studies, specializing in public relations at the University of Guelph-Humber, and one semester of photojournalism at Loyalist College. I am pretty introverted, and PR was really never what I wanted to study or do as a career. I have no idea how I ended up there, but I worked as hard as I could to get back to a career I wanted as a kid. 

What made you want to become a photojournalist?

The only type of photographer I wanted to be is a photojournalist, because I can think of no better picture than one that serves to tell a story.


Where have you travelled for work? Which location was your favourite? Why? 

Along with shooting for publications, I have been lucky to also land a freelance contract with Canadian aid agency World Vision, which has taken me to Zimbabwe, Burundi, Rwanda, and Cambodia. 

I think it’s in the DNA of every photographer to want to travel to remote places others do not have access to. I most certainly have that wanderlust mentality, but I also admire those local photojournalists who push themselves on a daily basis to make compelling photos on more ordinary assignments here at home. 

It takes a different skill set to make compelling photos without the advantage of being somewhere unique where your audience may never have the chance to go.

You applied last year for the Tom Hanson Photojournalism Award, but were not chosen as the 2011 award recipient. What made you apply again?

Simply put, I wasn’t good enough and I wanted to be, so I practised day in and day out to get better. Between last year and now, I continued to learn by shooting on my own and working full time at a community paper, interning at The Globe and Mail and absorbing all the criticism and advice that came my way.

What do you hope to learn during your six weeks at The Canadian Press?

I want to expand my ability to make clean, compelling, story-telling images while also being less afraid to take creative risks here in Toronto. I’d like to learn how to be a well-rounded photographer shooting assignments locally.

If you weren't a photojournalist, what do you think you would be doing right now?

Hopefully not a desk job. I’ve tried my hand at that and I get very restless. I’ve toyed with the idea of being a paramedic if this photojournalism thing doesn’t pan out in the future.

Who is your favourite photographer? 

Right now I don’t have a favourite, but looking at some of Lauren Greenfield’s work is part of what pushed me to take a risk to try and pursue a career in photojournalism.

What, to you, differentiates a good photograph from an excellent one?

A picture that compels viewers to want to know more or take action.

What advice would you give to other young aspiring photojournalists?

I don’t know, as I could really use some myself! But I suppose from my limited experience, it’s an incredibly competitive field and you have to give it everything you've got and work as hard as you can—harder than your competitors, who are probably also your friends. 

Take advice from those with more experience, don’t have an ego, be happy for other people's successes even when if they're at the expense of your own, and probably most importantly, make sure you are still enjoying the ride.

Aside from photography, what are some ways you like to spend your time?
Is it awful that right now I’ve been living, eating, and breathing photography?

If you could work alongside any photographer—dead or alive—for a day, who would it be? Why?

Very tough question, as there are plenty, but the first person who comes to mind, of course, is Tom Hanson. 

As a new photographer, I follow the work of talented photojournalists very closely. Scouring websites, following as many publications as possible, paying close attention to bylines, and comparing coverage. Seeing the work of Tom, reading the coverage after his tragic death, and hearing about him from his friends and colleagues makes me certain that I can learn how to be a better journalist, photographer, and friend from him.

As clichéd as it is, I have to ask: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What do you hope to have achieved by then?

In 10 years I hope I will continue to enjoy shooting. I hope I will keep pushing myself to be better and learn, no matter how long I am in the business. Specifically, I was initially drawn to photojournalism to work on projects, and I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to work on more. I worked really hard on one on migrant workers, but I should be doing more. 

As a photojournalist, it's great trying to make one picture that tells the story, but a project has the ability to really impact and inform audiences, and it also pushes me to be a better photographer—so in 10 years, I hope to have pushed myself to do that.

Lead image via Michelle Siu for World Vision.
Posted on February 24, 2012

Under Fire: Journalists in Combat is a documentary written and directed by Canadian director/writer and novelist Martyn Burke. Burke’s doc, which was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination last year, explores the harsh reality of journalists covering war and conflict in other countries. 

In an article that appeared in The Globe and Mail, John Doyle writes that the film is careful to point out that while covering the First World War, only two journalists were killed, and 63 were killed during World War II, but in the last 15 years, 1,397 people in the media have been killed while covering war and conflict. (The next day, reporter Marie Colvin and photojournalist Remi Ochlik lost their lives in Homs, Syria.)


Doyle then explains that the film addresses two issues: first, with the death of journalists becoming more “common,” fewer people care, and second, what these journalists are doing to deal with what they’ve witnessed while working in these war areas.

Finbarr O’Reilly, a Ryerson journalism grad who currently works for Reuters, is featured in the film several times. While photographing dead bodies after a NATO air strike in Libya, he says, “I don’t think I’m one of those junkies who is there for the thrill of it.” O’Reilly consults psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Feinstein, of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, who deals specifically with journalists suffering trauma.

When it comes to trauma and journalists, there is the issue of depression affecting those who narrowly escape death and then go home and have to lead a normal life. “There’s a disconnection leading to depression. This wasn’t acknowledged before. It was a very macho profession,” says O’Reilly.

CBC’s Susan Ormiston talks about the apprehension she suffers when having to leave home to report in a dangerous place, and London’s Sunday Times’s Christian Lamb says, about the fear of dying in Afghanistan, “It just seemed really, really stupid to die in that field.”

Doyle adds that the journalists reporting from war zone areas are often mocked and ridiculed online. But the images conveyed in Under Fire are stronger than words, and that’s something people shouldn’t forget.

Lead image via Jerome Starkey

Posted on February 23, 2012

"That Was Then, This Is Now" explores the beginnings of some of Canada's favourite writers and journalists.

Peter Mansbridge found a door into journalism just by luck when he went from being a baggage handler to radio announcer as a young man. 

Mansbridge spent 1966 to '67, in the Royal Canadian Navy; the following year, at the age of 19, he took a job with Transair, a regional airline that served Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Arctic, where he did “everything from pumping gas to loading bags.” 

One day, between hauling bags and other odd tasks, someone asked him to make a quick flight announcement over the intercom. He did, and it just so happened that a CBC executive was listening. The executive went on a search for the voice, and found Mansbridge. The executive told him that the CBC was really in need of someone to work at the Churchill, Manitoba, CBC station. “There was no one else. It was lucky,” Mansbridge recalls.  

Mansbridge worked at the station in Churchill for three years before he was offered a job in Winnipeg in 1971. Over the years, Mansbridge took various reporting and correspondent jobs with both CBC television and CBC Radio. His broadcast positions took him across Canada, eventually landing him in his current position as host of The National.

Lead image via CBC Stills Gallery
Posted on February 21, 2012

In lieu of giving Rupert Murdoch any more web space, why not turn our attention to glorious Russia for a few moments? The Putin government launched an official probe this week into an independent television station, Dozhd, which covered anti-government protests after the much-questioned parliamentary election last December. Prosecutors have summoned Dozhd’s chief executive, Natalya Sindeyeva, to explain how exactly her network funded its live coverage of the protests, suspecting possible outside (read U.S.) support.

Nothing out of the ordinary, really—just another kick in the ribs to an already-sputtering “democratic media.” But the the not-so-subtle investigation—and a similar instance last Wednesday in which liberal, Putin-critical radio station Ekho Moskvy had its management board dismissed—comes within weeks of the March 4 presidential election, signaling a scramble on the government’s part to quiet any dissenting media voice. It’s a bold move, even for a generally authoritarian state, and it may represent a continuation of the ongoing international debates around media ethics in this feral young century.

As reported by Nataliya Vasilyeva for the Associated Press: “Authorities previously had stayed away from intervening into the activities of independent media outlets because their coverage and existence helped deflect foreign criticism of Russia's shrinking media freedoms and provided a safety valve for public discontent.”

Whether this could escalate to massive protests in the coming month is up in the air. (It's hard to get a good reading on just how many anti- and pro-Putin protests there were this past weekend, with estimates ranging from 2,000 to "tens of thousands"…on both sides.) But intervention into journalism like this, in which the state isn’t even going to try to “subtle it up,” might be a few more steps too far. Russia’s too heavily reliant on “Western” media influence to hide any more; people with instant, finger-click access to life around the globe simply won’t tolerate blatant infringement of (or by) the press—not as much as they used to, anyway. As prominent Russian TV journalist Vladimir Pozner said in a Reuters interview, “something has changed, adding, "The genie is out of the bottle, and to put it back in would be exceptionally difficult, if at all possible.”

The stifling of Dozhd and Ekho Moskvy are two strikes in 2012; we’ll see if March 4 brings the third.

Lead image via Associated Press.

Posted on February 21, 2012

Across North Africa during the Arab Spring, protesters turned to their cellphones to fuel a revolution. They used Twitter and Facebook to organize themselves and chronicle events.

While the use of social media is prevalent in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, in other parts of the continent it's being used in pre-existing democracies. During Social Media Week in Toronto, Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), a non-governmental organization working in sub-Saharan Africa, held a discussion about the "other" social media revolution. Carissa MacLennan, a JHR education specialist; Ato Kwamena Dadzie, a Ghanaian journalist; and Kennedy Jawoko, a Canadian-Ugandan journalist, shared their insight on the topic. 



In sub-Saharan Africa, cellphones quickly took over as the primary communication tool even before landlines became common. While getting online in an internet café can be expensive for the average person, people can access Twitter and Facebook from their phones. And it's becoming a popular way to communicate—a few days after the discussion, a Kenyan chief used Twitter to alert residents that thieves were present in the village.


But Twitter and Facebook aren't the only social media tools being used. Jawoko talked about one developed in Kenya that mapped conflict within the country. In 2008, Ushahidi allowed people to report where post-election violence was breaking out simply by sending an SMS to a network. Similar technology has been used elsewhere. Rachel Pulfer, executive director of JHR, talked about a network in Liberia that was used during an election to alert the UN of incidents that would compromise the fairness of the results. Though the election is still contested, she says it was non-violent, largely because of this technology. 

Though Dadzie sees the value of Twitter and Facebook in cities, he says it's not accessible for Ghanians in rural areas. "Radio is the best way to rally people outside urban centres," he says. Until the internet infrastructure is improved and literacy in Ghana improves, he sees radio as a complement for social media. It's something he practises, using his blog to expand on the topics he discusses on Joy FM and other issues. But Dadzie takes his time before publishing his thoughts online. "I've gotten it wrong a couple of times," he says. He tries to apply the same rules he uses in radio to his online presence—if you can't verify something, don't say it on air and don't publish it online. 

Lead image via Said Henry


Posted on February 17, 2012

When February rolls around, it seems as if every news outlet tries to find a way to accurately tackle the holiday that is honoured by few, humorous to many, and horrendous to most Valentine's day. Today we look at how five Toronto news sources managed to pack coverage of love, tears, and candygrams into newsstands for a full week.


Free weekly The Grid let its regular column, "Dating Diaries," take over its pre-Valentine's day issue, which filled almost the entire paper. The highlight was the cover story, which used a yearbook-style design to see what singles in Toronto are looking for and what they run away from. The Star's Valentine's Day section was filled with engagement storiesproposing on the CN Tower's EdgeWalkproposing with a coffee mug, and, well, just being bad at proposing

The Star also ran a story on Monday, February 13, in which a study found that "youthful scent" is a key to attraction in fruit flies. Romantic. The National Post kept it simple, reviewing chocolatiers from around the city in its Retail Therapy column. Halifax's Chronicle Herald talked chocolate, too—but took it a bit further, profiling a local shop. The Vancouver Sun followed suit with a sweets-themed Valentine's Day blog post, leading with a delicious-looking photo of French macaroons. The Tyee posted a story about love poetry in "The End of Love" (it's less corny than you think). And surprisingly, BlogTO had the least amount of Valentine's Day coverage, with but a single events post, harkening back to its summer series "The Best Makeout Spots in Toronto."

Oh, boy. When do the Family Day–inspired stories hit the newsstands?

Lead Image via The Grid. 


Posted on February 14, 2012

What's it like to feel the wrath of Sun News and Ezra Levant? Ryerson University's journalism program is finding out.

Levant interviewed former Ryerson journalism students Derek Kreindler and Adam Culligan to discuss the School of Journalism’s alleged liberal bias—including professor emeritus John Miller's "Marxist" influence on the program, and the anti-Israel stance of student-run publication the Ryerson Free Press.

The segment went online on Friday, but we at the RRJ have been busy trying to destroy Israel WITH OUR BARE HANDS, so we’re a little late on this one. Since we’re all journalists, I’d like to offer Ezra and his guests a quick fact-checking lesson:

1. John Miller's title
John Miller is not a “journalism professor,” but rather, a retired journalism professor. Not only does he not merit air quotes, but he also doesn’t work here anymore.

2. J-school's elective requirements
Kreindler said that while he did learn basic reporting skills, the program required students to take electives that were heavy on sociology and history “where Marxist views were pushed on [the students],” with slim pickings for economics and the sciences. Fair enough—the program does require you to take upper level and lower liberal electives, which are largely English, psychology, language, history, and sociology courses.

The program does this because these courses are slanted toward journalism as both a trade and a subject of interest. Additionally, the electives offered to undergraduate students in journalism are geared toward their prospective master's degrees. Many, if not most, who are interested in getting their master's would be interested in continuing their education in communications or the arts; therefore, the electives offered are ones related to those subjects. But that doesn't mean they're the only option.

While journalism undergrads are required to pick journalism electives from a pool that includes such subjects as copy editing and online journalism (tools of persuasion for the liberal left), there are no fewer than 22 geography electives available to journalism undergrads, including one that’s just about Las Vegas. There are 17 economics courses available. You can take four on the topic of Caribbean studies. 

If a journalism student opts for a math or science course that isn’t directly available to them, they can write to undergraduate admissions and make a plea for enrollment. Getting into a math or science course isn’t based on the school's alleged bias—it’s based on whether Calculus 400 has enough room to accommodate students other than math majors.

3. The Ryerson Free Press's link to j-school
The Ryerson Free Press is not the place where students “practice being journalists.” In fact, many of the paper's writers are from outside the journalism program; editor-in-chief Nora Loreto is a j-school dropout, and news editor James Burrows went to York University.

4. The RSU's involvement
The Ryerson Free Press is not run by the school's student union (the RSU) but by CESAR, the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson. The paper has full editorial autonomy from its publisher—whose extremely Marxist views include workshops on "Healthy Cooking on a Student Budget."  

5. Full disclosure
I have been the features and opinions editor at the Free Press since January. I do indeed get a lot of pro-Palestine articles in my inbox every month, but that’s not a charge that the newspaper has ever denied. Yes, we have pro-Palestinian writers, but have also written about Holocaust memorials and about fighting against oppression, whatever kind of oppression that may be. We accept any and all content based on quality, not on stance. (Consider this your open call, Mr. Levant. Send us a story. We’ll run it. I’ll hand-deliver a copy to you myself.)

6. What?   
My brain is not in chains, whatever that means.

7. Yes, Critical Issues was awful
Critical Issues in Journalism was a terrible, terrible class. It was terrible for so many reasons. It was terrible because it was sometimes held for three hours in a basement classroom at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. It was terrible because it was boring, and it was terrible because it was required. It was so terrible that it forced you to make friends with people you hated because you were stuck in a class that made you talk about your feelings. It was like one of those classes you had to take in high school that sucked, like algebra or sex ed. It was not terrible because it involved a book by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In the past three years, that book has not been part of that course.

8. Oil sands
Levant said in the segment that the journalism industry “is biased against the oil sands,” and then asked if the issue of the oil sands came up in the program. Kreindler said it was rarely mentioned. The back ad for the Ryerson Review of Journalism’s winter 2012 issue is an ad for the oil sands. Here’s a 2010 Free Press story about oil sands. Here's another from 2011.

9. A part of the machine!
We talked about Levant a lot in our last issue of the Review. Is he a part of our liberal machine? Here's hoping!

I personally have deep roots in Marxist ideology, as I was born and raised in the left-wing utopia that is Stephen Harper’s riding in suburban Calgary. It’s exciting to be a part of a school so deeply entrenched in Marxism that it's in a corporate partnership with Loblaw. But most important, beyond facts on how the Ryerson Free Press operates or the perceived biases in the School of Journalism, Open File’s John Michael McGrath wraps it up best: “Anecdotes aren’t data.”

Find me one school or one program that doesn’t have a pocket of disgruntled 20-year-olds who think their degree was a waste or that their teachers were unqualified oafs, and I’ll find you a student who didn’t pay $20,000 to be professionally unemployed.

In somewhat related news, Monday is a really hard word. 

Posted on February 14, 2012

A woman sits wearing a parka in an empty room. She watches something—concerned, struck, peering through the gaps between strands of her wet, exhausted curls. Her long eyes are glossy and her lips are parted with a quiver.

A young man, hands clasped with every ounce of energy, hope, and desperation, sits; his eyes are almost shut, his turtleneck sweater blends with the eerily homey-looking wallpaper. There is something Slavic or Russian written across his forehead in black ink.

An arm stretches from the right top corner frame of another photo, wearing a black shirt with white pinstripes. It is holding a gun. The gun is pointed at the side of a bald man's head, his face a dense pink. It would fade into the wallpaper, were it not for his dark, fixated eyes. His brow is worried, his lips pursed, his arms tucked into his black leather jacket, hiding.

"Interrogations," Donald Weber’s series of 12 photographs capturing moments in Ukrainian post-Soviet authority interrogation rooms, has won the Canadian photographer the top prize in the Portraits-Stories category at the 2012 World Press Photo contest. 
were announced last Friday, during a press conference at the Boekmanzaal in the Amsterdam City Hall. Samuel Aranda of Spain 
won the overall competition, for his Renaissance-esque image of a woman holding a wounded relative during the Saleh protests in Yemen. 

In an interview with the British Journal of Photography, Weber talks about how he feels he contributes to the industry. "I do not see 'press' as a misnomer anymore, but rather a broadening of the spectrum," he says. "To me it's about communicating to an audience.”

"I search to do meaningful work that says something, and sometimes you can lose focus of where you are and who you are. But my work can only really be created through a process of being there, and feeling and understanding in the situation I find myself in. I do not preplan."

In the Twitter age we live and work in, that’s something we should all consider—the role our experience has in how we tell a story. In so many cases of travel writing, photography, and documentary, the responsibility of story-telling is handed over to the everyman; we're seeing firsthand accounts more than ever. The Spanish radio program Radio Ambulante tells firsthand stories of what’s happening in Latin America, in their original language, accents, and slang—emotion and all. It seeks to give a voice to Spanish speakers from all over the world, similar to North American broadcasts like This American Life.


“Interrogations” is an example of how our experiences as journalists—as people—bleed into how we tell a story, and how we tell it well. On the series, Weber says, “What I really wanted to do was to have a monotony of faces, a barrage of moments that are viewed intimately but speak to a larger and more powerful subject."


That must be what sets our stories apart from the everyday: how they relate to everything else. 

Lead images via Donald Weber. To view more from the "Interrogations" gallery or any of the other World Press Photo winners, visit: www.worldpressphoto.org 

Posted on February 13, 2012

Maclean's has just completed a multimedia e-book that details its coverage of the Shafia family murder trial. The e-book on the "honour killing" case is 171 pages and includes in-depth interviews, audio clips, video, and document evidence from the trial. It was written by Maclean’s senior writer Michael Friscolanti, who spent three months living in Kingston, Ontario, to cover the proceedings.

The e-book is a whole new way for media outlets to package stories in a form that might encourage higher readership while still turning a profit. (Maclean’s is charging 99 cents for the iPad app, or $1.99 for the downloadable PDF document.) Although it's nothing new for a journalist to write a book about a high-profile case, it's impressive that Friscolanti’s report is available so soon, barely two weeks after the verdict.

Shafia Trial 

This e-book is an innovative way of publishing content, in that it allows readers to see and listen to evidence presented in court—something a traditional news article can't do. In the case of a trial that goes on for an extended period of time, the form is an efficient way of putting all the important details in one place. Things that didn’t get highlighted in articles and broadcasts, such as documents and photos, can also be shown.

In December 2011, the National Post also began releasing e-books. Its first contribution was The Long Road: National Post in Afghanistan, which features analysis and illustrations to connect stories of soldiers in the war-torn country. Like the Maclean's e-book, it takes readers beyond the headlines and offers a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.

At a time when some are claiming that print is a dying industry and that reading newspapers is boring, e-books such as these could make the news interesting again—especially for younger readers, whose attention spans are said to be dramatically shorter than those of previous generations. 

Lead image via Maclean's


Posted on February 09, 2012

It's easy to forget that newspapers aren't all words and type—there are, in fact, large armies of software developers and engineers working behind the scenes to develop the mobile apps and websites you see online. Take The Guardian, for instance, which has over 40 employees on its software team alone.

Every once in a while, The Guardian turns its collective brainpower to experimental tasks—so-called "hack days" that provide a reprieve from everyday routine. The purpose of a hack day is to prototype new methods of interpreting and displaying the vast amounts of data published on The Guardian's website. At other papers, such as The New York Times, some of these hacks have actually become full-fledged features or products, such as the newspaper's impressive HTML5 newsreader.

Last week's hack day had 25 projects registered to be presented—and many involved football (or soccer, if you will). One developer analyzed The Guardian's football match predictions from previous seasons and compared them with the actual results, in the hopes of making more accurate forecasts in the future. In another demo, a developer presented a feature called "Annotate This," which would allow readers to annotate the minute-by-minute liveblogs of football games.

In fact, sports-related hacks dominated much of The Guardian's hack day, with one developer suggesting a "second-screen" concept in which a tablet could be used to display related Guardian content during a football match. Another presented a schedule containing each of the London Summer Olympic's 650 events, colour-coded by gender with the aim of being easier to read.

That's not to say there weren't hacks related to traditional journalism, and the way in which those stories are presented on the site. From The Guardian's liveblog of the day:

"Jenny Sivapalan and Sheena Luu are personalising Guardian content for you. You can like individual tags that are applied to stories and appear next to the image in an article (this one, for example, is tagged with things like software and programming), and next time you come back to the site a small component shows the latest content that matches those tags that you've liked. They picked 'Wildlife' as one of the tags, so now we've had our first sheep on screen."

In another instance, a developer by the name of Martin Belam used The Guardian's tag system to collect long-form stories together in a simple, streamlined hub to make for easy, clutter-free reading.

Unfortunately, the liveblog account of the event was largely textual, and links to actual working demos were slim. However, the top ideas will be debated next week, with some of the best being assigned product managers and perhaps even end up as full-fledged projects—similar to The New York Times's beta group that we covered last week.

Lead image via Flickr user Tom T.
Posted on February 08, 2012

Last Thursday, February 2, we held our fundraiser party at the Black Bull Tavern at 298 Queen Street West in Toronto. Determined to produce the best magazine possible, the 20 of us on the Summer 2012 masthead felt a lot of pressure to raise a large amount of money—it will go directly back into the magazine and help pay for things like visuals and the launch party. Now that the event is over, I say with confidence that it was a huge success. We ended up raising over $1,500, and for that, we are truly grateful.


Starting at 8 p.m. and wrapping up around 2 a.m., the night was filled with friends, family, colleagues, and industry professionals. The Black Bull donated some appetizer platters, including some tasty cheese sticks and fresh vegetables, and they let us design our own cocktail; we named it the Toronto Slur, and it was comprised of vodka, Sourpuss, apple juice, and cranberry juice. One of our senior online editors, Leah Wong, and one of our PR directors, Trisha Fialho, made delicious Buried Lead (or "Berried Lede") cupcakes with buttercream icing and a sweet raspberry centre that we gave away with each raffle ticket. The raffle itself was popular, and many of our guests walked away with a lovely prize. We give special thanks to the following businesses and people who so kindly donated their goods and/or services:

The Keg Steakhouse 

The Imperial Pub 

Bruno Boccia

The Guadagnoli family

Katelyn Vernon

Overall, it was a great night of fun and fundraising. On behalf of the masthead, I'd like to thank each and every person who donated a prize, gave money, or came out to the event. Your support means a lot to us. At times it can be hard being part of a student-run publication, because not everyone takes it seriously. But through our hard work—and the issue we produce this semester—we hope to continue to prove to the journalism community why the Review is an important part of our education and an important publication in the Canadian media. And on that note, it’s back to work for us. See you at the launch.

If you want to check out the pictures from our event, just hop on over to our Facebook page. While you are there, don't forget to "like" us for more updates. 

Lead image via Chelsey Burnside

Posted on February 07, 2012

There is a strange dichotomy between the composed, eloquent Michael Kimber at the podium and his digitized self on the screen behind him. As he reenacts an anxiety attack in his video poem, "The Cure," beads of sweat run down his forehead and he gasps for air, eyelids fluttering frantically.

Kimber was one of the five speakers invited to tell their stories at the Opening Minds: Changing How We See Mental Illness symposium on February 2, hosted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and Ryerson’s School of Journalism. The objective was to home in on the media’s stigmatization of mental illness, providing insights both from those living with disorders and professionals like André Picard, The Globe and Mail’s respected public health reporter

There is a general consensus among the speakers that news reports tend to perpetuate negative stereotypes about mental illness. They focus solely on the grave cases, neglecting to quote those suffering from the illnesses and opting for punchy jargon instead of scientific terminology.  
“We shouldn’t do it in hushed tones and whispered implications,” says Picard. “I don’t know what ‘snapped’ means. I know what psychosis means. ‘Snapped’ is not an illness.” 

We always cover the outliers, like the ones whose diseases have driven them to commit horrific crimes. Picard says that our task is to normalize mental illness, giving a voice to those suffering in silence and making treatment and recovery more prominent themes. The problem is that although one in five people suffers from a mental illness, there aren’t many willing to speak out. Ever since Kimber, a writer from Nova Scotia, shared his story with the masses through his blog, he’s been receiving letters from strangers too ashamed to reach out to friends or family, afraid of being stamped with the same stigma.   

“We need to eradicate this idea that makes us feel hollow and broken,” says Kimber. “I’m here because these strangers keep breaking my heart, and we need to do something about it.”

Posted on February 06, 2012

While most people their age were getting ready for a rowdy Friday night on the town, a group of aspiring media-makers attended the Above the Fold and Beyond seminar on January 27. Put on by The Media Huddle and moderated by Shauna Rempel of the Toronto Star, Above the Fold aimed to prepare young journalists for the professional and economic climate of their occupation. The panelists were OpenFile CEO Wilf Dinnick, St. Joseph Media President Doug Knight, Mark News co-founder Jeff Anders, and George Sully, co-founder of TCHAD Quarterly and Design Embassy Group.


The event, which was held at Toronto's First Canadian Place, was attended by a young, diverse crowd, keenly taking notes as the panelists answered a variety of questions from the audience. One attendee asked about the presence of LGBT content in the organizations that the panelists founded and represented, and what they were doing to address diversity concerns. Only Dinnick, however, chose to respond, lamenting that his young business was simultaneously trying to deal with this and other start-up concerns.

All four did, however, outline what they felt would characterize a successful journalist, agreeing that he or she needs to be an entrepreneur who sells both a media product and a personal brand. The media product, be it print or digital, must be presented as consumer-friendly in the new information marketplace, and the media-maker—sold as a brand—must carve out a niche in which she can flourish while being a flexible multimedia reporter.

 Overall, the message was that an aspiring journalist must think of journalism not as a job but as a profession.

Images By Boké Saisi.
Posted on February 05, 2012

J-Source named OpenFile's founder and CEO Wilf Dinnick Canadian newsperson of the year last Wednesday, based on his innovation in redefining the way citizens and journalists interact. Aside from offering "community-powered news,"

 allows citizens to suggest a news story, whereupon the site assigns a reporter to cover said story. During the reporting process, journalists collaborate with OpenFile readers and allow them to participate in gathering information. 

Dinnick attributes his success to the OpenFile team and their belief that the interactive news platform is the way of the future. As audiences start to access news differently and participatory journalism becomes more popular, it's evident that the journalism industry is going through a shift in the way news is consumed, gathered, and released to the public. 

Though some journalists are concerned with this shift, as explained by Alfred Hermida in Participatory Journalism, this isn't the first time the field has seen a major alteration in how news is presented. Since its humble beginnings as broadsides in the 18th century to the transition from radio to television in the late 1940s, journalism has always been at the mercy of technological advances. OpenFile's concept may scare some writers, but above all it's an example of how journalists must face new challenges in the digital age, continually adapting in order to engage their audience.

Or as Dinnick said in an interview with J-Source, "We're kind of doing this thing that ... I'm not sure everyone believes is going to be the future, [but] we do."

Lead image via FlickR user LSE Library.
Posted on February 03, 2012

The day has finally arrived!

Come to the Black Bull Tavern this evening for a drink with our summer 2012 masthead crew. There'll be a lot of exciting raffle prizes, some specialty journalism cupcakes called Buried Leads (chocolate and vanilla cupcakes filled with berries), and a specialty journalism drink called the Toronto Slur (vodka/sour apple/cran) for all journos and journo-lovers attending.


Tickets can be purchased at the door for $12. Thanks to all of you who've already bought one; don’t forget to bring it with you! Bring a toonie and you’ll get a cupcake, plus you’ll be entered into the raffle!

A special thanks to the businesses that have generously donated to our student-run publication. We rely on supporters like you to produce our magazine. After all, if we didn’t exist, who'd watch the watchdogs?

See you at 8 p.m.!

Posted on February 02, 2012

"That Was Then, This Is Now" explores the beginnings of some of Canada's favourite writers and journalists

John Macfarlane, seasoned journalist and editor, did not have any experience in news reporting or journalism until his first year of political science at the University of Alberta (now the University of Calgary). Macfarlane got involved with student reporting and started writing for The Gauntlet , the university’s student paper. By the second year of his program, Macfarlane was editor of the paper.

During his third year, Macfarlane ran for Canadian University Press (CUP) president and won the election. At the time, Dic Doyle, then editor of The Globe and Mail, was CUP's honorary president. 

Doyle and Macfarlane kept in touch, and the term Macfarlane should have graduated Doyle offered him a summer position at the Globe. (Macfarlane never actually received his degree because “at the time you needed zoology, and I didn’t pass, so I didn’t graduate,” he says. Macfarlane grabbed the opportunity Doyle offered him, launching his career. 

Macfarlane then spent a year in Ottawa acting as CUP president before returning to a full-time position at the Globe.

Macfarlane has held number of prominent positions over the years. His resume includes being publisher of Saturday Night magazine, editor of Weekend and Toronto Life (twice), and executive editor of Maclean’s. He is now the editor and co-publisher of The Walrus magazine.

Lead image via the National Magazine Awards. 
Posted on February 01, 2012