Monday, 11 February 2013

Don't fear the Advertorial

When I came to Crecomm it was because I knew how much I enjoy writing. To be honest I didn't know exactly what I would be writing on a week to week basis while in the program but just wanted to learn as many forms of writing as possible. I had spent years writing 1,000- 4,000 word essays in University and that is why I knew I had some talent at it and wanted to pursue it.

Last week in journalism class, we got an assignment that was totally different than anything else we have done.

The advertorial assignment was, in many ways, trying to get us to combine the skills of a journalist with the skills of a copywriter. I enjoyed ad class last year so for me I ended up enjoying the  advertorial assignment. We have done so many journalism assignment with very similar specifications that this was a chance to remember what it is like to do a copywriter's job and do something totally different. I also found it a challenege because I have never done anything like this before and really had to work at figuring out what the tone of the work should be.

Although I was totally fine with the assignment, I believe some of my classmates were not. I completely understand that people came to Crecomm to be journalists and journalism has a set of standards, but I think it is very clear that we are doing advertising here so I am not completely sure what the problem is. I almost feel like some thought they were above this sort of work, but don't really understand that way of thinking. As second year J students still working towards our diplomas do we honestly think that somehow we are too good for this?

Advertorials is definitely not what I want to do when I leave Crecomm, but I did come hear to learn about as many different forms of communication as possible. Whether people like it or not this is something that newspapers are doing in the on-going battle to stay profitable and who are we to tell newspapers how to run their business?

I've tried to stay away from the idealistic discussion about what is and isn't real journalsim. It seems to sprout up a lot in class. However in this case, I fully understand that Advertorials are not real journalism, but I think advertorials understand that about themselves too.

In the end we researched a company, wrote about them in a advertising tone and handed it in, so really- what's the big deal?

Monday, 4 February 2013

Big Bad Bob returns

Tomorrow during our regular two hour journalism class we will have a seminar on media law by the man affectionately known as 'Big Bad Bob Sokalski.'

I will be the first to admit and I think many of my Crecomm pals would agree that the Sokalski seminar we attended in year one of the program was not something that really stuck with a lot of us. Many of us were still debating over our own choice in majors and really hadn't written enough to be particularly worried about things like slander or defamation.

Well a year has passed and I am far more interested in what Mr Sokalski has to say to us this year. In the journalism major we have spent time in the law courts and the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry and have been learning about what we can and can not say in an article when it has something to do with a court case or the reputation of cops or even social workers. We have also learned when even a simple Tweet could cause a mistrial in a court case.

I have also had some very different experiences with my IPP trying to get information from the police about cold cases.

In the case of a missing person I covered recently, a police officer was doing everything he could to make sure I get as much information and pictures out of him as possible, while for a murder case I am covering now, the cops I have contacted so far barely want to say a word to me, and seem to be trying as hard as they can to get off the phone with me as quickly as possible.

I have also written articles where I had to be careful what I said or even the order in which I said it in order not to possibly cause some big problems for the paper I was writing for.

This is why I am looking forward to tomorrow's seminar. Now that all us J majors have gone farther into the world of journalism we are understanding more and more that these issues are extremely important for us to know and can have long lasting effects on our careers.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Press Box: From the Fish to the Jets

I am very excited and a little nervous about an upcoming opportunity this month.

On February 17 and February 28, along with March 30 and April 20 I will be up in the Winnipeg Jets press box covering Jets games for For the reports, I'll be covering the games and also going down to the player dressing rooms to get quotes from players and coaches. As a huge hockey fan and someone who follows the Jets and the NHL this feels like a dream come true for me.

I had the opportunity to do some Folklorama reviews and cover a Winnipeg Goldeyes
playoff game for ChrisD in the summer and he asked me if I would cover Jets games for him when his regular sports reporter Darrin Bauming had personal tickets to games. I was happy to write for in the summer but was not expecting to be asked to do Jets games so it was a extremely pleasant surprise.

I spent my summer in a press box almost every night but I know the differences between the two will be huge. I covered the Winnipeg Goldeyes all summer for Metro Winnipeg. It was one of the best experiences of my life and a great place to start covering sports. The press box had three reporters, one from the Winnipeg Sun, one from the Winnipeg Free Press and me. Other than that there was a group of Winnipeg Goldeyes front office people and the voice of the Goldeyes Paul Edmonds.

Some days I wanted to pinch myself for having this summer job. I spent beautiful summer nights at the ball park watching baseball, writing and some nights even watching fireworks and if I saw someone I knew I could go down and sit with them for a while.

It felt like the perfect way to ease me into sports reporting. I've already been told I'll be back in the Goldeyes press box this summer and can't wait to spend another summer at the ball park.

As much fun as I had in the press box I also remember how completely nervous I was the first few times I was up there. Many of the people up in that box have been up there for years and walking in as the new reporter that nobody ever heard of was completely intimidating at first. It took me a while to get comfortable up there but once I did I started to have a great time.

It was also high stress because my stories were often due by around 10:15 p.m. at the latest and sometimes the games wouldn't end until after 10. I learned to write the story as it happens and edit the finished stories very quickly.

Although the Winnipeg Jets press box will be a whole new world as compared to the Goldeyes box, I hope the things I learned with the Goldeyes help me when I am covering the Jets and I appreciate how perfect it was for me that my first press box experience was with the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The best and worst of humanity in one day

One of my favourite parts of journalism is talking to people from all walks of life.

On Sunday I was working at the Metro and my day started with a cop presser. I've been to enough of these to know that they usually consist of stories about the worst that humanity has to offer and this presser was no different.

After sitting in the cop media room and learning about a man that was almost beaten to death in his sleep, a guy who committed seven robberies with a weapon, and a man at HSC that was acting so out of control that they had to close down an entire road in front of the hospital, I was asked to go take some pictures in front of Siloam Mission for a story about the cold weather.

Walking up to the Siloam Mission building with a camera around my neck was an extremely uncomfortable feeling. Here are a bunch of people that are homeless and desperate for a place to warm up, and here I am with a huge camera asking them if I can take their pictures.

I was given one no after another when asking people if I can take their picture until a women named Louise walked out the door. I was expecting her to tell me to go away but when I asked her about taking a picture she flashed me a big smile. I explained to her we were trying to get some attention to Siloam Mission about the effect cold weather has on the homeless, and that was when she really opened up to me.

She told me about how she was homeless and how the mission has been so good to her. She told me about how friendly the people were to her and said she probably wouldn't survive without the mission.

In the picture I took she looks extremely cold but she never complained because she was too busy telling me how amazing Siloam Mission is.

After talking to her I went into the mission and talked to some of the staff. I saw volunteers working their asses off to make sure people were comfortable, and I know that for many they are not paid and get little recognition.  
After seeing the worst of humanity at the cop presser I saw the best of it at Siloam Mission.

Monday, 7 January 2013

IPP takes big step forward

I said in my last post that I have been feeling very stressed about my IPP, and worried about getting everything done by the due date. But another big concern about the IPP was wondering if anyone would actually find it interesting and read it. That is why I am so happy about what happened while I was doing my work placement at the Winnipeg Free Press.

On my first day at the Free Press, reporter Gabrielle Giroday asked me what I was going to pitch to the editors. I was not expecting the question and fumbled through some answer about how I am doing an IPP about cold cases and could pitch the Edith Smallpiece story. Giroday looked right at me and told me to go pitch it.

At that point, I had been at the Free Press for only a few hours, and was not feeling confident about just walking up to one of the editors and pitching a cold case story, but I did it and they liked the idea right away.

Giroday helped me fix my lead and improve my story and I sent it in still wondering if anyone would like it. Well the Edith Smallpiece story ran on the last Monday of my placement, and I'll admit it was a good feeling to see my story on B1. The response to the story from the Free Press editors was good, and it was the first time I realized that people might actually find my IPP interesting.

I assumed that would be the last of my IPP stories being run at the Free Press, but one day after it ran, Giroday told me I should try to get one more up before I leave. I assumed this was an impossible task but remembered a cold case story I had heard about just a few days before about a missing man named Brent Staple. .

I had absolutely no leads for the story, but did everything I could to track down the sister of the missing man and the lead investigator on the case, and somehow it all came together in three days. Once again I had an IPP story on B1 and this one was tweeted out by both Giroday and Free Press justice reporter Mike McIntyre.

I have also had amazing conversations with the people I have interviewed. People have spilled their hearts out to me, cried while speaking to me and for both stories, I have heard the desperation in people's voices. I realize I can't bring back these people's loved ones but in a way I hope that these stories can help bring some much needed attention to these stories.

A week after the work placement, I got an email from the Free Press saying they want to continue publishing my IPP. To go from pitching this idea and wondering if I could actually pull it off, to having it being published and promoted in the city's most read paper is a good feeling. I know I still have a lot to do to get this project finished but at least I don't have to worry that there will be an audience for the stories.