Convergence Humber School of Media Studies & Information Technology
the social uprising
the dire state of media:
BELARUS / HAITI / HONDURAS
Message from the Dean
When editors of Convergence first started planning this issue, someone incautiously suggested doing a story on how the media reacts to a slow news day. That was before Japan experienced a once-in-a-millennium earthquake, a Tsunami of biblical proportions and the worst nuclear horror since Chernobyl. It was before dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa began crumbling like sand castles before an incoming tide of civil protest. It was before NATO airstrikes in Libya, a looming debt meltdown in Washington and a federal election at home battled a royal wedding and Charlie Sheen for some primetime hours. This has, it turns out, been a season that stretched the media – all the media – to the
CON VER GEN CE
Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning School of Media Studies and Information Technology 205 Humber College Blvd. Toronto, Ontario, Canada M9W 5L7 416 675 6622 ext. 4111 http://magazines.humber.ca
limit as major news event upon major news event cascaded across the pages, the airwaves, and the screens, small and large. For social media it was a season of affirmation as Andrew Ardizzi writes in Revolution, detailing the role of Twitter and Facebook in the groundswell of revolution in North Africa. When communication lines were officially unplugged, international and social media stepped in to reconnect, bit by bit, person by person and to bring the message to citizen activists and to the outside world. In Egypt and Libya it was a new kind of fear for those who found themselves unprotected by media badges or western moral codes. In Women in the Crosshairs, Melissa Greer talks to frontline journalists about their experiences and delves into training options for those contemplating international postings. As always, Convergence is the voice for not only those who make international headlines, but also for media professionals who labour – and often suffer – in relative obscurity. This issue of Convergence shines the spotlight on Honduras, where covering the news has become a deadly profession. Veteran journalist Karol Cabrera was broadcasting live to her radio show via her cell phone when she was ambushed and shot three times. Her driver and colleague was executed point blank and Cabrera was left for dead. Convergence International editor Dan Black-
well speaks with Cabrera, and asks why the Honduran government is unwilling to address the violence. Light is also shone on Belarus, where on a brisk winter night, 24 local and foreign journalists were jailed and 21 more beaten during protests following the re-election of president Alexander Lukashenko. In Silencing Dissent, Remy Greer talks with journalists on the scene and those working to protect their rights. Here too, Western media comes under criticism for not paying more attention to the story. In Haiti, yesterday’s disaster headline, a homegrown media is struggling to rebuild and retain against a backdrop of dwindling outside aid, sparse economic activity and a colossal loss of advertising revenue that has forced many journalists to leave in search of work elsewhere. Executive editor Jordan Maxwell examines what happens when the international media searchlight leaves the stage. Convergence continues to examine a shifting landscape of technology and practice. In these pages, our writers challenge media coverage of the science behind climate change; give a failing grade to Canada’s commitment to Freedom of Information and ask how insurrection in North Africa may be altering the western image of Muslims abroad. Some slow news period.
Editor in Chief Alexa Tomaszewski
Executive Editor Jordan Maxwell
Art Director Maegan McGregor
Managing Editors of Words Andrew Ardizzi Khristopher Reardon
Managing Editor of Production Sam Carson Production Team Valerie Bennett Kyle Gennings Michael Raine
Section Editors Greg Burchell Remy Greer Matt Ingram Colton De Gooyer
Photo Editor Brad Lemaire
Copy Editor Dan Ilika
Program Co-ordinator Carey French Mike Karapita
Publisher William Hanna
International Editor Dan Blackwell Research & Fact Checking Matt Lopes Royel Edwards Mike Thomas Faculty Advisors Terri Arnott
Online Editor Melissa Greer
School of Media Studies and Information Technology Program Co-ordinators: Andrew Ainsworth / Barbara Elliott / Bernie Monette / Carey French / Chau Tran / Chitra Reddin / Eva Ziemsen / Greg Henderson / Heather Lowry / Jamie Sheridan / Lorne Frohman / Lynee Thomas / Michael Glassbourg / Mike Karapita / Noni Kaur / Rob Robson / Robert O’Meara / Robert Richardson / Terry Posthumus / Vass Klymenko Spring 2011 | Convergence | 3
11EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION Social media provides Egyptians with a tool to spread a collective message echoing across the world, spurring communication and support.
Ten years later Wikipedia is still going strong, acting as a jumping off point, place of collective knowledge and as an operation with a surprisingly small staff.
As Haitian media rebuilds, radio empowers the locals providing information and insight.
28THE SWORD & THE PEN While small in size, Honduras is becoming an increasingly hostile place for both local and foreign journalists.
34CANADAâ€™S FOI LAG
Notoriously tough, Canadaâ€™s Freedom of Information laws are dissected.
Courtesy of Mostapha El-Shafey
ON THE CUSP
14TAKING DOWN THE NETWORK
Internet activism or hacktivism? This Internet group utilizes digital information in creative ways.
41A MOMENT IN TIME The Egyptian social revolution in photos.
Courtesy of Ben Fredericson
Alan Cross talks a new medium & 25 years in music journalism.
6IN BRIEF 32ENEMIES OF THE PRESS
AOL PURCHASES THE HUFFINGTON POST AOL bought The Huffington Post for $315 million in a bid to revitalize the aging internet company. Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, will oversee content from both companies. AOL expects The Huffington Post to be valued around ten times its worth in 2011 profits, Reuters’ reports. AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong was quick to point out such financial benefits. “One plus one will equal 11,” Armstrong said during an interview with The New York Times about creating a media powerhouse. AOL also announced plans to lay off 1,000 employees, according to The New York Times. “The changes we are making are not easy, but they are the right changes for the longterm health of the company, the brand, and for our employees,” said Armstrong in a memo. The acquisition created redundancies that, when eliminated, could save AOL millions, The New York Times reported.
Libyan opposition launches “Free Libya” channel On March 30, rebels in Libya launched a television channel based in Qatar called Libya for all free Libyans. Libya TV was established by Mahmud Shammam, a Libyan journalist and opponent to the Gadhafi regime. It is the country’s first independent satellite channel. Facebook was used to assemble the news team before recruiting more than 200 volunteers on social networking sites, according to Washington-based Foreign Policy Magazine . The four-hour daily startup schedule includes a 20-minute news bulletin and half-hour talk show to accompany regularly scheduled programming. The revolutionary channel is funded by donations from international Libyan businessmen. The station has added some support to networks like Al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar.
NEWSWEEK OWNER, SIDNEY HARMOND DEAD AT 92 GOOGLE LAUNCHES ‘LIKE’ BUTTON Google launched its +1 button adding the search engine to a long list of web notables vying to catch up with Facebook. Google calls the button “recommendations when you want them” and urges users to click the +1 button to give “something your stamp of approval.” By signing in to a Google account, like email. Members can give and get recommendations for things that interest them. Contected to the email user’s contacts, Google creates a connection and users can publically give their approval or +1 to sites and advertisements. Similar to ‘Like’ buttons on Facebook or retweet options on Twitter, Google’s +1 is integrated into advertising and internet content. The result – pages and advertisements endorsed by readers with a +1 will show up more prominently in Google searches.
6 | Convergence | Spring 2011
EYE WEEKLY CHANGES NAME TO “THE GRID” TORONTO PHOTOGRAPHER WINS HANSON AWARD Freelance photographer Aaron Vincent Elkaim, whose work has been featured in The Toronto Star and The National Post, won the second annual Tom Hanson Photojournalism Award. “I was shocked and elated.” Elkaim said in a telephone interview with Convergence. “I knew this year I would have some tough competition, so I was just honoured,” The Hanson award includes a six-week internship at The Canadian Press which Elkaim says starts in August. “It’s a real honour to be working with The Canadian Press. My photo is going to be seen on news desks across Canada,” he said. The award-winning photographer for The Canadian Press, Tom Hanson, captured some of the more iconic images of his era. He died suddenly, at 41, in 2009. His family and colleagues created the Tom Hanson Photojournalism Award to honour his memory. “It was a great step forward for me getting that recognition.” Elkaim said. “I hope to continue freelancing in Toronto, I think it will be a great way for me to get my name out there and get that recognition.” While at The Canadian Press Elkaim will be paid a salary equivalent to the start rate for CP photographers.
SHAW CUTS HUNDREDS OF JOBS Following ex-CEO Jim Shaw’s abrupt departure from Canada’s largest cable company last year, Shaw Communications axed 500 jobs. The conglomerate operates Shaw Media, Shaw Television and Global TV News. Layoff notices went out mid-March. In a release from Shaw’s Calgary, Alberta headquarters President Peter Bissonnette said layoffs primarily affect management-level workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Bissonnette said cuts were essential in the face of increasing competition from the mobile and wireless market, The Calgary Sun reported.
TWITTER IS #WINNING
After being fired from Two and a Half Men and lashing out at producer Chuck Lorre, Charlie Sheen temporarily found himself without a soapbox. Enter Twitter. Adding one more “win” to the list, Sheen broke the Guinness World Record for fastest growing Twitter influence, capturing one million followers within 25 hours and 17 minutes of joining on Feb. 28. His first tweet? “Winning..! Choose your Vice.” CBS and Warner Bros. pulled the plug on Two and a Half Men for the rest of the season and, at the time of writing, the fate of the show – sans Sheen – remained uncertain. After success on Twitter, Sheen announced, via the social networking site, he would take his rant on tour. Thus far, reviews have been hot and cold as Sheen finds sucess in some cities, hecklers in others and a replancement on Two and a Half Men.
New York Times restricts online content On March 17 The New York Times launched a Canadian paywall attempting to create an economic model for the future of print publication. On March 28 the paywall extended across the world. In a letter to readers The New York Times states: “The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our site and on mobile applications.” Readers “will have free access up to a defined reading limit,” the letter said. Readers can view up to 20 free articles each month, after which they are asked to become subscribers. On smartphones and tablet apps the Top News section will remain free. All other sections now require subscription. Those who come to articles through search, blogs or social media will have access without subscription. Pay systems have been successful at publications such as The Globe and Mail, The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, according to a j-source article. Spring 2011 | Convergence | 7
The Art of the Interview
BY ALEXA TOMASZEWSKI
Conducting an interview is one of the most important skills in journalism, breathing life into a story and providing insight from those in the know. Three media professionals talk change and consistency He started at The Globe and Mail as an intern in 1982 and began writing for the sports section in 1985. He’s been writing for The Globe ever since, interviewing athletes and covering high profile events such as the Olympics and Pan-Am games. Alexa Tomaszewski and Stephen Brunt talk about how the art of interviewing has changed in the last decade.
Courtesy of Globe & Mail
Stephen Brunt The Globe and Mail, sports reporter
8 | Convergence | Spring 2011
CM: Do you think sources tend to think in sound bites? SB: Professional athletes are far more guarded. A lot of them have worked with media consultants to stay on message like politicians; to try not to say anything that would embarrass them. It used to be a lot easier to wander into an NHL dressing room and sit down next to a guy and just start talking about whatever. The subjects themselves have become slicker and sort of processed and more aware of what they are saying. So, it’s very tricky getting anything organic these days. CM: Do you think time and technology have changed the interview? SB: With the social media, specifically in terms of sports and athletes, they don’t need us anymore. We’re not the necessary pipelines to get their information out there. There are lots of athletes saying
more interesting things on Twitter than they are saying in interviews, because they are in control of that process. CM: Who are your interviewing gurus? SB: Bob McCown does a great interview on Sportsnet radio’s Fan 590 and it’s because he comes at it obviously with some prep and some understanding. But he’s also a great listener. He will pick up on something someone says in an interview and go with it. CM: Is it possible to do a digital interview? SB: Ideally you see someone, you hear them in a context and you read their body language. That’s the ideal. Everything beyond that you’re taking away from the process and you’re taking away from the material you’re going to gather. The absolute best situation is to interview them in their own environment in their own house, in their office, where you can get a sense of them and they can see you. You read each other’s eyes and you read each other’s movements. And so if you get to the next step and take it down to text messaging you have none of that. There’s no context and there’s just no texture to it. When I’m trying to build a portrait of somebody, it’s really hard to do that in a text. Writing is about texture. It’s not just about the information. Often times with athletes the least interesting part of it is the context of the quotes.
JG: I played in a band for many years and for years I was the interviewee. And I know exactly what it feels like to be sitting there and to kind of be able to tell within 20 seconds whether the person who was interviewing me had heard my new record. I remember that if I didn’t think they had, it’s not like I would walk out of the interview or not be a nice guy, I just would not be as engaged. This becomes a source of frustration for my producer because there’s only so much I can do when there’s an author that has an 800-page book. The prep is literally to walk into that interview with confidence and look into the interviewee’s eyes and say I read your book and away we go. That creates the grounds for me to do as good an interview as I can do. Courtesy of CBC
Jian Ghomeshi Award-winning CBC broadcaster Since its inception in 1997, Q on CBC Radio One has garnered one of the largest audiences of any cultural affairs program in Canada, recently reaching 10 million views on its YouTube channel. Ghomeshi mixes editorial and debate with high-profile interviews. He has interviewed Woody Allen, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Barbara Walters, Jay-Z, and Margaret Atwood. In 2010, Ghomeshi was awarded the New York Festival International Broadcasting Gold Medal for ‘Talk Show Interview’ for his exclusive radio feature with Leonard Cohen. Ghomeshi tells Jordan Maxwell how interviewing trends are changing. CM: How do you prepare yourself for the different types of interviews you do? Has preparation changed? JG: My philosophy is: prepare as much as you can. Put in as much time and effort into research as you can. Develop a question arch for where you want to go. I have an eye towards what I want the apex of the interview to be. I feel more at liberty to throw it all away if I’m really well prepared. If I’m interviewing an author and I’ve read the book and I’ve done the research then I feel like I can just settle into a conversation as opposed to relying on a tight question line because I know I can just react to what the person’s saying. My theory is the interviewee can always miss out ultimately if the interviewer is not prepared and will invest accordingly. CM: Have you ever had an interview where you weren’t as prepared as you should have been or weren’t completely invested?
CM: April 8, 2009, Billy Bob Thornton appeared on Q. How did you deal with that? JG: He was literally unco-operative live on air. The truth is when it first started I thought he was kidding. I thought ‘oh this is a joke or he’s sort of doing a Joaquin Phoenix thing’, which only happened a month earlier. I kept the interview going, I dared to ask what was going on, rather than just bail out. CM: How did you feel at the time? JG: I’m in the zone doing an interview. So, when this happens my priority at that point in my mind was ‘I want to look in this guy’s eyes and find out what the problem is’. I don’t think there’s any dishonor in bailing out of it. I’ve had interviews
before where someone is running on and saying something that may be unsavory, uncooperative, or controversial. I really always believe, unless it’s hate speech, that I will let them talk and that the audience will decide. And they did. CM: Who do you think is great at conducting an interview? JG: Howard Stern. I think for all he gets typecast as this sexist or controversial provocateur, if you sort of dig past that and listen to his interviews he can do a good job of drawing someone out and I certainly appreciate that. CM: Do you think social media poses a threat to the art of interviewing? JG: I think there will always be a need and a desire for real content from people who are good at discovering and delivering it. It just may change. We might be reading it on our iPad version 21’s rather than a broad sheet on print newspaper. At the heart of it we’ll still be good reporters, good interviewers, [and produce] strong content. CM: Do you have a favorite interview? JG: Interviewing Leonard Cohen at his house in Montreal [a world exclusive] two years ago was definitely up there. He is a poet in every sense. He is incredibly gracious and giving. Yet, he’s not the easiest interview subject in a sense because he holds some cards close to his chest and so weaving through him in 45 minutes at his table, in his old house in Montreal and feeling like I wanted to discover things about his life that I’d never heard said or seen before. But, at the same time [wanting to] ask him about virtually anything because he’s such a sage. He’s a phenomenal thinker, it was just so gratifying.
If I’ve done the research then I feel like I can just settle into a conversation as opposed to relying on a tight question line because I know I can just react to what the person’s saying. - Jian Ghomeshi
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 9
Oprah Winfrey & Barbara Walters are the true grandmothers of interviewing.
- Dina Pugliese
from hosting things like Fear Factor. He is one of the commentators for the UFC. There was this awesome video, George St. Pierre’s team and Joe Rogan’s team had gone through this whole training camp. Instantly GSP was excited to see we had used it. It’s building these layers. With Twitter, like I do on my account, instantly you get feedback. There’s just so much more sharing of information that creates a much more dynamic interview and a lot more layers as opposed to the same old, same old based on a bio that might be two years stale.
Courtesy of Citytv
Dina Pugliese Co-host of Breakfast Television Self confessed pop-culture junkie Dina Pugliese began her career as an entertainment reporter for Toronto Today, and she moved from entertainment to hosting in 2004. Pugliese joined Citytv’s Breakfast Television Toronto in October 2006. Known for her infectious laugh and always being the jokester, Pugliese keeps co-host Kevin Frankish on his toes. From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., weekday mornings Pugliese keeps audiences informed. Interviewed by Alexa Tomaszewski, she tells Convergence how interviews changed with the development of social media. CM: How have interviewing trends changed over the last ten years? DP: I’d say the biggest change would be social media and the impact it’s had. There’s so much news breaking through the Internet first that you’re searching Google news or you’re going to Twitter pages or on Facebook. So, it’s pretty cool to see what’s coming from social sites that you can then use during your interview. If the guest is there to promote a film or book or recipe the interviewer has so much more to go off because you have those tools at the ready. You can use their own words, their own photos. We’ve often been able to fold in either YouTube videos or homemade videos. Recently, UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter Georges St-Pierre was on and I was able to show him a video of Joe Rogan, who we know
CM: Do you have any interviewing gurus? DP: Two that come to mind straight away are Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters. They are just brilliant. They are the true grandmothers of interviewing because they’ve been at it for so long. They do all of their research and then they leave the cue cards at the door. When they sit down it’s because they are well researched and they want to have a conversation. They get the best interviews, the most intimate revealing sound bites and clips. What makes their interviews so riveting? They pull you in by virtue of creating that organic conversation with whomever it is that they’re interviewing. CM: Do you think it’s possible to do an interview over email, text messaging or Skype? DP: Things always get lost in translation when you’re doing that. Skype could work depending on how long the delay is because that can be jarring. But it will be interesting to see where things go. I have seen Oprah pull off some awesome Skype interviews. The immediacy is there, it’s live and you’re connected even though you’re in different time zones but there is that lag because there is the delay so things can never be quite as seamless. You can pick up on each other’s energy a lot better when you are person-to-person, flesh-to-flesh as opposed to Skype or texting. Tone can be lost. I find in emails and texts people take things the wrong way. CM: Are there cultural differences when you’re interviewing someone from a different country? DP: You always have to realize who it is you’re talking to and what might make them feel most comfortable. It’s great to keep your integrity and be true to yourself as an interviewer but at the same time you have to adapt or sort of mirror the energy of whoever it is that’s coming in so you can get the most relaxed version of themselves and their responses. Otherwise, it’s just too much of a conflict. It’s oil and water. You have to do your research when it comes to any cultural differences to see what makes them feel most comfortable because you don’t want to throw them off or come off as disrespectful. CM: So far in your career what’s your favourite interview? DP: If I were forced to choose it would be Tony Bennett because he’s such a legend. I grew up listening to his music and then to be able to interview him and see that he is so real, down to earth, charming, kind and generous with his answers was just such a treat.
Ph 10 | Convergence | Spring 2011
REVOLUTION. how social media brought down the Mubarak regime
Photo Illustration by Maegan McGregor
Courtesy of Getty Images
BY ANDREW ARDIZZI Sonia Verma and Patrick Martin, foreign correspondents for The Globe and Mail, were driving through central Cairo when they were stopped by the military at a checkpoint and were ordered to pull over at a cordoned off street corner where they were detained for three hours. “We weren’t able to speak, they didn’t tell us anything. They just said we were in custody. They looked at our passports and saw that we were journalists from our visas and they detained us,” says Verma. Egyptians marched together for 18 days in opposition to the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Protestors lined the streets and packed Tahrir Square in Cairo, concurrently organizing demonstrations against the government while tweeting events as they happened. Despite attempts to subvert the collective movement, the protestors rode the wave of social media from the first rallying call for former president Mubarak’s resignation. Social media was a consistent catalyst for political change while communicating Egyptians’ stories as they developed. “Twitter and Facebook played a really important role. I would check my Twitter feed frequently throughout the day and that would help me figure out what story I should pursue that day,” Verma says. Colleagues she was in touch with on Twitter and through email were also being detained, questioned or having equipment such as cameras and phones confiscated. However, social media devices proved integral to both journalists and rebels who sought to spread communication of the story behind the uprising. “I think the story shows the importance of social media (and) the crucial role it plays in getting information up. I think the coverage shows what was actually happening,” says Verma. Mike Karapita, Humber College Journalism program co-ordinator and a writer for CBC.ca, says social media applications such as Twitter or Facebook have seen “a tremendous step forward in reaching certain segments of the population that would never otherwise engage in mainstream media.” Online chat rooms, discussion forums and other communication tools enabled people to connect with each other and build up a consensus of what the story is about in a case such as Egypt, Karapita says. “Once people figured out a way to communicate, organize and mobilize using social media they were able to really push forward and, as we saw, affect regime change.” To stifle the growing movement, the Mubarak government responded drastically to keep the social media directed revolution contained. “The government basically silenced all mobile phone texting and cell phone calls, the Internet, SMS, BBM,” says Tom Vassos, instructor of social media and social networking at the University of Toronto. “They blocked Twitter and Facebook altogether. On a particular day, in effect, all communication ceased abruptly after midnight.” It was a case of too little, too late as information about the protests had already been circulated. Vassos says the measures the Mubarak government took to shut down communication networks is a testament to total functionality and application social media has in rallying activists while instilling fear in repressive governments. In hours leading up to the unplugging, activists used social media inside the country to relay messages to contacts in other countries such as Tunisia. At the same time, other activists deked the unplugging by logging into Zienab El-Genndy (Kodak Agfa) A young activist waves Egyptian flag atop lion statue, guarding Kasr El Nil bridge in Cairo near Tahrir Square. 12 | Convergence | Spring 2011
Internet proxy servers. Using Facebook and Twitter, word spread virally about forthcoming protests. “The breadth of what is part of this information infrastructure is making it more and more difficult to do a full shut down,” says Vassos. Amir Hassanpour, assistant professor at the University of Toronto specializing in politics and social movements in Middle-Eastern regions, says the eventual downfall of the Mubarak regime and the leader’s 29-
“He was asked, ‘What are your thoughts about the role that your tweeting and social media played’, and he said in his opinion what we’re seeing in Egypt and in the unrest spreading across the Arab world and across the Middle-East is ‘Revolution 2.0’.” The result left a shiver down the spines of other authoritarian regimes. “We’re seeing what may start as a groundswell in one country spread around the world and affect the actions of people or citizens around the
I would check my Twitter feed frequently throughout the day. - Sonia Verma
year presidency would probably not have happened without social media such as Facebook. He says although social media is not the sole root of revolutionary mobilization, there’s a causal relationship between the various media and active involvement in political movements. “What I’m suggesting is we should not go to the extreme of thinking major ruptures in the world can be, will be or have been happening because of social media but at the same time we shouldn’t underestimate the significance of these media,” he says. Hassanpour says social media outlets can be lightning rods capable of jolting political mobility through the connectivity of social networks. In the case of Egypt, these networks brought millions of people together from across the country. The event also produced Egypt’s first digital hero, Wael Ghonim, senior administrator for Google, who was imprisoned for inciting early demands for Mubarak’s ouster. After his release, he was interviewed on CNN. Karapita says it was a seminal moment in the revolution
world,” University of Toronto social media instructor Vassos says. Amir Hassanpour warns the struggle is not over for Egyptians. “The significant lesson is that struggles do not begin easily and do not end simply. Dismantling the structure of power in Egypt requires continued struggles to change and in changing they need to organize and cannot simply rely on the fact they now have access to social media,” says Hassanpour. People in difficult situations need to understand the tools available to them. If groups of people dare to connect with one another against undemocratic regimes for control of society using social media there’s no end to what can be accomplished, says Hassanpour. For Hassanpour, it’s important to keep the role of social media in the Egyptian revolution in perspective. Social media was not the source of the revolution but rather the catalyst. Without the face-to-face interaction evident in protests among the Egyptian people their political will could never have manifested, he said. “What we saw was that face-to-face communication is still very important and we could see it in the face of Egypt.”
Courtesy of Mostapha El-Shafey The square saw massive pro-democracy protests every day since Jan. 28th.
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 13
BY ROYEL EDWARDS
Courtesy of Flikr/Vincent Diamente
When PayPal took down the ability to donate to digital whistleblower Wikileaks in December 2010, the online purse string giant found itself suddenly under assault from many masked avengers known only as Anonymous. The result: temporary shutdown of service and thousands of payments suspended in cyberspace. A similar digital spanking awaited the notorious Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which Anonymous labeled as “terrorists” for using military funerals as venues to spout venom about U.S. policy on gays. Ignoring warnings to stop, the church found itself on the receiving end of a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which brought its website to its knees. It all began in 2003 when Anonymous first surfaced on popular imageboard 4Chan.org. On the site everything posted is labeled anonymous whether it be videos, photos or text. Being Anonymous on the Internet is simple. Users go online with disposable email addresses, false names and locations. “When you have a group of people who are unknown they can really be a powerful force,” says Ronald Deibert, computer network attack expert at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Anonymous appears to promote itself as being on the side of angels – though its targets don’t see the light. PayPal issued a press release stating that after the media publicized the attack, it thought it would affect consumers and make them feel threatened by Anonymous. Attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones would be in bad taste. The group first took to the streets on Feb. 2, 2008 after a back-and-forth dispute with the Church of Scientology. The secretive church demanded removal of a leaked YouTube video. Anonymous retaliated with Project Chanology, which was planned on AnonNews.org, then assaulted the scientology website with DDoS attacks, made prank phone calls and even prank-faxed pictures to every Scientology center it could find. The battle has cooled, but an Anonymous press release displayed on AnonNews warns the attacks will persist until the church ceases the alleged exploitation of followers. 14 | Convergence | Spring 2011
Although Anonymous says it has no leader, it has no problem organizing raids. The group works as a hive-minded team, all with the same thought and idea enabling successful attacks on victims. 4Chan.org, a website where Anonymous can be found, contains imageboards where people can post whatever they want. Random postings are labeled as /b/ on 4Chan.org and is the most popular board used by Anonymous as the location to plan raids on organizations that spark collective attention. Of more than 800,000 posts on 4Chan.org, at least 200,000 are on the /b/ board alone. Images on /b/ range from funny cat pictures and anime to transgendered women. Anonymous members go here to find out about targets and campaigns. After visiting AnonNews, members can see all potential targets and initiate campaigns and attack whomever they see fit. DDoS attacks work by overloading a website by structuring a server to communicate with another website over and over again until the website is dramatically slowed down. If the traffic is heavy enough, it will eventually shut the website down completely. Anonymous followers don’t stop at the Internet, either. They leave the glow of computer screens to make public appearances as well. Identities aren’t compromised either, because faces are concealed behind 17th century revolutionary Guy Fawkes masks which were worn as they protested against the Church of Scientology in Orlando Florida, Santa Barbara, California and even in Manchester, England. The original Guy Fawkes was no hero – at least to the British, who hanged, drew and quartered him after he tried to blow up Parliament in 17th century. His image was appropriated in Alan Moore’s graphic novel, later adapted for film, “V for Vendetta” where the title character ‘V’ was depicted wearing the Fawkes mask. When in public, Anonymous members are also known for wearing black outfits with the occasional afro wig. The members of Anonymous say it believes in freedom of speech on the Internet. What if the government could take control of the Internet in order to rid it of anonymity? Would it restrict free speech online? “It’s a slippery slope for internet usage, “ says Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor of Sophos Canada, IT Professional. “It opens the door to many things.” Wisniewski says HBGary, a security firm, says they had penetrated the group but tables quickly turned and Anonymous hacked the firm, downloading more than 60,000 emails and posting them on bit torrent giant, The Pirate Bay, where emails became available to download by anyone who wanted it and knew where to look. “As far as what they were doing in response to PayPal, MasterCard and all those who blocked the ability to donate to Wikileaks, I thought this was pretty interesting,” says Deanna Zandt, New York-based media technologist and author of Share This! How you will change the world with social networking. “Actually, if you think about it, no civil disobedience is legal. You can’t legally sit in a recruiting station for a U.S. military branch and block their ability to do business,” she says. “When 4Chan users see a cause that calls to them, they reach out and become Anonymous, serving as activists and antagonists for anyone that they see as enemies of that cause.”
Don’t Fence learning when to Me In shut the f*!k up! BY MIKE THOMAS
In 1972, comedian George Carlin stood in front of an audience and delivered his infamous comedy routine, The Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television. The bit was delivered with the intent of shocking and offending sensitive listeners, knowing full well the words weren’t acceptable for live broadcast. Despite the tongue-in-cheek routine, people who work in broadcast media are expected to be cautious of what they say on-air because what’s deemed offensive is scantily defined and relative to a given audience. “It’s a complaint-driven process. If a listener is offended by something, they can alert the station and we can work on it internally,” said Jacky Tuinstra Harrison, former station manager for CKLN, a community radio station run from Ryerson University. CKLN recently had its license revoked. Because there isn’t a solid set of guidelines put forth by the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), public radio stations need to carefully lay out rules they believe are within reason. The CRTC only steps in when necessary. “Not only is there not a definitive list of what we can’t say, there’s also no overt procedure of how to handle complaints,” says Shelley Robinson, executive director of the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA). Radio regulations by the CRTC state that among other things, “a licensee shall not broadcast any obscene or profane language.” With any complaint, the CRTC steps in to intervene but no serious action is usually taken until a station repeatedly crosses the line. Ian Morrison, spokeman for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, recalls a one-time guest on Peter Gzowski’s iconic CBC Radio program, Morningside, cursing on air. Morrison says the CBC attempted to edit the word out of the broadcast but despite its best efforts, the word was heard in several regions of Canada.
“If an isolated incident (such as the one on Morningside) happens you really wouldn’t get in trouble,” says Morrison. “If it keeps happening the station usually has a problem.” Robinson says issues involving language need to be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on how each radio station believes particular situations should be dealt with. “Our stations should be accountable in their community,” says Robinson. “In each station there should be a policy of what you’re going to play and when you’re going to play it.” Harrison says in her experience radio stations tend to err on the side of caution and are more comfortable playing disputed content between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. This was a recent topic of discussion across Canadian radio outlets when the lyrics of Dire Straits’ 1985 hit single Money For Nothing were called into question. The song’s lyrics “See the little faggot with the earring and the make up/ Yeah buddy that’s his own hair/That little faggot got his own jet airplane/That little faggot he’s a millionaire,” struck a nerve in some audience members. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), a non-governmental organization regulating radio content, banned the unedited version of the song from Canadian public radio. Many stations abided by this decision, while some didn’t censor it even after they were instructed to do so. “People were calling us up all through the Dire Straits situation asking whether or not we were going to play it,” says Harrison. “It was kind of funny because we had to tell them it isn’t really a song we would play anyway. We don’t play that kind of music so it wasn’t really in our mandate.” Limiting the use of questionable language is problematic for radio stations with the lines being blurred regarding what on-air personalities can and cannot say. Community and public radio outlets often find themselves under the scrutiny of both concerned listeners and regulatory organizations such as the CRTC and the CBSC. Still, an entirely different radio market has emerged in which hosts are comfortable saying whatever
they want without living in fear of public complaints. Talk radio hosts on XM and Sirius satellite radio are granted far more freedom than those who work as public broadcasters. Viewers regularly tune into shows like Comic Strip on Laugh Attack XM Channel 153 to hear uncensored discussions and comedy routines with hosts and entertainers speaking their minds on topical subjects. “We can get away with anything dirty,” says Ben Miner, on-air personality and producer for Comic Strip. “We’re regulated by the CRTC but we can get away with anything that isn’t hate speech. I’m okay with that. I don’t want to offend people.” Although everything on Laugh Attack is uncut, Miner explains the station doesn’t intend to make content as off-colour as possible, but rather put comedy on the air and not have to worry about complaints from listeners. Miner says Laugh Attack does not get many complaints because of language. “I don’t think anyone listening to our station is listening to it unaware (of the language and content),” says Miner. “I’ve done interviews on terrestrial radio before and they’re a little more nervous when they’ve got a comic in studio. We’re told not to swear because they’ve got their hands tied a little.” Harrison says she isn’t sure how long such an open format can last. “People are less sensitive to what they hear on satellite radio than to what they hear on their FM dial,” she says. “I’d like to see how the CRTC eventually treats language on satellite.” With listener complaints coming in regularly for any radio station, a line needs to be drawn. Radio hosts can not get away with broadcasting questionable language. What causes much of the controversy is that in many instances CRTC guidelines are unclear as to what’s allowed and what isn’t. Broadcasters would like for this to be more clear someday but for now it seems like if stations can’t provide their own regulations they might be sh*t out of luck.
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 15
The Online Co-op
BY GREG BURCHELL
How Wikipedia’s noble ideals created a haven for neutrality & free information online
t’s been called one of the “greatest triumphs of the Internet” by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. It contains more than 17.9 million articles across more than 270 languages. It was viewed by 379 million unique visitors in February 2011 alone. And in its 10 years of existence, Wikipedia has become the fifth most popular piece of web property worldwide. The Wikimedia Foundation is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization, fueled entirely by donations and operated by a staff of only 57 paid employees worldwide. Founder Jimmy Wales’ “vision to keep it non-profit and keep it free from advertising resulted in the Wikimedia Foundation, which he built and determined would be the owners of the hardware, the servers that maintain Wikipedia, the ones who would pay for it and would figure out what this project needs to thrive indefinitely,” says Jay Walsh, head of communications for the Wikimedia Foundation. This includes the financial management, fundraising, legal affairs and communications. While Wikipedia does have its own style guide for editors, Walsh says no one at the Wikimedia Foundation is in charge of editing anything that goes on the site. The muscle comes from the 1.2 million “Wikipedians” who have come to the site, donating countless hours creating entirely new articles from scratch and editing, fact-checking, correcting grammar and adding sources to existing articles, 11 million times every month across all languages. The online encyclopedia has constructed a cultural phenomenon that has become integral to the online ecosystem. “It’s become part of the fabric of reality of life on the Internet. There’s so much that relies on it and it’s worked into so many different things that its impact is diffused in all the other things that people do,” says Rob Beschizza, managing editor for culture blog BoingBoing. “Nothing is written on the Internet unless it’s informed by Wikipedia somehow or another.” “At the beginning it had a reputation for inaccuracy and people putting nonsense on there,” says Beschizza, who used to be one of those people, going 16 | Convergence | Spring 2011
into reputable pages, writing lies and fabricating hoaxes to trick unwitting readers. “Five years ago you could do that and the page would stay up for months without anyone doing anything about it,” he says. But as hits increased, so did the demand for rigour. “There was some vague point between 2006 and 2009 where the size got to the point where there were so many eyeballs looking at so many different problems on Wikipedia that it just passed the threshold of credibility. ” says Beschizza. “Now if you edit even something fairly minor, and what you put in is bullshit, it will be fixed so quickly you won’t even know that your original edit was successful.” Walsh attributes this quality control to a volunteer crew of 80,000 to 100,000 active editors, working to Wikipedia’s mantra of neutrality, non-censorship and notability. “It takes a group of dedicated Wikipedians, who ask, ‘What’s the right thing to put in about this?’ and ‘What should come first at the top of the article?’ ” says Walsh. Beschizza says Wikipedia has become a one-stop shop for a broader cultural understanding. “It’s not just fact-checking it’s the general context-finding. It’s so good at uncovering details and connections between cultural ephemera that you just would never find in a standard encyclopaedia or on the web at large,” he says. “We would be much more reliant on our own cultural familiarity and experiences with stuff. Wikipedia lets us find out stuff that informs our posts in a way that other sources just can’t. Without it we’d be much more reliant on a smaller inventory of personal cultural experiences.” It’s not just blogs like BoingBoing, which Beschizza describes as cultural mavens, which have embraced Wikipedia’s ever-expanding knowledgebase as a source for building stories. Wikipedia has become a tool for traditional news media as well, though the approach taken to it is much more tenuous. Wikipedia would never be considered an official source, says Matt Hartley, tech reporter for The National Post, but there are no official policies at the paper regarding how the site can or should be used.
Nothing is written on the Internet unless it’s informed by Wikipedia somehow or another. - Rob Beschizza
Hartley says he uses Wikipedia several times a week and like most journalists, it’s treated as a starting point for research, a “quick and dirty source of information” for reporters. But Hartley acknowledges the inherent risks in using the website without doing the same type of fact-checking that would be expected from any other type of source. “Sometimes it’s a good way to pull questions together in advance of an interview,” Hartley says. “I’m sure at some point I may do research into a person and I don’t have a lot of time to prepare for the interview, I read the Wikipedia profile and I ask them a question and they say, ‘Well I actually haven’t been in that job for six months or a year.’ That’s entirely possible but those are the kind of risks you take.” Wikipedia, like Twitter and Facebook and everything else on the Internet, is another tool journalists can and should add to their toolbox as long as they know how to use it properly, Hartley says, but these sources should always be used to supplement, not replace, first-hand reporting. A good reporter is one who knows how to use Wikipedia properly. Since Wales first edited Wikipedia’s
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
homepage to read “Hello, World!” back in 2001, under the username JimboWales, Wikipedia has grown exponentially, changed aesthetically and become a more reliable source of information on the anything and everything of the world. But Wikipedia faces many challenges, and members of the Wikimedia Foundation know that just because they’ve built it and people have come doesn’t mean their jobs are finished. Their biggest challenge, says Walsh, is reversing the decline in growth the English-language Wikipedia has been experiencing since 2007. Walsh has many theories as to why that decline is happening, but no definite answers. “Some of these trends are typical to a lot of online communities and volunteer efforts and academia and so on, and it may just be that people are tired or they get married or they move on in their life,” he says. He also suspects the technology behind Wikipedia is a big deterrent to attracting new editors. Wikipedia’s core technology is still very much “rooted in the birth of Wikis,” he says. It requires more technical competency than many other websites, so the average user may be turned away by the relative complexity compared to what they’re used to. Could Wikipedia have hit its saturation point? It’s unlikely, says Walsh. “This is a project that strives to include all human knowledge and it’s safe to say there will never be a threshold or end to that,” says Walsh. The pioneering culture that first drove people to edit Wikipedia has changed in its 10 years. “In the earliest days there would have been a really significant culture of fill-in-theblank. There was that spirit and that energy of creating something that wasn’t there.” Now the focus in English-language Wikipedia, Walsh says, is making existing articles better by adding photos, maps, videos and anything that will make the article a more immersive and enriching experience. English-language Wikipedia, while the biggest, accounts for only one quarter of all the articles in the encyclopedia’s database. “As the rest of the world comes online this is a space that they turn to for knowledge and information,” Walsh says. Being a non-profit means Wikipedia relies entirely on donations to keep its books balanced, and a majority of that funding comes from over half a million small donations by readers of the site – in the $10 to $30 range, says Walsh. The Wikimedia Foundation won’t
shy away from large donations from corporate sponsors, but its stance on neutrality means it has to take precautions before accepting any money to make sure there are no strings attached. All major donations are reviewed by the Wikimedia Foundation’s board of directors on a case-by-case basis before any money changes hands. “We want to make sure that the donor understands that this is something they’re doing because they fundamentally support our mission and what Wikipedia means, that they’re not making this donation because they want to get something from us in the end,” says Walsh. These donations are keeping the Wikimedia Foundation afloat for now, but they will need to double those donations in the next five years. Part of that need is to create and fund a centralized data centre in Virginia to stabilize the infrastructure behind Wikipedia. This will allow them to keep redundant copies of every edition of Wikipedia. “If there are 1,500 edits to a page about Toronto that means that we have 1,500 versions of the article about Toronto. We are keeping each subsequent edition,” says Walsh. “It’s an incredible amount of data, a stupendous amount of data.” In its 10 years, Wikipedia – thanks to the work of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of editors – has established and solidified itself as not only an essential part of the Internet, but of life in the Western world. And that will likely spread to encompass the rest of the world as different cultures discover, build and maintain their own Wikipedias. It has no competition because the Wikimedia Foundation isn’t about making money; there is nothing a corporation can do that isn’t done better by the care, effort and dedication of the many hands of Wikipedians. Through simple keystrokes and mouse clicks, they have created a constantly growing and evolving monument to information, available to anyone, entirely free. “If Wikipedia went away tomorrow, say it just disappeared, it would immediately be recreated,” says Beschizza. “There would be an enormous amount of effort put into recovering whatever could be recovered because it’s become such a vital part of the Internet.”
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 17
Reporting from the Abyss Courtesy of Mehdi Benchelah
First day for the multimedia mobile unit - Petionville, Haiti
With antennas held high Haitian journalists could be the key to rebuilding a nation
BY JORDAN MAXWELL
Joachim Jorel squats on the ground with his hammer
near the Champs de Mars refugee camp in Cite Soleil as he and a small crew of radio employees begin construction on a new radio studio after the devastating earthquake which destroyed Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. “We began erecting our studio in the courtyard on Jan. 14” Jorel, Radio Boukman program director, said in an interview with Reporters Sans Fronteires (RSF). “We start at six in the morning and sometimes we keep going until midnight. (But) sometimes we do not have enough fuel, and we stop at 10 p.m. Before, we used to broadcast 24 hours a day.” With its signature “BK” inscribed on the plywood walls, erected in a courtyard close to the fallen Boukman station, the shack marked a new beginning for Jorel and his reporters, who were just a few of many, to continue production after the deadly tremor. Now, just under two years and some 250,000-300,000 deaths later – about 40 of them journalists - most radio stations are almost fully operational but still dependent on generators and fuel. Initiatives like the UNESCO-backed Vedek FM, a new community radio station situated almost 900 metres above the red sandy sea in Cap Rouge-45 minutes south of Jacmel-makes things a little easier by bridging the communication gap between the rural town and densely-populated Port-Au-Prince. Here they report on health issues: Cholera and AIDS, and agriculture and social programs for people who know very little about the issues plaguing the country. Being a journalist amid the rubble and chaos of post-catastrophe Haiti is, like most other jobs in the area, fraught with danger. The Government says it’s on the side of a free press. “Press freedom is guaranteed in Haiti. They say what they like about me and I don’t hit back,” Haitian president Rene Preval said in a 2006 RSF report called Haiti: One year later. But that didn’t help Radio Kiskeya journalist Jean Richard LouisCharles. On Feb. 10, 2011, the 30-year-old father of two daughters was shot twice in the head by a robber near the Champs-de-Mars 18 | Convergence | Spring 2011
square. Whether the murder was crime-as-usual or whether his profile as a broadcaster made him a target, remains unanswered at the time of writing. One thing for sure is that the killing did nothing to dampen what some observers see as a growing enthusisam for journalism in the poverty and quake ravaged country. “They are fascinated. There is a tremendous attraction for this work and this job. To be a reporter and to have freedom of information is exciting to them for many reasons,” says Mehdi Benchelah, communication and information specialist at UNESCO in France who also worked in Haiti. “The problem is that to do it as a professional is difficult. People do it for a period of time but community radio is voluntary work; you are not paid to do it.” Benchelah says “By creating this radio station (Vedek FM) it allowed the community to have some information, which is clear and also related to their reality, their needs and expectations. It’s provided mostly by the community from young people from the community, who work or study in the capital or another city but come back to Cap Rouge.” Media centers in Port-Au-Prince and Bourdon sheltered under Bedouin tents operate with assistance of international NGOs such as UNESCO, the International Media Support group (IMS) and RSF, as well as foreign media organizations such as Agence France Presse and Internews. The centers function as media and information collectives for journalists to report on and train in natural disaster and election coverage. Three months after the earthquake, Canadian media giant Quebecor contributed $2 million for the establishment of the Media Operations Center in Bourdon, which is now one of the main hubs for journalists to gather and share information. Run by Claude Gilles, Haitian correspondent for Paris-based RSF, the centre shelters both local and foreign journalists with room for about 20 journalists to work. It’s equipped with computers and Internet connection, a TV satellite link, telephone lines and audio and video conference systems. A Telecentre created by Gotson Pierre, Haitian journalist, who
Courtesy of Mehdi Benchelah
The first broadcast on the community radio Vedek FM.
started the Haitian-based Group Medialternatif and Alterpress news agency, used up to 10 laptops to provide information to people in six displacement camps. Benchelah says the lack of information and resources have made social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube effective means for information coming out of Haiti “Communication wasn’t working and people had no information so journalists played a key role in helping this country to recover and help the dissemination of information,” says Benchelah. “People were talking on radio, explaining the problems they had and the problems at airports. The radio played a very important role because people were looking for information but couldn’t get it and were also helping foreign media to connect to the country.” Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, Haiti’s culture and communication minister, tasked Mediacom, a U.S. communications company, with distrib-
100 years of blood
uting (US) $2 million worth of subsidies to 100 media outlets based in PortAu-Prince. However, the One Year Later report indicates only 30 outlets received assistance, a stark parallel to the way in which international aid has been distributed since the earthquake. More support has been promised but little provisions have been made for those living outside Port-AuPrince. The colossal loss of advertising revenue forces journalists to often leave Haiti in search of work. And with the Quebecor Media Operations Center due to close at the end of 2011, the outlook for 2012 is uncertain. “We will not rebuild. It’s not our responsibility to do that because we don’t know how to rebuild the press,” says Gilles Lordet, director of publications at RSF. “There are programs of financial help for media in Haiti. However, the evaluation for funding hasn’t been done well. The international community has given money through the government.”
Haiti declared independence from France in 1804 in the midst of violent uprisings, constant leadership changes and corruption, which deformed the establishment of long-lasting institutions. Haiti, a predominantly black nation, could not attain the approval of white nations in Western Europe and North America to recognize its independence and grant trading rights. Using rampant Haitian anarchy and fear of foreign invasion as justification, “they (the United States) barred foreigners from owning property in Haiti, took over the National Bank, and trained a brutal military force designed to fight one and only enemy - (themselves),” says Helen Scott in ‘Haiti Under Siege: 200 years of U.S. imperialism. During the Duvalier regimes, “(They) made it clear that nobody was immune from state terror – all were vulnerable to indiscriminate attack at any time,” says
Scott. The regimes became notorious for committing several human right abuses and bilking millions of dollars from government-owned businesses and international aid while leaving very little for development. The fear of African Swine Flu’s expansion in the Dominican Republic convinced the U.S to order the extermination of the Creole pig, which only exacerbated the problems facing the Haitian economy. Scott says the American plan proved to be a disaster as unemployment soared from 22 to 30 per cent during 1980 to 1986 while extreme poverty jumped 33 per cent from 1976 to 1985. It also pushed much of Haitian peasantry into poverty and crowded slums in places like Cite Soleil. A depreciated economy and unjust government set the precedent for journalists, writers and other unions, who were threatened with the death penalty for any act of civil disobedience against the regime whether verbal or written.
No one dared to go up there but at noon the next day the technician dared to go in and run a cable outside. We started with just a table. Then two tables and a tent.
- Mehdi Benchelah
In the meantime Haitian media, with the help ists by providing news coverage, social history casters who rose the media challenge. The RSF of UNESCO, RSF and other international orga- and culture, as well as other useful information. study says that despite its marginal importance, nizations, is still mobilizing to rebuild the free- The Association for Social Leadership and Com- Haiti’s biggest newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, was able munication (SAKS), a group of 30 to 35 radio to sustain itself using a printing press restored dom and functionality of the press. Patrick Moussignac, owner and manager of stations, struggled back to broadcast daily news by Venezuelan technicians soon after the quake. Port-Au-Prince’s Caraibes FM, picked up pro- programs after its headquarters collapsed and the The paper has a print run of fewer than 15,000 duction two days after the quake. Using his own transmitter was destroyed. Despite the donation weekly copies. Le Matin, the country’s second funds, Moussignac and his 45 employees contin- of cameras by UNESCO, TV production remains largest newspaper, was forced to lay off half its ued to broadcast despite unfathomable losses to stagnant with very little broadcasting being done editorial staff and maintained a print-run of just because of funding and no means to produce under 5,000 copies by printing in the Dominican close family members. “There was panic on Jan. 12 (but) we left the says Lordet, author of the RSF study. “(Haitian) Republic. The Haiti News Project, computers running,” led by a group of American Moussignac said in journalism organizations, an interview with has launched a $56,000 RSF. “No one dared (US) plan to support and to go up there but train the print media. But at noon the next with more than one in two day the technician Haitians unable to read, it’s dared to go in and an uphill battle. run a cable outside. With the help of the We started with just CFPJ, a training center for a table. Then two journalists in Paris, France tables and a tent.” and funds from UNESCO But for other and the European Union, a stations, the expeMaster’s program has been rience was much started at Quisqueya Uniworse. versity in Port-Au-Prince Commerciale to accommodate journalists D’Haiti’s station as who seek to become profeswell as Ibo, Tropic, sionals and attain scholarMagik 9, Energie, ships to study abroad. Sodec, Soleil and “It’s being run by Kiskeya Canal 11’s stations University for the practi– were all destroyed cal aspect and it’s about 15 in many parts of the Courtesy of Fernando Brugman - UNESCO journalists every year who country. Despite A building threatens to fall after the earthquake. do one-year training. You the lack of shelter, are not sending journalists journalists from Radio Tele-Ginen in Port-Au-Prince began radio journalists played a key role after the earthquake abroad because it’s local and (if people are trained and more rarely television broadcasts a few days because communication wasn’t working and abroad) people rarely come back which is a pity after the quake by unearthing some broadcast- people had no information. So, journalists played and a loss for the country. The fact that they can ing equipment. Radio Tele-Soleil had its camera a key role in helping this country to recover and be trained by international standards is favoured equipment looted, but resumed production a few help with the dissemination of information,” says by us,” says Medhi Benchelah. “I think journalism in Haiti is a challenge. JourBenchelah. “The radio played a very important hours after the earthquake. Meanwhile, radio stations in the badly dam- role because people were looking for informa- nalists are paid very little and it’s very difficult for aged town of Petit-Goave – located west of tion and couldn’t get anything. In a normal time them to survive, especially in Port-Au-Prince. Port-Au-Prince – joined forces to provide spe- the radio is very important here, so at that time it You really need to have the faith and believe in it. “And we have that here.” cial programs. The endeavour has helped to de- was really essential.” In the dust and chaos, it wasn’t only broadvelop national connections with other journal20 | Convergence | Spring 2011
Women in the Crosshairs Foreign correspondents take big risks amidst conflict & assaults on the media BY MELISSA GREER Remembering the powerless feeling of resignation at the moment they thought they were going to die, New York Times journalists Stephen Farrell and Anthony Shadid, and photojournalists Lynsey Addario and Tyler Hicks, have told the story of their six-day captivity over and over. “You feel empty when you know it’s almost over,” says Addario. The journalists were freed from captivity on March 21 after being detained in Libya by soldiers loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. Their capture highlights the recent targeting of foreign journalists while reporting from Egypt and Libya and the added threat of sexual assault to female journalists. Upon release from Libya, Addario says she was repeatedly groped. Talking to a panel at the Columbia School of Journalism, she described a moment one captor began stroking her face as her hands and feet were bound. “He was caressing me in this weird sort of tender way, saying this phrase over and over. I asked, ‘What is he saying?’ and Anthony said, ‘He’s telling you you’re going to die tonight’.” Having travelled and worked extensively in the Middle East and North Africa, Addario is no stranger to the region. But this time was different, she told the Columbia event. “Even when it was very clear we were journalists . . . it didn’t matter to them.” Female journalists in Egypt and Libya were particularly at risk for intrusive
stares, groping or worse. On Feb. 11, CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was separated from the rest of her crew. The American news network later reported Logan had “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.” It was about a month later that Addario was detained in Libya. All four of the New York Times journalists were beaten. Correspondents from North America typically go through hostile environment training before being sent to cover a story abroad. But are female journalists in particular prepared enough for the threat of sexual assault? Ingrid Bakewell, senior producer for CBC News Network’s Connect with Mark Kelley, was the only woman with Connect who travelled to cover the uprising in Egypt. Bakewell says she completed hostile environment training only weeks before being sent to work in Egypt but the topic of sexual assault played only a minor part in her training. “It was more of a conversation on what precautions you can actually take,” she says. “Most of it, to be honest, focused on how you dress and how not to attract attention to yourself.” Having also completed training, Kelley says it’s something the CBC requires of employees in order to work in international hot spots. The attacks on the media in Egypt and Libya forced reporters to consider whether a story was too dangerous to pursue. The Spring 2011 | Convergence | 21
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists reports more than 70 attacks on the press in Libya since the revolts began in February. It was clear that journalists were more than observers. They became a part of the very story they were covering. “When we first started hearing reports of foreign journalists being beaten or roughed up in the streets that was definitely when we all started to feel a little more threatened,” says Bakewell. While covering the January uprising in Egypt, Kelley and Bakewell worked under daily threats after the Mubarak regime put a target on foreign journalists for reporting negative things about Egypt. “We were being stopped repeatedly at these civilian road stops by people who were not the
situation – something that’s not always possible. “We felt like we did everything we could to avoid that situation and it still happened,” she says. “We were told if you’re in that situation and you’re being threatened don’t really make eye contact, put your hands up like you’re trying to make peace and just try to keep the doors locked, which is what we did.” The CBC staff works with the United Kingdom-based AKE Ltd., an international security risk mitigation company, to complete a five-day course in hostile environment training. Kelley says employees must also update their training every three years with a three-day surviving hostile regions refresher/advancer course. “It’s specifically for journalists and foreign aid workers so they’re very good at tailoring situations and scenarios that are based entirely on reality,” says Kelley. “It’s fairly rigorous; they don’t screw around. These are former soldiers so they run it to make it as realistic as possible.” Bakewell says the course was divided evenly between security and medical training. Established in 1993, AKE’s Surviving Hostile Regions Training Course was the first of its kind. The training includes both lectures and practical scenarios while instructing participants in four categories of skills: awareness, self-reliance, medical and planning. “They teach you everything from first aid, to the proper behaviour when going through road stops, how to negotiate, what happens if one of the people in your crew are taken hostage – there’s all kinds of scenarios that they take you through,” says Kelley. As a woman, Bakewell did her research beforehand and was careful to pay attention to special - Mark Kelley considerations regarding the culture and perceptions of women. army, they’re not police, they’re just civilians “If you’re going to a predominantly Muslim standing around with machetes and clubs and country the beliefs and traditions and especially iron bars in their hands,” says Kelley. the social practices are different, so you would At one of these civilian stops Kelley says the have to take that into consideration,” she says. crowd began pounding on the car they were in Before going to Cairo, Bakewell says she (and) not allowing them to pass through. packed long sleeves and loose fitting clothing. “Our driver tried to throw (the car) in reverse “Egypt is more progressive than some of the othand get the hell out of there but we got stuck on a er countries in the region but you’re advised as median. It was a mob scene and a mob circle had a westerner to be more conservative than what surrounded us,” he says. would be considered generally accepted for forThough it was a volatile situation, the best thing eign women,” she says. to do was stay calm and stay in the car, he says. Though she spoke to several people who had “Our driver was pulled out of the car. It was only previously been to Egypt and all said it was acafterwards that I found out he had been pleading ceptable not to wear a headscarf, Bakewell says for our lives.” she packed lots just in case. As it turned out, they Bakewell says the whole point of hostile envi- would be well used. “I was far more comfortable ronment training is to avoid being in a volatile wearing a scarf there,” she says. “Most of that was
We were being stopped repeatedly at these civilian road stops by people who were not the army, they’re not police, they’re just civilians standing around with machetes and clubs and iron bars in their hands.
22 | Convergence | Spring 2011
because I have long, blonde hair and I’m obviously a foreigner.” Researching the history and culture of a region as Bakewell did is an important step to prepare for working abroad, says Claude Adams, a former CBC correspondent and part-time freelance journalist. “Keep yourself informed,” he says. “Information is still power and information is protection as far as we’re concerned.” Beginning his journalism career before safety and hostile environment training became widely used by major media organizations, Adams says he learned by experience to “be careful with crowds and look out for volatile situations.” He says the danger of reporting from within a volatile crowd was evident in the attack against Lara Logan. “I don’t think your gender makes a difference in terms of your value,” he says, explaining that some journalists are abducted based on the amount of ransom money they could garner. Since her own abduction, Lynsey Addario has shot down comments suggesting women shouldn’t be reporting from war zones. “If I want to cover a conflict that’s my prerogative,” she said during the Columbia panel. “I think the risks are different, I don’t think there are more. How do you quantify trauma? I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘Well she was groped so therefore women shouldn’t cover war’.” While men and women face risks working as foreign correspondents, female journalists, unfortunately, must be aware of a different kind of threat because of their gender. “We like to think of us all being equal but the reality is we’re not and women are more of a target in some places,” says Kelley. “It’s sad but true and it has to be really taken into account.” Adams recalls a day, “years ago in which being a journalist was its own sort of protective armor.” In Haiti during a violent street demonstration in the late 1980s, he remembers people running to him to avoid being hit by the blows of the police because, as a Western journalist, he was guaranteed a degree of protection. “That’s all changed. We’re all fair game now,” he says. “We’re not on a pedestal anymore and, in fact in some areas we’re the first target because the bad guys don’t want their picture on the air. They don’t want to be exposed in that way so they will come after the journalist because journalists are the people who get them into trouble.” As for his own personal safety today, Adams says he always measures the amount of risk he’s willing to take with what he’s likely to get as the end result. “Everything’s a flash in the pan,” he says. “You do something glorious today and 24 hours later you’re forgotten and somebody says, ‘What’s next, what do we get today?’ The media is a huge beast with a tremendous appetite and it can chew people up and spit them out.”
Courtesy of Frederick Lavoie
Silencing Dissent BY REMY GREER
Belarusian journalists report for the right side or for no side at all
ecember 19, 2010. Thousands brave the cold on a brisk winter night in Minsk. Piercing shouts for political change permeate the air. Flags far as the eye can see canvas the city’s October Square. Demonstration leaders struggle to contain the overflowing masses into the night. Enraged by the results of a dubious presidential election and tired of 16 years of authoritarian rule, the crowd storms government headquarters. Then, like a shot in the dark, police and security services pounce on anyone in sight, whether they’re sporting a ski mask or a media pass. Alexander Lukashenko, Belarusian president since 1994, was announced as the election winner on Dec. 19, capturing 80 per cent of the vote. “They just didn’t know what to do at that time,” says Canadian freelance journalist Frederick Lavoie, who covered the protest. “You’re there with 40,000 others and you know what happened five years before and you’re like, we have to do something or it will be the same for five more years.”
Police responded swiftly to the protest. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported more than 600 demonstrators were arrested, including opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov. BAJ also reported 24 local and foreign journalists were jailed and 21 beaten in Minsk following the protest. Among the the accredited foreigners who fell victim to beatings were New York Times photographer James Hill, a journalist from Agence France-Presse, and foreign reporters from Ukraine, Russia and Germany. Irina Khalip, wife of Sannikov and editor for the Minsk bureau of Russian publication Novoya Gazeta, was struck by police in the midst of an interview with Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy during the demonstration. Most jurnalists arrested were detained for 15 days, charged with participating in an illegal demonstration. Others weren’t so lucky. Alaksandr Atroshchankau, journalist and spokesperson for Sannikov, was sentenced to four years in prison for the crime of taking part in mass riots. Six journalists are facing lengthy prison terms. Khalip was detained by the Belarusian State Security – still called the KGB – for a month. She faces up to 15 years imprisonment, charged with organizing and participating in mass disorder. When Khalip was rounded up with 20 other reporters, state security agents went to great lengths to silence her, says Nina Ognianova, Europe and Central Asia co-ordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Belarusian authorities threatened to place Khalip’s 3-year old son, who’d been living with his grandparents, in foster care. “Authorities went on such an offensive, not just against her, but against her whole family that the measures smacked of the worst practices of Stalinist USSR,” says Ognianova. Natallya Radzina, human rights activist and editor-in-chief of news website Charter97.org, was held in detention for organization and participation in mass unrest. Radzina told BAJ she was kicked in the head and back by police and thought she would be killed at the Dec. 19 protest.
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 23
She is currently on release from her pre-trial detention centre but is barred from leaving her home town and still faces a prison term of up to 15 years. The KGB also took measures to debilitate news outlets. “During the peak of the crackdown security agents of the KGB stormed newsrooms and confiscated recording equipment, computers, broadcasting equipment, tapes, flash drives – pretty much every tool that a journalist needs to do his or her job,” says Ognianova. Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières reports that independent radio station Avtoradio had its broadcast signal removed from January to April 2011 on the basis that it had broadcast appeals to extremism. Homes of journalists were searched by the KGB, including that of Larysa Shchyrakova from Polish-based television station Belsat. Lukashenko, who former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “the last European dictator” has been President of the former Soviet State since 1994 – the longest of any ruler in Europe. In anticipation of the 2006 election, Lukashenko staged a much-criticized referendum allowing him to serve unlimited consecutive terms. Canadian Lavoie was placed in detention for his presence at a post-election protest at October Square. No charges were ever laid but he was held in detention for 15 days, the maximum amount of time for an administrative arrest. Lavoie has little hope for change. “The best people in this nation are in the opposition and they cannot do anything for their country because they wouldn’t be allowed to have any position in the government or in the administration,” says Lavoie. “The frustration is there, but there’s also resignation for most of the people.” Lavoie says Lukashenko made some concessions in the lead-up to the election, allowing nine opposition candidates to campaign to show the West he was allowing a democratic election. “It was a non-campaign as always,” says Lavoie. “Lukashenko is the state. “On television they just had to constantly show Lukashenko to show there are no alternatives,” he says. “The other candidates didn’t exist, they made them non-existent. That’s how Lukashenko was sure to win.” In Belarus, journalists are split into two clearly defined groups. “You can not just be an objective or neutral journalist, you’re either the state-owned media or you’re an opponent,” says Lavoie. “When you’re a journalist in Belarus and you’re criticizing the Lukashenko regime you’re by extension an opponent, like it or not.” Lavoie says the culture of impunity in Belarus changes the mindset of the journalists critical of Lukashenko’s regime. “Fear is not really a factor anymore,” he says. “They’re used to being arrested. Most of the people I know in Belarus know that they will end up in jail for another 15 days. They’re just trying to avoid criminal cases.” Alies, a 29-year old reporter, who works for the state-owned media in Belarus, says it’s unreasonable to expect western-style democracy in Belarus. Speaking to Convergence on the condition of anonymity, he concedes conditions for 24 | Convergence | Spring 2011
journalists in Belarus are not perfect, but attributes much of that to the culture and history of the country. “Of course we have problems, we’re not ideal, but don’t use your standards to measure our democracy,” he adds. “Don’t forget about our Soviet past. We’ve had a very difficult history,” he says. “We’ve overcome the First World War when (Belarus) was in the Russian empire, the Second World War and the War in Afghanistan. It reflects on our people. That’s why we’re not so, in your opinion, democratic or liberal.” He says the president’s desire to control the media is a condition not unique to Belarus. “Sometimes (Lukashenko) makes it not very pleasant or good for some private media, but it happens all over the world when governments want to control countries. It happens in different ways. In our country we have our customs, in Canada and U.S.A. you have your customs,” he says, admitting he has faced pressure from editors to report favourably on regional authorities. Ognianova from CPJ says the post-election repression is a culmination of a persistent effort to restrict press freedom. “We saw this crackdown throughout the year 2010 when Lukashenko moved to aggressively control the internet, passing expansive new law and giving state regulators broad new power over online content and individual web users,” says Ognianova. “In expectation of the election the government moved to eliminate or severely hamper all sources of alternative information for its citizens and to preclude journalists from critical newspapers from reaching audiences.” CPJ reports in January 2010, legislation was signed into law requiring all Belarusian website domains to register with the information ministry. At internet cafés, all users were required to present identification papers to access the web. The new law dictates all internet service providers collect client IP addresses and maintain lists of websites visited by clients. As the December election grew nearer, restrictions on web usage worsened. In October, the government announced it was compiling blacklists of local and international websites the state deemed offensive without ever clarifying the context, says Ognianova. Ognianova says proximity to the December election was not the sole motivation for the passing of the new internet restrictions. “The domestic internet penetration in Belarus had reached 45 per cent in 2010, that’s a relatively high figure not just for Belarus but for the region,” says Ognianova. “The more websites become influential or popular the more the
perceived need of authorities to control them grows.” Five weeks after the beginning of the crackdown, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Belarus, which included asset freezes and refusals to grant visas to Lukashenko and 150 other authorities. “We’re generally supportive of any measures that other governments can take to increase pressure on the Belarus government to allow journalists to do their jobs,” says Steven Ellis, press freedom adviser for the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI). For Ognianova, the EU’s reaction to the crack-
They’re used to being arrested. Most of the people I know in Belarus know that they will end up in jail for another 15 days. They’re just trying to avoid criminal cases. - Frederick Lavoie
down was too little, too late. “I also have to criticize the Western media for not paying attention to this important story,” says Ognianova. “This is a country that is at the doorstep of the European Union and I didn’t see, at least at the beginning of the crackdown, any major newspapers, television stations, news agencies blasting articles and stories on what was going on.” Ellis says IPI’s mandate has been to put as much pressure on the Belarusian government and to draw as much attention to the cause as possible. The CPJ wrote protests daily against the treatment of journalists in Belarus during the height of the crackdown and distributed literature to authorities within the EU and the U.S. Ognianova is not sure it was enough. “From our advocacy experience it is crucial for the international community to pay attention to crackdowns against the press,” says Ognianova. “To an extent that attention can protect journalists who are under immense pressure.” “The biggest fear we have is the international community is letting the beleaguered journalists and human rights defenders in those repressive countries down with inaction,” she says.
Changing Lives BY ALEXA TOMASZEWSKI Courtesy of Flickr / heidi_d
Courtesy of AP/Anthony Skerman
A wallaby stands on a large round hay bail, trapped outside Dalby in Queensland, Australia.
Rushing water took cars, filled homes and stranded wildlife as flooding rendered Queensland, Australia a disaster zone over New Year’s 2011. In a country where Christmas coincides with summer holidays, newsrooms found themselves understaffed. Reporters couldn’t gain access to roads and news corporations rushed to get their few people out to the scene. It wasn’t as if no one saw the scramble coming. “Comments are always made (about the dangers of skeleton staffing) Something is going to happen,” says David Mark, reporter and producer for the Austrailian Broadcasting Cororation’s (ABC) Current Affairs. “That’s what happened this year with the Queensland floods.” Reporters were airlifted to affected areas to cover the deluge. “Often once the journalists were in a spot they had to stay there to wait until our helicopters came to take them somewhere else,” says Mark. Producers stayed away from the inundated flood zones while trying to contact regional authorities and emergency services to obtain the particulars of the situation relating to the number of homes abandoned and those fleeing to evacuation centres able to hold 3,000 evacuees, he says. Real-time reporting from disaster zones requires a delicate balance of illustrating the possible effects of a changing climate, also focusing on how climate affects people locally. Jon Faine, radio broadcaster from 774 ABC Melbourne in Victoria, covered both the 2009 bushfires and the New Year’s flood. “We found particularly with the bushfires they were so rapid the audience knew more about what was going on than the emergency response or the fire response or anyone along official lines,” Faine says. Media places greater emphasis on covering the circumstances of an event rather than illuminating the “why” of a story. “At the time in the reporting of the actual event, either the fires or the recent floods, I think the focus of the reporting is on what is actually happening at the time,” says Mark. For Faine, the flood coverage is a good example of how an important, but complex, story somehow gets lost in the drama of unfolding events. The host of Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet, Jay Ingram says climate change is a tough assignment. “It’s a little hard because media stories are all about packaging and telling a story – a clear, concise story,” he says. Climate change is cumbersome, fuzzy and coverage has a tendency to become image-based; it risks disconnecting the audience from the event itself 26 | Convergence | Spring 2011
by withdrawing fundamental understanding of the situation from the story’s context. The event simply becomes pictures on a screen, Ingram says. “You can try to set up the context but you’re limited in space and this is one of those stories that really commands a lot of space,” says Ingram. “It’s pretty hard to extrapolate local weather or a local weather disturbance, however severe, to a long-term pattern.” Only time will show whether similar climate driven phenomena will happen more often, says Mark. “Personally I have no doubt that climate change is happening in Australia.
If the headline was ‘Scientists still agree about global warming’ that’s not really a story.
- Naomi Oreskes
I try not to let that influence my reporting,” he says and in the helter-skelter of disaster coverage, that “link” did not make headlines. Naomi Oreskes, historian and co-author of the book Merchants of Doubt, says 99 per cent of scientists agree global warming exists and in many cases it’s the remaining one per cent producing contrarian research. This creates doubt about the greater body of science among audiences, says Oreskes, who
was nominated climate change communicator of the year by George Mason University in Virginia. “If the headline was ‘Scientists still agree about global warming’ that’s not really a story,” she says. “But if there’s a fight, if scientists disagree about hurricanes and global warming, then that’s a story.” “Scientists focus on the research frontier because that’s where the action is,” says Oreskes. Journalists should focus on robust, stable, scientific knowledge the majority of scientists agree is correct. Therefore, reporters who actively seek out someone with a slightly different view are doing a disservice to public discourse, she says. The media has missed the mark on climate change by looking for scientific sources on both sides of the research, says Oreskes. Media coverage has instead focused on promoting the controversy without explaining to the public how stable the science really is. Oreskes says there are a few basic questions journalists should ask when considering the credentials of their experts. These include: What is their area of expertise? What have they published in the last few years on the subject? Where was it published? Were they in legitimate peer review journals or were they published in corporately or politically-funded papers? James Hoggan, author of Climate Cover Up: The Crusade To Deny Global Warming, says audiences believe scientists disagree that climate change is real. “There’s a war on climate science and what the media needs to know is who these people disagreeing with scientists are,” he says. “There are sociological and ecological complexities that are relevant in time and space and the people who have tried to bring these issues to the public often have not done a great job of doing it.” American climatologist Pat Michaels describes the scientific debate as a tension between what he calls “hotheads and lukewarmers.” Hotheads generally use computer models to predict global warming and lukewarmers say these models are
predicting too much warming, too fast. As a self confessed lukewarmer, Michaels says it is hard to make projections about the energy structure of a society hundreds of years from now and make audiences care. On the other hand, Oreskes says research indicates scientists predicted global warming would happen back in the 1950s. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, scientific evidence suggested climate change might already be underway. Today climate change is more an observation than a prediction, she says. “Scientists don’t generally study the big picture because the big picture is established,” she says. Oreskes says the issue isn’t just global warming as previously thought. “It is about a whole set of changes that happen when you change the chemistry of the atmosphere,” Oreskes says. She says the term climate change is increasingly used in media stories and while not all climate changes are bad, many have the potential to be grave. It is hard to say definitively if climatic events are linked to climate change because weather and climate are two different environmental events. “You can’t take a weather event like the Queensland flooding and say anything about climate, weather is not climate,” says Michaels. “Climate is bigger in space and time than any single weather event.” He says links between climate change to flooding and drought are easily dismissible because Australia experienced larger and more frequent floods in the 20th century. By definition climate change is statistical, but it’s important to recognize general circulation models (GCM), predict in a warmer world increases in flooding and hurricanes should be expected, says Oreskes. GCMs represent processes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and land surface, illustrating the response of the global climate system to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. “We can see it happening before our eyes – what used to be the thousand-year flood is now becoming the hundred-year flood,” She
says. That does not mean there are no possible links. Faine, who reported for 774 ABC Melbourne on both the flooding and fires, says the media has to include climate change in the discussion. “It’s no coincidence and it’s rubbish to pretend we haven’t had our worst fires, our worst cyclones, our worst flooding,” he says. While Oreskes says the flooding in Queensland doesn’t prove climate change, these patterns are fully consistent with what scientists have predicted. “You’ve got more energy in a climate system driving hurricanes, more energy to carry more water vapour, which drives heavy precipitation and can drive flooding, so all these things are logically expected to occur,” she says. If there is evidence climate change is linked to weather disaster, reporting on the ground can help audiences understand the affects of this change today – not 10 or 20 years from now. After the 2009 bushfires the ABC consolidated a role called the emergency broadcaster,” Faine says. “Some stations can choose to participate and be trained in the program. Those stations that have trained reporters are sent priority news.” These stations are able to run full operations at a moment’s notice, and the ABC has crews all around Australia trained to go away and report on devastating weather, with coverage of the Queensland flooding acting as a prime example, Faine says. Newsrooms need to be prepared because reporting on climate disaster is no walk in the park. Such training can help reporters on the ground deal not only in the moment, but with post-traumatic stress as well, he says. “You’re relying on emergency services, the audience, your instinct. There’s no script or manual or template,” says Faine. “You just cross your fingers and hold on tight.”
Courtesy of Newspix / Rex Features
Bikers survey extreme flooding in Queensland, Austraila on Jan. 12, 2011 Spring 2011 | Convergence | 27
turning a blind eye BY DAN BLACKWELL
28 | Convergence | Spring 2011
t first the bullets sounded like small rocks bouncing off the back of her car. Having never been close to gunfire before, veteran journalist Karol Cabrera didn’t recognize the sound of automatic weapons, but instantly the horrifying reality snapped into focus – assassins had come to silence her. It started as a routine ride home along a stretch of road in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. Riding shotgun with friend and fellow journalist Joseph Hernandez Ochoa at the wheel, Cabrera was broadcasting live on her radio show via her cell phone. An outspoken and controversial critic of former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, Cabrera was no stranger to death threats. Her 16-year-old pregnant daughter was murdered less than four months earlier – an act she says was revenge for her expose on the corruption of Zelaya’s regime. Now, headed down the same stretch of road where her daughter was slain, Cabrera noticed a car
ahead of them slowing down, obstructing Ochoa from passing. Suddenly, a white, four-door truck pulled up alongside their car, the same kind used by Honduran national police. Cabrera says it was Ochoa who first realized they were being lined up for a turkey-shoot. “And that is when I realized they were shooting at us . . . I forgot I was broadcasting and I started yelling,” she says. To hear the bone chilling radio broadcast now it sounds as though the assassination attempt was over in an instant, but Cabrera says that instant lasted a lifetime. “I know how everyone said you can see your life in one minute – at that point I realized I was experiencing that,” she says. The fusilade struck Cabrera three times, shattering nearly every bone in her left arm. Joseph Ochoa was not as lucky. Though still alive, Ochoa was seriously wounded. Unable to control the vehicle and forced into a ditch by the truck, Ochoa may not have
Courtesy of Diairo Tiempo
Karol Cabrera spent months recovering from wounds that shattered nearly every bone in her left arm.
seen the men who approached the car who executed him at point blank range. Left for dead, Cabrera survived long enough to make it to a hospital, where after months of recovery she was granted asylum in Ontario. Cabrera’s brush with violence in Honduras is not unique. Last year, 10 journalists were killed in Honduras, ranking the tiny Central American country third in journalist’s deaths, behind Mexico (13) and Pakistan (14), according to a report by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). What’s most remarkable about these deaths is Honduras isn’t involved in a war. Instead, a volatile mix of poverty, petty and organized crime and political instability from a 2009 coup d’état has created a nightmare for journalists on both sides of the political spectrum. Following the inauguration of conservative president Porifirio Lobo Sosa, journalism became one of Honduras’s riskiest professions. In a
December incendiary report by New York-based Human Rights Watch, dozens of threats, and over 18 murders of journalists and human rights workers were documented under President Lobo’s regime. “Since the coup, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has issued precautionary measures ordering the government of Honduras to provide protection to over 150 journalists, human rights defenders, coup opponents and their families,” said the report. “In June 2010 the commission emphasized that efforts by Honduras to comply with these measures have been ‘few, late in coming, and in some cases non-existent.’” For Carlos Lauria, senior Americas program co-ordinator for the New York-based Committeee to Protect Journalists, the finger points directly at government indifference. “The rash of killings was something really alarming, and was more shocking because the
government showed no willingness to thoroughly investigate those cases,” Lauria says. “They were both careless and dismissive in their investigative work. In those cases there were no results, fostering a climate of impunity.” Although Lauria points out this type of impunity is familiar, he says Honduras’ divided political landscape makes it a particularly dangerous place for journalists. “The climate of impunity surrounding the journalists murdered reflected a very polarized society,” Lauria says. “The divisions that this coup helped to broaden was another element providing fertile terrain for these violent episodes to occur.” Perhaps the best evidence of the government’s unwillingness to address the subject came in a May 3, 2010 statement by Honduran Minister of Security, Oscar Alvarez. “I guarantee that in all of them (journalist’s deaths) there is nothing to indicate that it is because of their journalistic Spring 2011 | Convergence | 29
work.” Indeed, Human Rights Watch found Honduran prosecutors filed charges in only two of the ten cases involving murdered journalists. “The fact is that they have been dismissive, they haven’t shown political will,” Lauria says. “And to say that none of these cases, like some officials have indicated, have nothing to do with their work as journalists - it’s something that can not be taken seriously. How do they know without solving the cases?” In an effort to get to the bottom of exactly how these journalists were killed, Mike O’Connor, Committee to Protect Journalists Mexico Representative (CPJ), headed to Honduras last summer. His findings make somber reading. “It’s hard to say anything is far fetched in Honduras,” O’Connor says. “The pattern is a lawlessness in the country a lack of functioning judicial system; a (lack of) functioning police force, (lack of) real investigations, impunity widespread, not just in the killing of journalists but in the killing of anyone.” Despite rampant violence, O’Connor says the Honduran government can not argue they lack the resources or capabilities to provide protection to journalists. “The government also hides behind the banana republic shield,” he says. “We’re a poor country and our postal system is not good, so we lost the letter or we lost the stamp or San-
dra’s on vacation and no one told us what she was supposed to do – it’s a conscious decision.” O’Connor, who’s reported for CBS, National Public Radio and The New York Times, says the murder of Honduran journalist Nahum Palacios stands as a glaring example of investigative negligence. An opponent of the coup, Palacios was gunned down outside his home on March 14, 2010. Despite the government claiming it had an order to provide protection for Palacios, the InterAmerican Commission’s signed document from the Honduran Supreme Court shows otherwise. Honduran officials didn’t perform an autopsy, it
O’Connor says. “They didn’t even do an autopsy until we showed up – that’s not because of bureaucracy or third-worldness. Someone decided not to do an autopsy.” What does all this mean for the average Honduran journalist? According to Ruben Escobar, editor of the San Pedro Sula daily newspaper Tiempo, it means a lot of information goes unreported. “The reality is there are things one prefers to abstain from informing,” Escobar says. “If you inform then you inform in a superficial manner, in a partial manner.” Escobar says the recent influx of drugs and organized crime is an example of a story where Honduran journalists now take a pass. “We don’t know where all these deaths are coming from, but they’re most likely to be related from drug crime, or political parties that took advantage of the circumstances to attack the journalists,” he says. “ If the authorities don’t do anything against them it’s difficult to feel protected.” Escobar, like many others, blames the political fallout from the 2009 coup d’état as the major - Karol Cabrera contributing factor to the risks journalists face. “I think that the ease in which the country has fallen into chaos, chaos provoked by the organized crime and the political parties that overthrew the government, they created confusion, in the sense that you don’t know where they can attack,” he says. “Because there are no in-depth investigations on the part of the authorities, you will never
I know how everyone said you can see your life in one minute - at that point I realized I was experiencing that.
history in brief
Courtesy United Nations Library
President Manuel Zelaya 30 | Convergence | Spring 2011
wasn’t until the FBI was called in three months later that the body was exhumed and one was performed. To date there has been no conviction in Palacios’ killing. “They didn’t take pictures of the crime scene, they searched the house where the killers waited for hours for the victim to come home and found nothing, no evidence, no leads, or anything,”
Elected in 2009, wealthy businessman Manuel Zelaya had a mixed record during his presidency. Though he had strong ties to the political left, union groups and the poor, Zelaya’s time in office saw him dogged by increasing crime rates, an influx of Mexican drugs and accusations of corruption at the highest levels of government. His increasingly left-wing leanings, close relationship with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and entry into the Bolivarian Alliance the Americas, an anti-American trade group, soon saw Zelaya
turning from even his own political party’s views. The situation hit critical in June 2009 when Zelaya attempted to modify the Honduran constitution and organize a referendum allowing a president to serve beyond four years. Zelaya argued the he was trying to modernize the Honduran government, and that he would step down in 2010 regardless. His political opponents claimed it was illegal, and a bold attempt to seize power. When congress refused to allow the referendum Zelaya persisted and ordered the
head of the Honduran military to distribute the ballots anyways. The ensuing political struggle eventually saw Zelaya escorted from Honduras by military forces, provoking worldwide condemnation. In the months that followed an interim government seized control of the media, imposed illegal curfews and violently cracked down on political dissidents. In November 2009, conservative opposition leader Porifio Lobo Sosa was elected. Compiled with files from The Economist and Upside Down World.
The world has a habit of only focusing on one crisis at a time. How did the 2009 coup in Honduras slip off the radar?
Courtesy of Diario Tiempo.
Local journalist, Nahum Ely Palacios was killed outside his home, March 14, 2010.
know if he’s killed for political reasons, because you said something against a drug lord, or because you had bad luck.” CPJ’s Carlos Lauria warns this is a slippery slope. “You know the many issues that affect the daily lives of people in Honduras are going unreported, the lack of debate on issues of public interest is creating democratic instability,” Lauria says. “It’s not really a question of attacking journalists. It’s a question of depriving Hondurans from the right to access to information.” Ultimately, even if self-censorship is a job requirement, the important news being reported is thanks solely to the remarkable sacrifices by Honduran journalists like Ruben Escobar and Karol Cabrera. Escobar continues to report on a daily basis and says it boils down to a desperate combination of needing to support his family, and his desire to get the story out there.
“The majority of us have families that we have to maintain, and changing jobs or professions at this time would be difficult, complicated,” he says. “Second, many of us like being journalists because it lets us be in places where no one else can be. It permits us to report on issues we can see, and we see them first, before anyone else does. I think the economic need and passion for reporting get combined together.” Meanwhile back in Ontario, Karol Cabrera, fully recovered and learning English and French to launch her reporting career in Canada, echoes Escobar’s passion for reporting. For Cabrera, it’s an inner drive that sustained her through some of her darkest days as a Honduran reporter. “I believe that you really have to learn that, as a journalist, you are born that way. You have that passion with you,” she says. “You have an obligation to fight the system.”
The reason it didn’t get much media coverage is that it sheds unpleasant light on the U.S. government and its behavior. Wikileaks was kind of interesting in that respect. The press in Honduras has suffered, in part, because of their government’s actions. What other countries stand out for actively repressing their media?
One of the worst is Saudi Arabia, our closest ally. It’s been given free reign by the United States to do whatever, like crush democratic uprisings, because it’s got the two relevant characteristics – it has lots of oil, and it’s very loyal. You’ve been very critical of western media in the past. Does America still have free press and freedom of speech?
There is freedom of expression – it’s just not used. Now look, it’s a very free country. I think freedom of expression is protected in the United States beyond any country that I know. But the systems of power, including the media, have their own agendas. Regardless of the country, will the government instinctively turn the media away from coverage that runs contrary to their national interests?
Pretty much. It would be very important for the population to know and understand why the United States and its allies can not possibly support democracy in the Middle East. Courtesy of Diario Tiempo.
Palacios’ SUV was ambushed outside his home in Tocoa, Colon in Honduras. Spring 2011 | Convergence | 31
enemies press of the
in the Arab Spring
YEMEN – According to Reporters san Frontieres, a correspondent from Al-Salam in Yemen, died from a gunshot wound he got from a sniper during a government attack in Sanaa’s Change Square. According to the CPJ, only one journalist was killed in Yemen since 1992 –that was before 2011 of course.
Louay Hussien, a journalist and activist, was arrested in March after his house was raided in Damascus. The former political prisoner purportedly used the internet to call for solidarity amongst the demonstrators in Deraa. According to the UK Guardian scores of people have been killed while journalists are being rounded up progovernment forces while being labelled as ‘outside armed gangs’.
The authoritarian leader continues to label journalists as members of ‘al Qaeda’ and, according the Christian Science Monitor, his forces have vowed to treat journalists as “terrorists” if they are caught without visas.
Photo Illustration by Maegan McGregor 32 | Convergence | Spring 2011
ERITREA – Ranked dead last on Reporters Without Borders annual Press Freedom Index is Eritrea, a tiny North African nation guilty of the very worst human rights and free speech violations. Torture, killings and arrest and detention without cause are all common practice for security forces, who shut down all private press.
According to RSF, plainclothes security officials raided the offices of France Television and Radio Al-Manar, and Japanese TV station NHK. What’s more, similar raids were carried out on the CNN bureau and Mayadeen Media for covering a demonstration.
Since the beginning of 2011, civilians in the Middle East and North Africa took to the streets in revolution with the purpose of ousting the kleptocratic leaders who’ve snatched basic and universal human rights from their existence. Press freedom is one of those rights that the people of the revolution continue to fight to protect and Convergence has taken a closer look at the violence which has undoubtedly occurred. Compiled by Jordan Maxwell & Dan Blackwell with files from CPJ, CJFE, RSF, NPR, The UK Guardian, BBC, and the Christian Science Monitor. Spring 2011 | Convergence | 33
Photo Illustration by Liliana Monteiro
FALLING FROM GRACE BY MICHAEL RAINE
34 | Convergence | Spring 2011
Outdated Freedom Of Information laws leave Canadian media in the dark
ccess to information (ATI) is in a state of paralysis in Canada. It has stopped working for many reasons from the technical to political, says author and ATI user Fred Vallance-Jones. This was made embarrassingly apparent recently in a report by British academics Robert Hazell and Ben Worthy, of University College in London, that ranked Canada last in a study of freedom of information laws in five parliamentary democracies. Not only is Canada no longer a model of good policy and practice, it’s increasingly a model of what not to do, says Alasdair Roberts, Canadian professor of law and public policy at Britain’s Suffolk University Law School. “It’s now increasingly a country where you hear stories about problems of maladministration and problems about bureaucratic and political resistance to the law.” Hazell and Worthy’s report, which ranked New Zealand first, states “Canada comes last as it has continually suffered from a combination of low use, low political support and a weak Information Commissioner since its inception.” Stanley Tromp says the reason is not hard to find. “While all parties support ATI reforms while in opposition – partly because they also use the law to look into the government and what it’s doing – once they become in power they lose some, or perhaps all, of their enthusiasm for it.” The author of a 2008 study, Fallen Behind: Canada’s Access to Information Act in a World Context, Tromp notes: “Information is a source of power, prestige, and profit and who wants to give that up? It’s human nature.” Roberts recalls that the former Liberal government, before gaining power in 1993, promised ATI reform and didn’t deliver once elected. Likewise, the Conservatives, in light of the sponsorship scandal and Gomery Inquiry, made their eight promises of ATI reform a key piece of their 2006 campaign. Once elected, they jettisoned seven and a half of those promises. Enacted by the Trudeau government in 1983, there were problems with the ATI system from the beginning says Vallance-Jones, who’s also a professor of investigative journalism at King’s College in Halifax. “If you go back through the reports of the various information commissioners, they started complaining about delays from almost day one.” Despite its faults, the ATI Act was a progressive step forward but has
failed to keep pace with the rest of the world. “It was fairly novel at the time,  to even have any kind of law at all,” says Tromp, who started the FOI caucus of the Canadian Association of Journalists. “Since then, of course, technology has moved on and there’s many features that have been far surpassed by many other laws.” To start, Tromp takes issue with the $5 fee that he sees as a contributor to logjams. In 2009, “former commissioner, Robert Marleau estimated it cost the government $55 to process a $5 cheque,” recalls Tromp in a phone interview from Vancouver. “They’re actually losing money and for a government that wants to pride itself on economic efficiency, that’s just ridiculous.” Tromp and Roberts both say fees should be payable online, or even better, completely eliminated. Eliminating fees would bring Canada in line with the UK and United States. Last March, A Canadian Press ATI request for Treasury Board documents revealed federal plans to do the opposite and increase fees to further discourage overuse. Though Canadians cannot file ATI requests by email, as the British and Mexicans can, Tromp is encouraged that he’s been receiving an increasing number of requested files as email attachments, a practice that could reduce government costs. Roberts also suggest the ATI regime should have a tracking system similar to that used by courier services. Currently, Canadian ATI users don’t know - Frank Vallance-Jones the status of their request while it weaves through the system. “It would be a very simple thing to do because most major government departments already have internal tracking systems,” explains Roberts. “It’s just that there’s no interest in providing you with information about the status of your request.” To add insult to injury, not only is the ATI system in desperate need of technological updating, the existing practices are becoming increasingly inefficient. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault says that while she disagrees with the methodology Hazell and Worthy used to reach their conclusions, the Canadian government’s own statistics back the findings. “For a mature system like the federal Access To Information system, really, it’s getting constantly worse and worse instead of improving so of course people are diagnosing us as being one of the worse regimes,” says Legault. Vallance-Jones is particularly vocal about federal foot-dragging over
I think at its core, and this is the bottom line I really want to emphasize, this is not a technical problem, this is a political problem.
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 35
forgotten promises the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to 1 Implement Information Act 2 so that the public interest is put 3 Provide a general public interest override for all exemptions, before the secrecy of the government Give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information
Expand the coverage of the act to all Crown corporations, Officers of Parliament, foundations, and organizations that spend taxpayers’ money or perform public functions
from the disclosure of government information are justified only on the basis 5 Ensure thatof alltheexemptions harm or injury that would result from disclosure, not blanket exemption rules.
Disclosure requirements of the Access to Information Act cannot be circumvented by secrecy provisions in other federal acts, while respecting the confidentiality of national security and the privacy of personal information
36 | Convergence | Spring 2011
Pr bo 22
Oblige public officials to create the records necessary to document their actions and decisions produce it in another format, So, sorry. You can’t have it in the one you want,’” he recalls. “So I actually saw the duty to assist clause being used in what I consider to be a twisted way to say ‘no, you couldn’t have the record even though on the surface it might seem like you have the right to get it in the format you want.’” Vallance-Jones says reforms are needed to make it clear databases are records and the public has the right to receive them in their original format. Tromp and Roberts agreed fixes for Canada’s ATI system are in plain view. There are examples provincially and internationally that could be copied, but as Tromp points out, Ottawa simply needs to follow the eight promises laid out by the Harper Conservatives in the 2006 campaign. “You always want more but that would be enough. Those eight promises are the core of everything we want.” The promise to expand coverage to all institutions that spend taxpayer money was partially fulfilled via the Federal Accountability Act (FAA) of 2006. The FAA added 70 additional crown corporations to the list of entities covered by the ATI Act. However, as shown in Fallen Behind, more than a 100 institutions remain uncovered by the ATI Act. The list of quasi-governmental bodies of public interest not covered includes the Waste Management Organization (a body that’s developing Canada’s
the exclusion of Cabinet confidences to review by the Information 7Subject Commissioner 8 the release of electronic databases. “I think officials, perhaps rightly, feel that they don’t know how it’s going to be used,” says Vallance-Jones, who used federal databases to reveal buried information. “A paper document is relatively straight forward on its face. It says what it says, you sever it (separate from other documents), it’s done and you send it out. Whereas an electronic document is subject to all kinds of further analysis – people can connect it up to other data. It’s just a lot easier to collect intelligence out of that.” A 2010 duty to assist clause under the ATI Act states that requesters can receive a record in the format of their choice, but Vallance-Jones says government departments sometimes twist it to their advantage. He often receives requested databases as PDF files instead of their original form. A PDF file, essentially a picture of the database rather than the database itself, is relatively useless to anyone wishing to extrapolate information from it. He raised this issue in the 2009-2010 audit on FOI compliance, which he conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Newspaper Association. Vallance-Jones says when he asked for the file in its original electronic format, he was told to take a hike. “‘They said, ‘well our interpretation is that (PDF) is the format it exists in, and we don’t really have means to
P E U
long-term plan for handling and storing nuclear waste), Canada Blood Services, and the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, among others. “Most important is – give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information and also the power to order fees to be waived and delays to be stopped,” Tromp says. “Until that happens the system just won’t work.” Currently the Information Commissioner can can only make recommendations on these issues. However, the commissioner is staying out of the fight until more difinitive research is found. All of the ATI experts interviewed by Convergence agree that meaningful reform is unlikely until it becomes an issue to the Canadian electorate. Vallance-Jones says there are a number of voices calling for reform, from journalists to lawyers and academics, but they have never gelled into a unified and powerful lobby. Until that happens, what incentive does the government have to give up its control of information? “I think at its core, and this is the bottom line I really want to emphasize, this is not a technical problem, this is a political problem,” states Roberts. “The reason that the Canadian law is in such terrible shape is that there is not an effective political constituency that is holding the government to account for the proper operation of the law.”
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SWITCHING SIDES Politics & Journalism -BY KHRISTOPHER REARDON
two sides of the same coin
At an NDP convention in Québec, 2006, Andrew Cash is there as a journalist covering the event for NOW Magazine in Toronto. A motion from the grassroots membership of the party called for the immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from the Afghanistan conflict. The first person up to speak in favour of the motion was Jack Layton. “Well, that takes a lot of guts,” said Cash, who’s running to be MP of Davenport in Toronto on the May 2 election. He’s contributed to The Globe and Mail, This Magazine and NOW on topics from Canada and Columbia’s free trade agreement to urban poverty and aboriginal issues. “I think that probably started me on this journey towards becoming a candidate in the NDP with Jack.” Cash says he’s not worried about what people think of him combining politics and journalism because they know what part of the political spectrum he comes from. When it comes to objectivity in journalism, Cash is straightforward. “It’s not as real as we think it is,” says Cash. “I think there are a lot of journalists out there who have a partisan perspective already. Most of them are on the right.” Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto Sun city hall columnist, ran for St Paul’s riding in 2009 as a Conservative candidate. A fiery commentator on city politics she says she gives as good as she gets. She makes her political beliefs clear in her columns. “I am admittedly and unabashedly right of center,” says Levy. As commentator on municipal politics, running for the provincial election made her political views less of an ethical issue. “It wasn’t like I was running for the very level of government I was used to criticizing. So I felt there was a real separation there,” she says. “I was approached many times in the last year to run municiCourtesy of Mike Duffy
38 | Convergence | Spring 2011
pally and there it wouldn’t have been a conflict but, had I lost, I would have had to leave City Hall tomorrow and I choose not to.” She took a six-week leave of absence without pay from the Sun to run. She lost the race and shortly after went back to her position at the newspaper. Pierre Karl Péladeau, owner of Quebecor, supported her bid sending an email halfway through her campaign wishing her well, says Levy. “I guess they also wanted to see what it was like for someone who is used to beating up on politicians being on the other side of the mic,” says Levy. When she got back to the Sun, she became the target of accusations flung from critics who didn’t agree with the point of view in her columns, she says. “I was taken aback by the viciousness of the attacks,” says Levy. Some councillors had harsh words for Levy. “Adam Vaughan had a monthly show. He went on about a week after I lost and said I would never win a seat in Toronto - federally, provincially or municipally - that sort of stuff isn’t necessary,” she says. Vaughan, former journalist turned councilor for ward 20, resides in the Trinity-Spadina area surrounding Toronto’s famed Kensington Market. He was a political reporter for CP24 and Citytv before deciding to run for council. It’s something he says he had no ethical issues with. For Vaughan, the only option was walking out on journalism and diving into the political pool if he was going to continue to affect public policy. “It was a pretty easy decision to make once I did the due diligence to check that I wasn’t being completely insane,” says Vaughan. “I saw newsrooms providing fewer and fewer resources to content as revenues from advertising had shrunk and new technologies took over. I looked and thought the media would be a very difficult place to create forums for public discourse on government and thought that it was time for me to change if I was going to sustain an effective role as a public player in the future of the city.” He says objectivity is a false construct. For Vaughan, there is no division between what he feels and what he represents, publicly in both council and print. If his bid for office went down in flames he would not have turned back. “Our ability as journalists to actually pursue our profession has been so compromised by economic and technological change that I would not have gone back to formal corporate journalism,” says Vaughan. For both Vaughan and Levy it seemed like the next logical step was running for public office. Neither believes there are ethical
issues in running for office because they’ve been so clear with the side they represent in their journalism. Yet, some see taking sides in politics as harmful to a continuing journalism career. “When a reporter starts taking sides then I think you’re on a slippery slope and it leads to biased reporting,” says Mike Duffy, Canadian senator and former journalist. “So I think before you decide to run I think if you find yourself becoming so emotionally attached to one point of view or the other that you can’t be fair to both sides then I think that’s time to start looking into the mirror.” Duffy was coming to the end of a long running career as one of Canada’s celebrated journalists when he accepted consideration for Canadian senate. He says running for public office as a journalist puts both the journalist and the publication at a severe disadvantage. Duffy nearly declined the consideration for senate but after thinking about it and talking it over with his wife he decided to take the job, which would keep him engaged with people who need his help. “I found it to be very rewarding, not financially but emotionally in terms of being able to do things to make a difference, to help people,” says Duffy. Duffy found ways to include his journalistic experience into a new career. Vaughan agrees that experience in the field of journalism can aid in a budding political career. “In this job I use the same skills I used as a journalist. Who do you phone? What buttons do you push? Who would have the answer to that? How do you get an issue to move forward? So all of those things we learned about as journalists. I’m now able to put that to work in terms of helping people,” says Duffy. Fred Fletcher, now retired PhD who taught communication studies and political science at York University, says he’s heard both sides of the debate. “Over the past 40 years I have interviewed many journalists about media and politics and the issue of political involvement often came up,” says Fletcher in an email to Convergence. “In the ethics literature, the two key issues are preservation of neutrality, impartiality, distance and the optics of involvement. For the past 25 years or so, political strategists for major parties have used any appearance of partiality as a weapon in the spin wars.” He says he’s even seen journalists who don’t vote to maintain a clear distance from partisan politics, this way they keep completely neutral. “In the 1970s there was a real effort to achieve this distance because the previous generation of journalists had often, with no
public acknowledgement, worked for politicians they approved of as speech writers and the like,” he says. “My first job was as a reporter for the Vancouver Sun, then self-identified in its masthead as an independent Liberal newspaper. This era is now long gone.” Impartiality is an inherent part of the journalism profession but Fletcher says running for office can be eye opening. “I think that understanding the processes you cover, like being part of your community
I think there are a lot of journalists out there who have a partisan perspective already. Most of them are on the right.
Michael Valpy of The Globe and Mail ran for office for the NDP. For years thereafter, he did not write about politics because he was seen as tainted,” Fletcher says. “It is acceptable, however, to have columnists whose ideological or partisan backgrounds are clear on the basis of previous work.” Though Valpy could not be reached for comment. Fletcher believes journalism’s focus on ethics is shifting. “Kovach and Rosensteil, The Elements of Journalism, suggest that transparency is replacing objectivity as a key ethical principle,” he says. Fletcher was clear on whether a journalist should run for office. “The most recent example is Christy Clark, the new premier of BC, who hosted a radio show while out of politics. I think that kind of name familiarity is an advantage,” says Fletcher. “Partisan activity might properly preclude a journalist from covering certain topics for a period -- but that is all.”
- Andrew Cash
rather than detached from it, enhances rather than detracts from effective writing, analysis and commentary,” says Fletcher. “I think journalists should be seen as fellow citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens rather than a detached priesthood.” Fletcher has seen journalists who run for office have difficulty if they decide to go back. “One of Canada’s best political journalists, Courtesy of Flickr / Adam Vaughan
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 39
For the first time in recent history, Muslims receive positive coverage due to democratic uprising BY BRAD LEMAIRE
Courtesy of Muslims East
If Moammar Gadhafi had a fairy godmother, one of his wishes would have been to be the man who made Islam “cool”. Abracadabra – Wish Granted. But for all the wrong reason. Islamic freedom fighters in Benghazi, in company with gallant revolutionaries in Tahrir Square and youthful demonstrators in Tunisia and elsewhere across North Africa, are the media darlings of what has become known as the Arab Spring. The universal aim has been regime change. But the unintended bonus may just turn out to be to be image change for Muslims who, since 9/11, have suffered from bad press. “Islamophobes will persist,” warns Toronto Star editor emeritus and columnist, Haroon Siddiqui. “But to what degree will the public’s perception of Islam change we don’t know. It is difficult to demonize youngsters in jeans who look like us and are asking for the same things we do – freedom, democracy, justice and jobs.” Columbia University political scientist Brigitte Nacos says, “It is entirely possible that the high volume of coverage of Egypt and Libya will result in more positive views of Arabs and Muslims.” “Since the focus of the coverage is on popular upheavals to remove authoritarian leaders and regimes and to achieve open and participatory systems, many North Americans may not think of peaceful protesters in Egypt and militant rebels in Libya in terms of their religion, and perhaps not even know that they are Muslims,” she says. “Public sentiment will be informed by the outcome, especially in Libya, and by the attention the media and the public will pay to President Barack Obama’s critics at the far right who . . . claim that he is a Muslim and more biased in favour of Muslim causes,” says Nacos. The Star’s Siddiqui, a Muslim himself, has reported from 50 countries, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq War.
40 | Convergence | Spring 2011
XENOPHOBIA & THE MEDIA “The real question is have we (the media) been negative toward Muslims? The answer is overwhelmingly, yes. And since 9/11 it has deteriorated into sensationalism and a kind of yellow journalism similar to the McCarthy era during the 1950s in the United States.” “This is extraordinary,” says Siddiqui. “If you covered City Hall like that you’d be fired. I say this not as a Muslim but I say this as a journalist. What does this say about fair journalism? What does this say about the quality of coverage and what does this say about our principles?” Tarek Fatah, founder of Muslim Canadian Congress, says Western media sometimes miss the mark. “People in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya are talking about individual rights but not rights for black people. In fact, black people are hunted down and killed in a number of these countries,” he says. “There’s no talk of women’s rights, there’s no talk of gay rights. It’s just one segment of the population saying we want the right to be able to exercise power over the other.” Meanwhile, prayer time has finished at the Makki Masjid Mosque in Brampton, Ontario. People retrieve the shoes they placed on columns of concrete. The prayer room, located on the second floor, is a wide-open space with intricate depictions of miniature mosque windows in a mosaic embedded in the carpet. Imam Omar Subedar, the mosque’s spiritual leader, wears a traditional full body Kurta and is barefoot. He’s phlegmatic about the issues raised by a more outraged Siddiqui. “This does not come as a surprise because this has been going on for centuries. It has only escalated since 9/11,” says Subedar. While the images of young protestors in Tahrir square may lead Western observers to consider the uprising as a path to democracy, Fatah says it would be wise to think otherwise. “If you are talking about Egyptian Muslims and there’s consensus that women should be in
the back of the Mosque and everyone agrees with that then what sort of democracy will it lead to?” asks Fatah. “Would you agree that your daughter or wife or mother would be at the back of the church as a matter of law? Could you live with that?” Fatah asks of Western journalists. After 9/11, there was an improvement in news coverage of Muslims during the first year in New York, says Nacos, of Columbia University. “There were prominent voices from former mayor Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush who pleaded to the community at large not to confuse or associate Islam with those who perpetrated the September 11-style attacks.” “Now (what) seems to be much more prevalent is that pictures portrayed by the media in both print and broadcast are so incomplete,” she says. “They only show you a small slice of the pie of reality. And what viewers get is the negative stuff (because) people who are talking in very negative terms about Muslims seem to get an extraordinary amount of airtime in the media.” Columbia professor Brigitte Nacos says, “It is clear that the media is looking for sensational, dramatic news and often what they look for are very often violent scenes. Traditionally that is not only after 9/11. In both entertainment and news media, Arabs and Muslims have been shown as being brutal, abusive toward women and barbarous.” Whether or not the view of Muslims in Western media changes the general perception of Muslims around the world is still unclear, however Fatah says that it is the journey to democracy that could ultimately define Egypt and other Muslim countries who pursues their own justice and freedom. “Democracy only comes when you’re part of a political party (and) if you’ve noticed none of these guys in Cairo were willing to form a political party.”
THE UPRISING BY JORDAN MAXWELL
Courtesy of Mostapha El-Shafey
Hundreds of thousands of protestrs gather in Tahrir Square, on Friday April 8th, 2011.
June 25th, Tahrir Square – A software engineer and amateur photographer joins thousands of people in Tahrir Square at around 2 p.m. for the beginning of the Egyptian revolution. The aim was to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his regime. Mosthapha El-Shafey positions himself on the front lines in the face of police barricades that have begun to shadow and surround the protestors. As he tries to escape, a policeman with a baton whacks El-Shafey in his mid-section while tear gas chokes the people who’ve come seeking freedom. “At the very start, I was beaten and pushed away by police,” says El-Shafey. “At the time, I did not have my camera on me so I was just a regular protestor. Things got calmer around 7 p.m. so I ran home to get my camera and went back to Tahrir Square.” It started as just a hobby for the 24-year-old who was born in Vancouver, but moved to Cairo before he was a year old. Now, it has become almost a way of life for El-Shafey, whose im-
ages have been used by the BBC, Al-Jazeera English, and the Atlantic as well as posted on Facebook and Twitter. His contributions to the uprising demonstrate the will of the Egyptian people and El-Shafey says that it’s helped Muslims have a better image in the eyes of the world. “We are just people demanding freedom,” he told Convergence. “We want to live in freedom, dignity and democracy just like the rest of the world. There was one party that controlled everything and there was corruption to the core. My friends were tortured and beaten in prison for no reason and that’s why you have to rise up.” And while ambiguity persists surrounding the true motivations of the Egyptians people and the uprising, El-Shafey says that there is no mistaking the goal of Egyptians and their quest for freedom. “I want to see justice for Mubarak and all the ministers,” says El-Shafey. “I want a transition to democracy and a secular constitution that guarantees the rights of Muslims and Christians in Egypt. We want to see social justice, human rights and the police respecting the people – everyone getting a fair chance.”
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 41
Courtesy of Mostapha El-Shafey
Police barricade surrounding Tahrir Square, January 25.
Courtesy of Mostapha El-Shafey
Pro-democracy protesters hold a large Egyptian flag on the night of Feb 8th. 42 | Convergence | Spring 2011
Crowds near Tahrir Square celebrating around an army tank, the night Mubarak stepped down. Courtesy of Mostapha El-Shafey
Courtesy of Mostapha El-Shafey
Protesters sit in front of a police barrier around Tahrir Square, Cairo.
Courtesy of Mostapha El-Shafey
Pro-democracy protesters hold a large Egyptian flag on the night of Feb 8th.
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 43
LEAVE AN AD AFTER THE BEEP
Mobile Marketing is the best way for companies to reach their consumers
BY MATTHEW LOPES It’s the end of the work day and subway cars are crammed with riders rubbing shoulders and analyzing newspapers, iPods or novels. The train barrels forward in the glum tunnels before rising above ground as the late evening sunlight pierces the windows. Riders begin to shuffle through their pockets as their attention is turned to their cell phones and their resurrected bars of reception. Some may see this as a negative, a sign of technological dependence. But to Michael Becker it screams opportunity. “If you’re not mobile you’re missing out on massive opportunities” says Becker, North America managing director of the Mobile Marketing Association and author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies.
A recent report suggests “10 to 15 per cent of all brick and mortar and ecommerce sales in the North American market will be mobile influenced,” Becker says, “That will have an impact of $155 to $200 billion (US) in 2011.” “Get started now because everything is going mobile,” says Becker. He says consumers often confuse mobile marketing with telemarketing, and some of the uninitiated even believe the word mobile refers to advertising on moving vehicles. Businesses use mobile marketing to accomplish a set of practices, which include branding, awareness generation, customer care and social media enablement, he says. “Mobile marketing is the process (by) which we are going to achieve those objectives, by leveraging mobile devices and networks.”
Photo Illustration by Brad Lemaire
44 | Convergence | Spring 2011
Toronto-based free newspaper Metro is one publication to jump on the mobile marketing bandwagon. “It was a whole mobile strategy to make our content available in as many forms and as many ways as possible,” says Chris Tindal, Metro’s interactive content manager. Tindal says Metro started a push into the mobile market in September 2009 and since then, has developed mobile applications to reach readers through iPhone and Blackberry devices. A mobile website makes content available on mobile browsers, supported phones and mobile-scanned barcodes in Metro papers to provide additional content and promote the mobile website. Becker says research is needed before someone dives into the platform. “Think – who is my customer, and what am I trying to accomplish in business? One of the first things I ask is what kinds of phones your customers carry.” “In the North American market, 75 per cent of consumers today have feature phones, 25 per cent are smart phones. So, if your customers don’t have smartphones and you build your entire strategy on applications and mobile web you’re going to miss your entire market.” Although feature phones (phones that only support text messaging and voice calling) are currently the majority, Becker says that is about to change. “That number’s going to change within about a year and 50 to 60 per cent of the market will have smart phones.” Once a business defines the marketing objective, it can explore the different strategies for reaching the consumer. The advantage of mobile marketing is it supports a full out communications blitzkrieg. “What’s unique about mobile is that it actually consists of eight different marketing mediums: SMS, MMS, email, voice channel, mobile internet, content, applications channel and a number of proximity channels such as Wifi and Bluetooth,” says Becker. This array is something marketers only dreamed in the world of TV or print ads, says Becker. And with smartphones set to be rapidly adopted, one of the first things a business should do is put together a highly functional mobile website. “More and more consumers these days are visiting websites via mobile,” says Becker. “If a consumer goes to your website and it doesn’t work they’re not going to come back.” Melissa Lai, marketing manager of Mobify, a Vancouver-based company that helps businesses create mobile sites, says once a website is optimized for mobile, traffic often takes a big leap. “Our clients will come to us saying they have a bit of mobile traffic that is gradually increasing. Once their mobile site is launched, that traffic doubles or triples.”
10 to 15 per cent of all brick and mortar and e-commerce sales in the North American market will be mobile influenced.
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 45
Changing APPlications BY COLTON DE GOOYER
Photo Illustration by Liliana Monteiro
he old-fashioned news reporter carrying around a notepad wearing an oversized beige trenchcoat has changed dramatically. Now notepads come with buttons and LCD screens and are in suit pockets. Dave Trafford, news director at CFRB Newstalk 1010, responded by email when he was questioned about technology. Trafford said he forsaw use of his Blackberry for journalistic reasons before the device was widely acctepted for use in the feild. He says he was excited about “the possibility of being able to record a digital file with my Mararntz recorder, upload it to the mp3 player in the Blackberry, then email that audio to the newsroom.” At the time it was an impossible dream. “When I suggested that would be a great asset to us in the broadcast industry the engineer said the manufacturers would never go for it because the market was too small.” Turns out it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. Cell phones and tablet computers have useful functions for a broad audience, not just journalists, with their abilities to record video and audio. “The real impact of the smart phone technology is the ability to shoot video and photos that can be easily sent to the newsroom for web use,” Trafford wrote. Next up is the possibility of speech and face recognition. As for the tablet computer, “there are lots of apps available . . . that would allow you to do your job better,” says Matt Hartley, technology 46 | Convergence | Spring 2011
reporter for the National Post. “For a multimedia journalist, technically with the new iPad 2 you could shoot a video, edit it and upload it to a website all with that device, Hartley says. The camera is not the best, it’s a little bit clunky and I don’t know if you’d want to hold up an iPad as you’re trying to shoot news footage, but conceivably you could do it.” He also says with the iPad 2, journalists can interview using Skype chats or video calls. “I think you’re starting to see tablets shift from being consumption-only devices to being devices that you can be productive with It’s just a slow transition right now,” he says. Combining social media with tablet and smart phone technology can make a reporter’s job easier Dean Jobb, associate professor of journalism at University of King’s College and editor of jsource.ca says, “The reporter’s got very little time and space, and if it’s just the running notes of what’s said then maybe that’s of some value. It’d be the same as watching it on TV. “If I want to find out about a trial that just happened I might go to TV, I might go to the radio, I might pick up the paper, I might wait for the sort of overview in Maclean’s or I might just Google it and get an assortment of articles. Or I could also get the Twitter feeds in real time or review them later in my leisure,” says Jobb. Joanna Smith, reporter for the Toronto Star used Twitter to cover the Russell Williams trial in Belleville, Ont. ands says she checks her Twitter account before she opens the newspaper. “If you compare what I put on Twitter to what my colleagues wrote in the paper there isn’t
much of a difference except theirs is, I guess, less shocking because it’s in the paper as a full story,” she says. Smith says editing Tweets is similar to newspaper editing but can be difficult because she’s forced to do it independently. “How do I want to say this, does this add anything to the story, is this too much, is this too little, am I not being specific enough, what context am I missing?” she asks rhetorically. “The character letter restraint really brings something special to twitter that sort of forces you to strip down your writing to basic language, nouns and verbs – you’re getting rid of your adjectives and adverbs,” says Smith. Jobb says he hopes audiences can understand a Twitter feed may not be as complete or contain as many details as some other ways of getting news. But Trafford, who couldn’t wait for technology to catch up with the dream, cautions: “Don’t get caught up with ‘getting it first . . . Get it right before you get it on the air or post it online. Speed kills. More than ever, the responsibility of a journalist is to slow the pace down so the story is understandable, accessible and correct.” It may be too late for that. Technology is fast catching up with science fiction. “Google is working on a lot of things to do with speech recognition technology,” Trafford says. “Computers that can understand the way you talk, you can log on by sitting down and say ‘computer on’ and the computer’s camera would look at you, recognize you and sign you on.” Star trek anyone?
RECESSION PROOF BY KYLE GENNINGS
In the up-and-down, on-again off-again world of Canadian media, un-competitive publications bite the dust in the blink of an eye. Publications must work tirelessly to ensure viability in a range of markets, ensuring that the many factors that keep them afloat remain under their control. No media publication is as fickle as the niche market magazine. Changing financial and social winds rock their sails back and forth with more force than their larger more well-anchored media cousins, more often than not smashing them upon the rocks of financial reality. However, niche publications like those in Toronto’s Skateboard Canada Media Group not only managed to battle the odds but defied them too. “A niche publication is a lot safer because it works intimately within a somewhat self-sustaining industry,” says Brian Peech, associate publisher for SBC Media Group. Peech says the skateboard magazine market is an excellent example of the close relationship niche publications can develop between readers and advertisers. With an editorial career that started with the launch of SBC Skateboard in 1999, Peech has been a key player in many aspects of niche market magazine culture, as a photographer, managing editor, editor-in-chief and finally, associate publisher. He knows the industry and what it takes to keep publications viable in an often rapidly changing market. “It’s such a huge part of how our culture was shaped – through magazines in the ‘80s and most of the people who are now in a position of buying ads were featured in these magazines,” says Peech. With a readership made up primarily of males (84 per cent) between the ages of 18 to 24 years old (41 per cent) Peech works to keep the SBC brand tied to the culture through sponsoring trade shows, competition and après parties at resorts across the country. “That helped shape their careers and I think you get that in niche publications because it’s very much enthusiast media or (an) enthusiast industry,” says Peech. A focus on cultural presence within the ‘extreme sports’ world coupled with a larger focus on newsstand presence than other Canadian skate mags makes Peech confident in SBC’s continued presence in the market. “We have quite a big newsstand presence, where we will be in every 7-11, Macs or Chapters,” says Peech. “So when you go and see your big American magazines, you’ll see us right next to them.” Placing itself right next to the big American players has helped
Photo by Kyle Gennings
Spring 2011 | Convergence | 47
Photo by Kyle Gennings
Brian Peech, editor of SBC Canada since 1999, is a key player in the niche market.
SBC build a solid reputation in both Canada and the U.S. However, that market can fell publications that don’t keep on top of the subject matter as SBC does. “Niche magazines tend to go up and down depending on how well the niche is doing,” says Doug Bennet, founder and publisher of Masthead Magazine. “If the auto industry is down then you can bet auto magazine sales are down as well.” This isn’t the only obstacle for niche market magazines. Changing technological landscapes pose additional concerns. Bennet recalls a publication that was once a staple in every living room across the country “TV Guide Canada used to be one of the biggest magazines in the world. It was a real cash cow for years,” says Bennet. “However due to the introduction of cable listings on your TV and a change in the government’s policies with respect to media funding … it all came crashing down.” TV Guide’s death serves as a warning to those publications that don’t adapt. It has become an anecdote for Bennet, a scary bedtime story that
serves as a warning to media groups everywhere. “The historic transformation in traditional media to digital media has meant a shift in advertising dollars and attentions,” says Bennet. “What ad is to be invested in and which to focus on has become far more difficult with the advent of social and digital markets.” Niche magazines, like all other survivors, have had to adapt to these changes, says Peech. “I think that there is a place for everything and it’s a different user experience today.” When it comes to advertising, “it’s no longer just, ‘Here is this piece of real estate, you get this many impressions of this ad that you bought in print and that’s the end of it’,” says Peech. “Now it’s, ‘Okay were going to do a print ad, we’re going to back it up with an online campaign and then we’re going to build out a contest to go with that’.” This re-focusing of priorities can prove difficult at first. “We have to think more laterally and less linearly,” says Peech. “It has to be a package deal where it’s easy to work within a full service shop.” SBC offers tons of options for companies looking to advertise, including offering their entire design staff to help ensure that the company in question gets the best ad possible. “You have to look at it more as a partnership on all mediums,” he says. This collective understanding and respect for target market helps ensure continued viability for niche market magazines like Peech’s SBC Media Group. “A kid is no longer in Canada, a kid is worldwide,” says Peech. “We need to have a fine balance between what we set out as a goal (and what) goes to Canadian skateboarders and the Canadian skate scene (while) still being desirable in other world markets.” “Niche publications don’t feel the hit as much and it also has to do with the fact that most of our advertising comes from within our culture,” says Peech. “It’s just a much a smaller, more intimate sort of revenue pool.” - Brian Peech
Niche publications don’t feel the hit as much and it also has to do with the fact that most of our advertising comes from within our culture. 48 | Convergence | Spring 2011
KING at the
CROSS ROADS BY MAEGAN MCGREGOR
Courtesy of Alan Cross
25 years on the radio and this old dog still has new tricks
The Internet is the most destructive technology since the automobile and maybe even electricity. It is changing absolutely everything. - Alan Cross
ike a giant glass castle amidst shipping and industrial companies, the Corus building stands as a glistening reminder that as a conglomerate Corus Entertainment controls some of the largest channels in television and radio. The castle has no moats or drawbridges but rather a series of receptionists and keylocked doors guarding access to the king of radio. Alan Cross is a self-proclaimed professional music geek. It’s a title he’s earned the hard way, through years of radio grunt work, moving from province to province and taking risks. His voice is made-forradio, pristine, robust, unchanged from his radio persona. Now in his 25th year on air, Cross has interviewed some of the biggest names in rock, including some of his heroes like David Bowie, Bono of U2 and Ozzy Osborne. His near encyclopedic knowledge of music spawned five books, a radio show syndicated internationally and an online television program focusing on music. Cross, a smalltown kid from Stonewall, Man., says he got into broadcasting because of the gift of a transistor radio. “My grandmother gave me a transistor radio for my sixth birthday. It was a Lloyds transistor radio . . . These voices, this entertainment, this music, I thought, wow this is what I will do.” But it took a while to find his niche. “I didn’t want to be a long-haired, dope smoking DJ, I wanted to be a journalist, a newsman and anchor, a reporter. Someone who told the truth (and) uncovered the injustices of the world, so I went to university and took all the classes to that I thought would be relevant like history and political science.” And he was, for three weeks. “I was in the newsroom for 23 days and I hated every single second of it. I was absolutely aghast. I spent all my life wanting
50 | Convergence | Spring 2011
to be a newsman and here I was and I hated it. It wasn’t any fun. Another town council meeting, another boring police report, I just didn’t care – there was no passion in it.” Lucky for Cross, on day 24 a rock FM station offered him a job, and he laughingly recalls he left town so quickly, “they sent the Sheriff after me for non-payment of rent.” Cross bounced around a few Manitoba stations before landing at CFNY, in Ontario in 1986, where he’s been ever since. Back in 1993, Cross was a part of a radio station in Hamilton which was in the midst of another change in ownership. Management, looking to enter the grunge music revolution thought up a show called The Ongoing History of New Music and set sights on the only staffer with a history degree to take charge. “I didn’t want to do it,” laughs Cross. “Management decided there was something new, this alternative grunge music, and they thought we should tell people why it’s important and why they should care because to a majority of listeners this was a strange new sound.” Since its launch in 1993, The Ongoing History has become syndicated across 15 countries and spawned podcasts and book deals for Cross. Barry Taylor, former DJ at Toronto’s 102.1 the Edge and former colleague of Cross’ at AUX TV, says the program’s significance lies in Cross’ ability to explain everything from the importance of a musician or band to a musical trend or theme. He credits his research “method”, which though unconventional has worked for him. “I am constantly looking for stuff that interests me and I create little piles, physical piles and digital piles and eventually these piles separate and resolve themselves into topics. Then it’s time for a show. . . Cross says he’s always been conscious of the ticking clock. “I came to realize that as a DJ (and) then as a program director I had a best-before date on my head and I had ab-
solutely no intention of being one of those guys too old to be on a rock station and then suddenly have to go to an adult contemporary station or be looking for work,” says Cross, now ExploreMusic.ca host. Once DJ, then program director in 2001 in Hamilton and then at CFNY’s the Edge, Cross’ focus on music exploration is apparent to other DJs including Taylor, who later hosted Punk-o-rama and The Indie Show at the Edge. “When Alan took over (the Edge) I was doing the evening and weekend show. From the beginning it was apparent that he was a huge music geek. He supported all of our ideas for the shows and provided me with a lot of opportunity to contribute in the music meetings,” Taylor says. Cross is no shrinking violet when it comes to expressing his opinions. Take the Internet, for example: “The Internet is the most destructive technology since the automobile and maybe even electricity,” he fulminates. “It is changing absolutely everything – the flow of information and the access of information. Information has never flowed faster, never flowed further and there never has been more of it and that is creating a tremendous disruption in old media.” So working on the principle that it’s better to embrace your demons, Cross jumped at the chance to join Corus Entertainment’s online arm to create Explore Music, a multifaceted online program where through blogs, podcasts and videos, current hot topics in music are discussed. “I believe that the world of online entertainment is where it’s at and where it is going to be for decades to come,” says Cross. Jonathan Dekel, freelance music journalist and online contributor to AOL’s music section, says programs like Explore Music provide analysis other publications and writers lack. Cross, although hesitant about working as
Courtesy of Sirius Radio
Alan’s research, although mostly used for the Ongoing History of New Music, comes in handy for charity trivia contests as well.
a music journalist online, says it’s bound to be an interesting ride. With Explore Music “we are trying to figure out what we can do online for people who want music from the Internet. And we have learned a lot of things. We have a made a lot of mistakes and found a lot of things that won’t work and a bunch of things that do work.” Cross and Dekel agree that music journalism has declined, losing credibility and appeal in the past decade. Once famous music magazines such as Melody Maker and Select Magazine have closed their doors, taking smaller titles with them. Roll-
behind the microphone FLY AWAY:
Cross and his wife, are avid travellers recently returning from a trip to South Africa. Top travel spot, Singapore.
ing Stone, once a heavy hitter, is a shadow of its former self, laments Dekel. So what went wrong? “It’s the online world. People don’t care about quality they care about quantity, efficiency and being the first to report it, so you can be reTweeted,” says Dekel. Cross, however, figures he can make the online medium work for his brand of analysis. “Not everyone is a writer and not everyone is a critic. Just like not everyone is a musician, just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean it’s an informed one. You are entitled to your opinion
about a particular band, song or genre but do you deserve to be heard? No. Only the best critics, the greatest writers, the most perceptive writers should be heard.” Cross says he’s confident music journalism, like other forms of media, will adapt with the changes, as he has with Explore Music. “It is very Darwinian, it’s the fittest who get the opportunity to do this for a living.”
FAME RUNS IN THE FAMILY:
Cross says that among all the artists he has interviewed, it was David Bowie and Bono who made him sweat.
Cross and his wife, Mary Ellen have a miniature Bull Terrier, a relative to the famous Target mascot
BABY, YOU CAN DRIVE MY CAR: An affinity for the newest, fastest cars finds Cross on the racetrack with a need for speed Spring 2011 | Convergence | 51
LESS TALK, MORE ROCK
Photo Illustration by Neil Sangani
BY SAM CARSON
he days of devoting time to simply watching music videos may be a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean music television is an outdated concept. For two Canadian channels, discovery is more important than delivery. “I think the idea of sitting around your TV waiting for a video you want doesn’t work anymore with the availability of on demand, but that’s assuming you know what you want,” says Raja Khanna, CEO of Glassbox TV and founder of AUX. Launched in October 2009, AUX is a cable music channel devoted to emerging Canadian music. The channel operates as a showcase for Canadian artists who lack access to more mainstream stations such as MuchMusic, the main music provider on Canadian television for more than 25 years One of the conditions listed on MuchMusic’s broad52 | Convergence | Spring 2011
cast license is a requirement that 50 per cent of the channel’s broadcast content must be music videos. A request by the station to reduce this number to 25 per cent was rejected by the CRTC in November. “The world has changed drastically over the last 10 years,” says Brad Schwartz, former senior vice president and general manager for MuchMusic. “Music videos are easily, freely available online. “Over the past five years we’ve gotten to a point with MuchMusic where music videos aren’t special to us,” says Schwartz, adding that music video viewership on MuchMusic has declined almost 60 per cent in the last five years. Websites such as Vevo, and YouTube that allow on demand streaming of a vast catalogue of music videos can be blamed as a main cause for the loss of music video viewership but Schwartz says the request to reduce music video content wasn’t a move
to play less music on the channel but to give more flexibility to the kind of shows that could be produced for the station. Instead of music videos, MuchMusic has programmed shows with focus on other aspects of music such as live performances on New.Music.Live and artist discovery and development on disBAND, a show that has helped launch the careers of Canadian bands such as These Kids Wear Crowns, Stereos and Abandon All Ships. “Those are the kinds of shows we’re really proud of, that keep us unique,” says Schwartz. MuchMusic also revived long running series such as Rap City and The Wedge, which focus on music videos and interviews with rap and independent artists respectively. The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) is one of the groups who opposed MuchMusic’s request while he proposal was under consideration by the CRTC. “We object to the fact that they want to seemingly move to more lifestyle programming like its MTV model. We think that re-
dian artists. Foster says the commission rejected MuchMusic’s request to lower their music video requirement to ensure the channel can’t change from a music station to a youth lifestyle station. AUX’s license doesn’t come with the same obligations. It also doesn’t provide the channel with the same protection as MuchMusic or the requirement that cable and satellite companies carry AUX. To gain a license, AUX had to fill a niche that didn’t compete with MuchMusic and in this case, the focus was on emerging Canadian artists. Schwartz says he doesn’t see AUX as competition since the channel fills a different role than MuchMusic. “They are an entire channel dedicated to emerging music. Where we do one show a week, they’re building a business around it,” says Schwartz. “We’d love to be like an indie record label, to focus on emerging artists but we have
We’d love to be like an indie record label, to focus on emerging artists but we have to be more universal, with something for everyone.
- Brad Schwartz
ally is not appropriate given the fact that it’s licensed (to) do otherwise,” said Stuart Johnston, CIMA president. In July 2010, AUX filed an application to have the condition of its license limit the amount of music video content broadcast on the channel. however, the application was denied in February. Peter Foster, director general of television policy and applications at the CRTC, defended the decision saying under the terms of MuchMusic’s license they have protection from competition. “I can see where to the casual observer it would seem odd that we would deny Much’s request to decrease and AUX’s request to increase, as that would put AUX in competition with Much,” says Foster. Foster says part of MuchMusic’s protected status comes along with obligations, including contributions to grants that help fund Cana-
to be more universal, with something for everyone.” Over at AUX, Khanna says these days it’s more about musical discovery and sharing with friends than simply about watching pre-chosen videos. Music videos are freely available on the internet but this doesn’t mean they don’t have a place on the television channels as well. AUX provides the best means of getting attention for emerging Canadian artists, says Johnson. Johnston says there will always be a market for music videos, which are still used by broadcasters as a way to showcase talent when artists appear on television. He says there is still a viewership for MuchMusic but the market is changing. “I think it does have a future, but it’s the diversification of the market right now that I think in the end is probably a good thing for everybody.”
the conditions of MuchMusic’s broadcast licenSE The channel must consist of only music, or music-related programming. A minimum of 50% of Much’s broadcast week must be devoted to music videos. No more than 15% of the week can be devoted to ongoing dramatic series, or animated programming. No more than six hours of movies each broadcast week. Canadian programming must cover 60% of the broadcast week, 50% of that time must be between 6 p.m. and midnight. Minimum of 30% of music videos must be Canadian. Files from CRTC Spring 2011 | Convergence | 53
hotdocs 2011 HUMBER SCHOOL OF MEDIA STUDIES & INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CONGRATULATES the Student Filmmakers of “Chance Encounters”
PORTFOLIO Tiffany Rodrigues
visual & digital arts
film & television
Stills from Equip Reality
O PORTFOLIO creative photography
journalism www.humberetc.com • VOL. 43 No.9 • APRIL 7, 2011 • THURSDAY
GALLERY: LG Fashion Week
Et Cetera 17
Humber students film documentary on TTC suicides
HOT DOC EXPLORES TRAGEDIES
The Truth Behind Energy Drinks
DAVID SUTHERLAND A&E REPORTER
8 Man Football to Debut
Comeback Kids p. 24
Humber film student Justin Colautti’s documentary Chance Encounters, which explores the lives of a married couple who both drove their TTC trains over people committing suicide, has been selected for Toronto’s Hot Docs festival this month. Colautti’s film was the only Humber entry chosen for the festival, which features some 200 documentaries from more than 40 countries. The 10-minute film focuses on subway drivers Kevin and Shelley Pett. In October 2009, Kevin Pett ran over a man who laid down on the tracks near High Park station. A little over two months later, another man committed suicide in front of a train driven by Shelley Pett. “Even when you hear about suicide on the subway line you never really think about how it affects the driver and how it impacts their lives,” said Colautti, 27, from Sault St. Marie. “When it’s a story that’s so personal and isn’t just a statistic, you really start to think about the person who had to witness this tragedy.”
It's a difficult subject, but they made it seem very natural to speak about such a traumatic situation. Justin Colautti HUMBER FILM STUDENT Colautti, who directed and cowrote the film, said the Petts opened up to him. “They needed to tell their story often,” he said. “You know, get it out there and not keep it inside and to come to terms with it. It’s a difficult subject, but they made it seem very natural to speak about such a trau-
COURTESY JUSTIN COLAUTTI // The crew of Chance Encounters, with director Colautti at camera, sets up a shot.
matic situation.” Matthew Ieraci, 28, a second-year film student who produced the film with Colautti, agreed. “It’s a really good story about how the Petts came together and became closer as a couple, and as a family,” he said. Film professor Donna O’Brien-Sokic oversaw the project’s development in her production management class, and helped editor Lauren Belanger trim hours of footage into a concise narrative about the couple. “The film is really about them, and how they coped and overcame this tragedy and managed to go back and do the same job,” O’Brien-Sokic said. “They’re really two separate people living the same lives.”
LRT Finch line a no go
SlutWalk gets huge turn-out and support from community
Rent increases at minimum this year
the fall issue 2011
ofT,0, late night eats pg 5 vintage shopping pg museums pg 38
three days with designer breeyn mccarney
WHAT KEEPS MAGAZINES
ALIVE? THE MAKINGS OF A GOOD APP. TWITTER.
An Anarchist’s TRANSLATING FROM PRINT Guide To
TO WEB. BRANDED MAGS. DIRECT TARGET MARKETING. TEEN MAGS. qR cODES.
Chatting with pictures vs words. online ad space.
food for thought
t J Movemen Toronto's D Mary Jane's dilemma pg 16
The Kissing Bandit
a look at toronto’s alternative meat market
A Faceless Epidemic
TOronto’s black community struggles with HIV/Aids
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WHERE /ARE THEY/ NOW ? Katie Saunoris Public Relations, 2007 Saunoris stepped into her dream job right out of school. She went straight from the Humber classroom into a job as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s media assistant where she stayed for two years. “I knew I wanted to work in the arts to combine my public relations experience with my arts background,” she says. Saunoris moved to Toronto in 2009 and landed a contract as a publicist with the Luminato Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity. She’s now working for Luminato as a publicity co-ordinator and spent time in between working for the Toronto International Film Festival. Saunoris says Humber “set me on the path to the exact career that I wanted to do.” She adds, “I think I’ve been really lucky in my career because I get to work with some really fantastic people, some really incredible actors and talent as well as my colleagues. I think just having the access to some of the best theatre and film and music in Canada and being able to do what I love everyday have really been the highlights.”
Nicole Chamula Fundraising and Volunteer Management, 2010 Chamula has successfully combined her university degree in environment research studies with her post-graduate studies at Humber in fundraising and volunteer management to do work that she is passionate about. Before enrolling at Humber she was working as a HR co-ordinator for a software company, far away from the environmental field she was hoping to enter. “Taking the Humber program really got me right back on track with being in the environment field because it gave me the opportunity to do my internship with an environmental organization that I liked and then continue with fundraising into that.” Chamula did her final year internship with Environmental Defense which led to her getting a job with Ontario Nature. She is now the foundation and corporate giving co-ordinator at Ontario Nature and is involved in the full grant cycle which keeps the organization running.
Ashley Carter Journalism, 2007 After graduating from Humber College’s journalism program in 2007 Ashley Carter followed her passion for the arts, particularly music, as a freelance writer for publications such as Exclaim! and the Torontoist. She recently landed a job as editor-in-chief for AUX. “I’m mostly adjusting to not working in my pajamas all day,” she jokes. Carter says her experience as editor of the Humber Et Cetera’s A&E section has helped her tremendously on the job. “Et Cetera gave me a pretty good troubleshooting artillery that remains invaluable in my handling groups of writers.” During her final year at Humber Carter started JUICEBOXdotcom.com, a digital record label. Her one suggestion for Humber, “open bar in the newsroom [and] maybe some breakfast burritos.” Spoken like a true writer.
Kelvin Young Creative Photography, 2010 Kelvin Young’s passion for photography and social issues took him out of the studio and to countries like Kenya and Vietnam as a volunteer with non-profit organization, ORBIS. Young went on trips with ORBIS, which flies doctors and optometrists in its ‘flying eye hospital’ to developing countries to perform eye surgeries. It’s a change from the work he does behind the camera in his studio, Kelvin Young Photography, where the focus of the work is weddings and commercial photography. Notable assignments have included the G20 Toronto Summit, the Royal Visit at the Woodbine Race Track during the 2010 Queen’s Plate, and the Beauties of Asia pageant for which he is the 2011 sponsor and principal photographer.Young enjoys the creative side to photography, which allows him to “capture the special moments in people’s lives.” He says Humber taught him keep a balanced view of the industry. “The business side of things is one thing that is almost as important, if not more important, than the creative side.”
Jaime Werby Public Relations, 2008 A life in the entertainment business is never boring. Werby is currently the publicist for Family Channel and Disney Junior, which are both part of the Astral Television Network. She promotes TV series by engaging journalists across Canada and generates publicity for original Canadian series. Werby’s work in entertainment is a direct result of her time at Humber and her four month internship with Much Music/MTV Canada. She gained valuable experience as the communications intern working on the Much Music Video Awards and the launching of MTV2. That experience got her hired at CTV’s conventional network where she stayed until moving to Astral. She credits Humber’s faculty for her success. “All the professors have relevant industry experience, either they’ve done something or they know someone who’s done it and they’re very willing to connect you to that person.” She adds, “The projects and events that we worked on in the program really helped develop your practical skills that you’re going to need once you enter the workplace, so Humber really sets you up for success.”
Katie Cooper Film & Television Production, 2005 Katie Cooper has always been interested in things other people may not be interested in. That’s why the film and television grad, who works full-time at St. Michael’s Hospital doing video and photography projects usually chooses quirky subjects for her documentaries. She is currently working on a documentary called In the Spotlight that examines social anxiety. She hopes to screen it at the 2011 Hot Docs Festival. She’s spent time as a videographer/director shooting online content for Hot Docs. Her independent short films include Easy As Pi screened on Moviela and Pickles about a New York pickle festival. Larger scale projects include 100 Films and a Funeral, Saw II and Lucky Number Slevin. Cooper says Humber gave her a lot of hands-on experience. She says she’d like to keep making documentaries and hopes exposure will lead to funding. She says a quote on her program co-ordinator’s mug, kept her focused. It said - Make it happen, - “in this competitive industry, you have to make it happen,” she says.
64 | Convergence | Spring 2011
In Memoriam Mark Dailey 1953 - 2010
Courtesy of CTV
BY JORDAN MAXWELL For 32 years, Mark Dailey was the voice Toronto, delivering news items with a passionate and trusted tone in his iconic baritone. He was the heart and soul of Citytv and one of the most revered newsmen on Canadian television. Dailey died on Monday December 6, 2010 at age 57, but colleagues who remember him keep his spirit alive. “I learned so much from Mark Dailey, he helped me in so many ways, in my career, in life. He was an incredible man,” says Kathryn Humphreys, a longtime friend and colleague at Citytv. “Mark had one of the most distinctive voice and style in Canadian broadcasting,” CBC National news anchor Peter Mansbridge was quoted as saying in the Star. “As a journalist he was first rate. He believed that no one should be tied to the studio all the time – that stories happen on the street, not in the newsroom.” Dailey’s career began in Ohio, where he was born. He worked as a police officer before becoming a television reporter in Detroit to cover the mean streets of the Motor City as crime reporter and radio anchor. In 1974, Daily joined the CHUM family where he would become one of the most recognizable and trusted newsmen in the city. “We have lost one of the true originals,” Citytv news anchor Gord Martineau told the Toronto Sun. “My first reaction was, who is this beanpole? It took me a day to realize his true value. You could rely on him in any situation.” Dailey Joined CityPulse in 1970, serving as producer and assignment editor before taking over the crime beat. Donning a classic light brown fedora, his signature reports solidified Dailey as the leading figure at the station. “Mark was a great guy,” says Dan Turner, writer and producer at CP24 who knew Dailey for more than 30 years. “He was always looking for
that human angle to his stories. He had a great sense of humour. He was always friendly, intelligent and just had a zest for life. I really miss him.” Turner says he was one of many who were touched by Dailey’s kindness and generosity. “One night I was having car trouble and he drove me home without hesitation,” he says. Turner, who lived halfway across the city from his colleague, says Dailey never thought twice about helping him out in a moment of need. Broadcasting legend Ted Woloshyn echoed this sentiment. “He was a nice man. A giving man,” Woloshyn told The Toronto Sun. “He did so much for this community. He was a good one who, had he not been taken so early, was on his way to being one of the great ones.” Dailey was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004 and became a brave and vocal advocate for men’s health by raising awareness through documentary and word of mouth. Journey to a Cure, a five-part documentary championed by Dailey, provides valuable and instructional information on treatment options, support groups, lifestyle changes and new research. He was also a spokesman and member of the board for the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada. In September 2010, Dailey announced that he was suffering from kidney cancer, which would eventually spread to his lungs and a few months later lead to his death at Sunnybrook Hospital with his family at his side. He is survived by his wife, Kim, and his daughter, Nicole. His unique and matter-of-fact style will serve as blueprint, not just for people he has worked with over the years, but for journalists and viewers who follow in his footsteps. Spring 2011 | Convergence | 65
In Memoriam James Travers 1948 - 2011
BY DAN ILIKA During nearly 40 years as a journalist he was a voice for the voiceless and always held those he wrote about accountable. Jim Travers, national affairs columnist for the Toronto Star, died on March 3 of complications following surgery on his spleen. He was 62. “People who read his columns felt that they knew him and cared very much about what he was writing,” says Tim Harper, the Star’s national editor and good friend of Travers. “He leaves a giant hole in journalism.” Travers, who was born in Hamilton, On., got his first job at the Oakville Journal Record before working his way to the Hamilton Spectator. In the early 1980s, while working for the Southam News Agency, he was sent to Africa and the Middle East to report on the Iran-Iraq war and the civil unrest in Lebanon. After returning to Canada in the late ‘80s, Travers ran Southam News before becoming editor-in-chief of the Ottawa Citizen. Travers, who was never one to mince words or feelings, split with the Citizen after Conrad Black took over the paper in 1996, citing differences of opinion with the paper’s new owner. “When he got offered by the Conrad Black regime he came over and worked at the Star in Toronto,” Harper says. “I was still in Ottawa and nominally worked for him there.” Travers worked at the Toronto Star for two years before heading back to Ottawa to cover federal politics – his passion. Travers’ star shone brightest in Ottawa where he was revered and respected by the politicians he covered. The respect was evidenced by the turnout of politicians at his memorial, says Harper. “The fact that there were such senior representatives from all three (political) parties in Ottawa showed that he didn’t burn people, he didn’t torque (and) he would never burn a source,” Harper says. “People trusted him and when he wrote columns critical of the government – whether it be the Liberal government of the day or today’s Harper government – it was reasoned, there were never any cheapshots and (he) very rarely, if ever, got complaints from people.” His columns were critical of politicians and the actions on the Hill, but he was careful in 66 | Convergence | Spring 2011
Courtesy of The Toronto Star the ways in which he wrote and cared deeply about how he came across in print. “He believed in the power of the English language and worked very hard on the writing to the point where he would often call in the evening here to have adjectives changed or verbs changed because he would be thinking all day long about the actual, precise, perfect word that would convey what he was trying to write,” Harper says. “The last year or so when his health was faltering he would let me know he was going to be in and out of Blackberry service because he was going in for tests or a blood transfusion or what have you and then he would call me from the clinic and discuss the column and ask whether he should change a word in the twentieth paragraph or something.” His dedication to his craft paid off through the awards he won, culminating in a National Newspaper Award for political writing in 2010. But according to Harper, Travers wasn’t in it for the recognition or the accolades. “The (National Newspaper Awards), as he put it, can often be a crapshoot, but he was very thrilled to have won that award last year and he very much deserved it and in retrospect how
thankful we are that he won it because nobody knew a year later we’d be having this conversation. “I don’t think Jim ever stopped for one second to wonder if he won enough awards,” Harper says. “He was certainly recognized in that he engaged readers from coast to coast.” And it was the way he engaged readers across the country that made Travers special. His ability to convey his message in the ways he did was uniquely his, a powerful voice that could have only come from him no matter the publication. “We were lucky to have him (but) if we weren’t the beneficiary of Travers’ eloquence and wisdom somebody else would have been and it would have been the exact same words that he used in the Toronto Star because that was Jim Travers speaking.” His passing came as a surprise to many, but according to Harper one only has to look to the memory of Travers in order to move forward. “There has been a lot of shock and a lot of grief,” Harper says of Travers’ passing. “But Jim would have been the first to give us a boot in the ass and say, ‘Okay, enough’s enough, let’s go get at ‘em’.”
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Published on May 25, 2011
Convergence magazine examines and interprets the range of current affairs in Canadian and International media. Published twice a year by th...