Necessary Rivals PR & Journalism
The current: An electrifying decade
Social change In a portrait
CONVERGENCE HUMBER SCHOOL OF MEDIA STUDIES AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
The Year of the
Letter from the Editor
When we first sat down to plan the 2013 winter issue of Convergence magazine, the theme of the environment leapt out immediately. When I proposed the idea to our editorial team, I could almost hear the collective groan as they began to imagine an entire issue dedicated to nature and climate change. Melting ice caps and Al Gore, however, were the furthest things from my mind. The environment I had in mind is the one those in the media currently inhabit. As individuals, we often focus on either looking back or looking forward, but what about the now? The media is changing at a rapid pace and it is worth taking the time to acknowledge the changes currently happening, how they affect us, and where we go from here. From radio to advertising to gaming, this issue looks at the changing media landscape. We look at how things that were once unacceptable or unimaginable now form the basis of our daily reality. CBC’s The Current, a show on a medium that many would have considered obsolete
years ago, just celebrated its 10th anniversary with a live taping in front of a full house in November at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio. In movies and in cabs, ads try to engage with us on more than a cursory level, asking us to voluntarily interact with their content via smart phones, which they assume most of us will have. Video games, once considered men’s terrain, are now being challenged to be more inclusive of women, and CBC Radio, Canada’s beloved public broadcasting station, after a long period of successfully fighting off any appearance of commercialization, has applied to the CRTC to allow advertising on CBC Radio 2. Whether the pace of this change is good is up for debate, but change is happening. It is in the way we communicate and how quickly we send and distill information. It is in the physical space we occupy, and it is in the way we absorb information. When the news is about this industry, we ask what the future of the media holds. It is worth taking the time to look at all the ways it is changing and why.
Letter from the Dean This edition of Convergence magazine is all about the changing media environment. This important topic seems to have an infinite number of ramifications. The term “convergence” perfectly defines what is happening in the media environment right now. The confluence of media and information technology is becoming more prevalent every day, opening up an extraordinary number of opportunities and challenges. The combination of new and more affordable mobile technology with devices that include sophisticated digital cameras for photography and high-definition video, high quality audio recording, gigantic storage and the capability of managing hundreds of thousands of apps is transforming the way we consume and produce media. I believe that a strong influencer behind the rise of social media has been precisely the availability of such technologies that have democratized the creation and dissemination of content. In the context of highly connected societies such as Canada, people have pocket devices that give them the potential to create high-quality content, on the spot, and distribute it instantly to a massive number of consumers locally and globally. Beyond this, there are many other fields and business models impacted by this phenomenon. Education is a prime example, where interactive media is transforming
teaching and learning with applications such as gamification, simulations, 3D modeling, and virtual reality. This revolution enabled fantastic initiatives like the Kahn Academy, which introduced the concept of free world-class education to anyone, anywhere. It also has fostered some other interesting changes in teaching methods like the “flipped classroom”, where students learn from tutorials available online, prepared by their professors, and come to the classroom to practice, discuss what they learned and get their questions answered. The list goes on, not only in education, but also in areas such as publishing – eBooks and tablets, journalism - smartphones, and public relations - social media, and business models such as the new economy created behind the apps development – iTunes and Android, just to name a few of the most visible. The changing media environment is fascinating with its many implications for transforming industries, business models, behaviours and society in general. This is an exciting time and an exciting place to be. The school of media studies & information technology at Humber with its programming, including media, arts and IT, is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this phenomenon that is changing the way we live, learn, communicate, and interact with each other. Enjoy the read and the ride!
Table of Contents
A Change in Canadian Airwaves By Kollin Lore
through the lens By Shazia Islam
From street to Screen By Dona Boulos
A bravE new world By Stacey Thompson
The obstacles of the girl gamer By Lime Blake
By Sarah MacDonald
Anna Maria Tremonti celebrates 10 years at The Current. PHOTO BY SARAH MACDONALD
The New Face of journalism
By Doreen Dawang
Hitting the Wall By Chanelle Seguin
Interacting with a Brand By Victoria Brown
Pulling back the curtains By Christian Quequish
Sarah Nicole Prickett uses social media to create a brand. ILLUSTRATION BY JOEFREY ANTHONY
CONVERGENCE Winter 2013
Blurring the Line
By Andrew Russell
Ira Basen is a seasoned radio producer at the CBC. PHOTO BY SARAH LENNOX
The year of the plagiarist By Sharon Tindyebwa
I approve this message By Sarah Lennox
In Every Issue
Heroes of the Press
Humber Media Portfolio
Where are they now?
CONVERGENCE RIBBON QUESTION We asked media professionals:
What has contributed to your industryâ€™s changing landscape? You can find their answers in red at the bottom of some articles.
ILLUSTRATION BY JOANNA SEVILLA
Editor-in-Chief Sharon Tindyebwa Executive Editor Sarah MacDonald Online Managing Editor Andrew Russell Art Directors Doreen Dawang Sarah Lennox Photography Editor Dona Boulos Copy Editors Shazia Islam Kollin Lore Graeme McNaughton Research Chief Chanelle Seguin Section Editors Lime Blake Victoria Brown Dion Caputi Christian Quequish Andrew Schopp Online Editors Kaitlyn Campanella Stacey Thompson Illustrator Joanna Sevilla Publisher Guillermo Acosta Faculty Adviser Lara King WEBSITE www.humberjournalism.com/ convergencewinter2013 SCHOOL OF MEDIA STUDIES AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM CO-ORDINATORS Jane Bongers, Kevin Brandon, Marilyn Cresswell, Paul Cross, Carey French, Lorne Frohman, Michael Glassbourg, Greg Henderson, Graham Hill, Mike Karapita, Garrett Kerr, Vass Klymenko, Jennifer Leonard, Bernie Monette, Kalene Morgan, George Paravantes, Catherine Pike, Terry Posthumus, Robert Richardson, Rob Robson, Michael Rosen, Dan Rowe, Ravinder Singh, Andrea Tavchar, Lynne Thomas, Sheila Walsh, Karen Young, Eva Ziemsen Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning School of Media Studies and Information Technology 205 Humber College Blvd. Toronto, Ontario, Canada M9W 5L7 Phone: 416-675-6622 ext. 4518 Fax: 416-675-9730 firstname.lastname@example.org
Summly app was developed in December 2011. App was released in November 2012. The app summarizes articles to 400 character paragraphs. This is done by an algorithm and don’t always flow. It’s revolutionizing the way we read our news. Summly was developed by 17-yearold Nick D’Aloisio of London, England. People in the journalistic field have mixed feelings. There is no question that Summly’s truncated articles, as the introduction above demonstrates, are brief, to the point and easy to read on the go. This app, however, leaves people like the Hamilton Spectator’s Graham Rockingham wondering if “this is a system that will just keep people away from news originators”. In a Summly.com press release, D’Aloisio said, “I designed Summly because I felt that my generation wasn’t consuming traditional news anymore. In designing for the mobile generation, I believe we’ve created an app that will benefit anyone who loves reading news on the go.” Summly is an iPhone app that collects articles from online sources and compresses them into short paragraphs using an algorithm that picks out key points and seams them together to make a quick, informative summarization of the original content. “It’s a tough thing, it brings up so many questions and not just the fact that it’s a machine condensing what a writer does,” says Rockingham, the Spectator’s music editor. Hugo Rodriguez, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, sees the app as an innovative way to draw readers in and create revenue from an audience who would otherwise not be reading the news at all. “An app like this responds to a demand for how people want to access content, right?” says Rodriguez. “More people have second screens, third screens, fourth screens, and the amount who will be consuming the news and information they want through those devices, it will keep growing.”
New spring start at BBC
By Sarah MacDonald
The British Broadcasting Company will be getting a new leader this spring amid months of scandal. Tony Hall will take the reins as director-general of the beleaguered British media giant following the leave of George Entwistle, stated a BBC press release. Hall, who currently holds the position of chief executive of the Royal Opera House, was a former employee of the BBC for almost 30 years, filling important roles such as head of BBC News and Current Affairs. He also helped reshape the broadcasting company into a digitalized news service, launching BBC News Online, said the release. The appointment comes on the heels of scandal after scandal, most notably the accusations of hiding popular BBC host Jimmy Savile’s years of sexual abuse against children. In a statement released by the BBC, Tony Hall said it had “been a difficult few weeks – but we’ll get through it”. Anna Maria Tremonti, host of CBC’s The Current, said the CBC would face similar scrutiny of its actions. “There has to be accountability for us as well,” said Tremonti, adding this goes “for all news organizations”. There is no immunity for the media – and the people in it – anywhere, said Tremonti. “The very thing excellent BBC journalists have gone after governments for doing, their own corporation appears to be guilty of suppressing the truth,” said Tremonti. Tremonti believes journalists are already critical of the organizations that employ them, which isn’t new or special to the BBC scandal or any scandal covered in the news. “Remember this is the case of this guy who was a big star and seen to be that. If there were a similar case in Canada would it get picked up on? Eventually, yeah,” she said.
CONVERGENCE Winter 2013
Sun Media is losing more than money. In a recent CBC article, Sun Media Corporation reported low advertising sales contributed to 500 cuts to their news outlets. Some journalists believe profitable papers are not the only thing at risk for Sun Media. “Every time you lay somebody off, particularly somebody who has connections into the community, you’re losing those connections,” said Rob Lamberti, journalism professor at Humber College. Lamberti worked for the Toronto Sun for 29 years before leaving in spring 2012. “Those entry points into various communities are out there. Whether it’s music, whether it’s social, whether it’s sports, whatever, you lose those communities, you lose those contacts,” said Lamberti. Two printing presses in Ottawa and Kingston and two community newspapers: West Niagara News and the Dunnville Chronicle, both Niagara area based outlets, have been shut down. The West Niagara News website redirects you to the St. Catharines Standard while the Dunnville Chronicle automatically sends you to the Simcoe Reformer online publication. Grimsby is one of several communities in which the West Niagara News circulated. In an article in the Hamilton Spectator, Grimsby Mayor Bob Bentley said it was upsetting to see the impact these cuts have on the community. “It’s sad to see this happen,” Bentley told thespec.com. “Something like this just limits access to information. Large corporations buy up the smaller places, and I think what this shows is that bigger isn’t always better.” Bentley commented on the large role community papers play in the day-to-day lives of its readership. “When families have children involved in the arts or sports, they look forward to those types of stories. That had been disappearing for a while. It’s too bad. The smaller newspapers play an important role in their communities,” Bentley said. CBC News reported that the cuts and other measures are expected to save the company about $45 million a year. Lamberti said these cuts take away from that power. “Once people think that you’re irrelevant, you are irrelevant,” said Lamberti. “So if you have certain media that does not cover things ... the man power or woman power, to cover those events, then you don’t exist.” Quebecor could not be reached for comment about these cuts.
Sun Media Cuts Deep
new App for News Editing
By Kaitlyn Campanella
By Chanelle Seguin
By Andrew Russell
closing Studio 212
The sounds of chattering politicians, creaking doors, and automatic gunfire will no longer be heard on Canada’s radio waves. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced November 7 it would close the famed Studio 212 – home of iconic radio drama productions – by the end of the year. CBC made the announcement due to federal budget cuts coming in the spring of 2013, which has also led to the cancellation of notable shows namely CBC Radio’s Dispatches and CBC television’s Connect with Mark Kelley. Studio 212 has been producing radio dramas since 1925 with hits like The Mystery Project, Sunday Showcase, Backbenchers and Afghanada, which will be the studio’s final production. “When I think of all the deeply talented Canadians whose work was introduced and produced in the CBC drama studio over the decades, I am awed by that history,” said Barbara Budd the former cohost of CBC Radio One’s As It Happens. “I was and am still inspired, but most of all grateful as both a listener and contributor too.” In an interview with the Toronto Star Chris Boyce said the studio’s remaining equipment will be moved to the Glenn Gould Studio where CBC produces shows such as Q with Jian Ghomeshi. Budd said that although cuts are inevitable, “I am not just saddened, I’m ashamed that the decades of CBC producing important entertaining and provocative work of literally thousands of remarkable writers, sounds artists, producers, musicians, and actors is to end.”
STill Electric Anna Maria Tremonti Celebrates 10 years on the Current By Sarah MacDonald
copy of Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else is neatly set aside on Anna Maria Tremonti’s otherwise cluttered desk. A business card from University of Toronto history professor Michael Marrus peeks out from under a pile of papers. A stack of postcard-size letters sits behind her computer with phrases like “I am praying for you” or “You are a communist slut” regarding the ever controversial and still talked about interview she did with Dr. Henry Kissinger almost a decade ago. She has a small television on mute, set to CBC’s 24-hour news network, wedged into an oak unit behind her that also houses more books ranging from political to social. Behind her office door is a life-size cut out of Tremonti and it is intimidating. Tremonti quips, “she’s harmless, really. At least that one is.” Anna Maria Tremonti is, according to Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News, an icon in the context of CBC radio. But Tremonti isn’t one to take high praise too easily. “It’s not about what I say on the radio,” says Tremonti. “It’s the space I give to people to talk about their ideas on the radio.” At a decade old, The Current is thriving and pushing its listeners to think critically about what is happening in the world, but the woman behind The Current is as fascinating as the stories aired live during the 90 minute program. Her career in broadcasting, spanning decades, has taken her to many parts of Canada. She has also reported in war zones, citing the conflict in Bosnia in the 1990s as one of the most important moments of her career and her life.
ti. Other people, she says, had issue with the concept, “but obviously we’ve proved them wrong.” McGuire says she wanted the show to feel active and that concept played heavily in the laborious process to choose a fitting name for the program. “If you framed it around electricity or the central stream or the story of the day . . . it was current,” says McGuire. “It was sassy and accountable. It was fiery.” For the program’s launch, and for the next six months, McGuire was right in the middle of helping shape one of CBC Radio’s most popular shows. Having hired an eclectic mix of people –ranging from a core group of radio people to architects to former marketing moguls – McGuire says this diverse background of people all had one thing in common: curiosity. “I hired people who actually had a natural curiosity, who were driven and curious about the world,” McGuire says. “That in essence was the kind of feeling I was trying to get in the show: this sort of exploration, curiosity, no boundaries.”
ELECTRICITY IN THE RADIO BOOTH
She was first approached about the show when working on the CBC television program, the fifth estate. Although uncertain about the idea of becoming a host, Tremonti found solace in the fact that she could still do what she does best. “It was the kind of hosting where you could still do roll-up-your-sleeves journalism,” Tremonti says in her cozy CBC office. “I don’t think I would have come in from doing street reporting if it hadn’t been.” The show was created by McGuire, then executive director of programming for CBC radio in 2002. McGuire says the concept to have a hard-hitting news show in the morning slot was tricky but nevertheless, a show that approached issues or topics in a way that was different, with an edge, would be beneficial to their programming. “The idea for the show, really, was to play with perspective. It’s morphed since the beginning,” says McGuire. “I really wanted it to be independent editorially, to challenge assumptions and not be with the pack in terms of what it did and how it approached coverage of any given issue.” The show slot was from 8:30 to 10 and the idea to have a current affairs show wasn’t entirely sold from the outset, says Tremon8
CONVERGENCE Winter 2013
It doesn’t occur to me that people don’t want to know. It doesn’t occur to me that people don’t want to be challenged.
“It’s interesting because this is the criticism you get when you ask a question. All I did was ask a question. That’s why sometimes you have to ask a question.” The kind of journalism, stories and people Tremonti believes are important to highlight and discuss is something that reflects what audiences crave. “It doesn’t occur to me that people don’t want to know. It doesn’t occur to me that people don’t want to be challenged; it doesn’t occur to me that people don’t want to think or think differently,” says Tremonti. Ten years later, the show has altered, as have the moments, people, and places its producers and writers cover and dissect. But this isn’t meant to be a bad thing. “As a program, it’s not the same show now that it was ten years ago,” says McGuire. “That’s probably the right thing. These things are always active conversations in journalism so these things should change.” With its extensive reach and scope, audiences can access The Current at all times through different venues in the platform. CBC was early into the “podcasting game,” says McGuire, so it managed to bring with it “a different generation of people to [CBC’s] content”. Social media has changed the way the content on The Current is accessed, connecting through Facebook, Twitter feeds and podcasts. “It’s shifting from people being given content to wanting some sort of participation in content. It’s democratizing the media in a profound way,” McGuire says. But what’s next for The Current after its milestone? They worked on “Line in the Sand”, a running theme on the issues facing Canadians today, getting powerful world players, stories and others to weigh in on the discussion. The stories covered on the program resonate with its audience, says McGuire. It will still be something they consume because Canadians have a particular appetite for a contextualization of the things happening in the world, she says. Tremonti’s own hope for the show echoes McGuire’s sentiment. “I guess my expectations now are to continue with that challenge and move forward with that, that we don’t get stale, don’t calcify.”
The show has featured literary great Kurt Vonnegut, one of his last interviews; numerous politicians such as Jean Chretien and Bob Rae have appeared, with Rae even playing host; and people who aren’t particularly well known but nonetheless have stories to tell. Stories such as the children of Holocaust survivors who tattooed the numbers their parents had etched into their skins in the camps. When asked about the infamous Kissinger incident, Tremonti recalls it as something unnerving at the time because she still wasn’t used to being a host and was more familiar with being a field reporter. Tremonti interviewed Dr. Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State during Nixon’s administration. During the interview, the topic of war crimes came up. Tremonti says she knew he would be unhappy with the question but it still surprises her that he responded by walking out of his New York office, ending the interview. The cards in stacks behind her computer have the same message written on them about how ashamed she should be of her actions. They include little handwritten notes to personalize their feelings or that she should leave America, something she laughs at because she isn’t even from the U.S. They are tangible pieces of the work she believes in.
THE WOMAN BEHIND THE MICROPHONE
When asked if she thinks she has a powerful voice, Tremonti’s steely blue eyes narrow slightly. “I think I have a powerful journalistic platform in The Current and it shouldn’t be abused. I have a recognizable voice . . . which sometimes is a problem. You can’t really say inappropriate things,” she says with a laugh. “It’s for other people to decide, really. I’m not interested in having a powerful voice. I’m interested in giving voice; in using my voice to give voice. That’s what I’m about in the grand scheme of things.” Tremonti began her career as a journalist at a private radio station in New Glasgow,
“Technology has allowed us to go places and tell stories we couldn’t tell before. The downside that it also allows us to be lazy. It allows us to throw pictures up and say this is going on.” - Anna Tremonti, Host, The Current
Nova Scotia shortly after she graduated from her hometown school, University of Windsor. From an industrial hometown to air raids and frontline assaults in Sarajevo, Tremonti has been around the world and back dozens of times over. Her toughness as an interviewer and host has prevented some from seeing the person behind the microphone. “I have my own brand of outrage,” she says. “Actually, I do care about the little guy. I care about people who don’t have voice.” Some days, the interviews Tremonti does are so tough, so gruelling, they leave her feeling weary and emotional, moving her in a way many people presume never happens to her. “I’ve actually broken down,” Tremonti says. “And I’ve shocked even some of my own colleagues or people in this building who thought I had no heart and it was proof that I did.” Tremonti recalls the story of Monique Lepine, the mother of mass murderer Mark Lepine, when she came on the program to discuss her book. Admittedly cautious about the value of the interview, of what could be gained from speaking to this particular person, Tremonti says it was one of the most profound interviews that move her still to this day. “That day she told me she had written in her book that the day her son killed those young women, she heard it on the news,” Tremonti says. “[Lepine] is quite religious and so she had a prayer meeting that night. She had said ‘let’s pray for the mother of the killer,’ not knowing she was the mother of the killer.” Tremonti’s voice quavers and her eyes start to well up. But just as soon as she does she pulls back, thinks about the other interviews she has done, and says the reason some people move her more than others is because of the time she has spent in war zones. “I’ve spent a lot of time around people in trauma,” she says. “When you go there, people think war reporters are tough kick-ass people, and they are on one level, but you can’t do that kind of work if you don’t care. I try to bring that sense of caring to this job.” The key is to employ empathy, by giving space for people to talk, to speak about themselves in a way they may not normally be able to. They get to reveal things about themselves any way they choose, even in the incredibly dreaded moments of dead air – considered toxic, and avoided in the realm of radio. “Silence isn’t silent,” she says. “You can hear people thinking in silence. Or you can hear the awkwardness and the emotion. Sometimes we don’t always necessarily recognize that there is language in silence. In radio, that can be very powerful.” On November 19, The Current hosted a live show for the first time in its programming history to celebrate its landmark achievement. The show featured a panel discussion by former ambassador to the U.S. Stephen Lewis, Giller Prize winning author Vincent Lam, and Lorna Dueck, who all spoke as part of the “Line in the Sand”
theme, positing thoughts about what dilemmas Canadians face in our future. She also had special one-on-one interviews with Mary Walsh of This Hour Has 22 Minutes fame, and Maher Arar, a guest from years before who told his story of his deportation to Syria and subsequent imprisonment by the Syrian government based on allegations from Canadian and American authorities. Arar spoke about his time since first appearing on The Current and the struggles he faces to this day. Prior to The Current’s live-to-air show, she said that Arar’s story was one which moved her greatly. “It was so interesting because people still thought he was guilty of something,” she says. “He never blamed individuals. He never got angry; he was very measured. It was quite humbling to speak to someone like him ... who had been through so much.” Though The Current has done live shows in other provinces and cities, it was all pre-taped and rolled over the next day to air, mostly to accommodate time zones, but this idea to celebrate the show’s achievement live-to-air was both daunting and invigorating. “I’m really in the zone in the studio,” she says. “I’m a bit shy in front of a big crowd believe it or not. I guess it will affect me that way but it will also give me some energy too. The audience then becomes a little more a part of it.” The Glenn Gould studio was packed. Devoted listeners woke up at the crack of dawn to arrive at the CBC prior to the show’s first air time, which was at 7:37 for the Atlantic set. The Current was live on-air for commuters and streamed live for viewers to watch on screen – another first, blending the broadcast mediums with the power and reach of the Internet. After a frank interview session with the fifth estate’s Linden MacIntyre grilling her on everything from sexism in the early days, and foreign correspondence in the Middle East, to Bosnia in the 1990s, she paused and gave the last word, something she often leaves for her guests. She tells the audience that she is going to pay homage to the voice of the woman who gave her her voice: Tremonti’s mother, Eleanor. Tremonti appears visibly emotional when she speaks about the mother who passed away a month before the show’s live-to-air broadcast. “For many years, my mother and I had the same voice, indistinguishable from each other,” Tremonti tells the audience. “If somebody called looking for me and she answered the phone, they’d just keep talking assuming it was me.” “My mom gave me my other voice too,” she says. “The one that insists on a reality check, the one that asks questions, the one more afraid of staying silent than of speaking up.” Tremonti’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She saw her fade from herself and the voice Tremonti had been so accustomed to. “But I still have her voice, the strong voice, the one she taught me to use.” C
Tremonti steps out from behind the mic and into the spotlight. PHOTO BY SARAH MACDONALD
A Change in Canadian Airwaves THE CBC’S PLEA TO RUN ADS ON RADIO2 AND ESPACE MUSIQUE
By Kollin Lore
n August 2012, former CBC president Laurent Picard died in Montreal at the age of 84. During his term from 1972 to 1975, the French-Canadian businessman championed advertising-free airwaves, a philosophy crystalized in his announcement at a 1974 public hearing that he planned to take the public broadcaster “out of radio commercials altogether”. Picard’s goal was achieved and CBC’s radio ratings increased. The medium was revitalized and thus began what independent watchdog Friends of Canadian Broadcasting labelled the “radio revolution”. Fast forward 38 years and Picard would likely be spinning in his grave. CBC radio is poised to return to the days when top flight journalism and diverse arts programming ran side-by-side with commercials. Defenders of airwave sanctity, while assured that tobacco ads will remain verboten, are quaking at the prospect of the staid mothership peddling products ranging from financial advice to cures for erectile dysfunction. But does that mean the CBC will no longer be able to deliver on its reason-for-being? Alex Mangiola, vice-president of Pilot PMR, a Toronto-based PR company, describes the CBC’s mission as “an information tool for the masses. It keeps Canadians in-
formed about the questions that are unique to Canada . . . it pushes Canadian content, it pushes Canadian culture.” However, the “Ceeb’s” ability to maintain that mandate has been tested. Recent federal cuts will mean a loss of $115 million from its operating budget over the next three years, says Chris Boyce, executive director, radio and audio and CBC English services. With the cost of inflation; increasing salaries due to union agreements and other expenses, the shortfall is expected to amount to $200 million. Since salaries make up 60 per cent of its budget, CBC will cut 650 jobs, along with $43 million-worth of programming over the next three years. To help balance the budget, the CBC is looking to offset the federal cut with $50 million in new revenue. In April, the broadcaster applied to the CRTC to allow unlimited advertising on Radio 2 and French-language music radio service, Espacé Musique, as part of its bid to renew its licence. Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, which lists 175,000 households as supporters in its defence of Canadian programming, considers the commercialization of Radio 2 a threat to the future of Canada’s public broadcaster. Ian Morrison, the public voice of Friends, says that if the deal goes through, it is only
CBC Radio 2 will be undergoing changes in its programming in response to federal budget cuts. PHOTO BY SARAH MACDONALD
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a matter of time before advertisements are heard on Radio 1, home to some of the country’s most iconic news magazines, documentaries and arts programming. The result, he says, is that the public service broadcaster will appear to audiences as less distinct from private broadcasters. The CBC’s Boyce maintains that the Radio 1 sky is not falling – and if it were, then it would have been front and centre in the licence renewal. He says CBC is interested in placing ads on Radio 2 because unlike its big brother, which has a heavy local component, it is a national service only. And national advertising is where the CBC strategists see the big bucks. “I think Radio 1 and Radio 2 are incredibly distinctive services today and I see no reason why the introduction of advertising will make Radio 2 any less distinct in the future,” says Boyce. “We play a wide range of music that isn’t heard anywhere else on commercial radio in Canada.” Boyce points out CBC is bound by its licence to produce a significant amount of Canadian content, and to display a commitment to emerging Canadian artists, which is different from commercial broadcasters. To Boyce, the programming is what defines a public broadcaster and what makes CBC distinct, but “the programming isn’t going to change simply because of advertising”. Boyce says that since Radio 2 is all music, listeners will continue to tune in despite the advertisements. “We look at our audience for Radio 2 and we know that Radio 2 is one of the stations, if not the only station, they listen to. And we know that when they listen to other music stations, they’re listening to formats that have advertising,” he says. “So our feeling, based on that and a bunch of research we did on the audience, was that there was a tolerance for advertising.” On November 14, several Canadian cultural icons including 2006 Giller Prize winning author Vincent Lam, actor Gordon Pinsent, and comedian Mary Lou Fallis voiced their opposition to advertisements in a Toronto news conference hosted by Friends. “Private broadcasters – their real business is trying to deliver eyeballs and ears to advertisers, that’s what they’re in – they’re trying to make money,” says Morrison quoting one of the stars at the conference. “And a public broadcaster is trying to help citizens function in a democracy so that they have more information and greater depth of understanding of what’s going on in the world.”
According to many stars at the conference, summed up in the words of Pinsent, if advertising is allowed on the CBC, the public service broadcaster will become even more of an “endangered species”. “[CBC] is one of the very few cultural spaces we have here in Canada, which really is free of commercial interest, and which exists to represent the stories and the voices of Canadians, and there are really not very many cultural spaces left to provide that,” Vincent Lam tells Convergence. “It’s really a question of us as a public owning that cultural space,” he adds. This is not the first time CBC has faced potential commercialization. In 1999, the last time they renewed their licence, CBC proposed to have messages from sponsors broadcast on some of its radio programs. The CRTC rejected this proposal, stating in a public notice document in January 2000, “Canadians’ special attachment to CBC radio is due in large part to the sense that it is a unique, non-commercial public service … the firm and virtually unanimous opposition to this proposal is an important factor in the Commission’s denial of the CBC’s sponsorship proposal.” However, in a report to Canadians on the CBC website, it points out that 20 out of 32 public broadcasters in 18 western countries use advertising as part of their funding and have been able to maintain their image. In the same report, CBC argues having no advertising and no replacements for their budgets would be devastating for the public broadcaster and would interfere with CBC’s mandate, which is to reflect Canada and be the voice of the public – what the critics say is being threatened due to unlimited advertising. “Certainly there is going to be a portion of our audience who is unhappy about this, and in a perfect world we wouldn’t be going this route,” says Boyce. But considering other options such as closing down the CBC entirely or cutting back other aspects of radio programming, Boyce says CBC “decided this was the best option under the circumstances”. Another group who may be affected by the deal if it’s approved are the private radio stations across Canada, which according to Morrison, amount to over 700 stations. “There is only so much money out there that businesses have available for advertisements,” says Morrison. “If CBC is able to extract what they predict in the third or fourth year, of the $30 million in revenue – that’s $30 million of revenue that a number of private stations are going to lose. If they are in a big city like Toronto, they can probably survive, losing their share of that. But if they’re in a smaller city like Fredericton or Regina or Sudbury, it might knock them into financial failure.” Boyce disagrees. “Overall commercial revenues will be $1.6 billion which is a tiny sliver of the overall amount,” he says. “We worked out that the amount of commercial that we’ll be attracting is actually less than
The fate of public service broadcasters is in the CRTC’s hands. PHOTO BY SARAH LENNOX
the growth rate of commercial radio revenue. So, we anticipate we will have very little impact on private radio stations.” In the eyes of the many people employed by CBC whose jobs are at risk, allowing advertisements on CBC Radio is just a matter of survival. “I know personally it’s hard for me to do some things I used to be able to do just because we had to slash money; like there’s just not enough money to send me to New York or something,” says Vish Khanna, a community producer on CBC Music and former host of 93.3 FM’s The Mich Vish Interracial Morning Show! “So we got to be creative with that. I suppose it’s unfortunate, but you got to keep it
sustainable.” Jonathan Goldstein of The Wire points out that “survival has its own kind of genius” and audiences will simply adjust to the ever-changing medium. “These things happen over time. I know that for many years no one could possibly imagine of there ever being banner ads – commercial banner ads on CBC websites. But now it exists…people adapt to it.” Various parties across the country weighed in on CBC’s bid for licence renewals at a public hearing in Gatineau, Quebec held by the CRTC from November 19 to November 30 – the first in 13 years. It remains to be seen whether the CRTC will accept or reject the bid, but the debate continues. C Winter 2013
Through the lens Celebrating Differences through photographs
Ramraajh Sharvendiran says growing up brown and queer in Canada left him feeling isolated. PHOTO BY SHAZIA ISLAM
By Shazia Islam
attooed arms exposed. Soft-textured leopard-print attire donned. Black suspenders hooked. A grey fedora cocked slightly on the head to cast the right amount of shadow and mystery above the eyes. She leans toward the camera, legs apart, hands resting on her knees. But it’s the face that bares both her toughness and her vulnerability. Gitanjali Lena, 39, looks toward the lens and draws parallels between her choice of apparel and her boy-femme identity in this contemplative portrait, one among several other subjects for the Colour Me Queer project in Toronto. On the back of the postcard-size photograph, she writes, Boyfemme . . . can unabashedly wink at femmes, bois, studs, sissies, boys and whoever catches her fancy. Boyfemme moves between worlds of masculine and feminine creating something new. Portrait photography has often been used as a vehicle for social change. And by exposing the multiplicity of gender and sexual identities in South Asian LGBT communities in Canada, Colour Me Queer seeks to do just that. Conceived by activist Arnab Banerji, a photographer and owner of Toronto-based Intrinzic Media, the project is a partnership with the Alliance for South Asian AIDS 12
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Prevention. The subjects’ ethno-cultural origins are rooted in South Asia, but their experiences are part of the Canadian landscape of identity. “I’m always changing,” says Ramraajh Sharvendiran, 25, one of the subjects of the CMQ project. “I’m never going to be able to define myself in a sentence.” Sharvendiran was excited about the project because it featured images of queer South Asians, images that were not readily available to him when he was growing up. “If I had seen one of these photos when I was a kid, it would have done amazing things for me,” he muses. “When I thought about this initiative that would connect to myself and to others who might be feeling the same way, whether they be older or younger, whatever walk of life, and wherever they’re at in their coming out process, I thought this was a great opportunity.” The climate for queer folks of colour in Canada remains relatively oppressive, he says, both in their own cultural communities and on mainstreet Canada. But the isolation Sharvendiran once felt has eased slightly due to the work of LGBT advocacy groups and art-based awareness campaigns such as the CMQ shoot. In the latter, he says, he found a safe space and the freedom to determine the image and the message he wished to depict to the broader Canadian public.
“There was a lot more for me at stake because this was something that was going to a lot of people who are at very different spaces in their lives. “This wasn’t just a duck-face portrait where you’re just trying to look good for the camera. This was something you had to think about – what sort of way you would carry yourself, and how it would relate to other people.” Lena agrees. “We aren’t really taught to see ourselves as beautiful, so that pressure ‘why am I being photographed? I’m the ugly kid. Who do I think I am putting myself up for these photographs?’ It brings up all your doubts and insecurities while at the same time, it’s incredibly validating of at least your physical appearance and personality to have people say they want a photograph of you.” Lena says the broad representation of physical attributes and identities in the photographs are encouraging. “I liked Colour Me Queer’s attempt to show a wide breadth of South Asians. It wasn’t just lightskinned, straight hair, skinny-nose South Asians; it was a lot of people with larger bodies, different kinds of bodies, dark skin, and curly hair.” For the photographer, capturing his subjects in poses and apparel that represented something about their intrinsic natures was an important element of the overall message of the project. But Banerji also wanted
“The biggest change that has happened in the photography industry is the shift from film to digital. Now, all you need is a decent computer and software and of course your artistic sense to do the work.” - Arnab Banerji, CEO, Intrinzic Media Inc.
Colour Me Queer postcard project showcases diversity in the LGBT community. COURTESY ARNAB BANERJI
to hold up an intimate mirror for the models themselves. “If the portraits are taken properly, you can capture a lot of inner confidence and different aspects of the subjects’ lives which are not always visible.” Banerji has headed a number of photography projects from his stays in New York, Toronto, and Bangalore. He currently lives in Bangalore and is working on a new shoot called “Imagination” which features images of queer-identified people in India. Whereas the CMQ photos were published as postcards, the images collected in India will be presented in a calendar. Banerji has also formulated a set of themes for the latter, which establishes more structure around the images. “There are different themes including the theme of ‘joy, suffering, and love’, ‘men at work’, which shows queer communities involved in day-to-day work, yoga themes, and also different dance poses that have originated from different parts of India.” Banerji recalls that prior to 2009, any activity promoting a gay lifestyle was illegal in India. This law was based on a regulation imposed and codified by the British Raj in 1860. The Indian High Court passed a law
in 2009 that decriminalized homosexuality throughout the country. However, the battle for LGBT rights continues in neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Banerji says he plans to take high-fashion portrait shots of queer models in Bangladesh after “Imagination” wraps up. “There are many hidden gay activities that take place in Bangladesh; we’d be the first to do something openly so it’s a risk we’d be taking.” Being out of the closet and exposed in a public educational campaign such as CMQ proved too much of a risk even in Canada for some of its subjects. Shazad Hai, outreach co-ordinator at ASAAP, recalls: “Some people who were really gung-ho about it or even went through the entire shoot, did everything, and then they were like ‘I’m not ready’, and that’s fine. You respect that.” Hai says the postcards have been seen in a number of different community spaces including the online Tumblr page and at the Leslie+Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York as part of “Testimony” an exhibition portraying queer youth. The photos have also been presented at York and Ryerson universities in Toronto and
the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus during frosh week. Hai says CMQ will continue to travel whenever the opportunity arises. “It just doesn’t stop,” Hai says. “It keeps going because people can find their own stories within the pictures and the personal narratives.” Hai’s role in CMQ was included recruiting models and scheduling meetings. “We have very different personalities,” he says, in reference to the curator. “I guess that’s where I came with the logistics part because you have somebody who’s an artist, who’s very abstract, very like ‘this and this, colours, and words’. It’s fantastic how everyone has different kinds of talents. ,” says Hai. Lena agrees. “I think it’s cool that it (CMQ) has text. For me, I wanted to get a chance to define what ‘boy femme’ means” says Lena. “I feel it’s necessary for me because I don’t identify as femme; I don’t identify like a boy, a butch, but I definitely have those qualities, so writing it was cool.” The photos and the complete narratives and poems can be viewed at www.asaap.ca/cmq. C
Gitanjali Lena shares her thoughts on the broad representation in the photography in the CMQ project. PHOTO BY SHAZIA ISLAM
From Street to Screen Policing Cyber Bullying Transitioning from the school yard to the online world, bullying has become more vicious and relentless, due to the anonymity of social media. PHOTO BY SARAH LENNOX / ILLUSTRATION BY DONA BOULOS
By Dona Boulos
ullying is the party and social media is its dance floor. That’s the message that comes from the investigation into the death of Amanda Todd, the 15-year-old B.C. girl who killed herself following an eight-minute YouTube video, crying out for help. All that was visible in the video was Todd’s long curly black hair and only half of her saddened face. Using hand-made cards, she told her story about falling into depression after being relentlessly bullied and attacked by her online tormentors. Todd didn’t say a word, yet her story deeply touched the hearts of viewers worldwide. Her last communication was: “I have nobody. I need someone. “My name is Amanda Todd.” The death of the Canadian teenager was not an isolated statistic. According to a U.S. 14
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Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, suicide has become”the third leading cause of death among teens [which results] in about 4,400 deaths (in the United States) a year.” A Yale University study posted on www. bullyingstatistics.org, a website which provides information on preventing bullying, harassment, violence and cyberbullying, suggests victims of bullying are between two and nine times more likely to consider suicide than people who have not been bullied. Bill C-273, outlined as an Act to amend the Criminal Code, in response to increasing cases of harrassment online is currently in its second reading in the House of Commons. The bill states that anyone with intent to harm or harass online are “liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. “ Cyberbullying may soon be a criminal offence, but outlawing the human proclivity
to victimise the weak and the vulnerable is a more difficult mission, says Alan Shanoff, lawyer and media law professor at Humber College. “It’s just one of those things that is going to continue happening,” he says. “And we’re never going to eradicate it. We may be able to deal with it in a more efficient manner, but to eradicate it, forget it. It’s just not something that will happen, not with humans.” The University of British Columbia studied the effects of cyberbullying in Canada in 2011. The results, based on 416 responses from students, showed that one in five Canadian teens had been bullied online and 51 per cent of those teens said they had a negative experience with social networking. Twenty-five per cent of respondents, between the ages of 12 and 15, said their online interactions were unmonitored. Facebook specifically does not have anyone monitoring its site, says a social network spokeswoman who asked not to be
identified, because it contravenes Facebook policy. “It just wouldn’t be possible. There’s two and a half billion pieces of content that are posted on the site a day. “We rely on our user base to report content, whether it’s bullying, harassment, graphic violence, or nudity,” she says. Basically, unless someone reports an incident of cyberbullying on Facebook, the user operations team would not be able to detect any online bullying going on. “We have a team that works 24 hours a day to monitor those types of reports.” The Facebook spokesperson says the team reviews “every piece of reported content” and then checks whether it violates their terms of service. If so, “it is removed and the user would be blocked from signing into Facebook. We refer to that as social reporting.” When it comes to fake Facebook accounts, like the one that was created for Amanda Todd, Facebook has a “sophisticated technology that can tip [them] off to fake accounts,” she says. The catch is that anyone can create an email and sign on to Facebook with it, so someone would have to report the fake profile to the site in order for Facebook to know about it, the spokesperson says. Cheryl Quinton, manager of communications at B.C.’s Coquitlam School District 43, the district in which Amanda Todd was a student, says that Todd’s story gives everyone an opportunity to learn. In the aftermath of the suicide, the district met all the school principals and vice-principals. “We had a round table discussion centered on current practice and social responsibility strategies,” she says. “We also [discussed] with the school principals what we know so far, and then [discussed] staff, students, and parents response and follow up when bullying is reported,” says Quinton. “So we need to ensure that the schools have a clear definition of what constitutes bullying or cyberbullying.” Coquitlam School District 43 already has “a myriad of programs in place for social responsibility,” says Quinton. “It ranges from the district court of conduct at school, the district code of the ‘buddy-system’, peer mentoring, diversity awareness initiative. We participate in the pink shirt phase to draw attention to anti-bullying, and provincially in B.C. the government has announced an anti-bullying initiative called ERASE.” ERASE, an acronym for Expect Respect And a Safe Education, is a program that B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced in June. It’s a stragey that is sorely needed. The 2011 B.C. study suggests that 16 per cent of teenaged Canadian social networkers have had an embarrassing photo posted without permission and 12 per cent have had their accounts hacked. Two years ago, a 15-year-old Nova Scotia girl was, like Todd, cyberbullied. A fake Facebook account was created attacking the girl.
In response, the girl’s father began a legal attempt to force Internet provider, Eastlink, to hand over the address of the person responsible for the creation of this account. After asking the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to permit an anonymous lawsuit against the online tormentors, the case was dismissed because it infringed the rights of the press to report on an open court case. Her father did not give up, and the Supreme Court of Canada has sinced given the green light for the action to proceed. In its reason-for-decision, the court said it was not necessary for a victim to prove specific harm because it was “logical to infer that children can suffer harm through cyberbullying”. Shanoff urges bullying victims to make the law work for them. In cases where people are “distributing photos of another person, particularly against that person’s will, let the state prosecute, because that’s a pretty viral thing to do.” By its ponderous nature, a legal remedy can have a salutory effect. “Can you imagine getting a letter from a lawyer, especially if it’s copied to your parents, especially if it’s hand-delivered to your house by a courier or process server. I think that would have a real dramatic effect on people.” But before this can happen, the origin of the problem must be identified. After the highly-publicized death of Todd, Canada and beyond became furiously fixated on finding the man who published intimate photos which ultimately led to suicide. The formidable “hacktivist” group, Anonymous, sent out a YouTube message promising to reveal the identity of this man and of Amanda Todd’s bullies. An Anonymous member dressed in a black cloak and disguised in the group’s trademark fox mask, warned: “To the students and adults who bullied the student Amanda Todd, we have a message for you: we know who you are, we know what you did. We are all around . . . we know where you live.
PHOTO AND ILLUSTRATION BY DONA BOULOS
“Take responsibility for your actions. “As for the cyberbullies who posted derogatory comments on Amanda Todd’s video, we will find out who you are. We will make you accountable. We do not forget, we do not forgive.” That message set alarm bells ringing. “That’s what you would refer to as ‘vigilante justice’. They are not the police,” says Facebook’s ironically anonymous spokesperson. “If you look at the way the justice system works in Canada, you are innocent until proven guilty. These people can’t take it upon themselves to decide who is innocent and who is guilty. “They’re totally off the wall. We have a police force for a reason,” she says. In Ontario, educators and politicians are hoping new laws will help control bad behavior online. Ken Jeffers, who is one of many in the department of Gender Based Violence Prevention for the Toronto District School Board says social media adds a whole new element to bullying. Jeffers says the provincial legislation under the Ontario Education Act mandates a code of conduct for all 72 boards in the province. Within that code of conduct there is a definition for bullying, different from the media law aspect of the subject, which is now inclusive of cyberbullying thanks to Bill-14, which was recently passed by the McGuinty government. “When administrators are alerted to an incident of bullying in the school, whether it’s through a student or an employee who witnessed it, then they would do an investigation,” says Jeffers. “The investigation would interview any potential aggressors, victims, and witnesses as well, and then there would be a determination of consequences.” Jeffers says blocking websites such as Facebook and Twitter is not the answer.”If you want a quick fix, a magic bullet, for a much bigger social problem, that’s not it.” For better or worse, social media is here to stay. “It isn’t all bad,” he says. “We understand that it is a way that most students communicate. That’s why bullying migrated there.” The solution? “What you do is you educate responsibly. You educate for healthy relationships.” At School District 43, Quinton agrees. “It’s a part of their world; I mean they are linked to the world in so many ways right now,” she says. “Within these programs they are having discussions in a classroom with people on the other side of the world. They are involved in philanthropic initiatives that require networking and information sources at their fingertips.” Facebook is looking to make the fight a joint effort, working with five non-profit organizations in Canada to launch the “Be Bold: Stop Bullying” campaign. “Our hope with watching this campaign is that we move towards creating cultures in schools and among young people where bullying is not cool.” C Winter 2013
A Brave New World Exploring Virtual platforms in education By Stacey Thompson
t’s every student’s dream. Dress for the task, hit the classroom early, debate, study, challenge, learn – and stay in bed while sending a proxy to do all the heavy lifting. What started out as an environment for gamers, has now morphed into a tool for learners, who can send avatars into virtual classrooms around the world. Reality, sim-based programs, such asSecond Life, are being taught to teachers so they can use these programs to provide interactive learning for students. Today more than 150 educational instititutions are registered with Second Life including universities in Canada, the United States, Britain, Germany, Hong Kong and Portugal. While the leap from traditional educational spheres – like the physical classroom filled with real life human students – to a virtual vineyard in the Italian countryside in the 18th century is a bit large, the immersive nature of the experience may shape the future of education. In Virtual or Virtually U: Educational Institutions in Second Life, authors Nancy Jennings and Chris Collins explain that advances in internet technology have paved the way to create life in new 3D platforms, supported by streamed data, audio and video help bring simulations to life Lynda Hausman, a programming professor at Toronto’s Humber College, says she started her learning of virtual realities with 3D Game Lab, a website that allows teachers to explore different virtual platforms and then teach what they have learned to their students. These platforms include simulation games like Second Life, but also the popular multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) , World of Warcraft. Hausman says she participated in a gamer camp through Boise State University in Idaho. They support 3D Game Lab, and people from all over the world are teaching 16
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Executive director of the Missouri Humanities Council, Geoff Giglieranao, as his virtual avatar who goes by the moniker; “Aldo Stern,” in the Second Life world. SECOND LIFE VIRTUAL ILLUSTRATION BY STACEY THOMPSON
courses using quest-based learning. The idea of these classes, Hausman says, is for students to go in and experience the quests, which are labs, and earn points instead of marks. The points do eventually translate into marks, she says, but the experience of the virtual reality is the point in taking the course. Before teachers can incorporate all of this into curricula, they have to learn how to use these platforms. Dr. James Humphreys, a professor in the school of biological sciences and applied chemistry at Seneca College, Toronto, is helping faculty learn how to use Second Life.
“We do have a sim. We’ve been in Second Life for a few years now,” says Humphreys. “At this stage we are more into faculty development, training our faculty on the use of Second Life before we start bringing students in there. So we haven’t had any classes conducted in the environment.” No one is ordering Seneca faculty to become Second Lifers, but Humphreys says the college is putting its money on trained users taking their new-found enthusiasm into the virtual classroom. The focus, at the stage, is on user-comfort and confidence. “I think that is probably one of the stumbling blocks you’ll find with any college that
is going to venture into the environment, there is a big learning curve at the beginning just to use the platform and to use it well. Faculty need that comfort first before bringing students in,” says Humphreys. For Humphreys, a science teacher, the road to Second Life was routed through frustration at scheduling first-life lab times and locations. Virtual reality offers a way to experience the lab in an environment that enhances, rather than abandons, traditional learning tools, he says. “What they can do is, actually go into a virtual lab, practice using virtual instruments, going through the particular lab experiment . . . before setting foot in the physical lab.” Humphreys says being familarized with the setting, speeds up work eventually performed in the physical environment. Education in these virtual worlds isn’t limited to small course modules. “World of Warcraft, they are actually doing whole courses. Grade 6 in the United States has a whole curriculum about civics, and they do an entire course with something like 150 quests in it,” says Hausman. “Where the students actually join World of Warcraft and they create a guild, they have to come up with their terms of reference and their documentation to go with the guild and the rules and they run everything through World of Warcraft.” “Much of what we see happening here we
They encourage, and motivate and assist each other in the process of acquiring and assimilating knowledge.
The answer, Hausman says, is because virtual realities are more inclusive and immersive. Hausman says she learned the term “immersive worlds” during her course with Boise State University. In virtual realities, people can connect human to human in a way that distance education can’t really allow, she says. There are no avatars in conventional distance education, no recreated historical periods or labs to practice in. The other benefit, and difference, is the student is playing a version of themself, something over which they have total control. In the workplace, virtual reality has yet to make significant inroads outside of technology and learning. “Some of the actual companies use augmented reality as a work site,” says Hausman. “IBM has a whole 3D environment that mirrors their actual building so you can actually hold meetings, the same as you do in Second Life, but it’s a work environment.” But for students, the experience of living and working in a virtual world can only help when it comes time to find a job. “It really depends on the nature of the area that they are going into, but I think just having those skills behind them just kind of gives them a bit of an extra edge,” says Humphreys. C
have come to call ‘co-operative self-directed learning,’ ” says Geoff Giglierano, executive director of the Missouri Humanities Council, who also has an avatar in Second Life named Aldo Stern. “People come to it voluntarily, they take part essentially as individuals, but they encourage and motivate and assist each other in the process of acquiring and assimilating knowledge about the 18th century and the Enlightenment.” While the advantage of learning these platforms in order to teach in new technologies is an advantage in a digital age, the question of this versus traditional distance education comes up. Why would students go to the extent to learn in a way that is essentially distance education but in dressed up characters when they can easily log on to a learning site such as Blackboard and engage in discussion in a similar way?
Files from Sarah MacDonald.
Winter 2013 CONVERGENCE 17 In virtual realities, people can connect in ways that distance education does not allow. SECOND LIFE VIRTUAL ILLUSTRATION BY STACEY THOMPSON
The obstacles of the girl gamer AN uneven landscape in the virtual playground The Axon Digital Arts team with contributors (left to right): Albert Fung, Jeff Rose, Tabby Rose, Bill Nyman, and Marty Bernie. COURTESY BRENDAN LYNCH
By Lime Blake
nita Sarkeesian. Her name alone instigates an emotional boiling point synonymous with a volcanic eruption among newsmakers, feminists, as well as members and consumers of the gaming industry. Founder of the YouTube channel Feminist Frequency, Sarkeesian has made her mark in social media with her essays and video series Tropes vs. Women – her personal commentary on how women are represented and perceived in and by the media. That foray was enhanced last summer when Sarkeesian launched Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, a project which she planned to support through a so-called kickstarter fund that aimed to raise $6,000 but which, at last count, had brought in more than $150,000. Somewhere along the way, she ruffled a lot of feathers. The sometime hysterical reaction has included threats of rape, death, denouncement of her gender, and her Wikipedia page has been defaced with pornography. Most of the harrassment was dealt out by members of the gaming community, particularly guys, who felt Sarkeesian’s feminist-based views on the representation of women in gaming were unfounded, and that she was using her gender to “scam” people involved in funding the project. Stephanie Guthrie, a Toronto-based community organizer and feminist, went to bat for Sarkeesian over Twitter after she discovered links to a game – found on flashbased Newgrounds and Valve-owned Steam Community – that encouraged players to virtually assault a digital representation of Sarkeesian’s face. However, tracking down the game’s creator, Ben Spurr, and calling him out on Twitter resulted in what Guthrie says was “a very long weekend” of harassment and threats by supporters of the game’s creator. While Guthrie’s experience may seem extreme, many women report negative expe18
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riences in the mainstream gaming community. Derogatory comments are so common that numerous websites have been created that explore the issue of misogyny in gamer culture. One site dedicates itself to exploring the reality of brutal trash talk against female gamers. Fat, Ugly, or Slutty encourages fans to upload screenshots of various verbal assaults for a humorous and subtly educational effect. For those fed up with misogyny, some insiders suggest the indie gaming community offers a more inclusive terrain for women. Cecily Carver, 30-year-old co-founder of Dames Making Games, a feminist organization that encourages women designers to attend incubator sessions and monthly workshops called “jams,” remembers playing video games as a kid but found as she got older that there was no place for her in gaming. “I think what happens is that a lot of women realize that the gaming culture is really targeted at heterosexual men and that it isn’t really for them, Carver says. “So they sort of stop talking about it with their friends, or don’t play in groups, or don’t call themselves ‘gamers.’ ” Dames Making Games has taught her that those women didn’t go away or necessarily lose interest. “I think the fact that so many women feel like they wind up going underground ... really speaks to how much the culture is geared to a certain kind of person.” Carver explains that the focus of Dames Making Games has been mostly in the indie, do-it-yourself environment. “Basically trying to put out the message that we think the field of games will be more interesting and better if more women start participating as creators,” Carver says. Participation, however, remains low. Humber professor Lynda Hausman says the game design program doesn’t attract many female students. Those who do attend tend to explore the art and design aspects
of game development more than actual programming. Twenty-seven-year-old Tabby Rose is the co-founder and creative lead of indie game developing company Axon Digital Arts and also teaches computer programming and game design. Rose says women are making an impact in the project management and marketing areas. This, she hopes, is the precursor for an environment that is “a little more diverse, a little more inclusive, not just for women, but for all groups.” Carver says she wants Dames Making Games to focus on game development, rather than the necessary battle against sexist behaviour. “I feel it’s really easy to find all the misogyny in our culture out there,” she says. “It gets written about and talked about a lot. It’s definitely out there, and I want Dames Making Games to have a different focus, not because I don’t think that [fighting misogyny] is important ... but I just think that this is a more hopeful and positive angle that I hope will really help some people.” Rose agrees, “The indie scene in Toronto – I have to say – is fantastic. I’ve never had anyone I’ve spoken to say anything bad about me or about women in games or anything about that, and there’s a lot of women who come out to the events which is very heartening for me.” Guthrie says she has had a different experience. “I’ve had a number of interactions with women in the community who don’t feel the indie community is [as] inclusive of women as these women might,” she says. Guthrie concedes that indie gaming has made great strides towards inclusivity. “I think it’s moving in the right direction, but I just think a lot of people are a little more ‘rose-coloured glasses’ about the whole thing than evidence really bears out.” C
Hitting the Wall The price of staying informed online
The Toronto Star announced it will set a paywall on its online edition in January 2013. PHOTO BY SARAH LENNOX
By Chanelle Seguin
hen Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast of the United States, managers of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal decided to take a step back in time. Figuring it was crucial for all citizens to have access to web updates about the storm, the publications took down their paywalls, allowing all readers free access to all digital copy. It was a temporary exception that proved what is increasingly becoming the paywall rule. On October 22, the Globe and Mail joined the ranks of publications that have abandoned the digital free-for-all. The Toronto Star has announced it will erect a paywall on digital copy in January. The National Post is planning to follow suit early next year. But as the Hurricane Sandy experience demonstrates, paywalls will come down when publications feel the reader has a need to know. Rob Gregory, president of Newsweek, was not surpised when the walls came tumbling down in New York. “I think that all quality journalistic enterprises have a certain sort of responsibility to the public trust and that there are times when the right thing to do is to [provide] information that may save people’s lives,” he said. He said he would expect similar action in the case of news “of extremely high national importance: in the case of the election or the process of democracy and freedom of speech and all that stuff.” According to Gregory, Newsweek’s print publication currently has about 1.5 million paid subscribers in North America. On December 31, Newsweek will publish its last print issue and become one of the first major national publications to step out into
digital deepwater. “We know when we go all digital, a significant number of those subscribers will choose to stay behind and that’s fine,” Gregory says. “Because we are developing, we have developed a business model that can make us profitable with an audience that is roughly a third of that size.” Its a brave move, since numbers suggest that safety lies in maintaining one foot in the digital water and the other firmly planted on the physical beach. Even when the sand is visibly eroding.
There’s a downside to a paywall, and there’s an upside.
According to the 2011-2012 report by the Newspaper Audience Database, traditional newspaper readership is still high and 78 per cent of website readers continue to read printed versions. Kelly Toughill, director of the school of journalism at Kings University College in Halifax, says paywalls can even improve the sales of print publications. “Paywalls do two things,” says Toughill. “They reinforce the value of a print subscription, so it protects circulation in print. There’s quite a bit of evidence showing that paywalls on a newspaper site actually can boost print circulation, or at least protect it. It also can generate, in some cases, some significant funds.” One reason is that many paywalls are designed so that print subscribers receive free access to online content. There is, however, no debate about the willingness of consumer to engage news across an expanding media landscape. When two Australian radio talk show
hosts made fake calls to a British hospital ward, prompting the suicide of a nurse, the firestorm of news and reaction burned hottest on Facebook and Twitter. Which begs the question: why would anyone pay for news when its free elsewhere? The answer, it seems, depends upon the size of the event and the depth of competing, free, coverage. Along with taking down its paywall for Hurricane Sandy, the New York Times also lowered the barrier for results reportage during the recent U.S. presidential election. Mary McGuire, associate professor of the school of journalism at Carleton University, Ottawa, says this was a result of the Times wanting to boost its journalistic footprint when competion was fiercest. “I mean there’s a downside to a paywall, and there’s an upside. Finally a news organization gets to collect money and people actually have to commit to paying money to read the good journalism that is produced because it costs money to produce good journalism,” says McGuire. “But the downside of a paywall is that your journalism gets a much lower profile because people can’t access it. And people for many years have been used to accessing free journalism.” Toughill believes paywalls will succeed when content is exclusive. She cites the example of AllNovaScotia.com, a news website in Nova Scotia which, she says, has “12 fulltime journalists earning the same wages as the local newspaper”. Toughill notes that this organization has had a paywall “since day one.” “It has unique content,” says Toughill. “It’s always first. It services primarily the business community. So I think that if you have content that people really value, that they can’t find elsewhere, then you can get people to pay for it.” C
“The top three things that are revolutionizing the news business right now are: the Internet, the Internet, and the Internet.” -Rob Gregory, president of Newsweek
The new face of journalism Building a brand on social media
Freelance journalist Sarah Nicole Pricket has built an impressive following in social media with about 8,000 Twitter followers and over 200 Facebook subscribers. ILLUSTRATION BY JOEFREY ANTHONY
By Doreen Dawang
hen Globe and Mail columnist Sarah Nicole Prickett walked into an interview with Aaron Sorkin, to discuss his then new creation, The Newsroom, she admits she didn’t visualize becoming the poster child for social media journalism. Prickett was given the assignment shortly after moving to New York. As soon as the interview began, Sorkin misunderstood the reason why Prickett had watched the pilot episode multiple times, mistaking her journalistic integrity for her not liking or understanding the show’s premise and themes. When the interview ended, Sorkin told Prickett that she was an “Internet girl” and that “it wouldn’t kill her to watch a film or pick up a newspaper once in awhile” – all within a 10-minute conversation. “Write something nice,” he ordered as they walked out of HBO’s press room. “Never have I been in an interview in which somebody so quickly confirmed all of the worst possible biases,” Prickett recalls. 20
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Rather than writing “something nice” Prickett wrote about the truth: her awkward experience interviewing Sorkin. In less than 48 hours after the story was published, Internet blogs such as Gawker and Jezebel roared and cheered for Prickett’s tell-all essay on what happened. It’s six months later, and Prickett’s run-in with Sorkin is still being talked about. Prickett is just one of the many “Internet girls and boys” across Canada who are changing the mediascape of journalism. Internet sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, which once prompted curled lips from news professionals, have not only changed the way local and world events are reported, but they have revolutionized the way news is promoted and consumed, says online news specialist Mike Karapita, journalism program coordinator at Toronto’s Humber College. “Social media has allowed people to speed up the news and information gather-
ing process,” he says. “So what used to take a day or at least a couple of hours, now takes seconds.” Karapita says that on top of speeding up the news process, it’s also created a way to promote a person’s brand. “Social media allows every single one of us to create our own footprint, our own personal brand of who we are, what we’re doing, what we’re interested in, and what we can do for you as a provider of information.” Although Prickett hates to use the word “brand” to describe herself, the self-employed, freelance journalist feels she’s her own business. “[It’s] an exhausting business in the form of a hobby, the whole social media thing,” she says. Prickett has built an impressive structure for herself on social media. With close to 8,000 followers on Twitter, more than 200 subscribers on Facebook and daily
posts on her personal blog, Prickett shows no signs of slowing down. “I can’t think of one thing that is less essential because they all work together,” she says. Prickett has always been a quick study, but she was cautious in her embrace of technology. The eldest of four children from London, Ont., she was taught to read at a young age and was home-schooled throughout most of her childhood. She was often told that writing was her forté. “I thought that everybody had to be good at something,” she says. “And if I’m not good at anything else, this must be it.” Since starting as an intern at Fashion magazine in 2008, Prickett has gone on to write for Eye Weekly, the National Post and the Toronto Standard. She is predominately known as a fashion and style writer, but has taken on a new role as an arts and culture columnist during her time in New York. “I was worried in Toronto, my walls were shrinking,” she says. “And that’s a part of why I left.” Prickett admits she resisted moving to New York because it seemed like the obvious choice for any 20-something who gets “too big” for Toronto. “It was like upgrading to an iPhone, which is another thing that I resisted for so long,” she says. “I always thought that I didn’t need to be like everyone else in New York and have an iPhone. But of course, I live in Manhattan and I’m never away from my iPhone for more than 10 minutes.” Karapita says there are a few real conflicts between old and new-school journalism. Social media is merely a tool for providing greater context and personal opinion. “It’s not about being inappropriate on the web, its not about being indiscreet, it’s just about offering more information,” he says. “It has allowed people to create a very strong image of who they are.” Prickett agrees. “We are moving toward a very writer-centric way of publishing,” she says. Right or wrong, many journalists are now injecting their own voice in their pieces, allowing readers to see the world through their eyes. “I mean, you can’t make believe anymore that you can write something totally un-opinionated. So people are now looking for whose opinions they can trust,” Prickett says. “And trust resides more and more within certain writers and certain columnists rather than a publication as a whole.” Freelancers are competing with other writers for the shrunken space in credible publications, and that means grabbing attention online. “You’re competing to make sure your stories are read and your voice is heard,” Prickett says. “And sometimes that means talking much louder on social media than you do in real life. It’s a necessity to put more and more of yourself out there.” Karapita says journalists need to be
mindful of their digital footprint. He says once a comment or image is out there, it’s out of their control. “Things like that could be back to haunt you years down the road, or maybe not, but it’s something to ask yourself,” he says. “How much of the personal do I want to bleed into the professional?” At only 27, Prickett sometimes worries about the long-term effects of this “bleeding.”
bit, is way more fun,” she says. But she won’t share every detail from her own life. “Before I was a columnist, I loved hearing other people’s experiences and encounters because I’m personally very conservative and I have really rigid ideas in what I want and what I need,” Carraway says. Before she started out as a journalist, Carraway made it a point to never write about her mother, and she still doesn’t. “I occasionally will mention her but I never write about her,” she says. “Because to me, that’s my most precious relationship, and I don’t want to run that into something like my work.” That can come as a surprise to some of her readers. “I think people assume that if you’re writing about certain personal things, you will write about all personal things. But I do not,” she says. Unsurprisingly, the clients who expect the most personally intrusive accounts, often live on the internet. During one instance, Carraway was approached by an online publication to write about her platonic friendship with a married man. “[My editor] said, ‘well what does his wife think about you?’ and ‘would you interview her for the story? Would you include a photograph of yourself and him?’” Carraway says. “They wanted to know if we had ever kissed, have you ever been intimate? All these things.” Carraway turned the assignment down. On top of her long list of freelance work, Carraway guest lectures at various writing workshops across Toronto. Former Globe and Mail columnist Ivor Tossell, teaches students in Humber College’s four-year journalism degree program, that tweeting is an artform. With more than 8,000 Twitter followers, Tossell keeps his readers hooked. “A tweet is a very small unit of text,” Tossell says. “And people often times feel like they have to fit an awful lot into a single tweet or a single sentence, and you don’t. You just have to give one thought, and let that thought breathe.” And, he says, “As long as you keep writing you’ll never stop learning about what works, what doesn’t, and where your voice lies.” With the way the journalism environment is changing, Tossell stresses the importance of going back to basics and not taking the audience for granted. If a writer wants to get read, Tossell says, he must do it in a way that will engage people. “It doesn’t mean your writing has to be flashy, it doesn’t have to be crazy or zany or cheap or any number of things that people worry about,” Tossell says. “But it does mean you have to be confident in your ability to tell people something that matters and to tell it to them in a way that’s going to keep them reading.” C
You’re competing to make sure your stories are read and your voice is heard and sometimes that means talking much louder on social media than you do in real life.
“But what else is there to do?” she says. “I not only write, but tweet and Facebook and blog and self-promote to maintain a paying career that I’m lucky to have.” According to a 2012 survey of more than 3,000 journalists, bloggers and PR professionals, conducted by Canada NewsWire and PRWeek, only 30 per cent of Canadian reporters are blog and post on Twitter. Freelance journalist, Kate Carraway, uses every form of social networking. With close to 20,000 tweets on Twitter, the Ontario-born writer also writes six columns for five different publications, including Vice, the Globe and Mail and the Grid. Although she approaches stories for Vice and the Globe differently, Carraway says her voice is the same. “I mean, I’m 31 years old. I don’t think I would be able to do this if I were 20,” Carraway says. “But at this point, I’ve had enough experience, and I’ve read enough, and I’ve done enough work that I’m very comfortable working in very different voices and on very different topics as well.” An avid reader as a child, Carraway says she loved books. But when she thought about journalism, no publication initially appealed to her until she discovered Sassy magazine when she was 12. “Before then, I realized everything was really boring and really mainstream and very obvious,” Carraway says. “There was nothing fun or engaging and sweet and nice, but also real.” Carraway enjoys writing about day-today life events. “For me, a small, ephemeral detail that can tell a little bit of a story and leave a little bit of an impression or use my voice a little
Interacting with a brand Creating a conversation Companies are looking to make advertising interactive for consumers, via games and surveys. COURTESY PLAY TAXI MEDIA
By Victoria Brown
here will you eat your Tuscan chicken sandwich? This is a survey question frozen on a Subway commercial screen waiting for a consumer to click a, b or c with an Xbox controller or Kinnect voice command. Option a, “in a restaurant,” is chosen, and with a “thank you” on the screen, players can move on to their favourite game. Subway Canada is just one of the first companies to partner up with Microsoft to beta test NUads, a new form of interactive advertisements for Xbox Live. With Canadians leading the world in time spent online according to the 2012 Canada Digital Future in Focus report, advertisers now have to find different ways to connect 22
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with consumers. “I feel that people are actually looking out for new ways to interact with brands that they know and enjoy,” says Kath-
“ “ They’re seizing a moment in somebody’s life, and interrupting it when there’s little going on.
leen Bell, director of marketing at Subway restaurants in Canada. To create its interactive advertisement, Subway took its traditional 30-second spot and put it into Microsoft’s NUad format,
says Bell. This gave users an opportunity to engage with the brand as well as give their opinions, she says. “It’s amazing how much people love to talk about what they like, don’t like, their sandwich choices, what they love to have on their Subway sandwich, and how they top them,” says Bell. Getting consumers to respond to an advertisement and pass it on to other people is one of the key concepts to interactive advertising, says Colin Flint, a professor in Humber College’s creative advertising degree program. “You’re trying to create, a lot of the time, content that people want to share rather than just communicating a message,” he says. As advertisers gather information they “If I was to give you simple answer it would be age and
can learn about consumers and make decisions about where to target ads. TimePlay, an interactive app, works to communicate advertisers’ messages in a different way by using on-screen game play at Cineplex theatres. To play, the audience can open the app on their smartphones, and compete with each other for points in mini games. At the end, everyone who participates receives a prize but more points mean a better reward. “It allows you to use your phone as a controller and to interact with content on a second screen,” says Jon Hussman, president and founder of TimePlay. TimePlay’s last big campaigns were with Canon and Ford, says Hussman, when audience members would receive a coupon if they participated in an on-screen game. Using the TimePlay app, a player might be encouraged to complete a task, such as reducing the blurriness of a photo. By doing this, consumers were more likely to retain the brand and increase the recall rates, Hussman says. “The fact is, as soon as you have to interact with something you are more engaged versus a static ad,” he says. “If you’re interacting with it, you’re going to retain it. I think it’s just sort of logical.” The use of second screens can be seen not only on TimePlay but also on popular TV shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead, where viewers can use Story Sync on their laptops to see additional video, read trivia, and answer polls. According to the most recent Communications Monitoring Report by the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission, 50 per cent of Canadians are going
online on a second screen while watching TV. “Through gamification you automatically get someone engaged because . . . it’s a fun experience, “ says Hussman. The perception of advertisers in the past was that gaming was for the 13 to 25 male crowd, says Chris Williams, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada. That’s a demographic that is increasingly including middle-aged adults. “We’re seeing obviously that the demographics are much wider than that,” he says. Though the interactive advertisement space is working well to engage consumers in retaining brands, Tony Kerr, chair of the advertising program at OCAD University in Toronto, says ads run the risk of becoming annoying in consumer entertainment. “You might be catching someone at a moment where they don’t want to be caught,” says Kerr. “They’re impatient to actually be entertained.” To avoid this, advertisers need to be in tune with their audiences, says Kerr, and if they can’t do that they shouldn’t be doing it at all. However, interactive advertising space is not just being used in entertainment venues. And some of it is just a cab fare away. Toronto’s Beck taxis now feature screens by Play Taxi Media on the backs of front seat headrests. The screens runs advertisements while offering interactive space for riders. To play or not to play is up to the rider. “We know for sure that . . . riders wanted to engage with the brands,” says Christina Williams, national director of marketing, sales and communications at Play Taxi
Movie-goers are now able to play against each other in pre-show surveys to win points and rewards. PHOTO AND ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH LENNOX technology”. -Tony Kerr, chair of advertising, OCAD University
Cineplex is one of many companies working with interactive ad technology. PHOTO BY SARAH LENNOX
Media. “We didn’t force them to, we didn’t hold them hostage. They made a choice.” Products play on three screens, says Williams. The first is a pre-roll that runs 15 to 30 seconds of advertisements the rider can’t interact with. Next, Play TV runs commercials for a five-minute loop, she says, while interactive advertisements appear on the right of the screen. Participants are happily lured into playing games, completing surveys or dispatching email entries for contests or prizes, says Williams. Jack Astor’s and Toyota both used the interactive ad space to have riders enter their e-mails in exchange for a free appetizer and a chance to win a $200 gas card. “They’re already establishing in their mind that it’s a valuable message that they want to receive, so they remember it. It resonates higher than just being hit with an ad,” says Williams. Play TV reckons one of its commercials has a 40 to 50 per cent recall rate compared to eight to 12 per cent for a regular TV commercial. With an average 15-minute dwell time and an eye- level screen, Williams says, it’s the overall content that’s going to make the consumers connect with the advertisement. “They’re seizing a moment in somebody’s life, and interrupting it when there’s little going on, and with a captive audience,” he says. Traditional advertising continues to play an important role. But where interactive has the edge is in the two-way conversation, says Chris Williams. “It would take longer to do that through mass media, it’s possible, but it takes much longer,” he says. C Winter 2013
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Pulling back the curtains Enquete journalists unveil the corruption in construction unions
By Christian Quequish
n September 2009, Alain Gravel, host of Enquête, Radio-Canada’s weekly investigative reporting show in Montreal, received a message from a man in jail through one of their sources. Enquête had, up to this point, been investigating several unrelated stories about minor cases of corruption in the construction industry after receiving a tip the previous year. The message stated that Gravel had to be careful, that certain people connected with the mob had said he would be “retiring” very soon. Gravel says he was actively involved at Enquête at the time, and nowhere near retirement. On what was supposed to be just another day on the job, Gravel could only describe the message as an awakening to the nature of the work Enquête was doing and would continue to do. “When it’s from jail, it’s something different than just hearing people around saying that,” Gravel says over the phone. He has just finished a 1 p.m. airing, and was speaking during a break before his next show. “From there we took some measures to be sure that we would be able to work safely, but at the same time to do what we had to do.” The investigation into the construction industry began in November 2008, following a tip from a source Gravel could not disclose. The tip mentioned “collusion, corruption, links between organized crime in the [construction] unions, companies and owners of companies,” says Gravel. Without a camera or recorder, Enquêtelooked into the story for three months and made contacts, just to make sure there was something to the source’s information. By March 2009, they had enough material to broadcast their first piece, which was about Jocelyn Dupuis, then the head of Fédération des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Québec, the province’s main construction union. Enquête was able to show a link between Dupuis and the Mafia in Montreal. Two weeks later, Enquête established a link between union leaders and Tony Acurso, owner of Simard-Beaudry Construction and Louisburg Construction. “We managed to document the visits of union leaders on the boat of Mr. Acurso,” says Gravel. The union leaders spent a week
on the luxury boat, which led Gravel to ask why a union leader would “spend so much time on a boat with the kingpin of the construction industry, all-expenses-paid”. A few months later, Enquête aired a piece alleging Acurso’s involvement with Fonds de Solitarité, which Gravel describes as a capital fund managed by the main union in Quebec but financed by the provincial government. For Marie-Maude Denis, a reporter with Enquête, the most important revelation involved an alleged plot by contractors to rig the public tender on public works projects in October 2009. An Enquête’s report alleged “concrete examples of code language contractors were using. For example, they were using a metaphor of a golf tournament to decide who was going to get the contract. “It was not a public tender anymore, it was all organized. And of course they were inflating the prices because there was no real competition.” Denis points to this story as the the genesis of demands for a public inquiry. Gravel says the work Enquête did, along with reports from other media in Quebec, helped encourage Premier Jean Charest to set up the commission. The Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry, more commonly known as the Charbonneau Commission, was officially established in October 2011 to look into charges of corruption in the awarding of provincial construction contracts. The inquiry has resulted in several high profile arrests and ended the careers of several Quebec politicians. Leading the list of prominent departures, were Mayor Gerald Tremblay of Montreal and his Laval counterpart, Gilles Vaillancourt. Beyond the initial message from jail, there were no more veiled threats, says Gravel. But that hasn’t stopped him checking his back. He says he isn’t scared, just more aware. While overt physical threats were few, Enquête faced an expensive legal battle. Gravel says Acurso sued him for $2.5 million. The case lasted for three years in the courts before Acurso finally dropped it. Acurso also sued one of Gravel’s colleagues for $2.5 million for a piece she did that indi
Alain Gravel and Marie-Maude Denis attended the CJFE gala December 5. COURTESY RADIO CANADA
rectly touched on his company and another colleague who worked in the newsroom for $3 million, says Gravel. “We had to spend so much time to prepare ourselves, to defend ourselves, and every time we said something about Acurso or some of his companies, we received letters, threats of other lawsuits,” he says. In December, Enquête’s perseverance won national recognition at the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression gala. Gravel and Denis took centre stage to receive the organization’s Tara Singh Hayer Memorial Award. CJFE’s current manager, Julie Payne, says Enquête was given the award because it “touched all the bases” of what CJFE was looking for, says Payne. “We give the award to a Canadian journalist or an organization who’s made an important contribution to reinforcing and promoting the principle of freedom of the press in this country or elsewhere. “They did something incredibly important that was of extraordinary public interest.” Enquête became the first organization to receive the award, the past recipients having been individual journalists. “This is kind of a departure for us, but I think it’s done in the spirit of which this award was intended,” says Payne. “We don’t usually get many nominations because it really is an unusual award, and one that we think is very special.” Gravel says the CJFE award has encouraged Enquête to continue doing more investigative work and will “stimulate us to open more doors and try to find what the people try to hide from us”. C Winter 2013
HEROES OF THE press
Working in the media continues to be threatening to life and livelihood in many parts of the world, according to the International Freedom of Expression Exchange. Marking its “Day to End Impunity” campaign the world-wide network heralded the work of 23 heroes in the battle to protect free speech. Convergence sheds light on five of them.
Illustrations by Allan De Los Angeles
paradox is what turns the creative crank for cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. The 25-year-old artist behind some of India’s most controversial cartoons was born in in Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. He started as a freelance cartoonist for several Hindi language newspapers and magazines, before moving on to found his most recognized accomplishment, the website Cartoons Against Corruption. “Cartoons are a visible medium. Every class and people of all ages can read cartoons,” says Trivedi. “There’s a big challenge in India to freedom of speech. They banned my website in India last year, and the Mumbai police continue to try to ban my work.” In response, Trivedi along with long-time friend and freelance journalist Alok Dixit started the Save Your Voice campaign. The protest against government censorship of the internet culminated in a seven-day hunger strike.
Trivedi’s graphic cartoons skewer national and cultural symbols, a practice that has made him a target for insulted authorities. In September, a cartoon depicting India’s parliament as a giant toilet, complete with wipes labeled “ballot paper,” lead to his arrest and imprisonment on charges of sedition. Public outrage over the arrest prompted Justice Markandey Katju, chair of the Press Council of India and a former Supreme Court judge, to take up his defence. “Corruption is a big thing in our country. My work tries to expose the truth in our country,” says Trivedi. “I will continue with the anti-corruption movement for the right of all India.” Trivedi has been internationally acclaimed and is the recipient of the 2012 ”Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award”, by the Virginia based Cartoonists Rights Network International.
rain Center for Human Rights. The fight for free expression is a family affair. Maryam says their father, Abdulhadi, has been a human rights defender for as long as she can remember. Their mother, Khadija Al-Mousawi, is also a rights advocate. The sisters are just the tip of a large iceberg of youth activism against government oppression, says Maryam. “The more they crack down [and] the more they arrest leading human rights defenders, they create hundreds more human rights activists in the country.” One of the most powerful weapons in the armoury is social networking. Maryam says she tweets to more than 80,000 followers on her @ maryamalkhawaja account, while Zainab tweets to almost 50,000 followers on her @angryarabiya account. Maryam is currently living in Denmark, but a team of Bahrainis is documenting human rights violations for her to share with internation-
al organizations, including the United Nations and various governments. Five of these people have already been arrested and sentenced to jail terms for posting on Twitter. Zainab, who still lives in Bahrain, could be next. She faces six charges and a ruling is expected any day. Zainab is no stranger to prison, having been jailed multiple times, the longest for two months. It was a difficult time for her three-year-old daughter. Even being out of the prison is no guarantee of safety. She was recognized and shot in the leg at close range with a tear gas canister a few months ago. Where do the sisters find their courage? “It [is] not the fact that the fear no longer existed,” eplains Maryam. “Fear, of course, exists because the consequences are so very real. It was about people deciding to not give in to their fear, to actually put their fear aside and decide to go out to the streets.”
HEROES OF THE PRESS
BY ANDREW RUSSELL
“National Drink” is a cartoon featuring Indian workers being fed through a meat grinder, the crank of which is turned by a grinning bureaucrat. Their collected blood explains the title. In another cartoon, “Mother India” is nailed to a “cross of corruption.” These are gruesome images, meant to shock a nation that is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but also one of the most corrupt. The frustration of living in this
BY SARAH LENNOX Zainab Al-Khawaja has been beaten, arrested and shot for her part in the Bahraini uprising. Some might assume the 29-year-old has a violent criminal past but her only crime is fighting for human rights in Bahrain. According to her sister, Maryam Al-Khawaja, 25, the young mother’s social media accounts play a part in the arrests and abuse. “It definitely has a lot to do with all of her work combined and I think Twitter is a part of that,” says 26 CONVERGENCE Winter 2013 Maryam, acting president of the Bah-
BY DONA BOULOS Jafar Ishtayeh, a Palestinian photojournalist for Paris-based Agence France-Press, has paid the price for covering one of the world’s longest simmering conflicts. And while the
BY GRAEME McNAUGHTON The International Women’s Media Foundation says Iryna Khalip’s first encounter with injustice was at a 1997 rally demonstrating against the proposed reintegration of Belarus into Russia. Khalip, now 41, was a young journalist covering allegations of police
BY SHARON TINDYEBWA Tuver Wundi, a journalist and environmental activist in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is no stranger to death threats and harassment from the gunmen he has pilloried. In 2009, four armed thugs broke into Wundi’s home, tied up his family and threatened to rape his wife and
Israel-Palestine divide poses dangers for all journalists, Palestinian reporters and photographers have often been the targets of choice. According to a report by MADA, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, Ishtayeh has been tear gassed, detained and beaten by Israeli forces for his coverage of the conflict. Why does he do it? In a YouTube video created by Kloie Picot, a Canadian photojournalist and video filmmaker, Ishtayeh says he’s driven to “show the world what’s happening (in) Palestine.” The MADA report recommended that the international community be held to account for the violations against Palestinian journalists.
Ishtayeh told MADA that while he was covering events with his colleagues on August 17, a group of Israeli soldiers came between demonstrators. Ishtayeh says he and his colleagues filmed the soldiers, who ordered them to stop before detaining them. “I asked them why they were treating us like this. So a number of soldiers violently attacked and beat me on my right hand and my feet with batons, tied up my colleagues and took us in a military vehicle to Kedumim camp near Ramallah.” The group was released four hours later, Istayeh told MADA, and he was taken to the hospital to tend to his broken right hand. He was not available for comment to Convergence.
misconduct. What she didn’t know was that she would join the people she was writing about, being dragged by her hair and clubbed by police. Her father was beaten unconscious at the same rally. This was the start of a series of escalating skirminishes with a government bent on silencing media coverage of dissent. In this campaign, Belaruskaya Delovaya Gazeta, the newspaper that once pubished Khalip’s work, became a casualty. The publication shut down after her 2003 article about corruption in the prosecutor’s office. In 2010, Khalip’s husband, Andrei Sannikov, ran as an opposition candidate to Alexander Lukashenko, who has been the Belarusian president since it declared independence from the Soviet Union. On the night of the
election, hundreds of Belarusians converged in Minsk Square to protest an election they saw as corrupt. Police later broke up the protest, arresting over 600 people, including Sannikov and Khalip. In May 2011, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists reported Khalip was given a two-year suspended sentence for “organizing and preparing activities severely disruptive of public order”. Her husband was not so fortunate, receiving a five-year prison term for organizing a “large antigovernment protest” before being pardoned by President Lukashenko in April 2012. After a decade and a half of reporting, Khalip, now writing for the Novaya Gazeta, continues to report from Belarus, even if the government doesn’t like the message.
kill him for being “Goma’s richest journalist,” according to a statement he gave to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. The armed intruders left after half an hour, taking some of Wundi’s journalism equipment and other valuable objects, but sparing his life. In the past year, the threats and attacks have increased in intensity. Journaliste En Danger (JED), a Congolese press freedom organization, reported that the Radiotélévision Nationale Congolaise reporter was receiving daily death threats over the phone. According to JED, one caller said “we almost got you a few times but this time you will die.” The chilling threat was not unexpected. Wundi’s home had been invaded a second time in January. Gunmen ransacked the home, but missed the journalist, who was away on assignment.
The latest threats to Wundi occurred in July after he criticized M-23 rebels for slaughtering wildlife in a local national park. Mohamed Keita, CPJ’s Africa advocacy coordinator, says the threats that followed Wundi’s criticism of the rebels were business as usual for both governments and insurgents in the DRC. “This is the way they react to criticism. They don’t use the means of rejoinder, for instance,” Keita says. “They resort to threats and intimidation to silence their critics, unfortunately.” In November, M-23 rebels swept into Goma, taking control of the northern Congolese city. While the rebels have now retreated from Goma, they remain close and have threatened to recapture the city. Wundi has been in hiding in KinWinter 2013 CONVERGENCE 27 shasha since August.
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the year of the plagiarist The temptation to commit journalistic sin By Sharon Tindyebwa
The decline of the traditional news industry has left journalists under pressure to do more with fewer resources – perhaps leading to unintended plagiarism. ILLUSTRATION BY JOANNA SEVILLA
t was dubbed the “Summer of Sin” by Poynter’s Craig Silverman; all over the U.S., allegations of plagiarism and fabrications were emerging, with two of the most high profile cases happening a couple of weeks apart. In June 2012, prolific writer and journalist Jonah Lehrer, became the subject of allegations that he had committed self-plagiarism by repeatedly recycling material without noting it. A month later he was out of his job at the New Yorker when he was found to have fabricated quotes attributed to Bob Dylan in his best-selling book “Imagine: How Creativity Works. “ On August 31, Wired.com, which initially kept Lehrer in its employ, fired him after a review of his work found consistent issues with plagiarism. A few weeks after Lehrer resigned from the New Yorker in late July 2012, CNN host and Time’s editor-at-large Fareed Zakaria was suspended for a month from both jobs. The host admitted to copying paragraphs from a New Yorker piece by Jill Lepore for two articles on gun control that he wrote for Time and CNN.com. Just when it seemed that the “Summer of
Sin” was cooling down, plagiarism hit home in September 2012 when blogger Carol Wainio made allegations against Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente for copying an Ottawa Citizen article. Her comments gained traction on social media before being picked up by mainstream news. Given these high profile cases of plagiarism over a period of three months, it would appear that journalists are either committing more misdeeds or are getting caught more frequently. In reality it is perhaps a bit of both. With few eyes on copy, the “streamlined” and resource-straightened newsroom is seen by journalists and academics as fertile ground for word-thieves. John Miller, a former Toronto Star senior editor and chair of journalism at Toronto’s Ryerson University, now acts as a consultant and writes on issues of journalistic practice on his blog, The Journalism Doctor. He says it has become increasingly possible for journalists to plagiarize. “It is very easy to do and to this extent the downsizing in the media, the pressure on columnists to be original three times a week, may be a contributing factor.”
At the same time, technology has allowed anyone with an interest or a grudge to easily double check journalists’ work with just a click of the mouse. In this environment, the columnist appears particularly vulnerable, says Miller. No longer forced to comb their own resources for ideas, columnists, now search the Internet for topics to write about. “We all Google,” Miller says. “The temptation to cut and paste into your own document is very real. And if you forget to copy a link so you can tag it, you may say in the rush of deadline, I am just going to use that.” Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the University of Toronto’s journalism program and executive director of the Organization of News Ombudsmen, agrees that the current media environment makes it more tempting for journalists to plagiarize. “The competitive environment in journalism now is greater than it has ever been and that can be a good thing. But it can also lead people to be rushed and make mistakes and sometimes deliberately choose to do the wrong thing,” he says. Dvorkin and Miller agree that while they can see why journalists may find it easier Winter 2013
to plagiarize, the practice is a grave journalistic offence that media organizations need to seriously address. They have both criticized the Globe and Mail’s handling of the allegations against Wente. The Globe and Mail’s public editor, Sylvia Stead, was the first to issue a statement saying that she had looked into the allegations against Wente and had added a line to archives of the column in question that read “Editor’s Note: This column contains thoughts and statements by Professor Robert Paarlberg which are paraphrased and not always clearly identified.” A few days later Wente wrote a column, in which she apologized for any journalistic lapses. She said, “there was no intent to deceive” and that “journalistic practice around quotations and attribution has become far more cautious in the past few years, and mine has, too. If I were writing that column again today, I would quote and attribute more carefully”. That same day the Globe also published a memo by its editor-in-chief, John Stackhouse, to staff, which stated that Wente’s work “did not meet the standards of the Globe and Mail in terms of sourcing, use of quotation marks and reasonable credit for the work of others.” Stackhouse wrote that the “appropriate action” had been taken but would not disclose what that action was. Wente declined to be interviewed for this article and Stead would only partake in an email interview, which is against Convergence magazine’s policy.
PLAGIARISM OVER THE YEARS
stephen glass the new republic
1981, 1989 KEN ADACHI TORONTO STAR
“There is a sense that the Globe and Mail did not take this very seriously,” says Miller. “In the States where they have a longer track record of dealing with plagiarism, they take it very seriously and the first step is to examine all of the person’s writings.” Miller says the Globe should have further investigated Wente given Wainio had allegedly found instances of repeated plagiarism by the columnist. “I am not saying what you [may] find, but you have to go the extra mile and say, okay we recognize there may be a problem here and we are going to investigate thoroughly. And when we come out the other end, we are going to publish our findings in a way that they cannot be disputed and either clear her of all these charges or find evidence that this has been going on for a long time and we are going to take appropriate action.” Carol Wainio was also dissatisfied with the Globe’s response. “I think the apology from her should have been more immediate,” the adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa says. “Ms. Wente was sort of allowed to . . . direct a lot of animosity at me personally which I thought was somewhat inappropriate.” Wainio also says that the Globe should have provided more detail about the allegations against one of the newspaper’s most respected columnists. “There should have been some way for readers to read what the issue was about. They could have directed readers to the blog or shown some examples . . . providing them with the information to make their own judgment. ”
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Terence Corcoran, a journalist with the National Post, argues that the whole Wente affair was blown out of proportion. Labelling plagiarism as “insignificant in terms of what journalists do,” he questions why this should be the focus instead of more serious sins, such as misrepresentation or distortion. Corcoran dismisses Lehrer as a “journalistic fraudster” for fabricating quotes but says that Zakaria and Wente’s stumbles are cases of innocent mistakes. He is especially protective of Wente who he maintains did not plagiarize. “It’s not plagiarism to fail to put quotation marks around a full quote.” Corcoran is no ethical Flat Earther, insisting that plagiarism does not exist. He simply believes that it is not what happened with Wente. “If you are writing a paper for a course and you plagiarize a whole bunch of stuff and you try and pass it off as your own, that is wrong and is reprehensible and it deserves to be labeled plagiarism and is extreme plagiarism in the form of economic fraud,” he says. “What Margaret Wente did is at worst lazy.” For Corcoran, it comes down to degree, context and intent. He says that Wente did not mean to plagiarize, she was not representing someone’s whole work as her own and as a columnist she had some leeway on attribution. “I just cannot see what the issue is, other than a technical one of not attributing things
elizabeth nickson national post
2003 jayson blair new york times
“The Internet and the availability of free information.” Also, the “financial realities of the industry, the bleeding away of
properly, and even so, when you are writing a column, the idea that you have to attribute every fact that you put into a column or every bit of information or second hand information about what somebody said, you don’t need to.” While this particular debate starts to get a little old, the discussion on the new watchdogs of journalistic integrity is just getting started. In Lehrer, Wente and Zakaria’s cases, the first whiff of scandal came from the blogosphere. The tweeting and re-tweeting of Carol Wainio’s allegations on her blog, Media Culpa, eventually forced the Globe and Mail to comment on the allegations. In the Globe’s first statement, Sylvia Stead repeatedly referred to Wainio as an anonymous blogger, a label that critics said was an attempt to discredit her. Stead later stated that referring to her as anonymous had been an attempt to protect the blogger’s privacy. Dvorkin says the Wente case showed the “power of social media to identify practices that media organizations themselves are overlooking.” The affair nothing less than “an affirmation of how important social media has become.” Miller’s take was that Wente’s journalistic gaffe pitted new media against old and “so far the Davids are all over the Goliaths.” Dvorkin, a long time advocate of ombudsmanship, says a stronger Canadian journalistic culture in which traditional and new media work together is necessary. “The ombudsman really needs to become
a cyber ombudsman so that it is not just about sitting there waiting for letters to the editor to come in,” he says. “It is really about being much more proactive and being that kind of porous membrane . . .between the media organizations and the public.”
“ “ Bloggers are readers too.
The result, he says, would be “a different partnership between the public social media and traditional media.” Kathy English, the Toronto Star’s public editor, says she takes all allegations of plagiarism seriously, whether from social media or traditional readers. “Bloggers are readers too,” she says, while admitting she would rather not have a conversation about plagiarism over Twitter. English says that she would prefer to have a telephone conversation with the complainant “so there is no misunderstanding [and] so that we can clearly communicate what the problem is.” While she may not tweet back and forth with readers about errors, English says she monitors social media all day and addresses any concerns about the Star’s reporting with the reporter right away. Corcoran argues that social media has no place in holding journalists accountable when it comes to plagiarism and neither do public editors. “It is an internal issue,” he
says. “It is the publication’s responsibility to require writers to attribute things properly and paraphrase properly and treat material sources properly. And that is as far as it goes.” He says having a public editor implies that newspapers are “responsible to the public in some abstract sense” which is not the case. “There is no such thing as the public interest . . . someone can make an attempt to define it but it is an arbitrary conclusion no matter how you do it,” he says. “It is a theory of media governance that I think is misguided and misplaced.” Corcoran argues the function of the public editor is one that should be left to the editor-in-chief. But Dvorkin counters that recent cases of plagiarism have shown gaps in traditional editorial oversight. He says that in the current media reality a lot of editorial positions have been eliminated. “So you are left with people going on the air without a second set of ears, or going into the newspaper without a really good set of eyeballs. And I think we are seeing the quality of journalism declining because we are paying the price for so called efficiency”. For Miller, accountability means performing due diligence – followed by a detailed public explanation of actions taken. The “Summer of Sin” has given way to a quiet fall and the plagiarism scandals that recently plagued the media have stilled. What journalists know now more than ever is that readers are watching. C
fareed zakaria Time magazine
johann hari the independent
2009 maureen dowd new york times
2012 jonah lehrer the new yorker
margaret wente the globe and mail
COURTESY (left to right) Wikipedia, YouTube, New York Times, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, National Speakers Bureau
advertising to the Internet, the reaction of legacy media to survive by cutting costs which means laying off people… that has damaged what they publish and broadcast.” - John Miller, former senior editor, Toronto Star
blurring the line The divide between public relations and journalism Ira Basen is the creator and producer of Spin Cycles on CBC Radio. PHOTO BY SARAH LENNOX
By Andrew Russell
’ve never seen anybody volunteer to be the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg,” says Will Stewart getting a chuckle on a Nov. 13, 2012 episode of CTV’s Power Play. Disecting what he sees as the disastrous state of the Ontario Liberal Party, the principal consultant of the public relations firm Navigator Limited knows what works on television and what doesn’t. As a veteran lobbyist, strategist, and conservative consultant, he can smell a looming spring election. And for one of the country’s elite strategic communications firms, its the smell of opportunity and possibilities. The most surprising thing about the headquarters of Navigator is its location in non-descript building, in the south end of Toronto’s financial district. A heritage site built in 1873, it’s hardly the monolithic glass structure one would expect of a major PR firm. Sitting down for an interview with one of Navigator’s star players, a young journalist quickly learns that they are very touchy when it comes to perceptions of the nature of their business. Will Stewart doesn’t like the word “spin.” “It has a negative connotation, it’s perceived mainly as a form of lying,” says Stewart, who has worked on the political cam32
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paigns of some of Canada’s most influential conservatives, including John Baird, the current Minister of International Affairs. Stewart, who looks like a typical Bay-streeter – well groomed and sporting a freshly pressed suit – also works with Ensight, Navigator’s Ottawa partner. When a titan of the business world or a high-profile politician gets into trouble, it’s someone like Will Stewart who can help tell their side of the story. Navigator has worked on several high-profile political campaigns, damage control for major corporations, and even personal reputation recovery. In 2009 Navigator came to the aid of former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant, after a verbal altercation with cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard turned deadly. The now infamous confrontation began as Bryant was driving through Yorkville and encountered an enraged and intoxicated cyclist, Darcy Allan Sheppard, who was circling stopped cars, yelling obscenities and making threatening gestures. On the evening of Aug. 31, 2009 Michael Bryant was out celebrating his twelfth wedding anniversary, but what began as a quiet evening of dinner and gelato quickly turned into a nightmare. As Bryant tried to pass him, Sheppard grabbed onto the Saab and hung on for several metres before being sheared from the
side door by a fire hydrant. The incident left Sheppard dead in the street and the former Ontario Attorney General facing charges of criminal negligence causing death. For most people caught in a situation like this, their first phone call would be to a lawyer. But Bryant’s first phone call was to Navigator Ltd. “You can never ever lie,” says Stewart, ticking off the first item in a list of potential mistakes by clients. “When I sit down with a client I get them to tell me all the facts because I don’t want any surprises coming out in the press. I’ll worry about how we talk about the facts in media.” Those facts are not spin. “We tell stories”. How that story is told to the media, is the difference between a good PR consultant and a great PR consultant, says Stewart, who is no stranger when it comes to the news desk. He regularly appears as a guest on news shows such as Power Play, CP24’s LeDrew Live and Global’s Focus Ontario. “Sometimes they ask me to come on as a conservative strategist, where I talk about what Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party is doing or should be doing. I don’t have to toe the company line, although I typically do,” says Stewart. And he isn’t the only member of the Navigator family who appears on news shows. Chairman Jaime Watt is most notable for his appearances on
CBC’s The Insiders and Power & Politics. “Don’t believe everything you see on TV. When I go on LeDrew Live, they call me a social media expert,” says Stewart with a laugh. “I actually prefer when they [describe] us as Navigator Limited, because it makes people watching go out and Google my company and check us out. It builds our profile. But let’s be honest, we don’t go on because we like volunteering our time as a vanity project. We do it because it’s good advertising for our company.” For some it might seem unsettling how intertwined the Navigator team is with Canadian media. Chris Eby, a former journalist for the National Post and CTV, is another partner of the firm. Journalists “understand what reporters are looking for, what readers want, what viewers are looking for. I think they make great consultants,” says Stewart. “Journalists typically do one thing people can’t do anymore, which is write. They can craft a story and at the end of the day that’s what we really do. Tell a story.” Sometimes, this apparent blurring of the line between the craft of journalism and the business of public relations can lead to confusion – and opportunity. “The typical member of the public seems to think of public relations as purely a marketing function,” says Judy Gombita, a public relations and communications specialist with more than two decades of experience in the field. Gombita now blogs for PRconversations.com, a website that aims to create a more informed discussion about the industry. “The other version of public relations is content marketing or brand journalism, where rather than looking for third party validation from journalists, the organization employs its own stories on websites and social media outlets in the hopes that the public will accept it as they would on a [news site],” says Gombita. An example is CISCO systems, the networking communications giant that has created The Network, its own “news” portal. Gombita describes the online news world as a sketchy area, where marketers can use this sort of “food chain” to get their stories into major news outlets. “They will look for a low end blog, one without a lot of traffic, but one that’s very niche-specific,” says Gombita. “If they publish it, then when it starts to be paid attention, bigger blogs will pick up the information and it’s basically considered true at this point. Then larger websites like Mashable will publish their own versions and then the big papers, who are searching around . . . pick up the story off Mashable.” A 24-hour news cycle, and fewer bodies to cover breaking news, have served to intensify the drift towards incest, critics warn. And not all of the warning sounds are coming from the journalism side of the bed. “I’m sure corporations would like to see them meld further together,” says Gombita. “But I want an objective and healthy media
structure. I want to hear real news that’s fact-checked and stories that show both sides to a story.” And this is a second problem the 24 hour news cycle has created. With the increasing need to fill content, companies and the tenacious PR firms they employ use this to their advantage in getting their message into the daily news. “There’s a tremendous demand for content, that’s gone up significantly. On the supply side it’s stayed the same or shrunk and it certainly hasn’t kept up with demand. There’s a big gap in the supply and demand curve. And into that gap steps your friendly, neighbourhood PR person who has a good story for you,” says Ira Basen, who created and produced the CBC radio program Spin Cycles, which investigates the world of strategic communications in depth. “If you used to have to do three stories a week and now you’re doing five, that press release that might have gone into the recycling bin all of a sudden starts to look more attractive.” Journalism schools, he says, aren’t doing their students any favours either. Looking
at the curriculum of major journalism programs, public relations courses are often left out. Whether it’s intentional or not is up for debate. “Journalism schools are doing their students a disservice by not talking to them more about public relations,” says Basen. Its ironic, he says, that most journalism students will end up working in the field of public relations or communications anyways, because that’s where the jobs are. Public relations programs seem to understand something journalism schools don’t. While PR students are studying how journalists and news cycles work, journalism schools seem to feel that strategic communications should be ignored. “There’s a pretty strong prejudice against PR in journalism schools and I think that sort of prejudice leads to PR getting ignored because it exists on a lower moral plane or something. It really does a disservice to the students,” says Basen. “What happens is journalists are morally offended by PR until the day they accept the job doing PR.” C
Navigator’s Will Stewart has a reputation for handling high-profile campaigns. PHOTO BY ANDREW RUSSELL
iTheapprove this message possible effects of quote approval in Canadian journalism I
By Sarah Lennox
n fall 2012, the New York Times published an online article stating that quote approval was being banned at the Times. Until recently, quote approval was something that wasn’t talked about in newsrooms. It’s when a journalist allows an interviewee to review a story before it’s published, giving the source the ability to edit any quotes and content that might put them in an unfavourable light. That was until Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times writer, brought the subject to the fore. According to Peters’ online article, bigname American politicians often required – and received – the right to final approval before agreeing to speak with writers. 34
CONVERGENCE Winter 2013
Journalists give in because they know they need the interviews to write their stories. Peters’ story claimed that the offices of President Obama and his then-rival, Mitt Romney, were notorious for denying journalists interviews unless all quotes and content were given the green light. Peters said this practice turned the hallowed journalistic interview – the one designed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable – into PR pablam. What’s more, it robbed readers of the opportunity to get at the real truth. The New York Times responded by making written policy of what the craft had long held was best practice. Journalists could no longer agree to quote approval. The announcement came as a shock
to veteran Canadian journalist Kathy English. Not because of what it banned. But because of the percieved need to take this action. “When I saw this story in the New York Times in July, I was like, ‘really? That’s happening?’ I was quite surprised,” English, public editor of the Toronto Star, said in a phone interview. English says to her knowledge, the southern practice of having quotes blessed has not migrated across the border. And until Canadian politicians start to agitate for control, the Star isn’t about to come up with a written policy against it. In the meantime, Canada’s largest circulation daily already has a rule that discourages tampering with the integrity of original quotes. “Our [policy] says you can’t read back your story,
“The media has fragmented a lot; what I mean by that is going online and the reporters are not the only ones … who
American politicians often require the right to approve quotes before agreeing to speak with reporters. ILLUSTRATION BY JOANNA SEVILLA
your quotes, to anybody in advance,” English says. She also says being asked for a list of questions prior to an interview and being told to stay away from a certain topic in an interview are unacceptable. “In any good interview, journalists are pushing for more information,” says English. “Sources are often trying to hold back. You’re trying to get people to open up, but if you start off with conditions that absolutely are off limits, you’re handicapped from the outset.” English heard from many concerned readers after Peters’ story was published. Paul McLaughlin, author of a Canadian text on interviewing skills, says that while Canadian reporters are programmed to deny requests for quote control, the question is routinely popped in media interviews. “People at the outset usually say ‘I hope I can see the article beforehand, before it goes to print,’ which obviously means that they want to see what you’re quoting them
on as well as the rest of the article,” the freelance writer and journalism educator says. “We tell them that we can’t do that and we tell them why, but it’s very commonplace for people to ask for that.” The Asking Questions: The Art of the Media author has written for media outlets from the Globe and Mail to Canadian Capital magazine to CBC. He says he found no difference in the rules on quote approval. “[It’s] pretty well the same everywhere, which is you don’t allow it,” he says. “It’s just not a good way for us to do our business.” McLaughlin says, however, media approval and the desire to control the story comes in many forms. In broadcast media, sources want to stop an interview from being played on air. Interviewees don’t necessarily ask for quote approval, but they can sense when an interview isn’t going their way. He also says daily newspapers rarely even have the time to comply with a quote approval request, so it isn’t often an issue.
Magazine writers refuse quote approval so sources won’t soften quotes or stop production. “I think that it’s a very, very slippery slope,” he says. “I think that journalists are not held in a high regard to start with these days, so I don’t think it’s a good thing at all, no. ” That doesn’t mean the accuracy of material gleaned from an interview should never be checked with the source. This is particular true where an issue is complex and where a quote may involve arcane detail. McLaughlin occasionally finds himself working with scientific and technical information and may send uncontroversial quotes and sections to sources for clarification. “I will often send a chunk of my story to a person, which could include his quotes, or her quotes, and say, ‘did I get it right?’” he says. “This isn’t quote approval, in my opinion. This is getting information accurate because fact checking has really been
have a voice and are influential.” - Charlene Lo, senior vice president, Influencer communications for Arts & Communications.
cut down a lot and I want to make sure that what I publish is accurate. I don’t want to get it wrong.” According to McLaughlin, professional public relations people know the rules of the road for Canadian journalists. If they do ask to check quotes it’s “because both they’re nervous and/or they want to control the agenda,” he says. “They have a right to do that. We have a right to say ‘we’re not going to help you.’” Charlene Lo, senior vice president for Arts & Communications, is responsible for running a team that looks after press releases and media requests for influential clients and she says she can see a future for quote approval in Canada. “We’re so influenced by what happens south of the border that what we see there is, I think, eventually going to trickle up here as well,” she says. Though, Lo says it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the companies and individuals requesting it. It’s a simple case of any publicity being good publicity. Lo tells her clients they can’t change a tone or an opinion, but they can focus on correcting spelling and making sure a brand is properly represented. “The bottom line is that it is the responsibility of journalists and reporters to understand the power they wield and to use it appropriately and to never report on something that is not factually true and by the same token, the same accountability is expected on the side of the PR person,” she says. Lo has worked with many clients, including celebrities, where limitations are set in advance. In one case, she worked with a celebrity who was going through a relationship breakup. Interviews were limited to questions only about the product she was promoting, not about the break-up. “I think the higher profile a person is that you’re working with, the more they can restrict the direction of the interview,” she says. “If they’re a desirable person to talk to, the journalist will sort of play by a set of rules, as long as it’s reasonable.” Lo says quote approval probably became common practice in the United States because politicians, celebrities and other high-profile sources had bad experiences with journalists. Their quotes may have been misused or taken out of context, compromising the authenticity of the story. “In all cases, I think people just want to put their best foot forward and make sure that they’re giving distinct, articulate answers,” she says. “I kind of like the fact that in Canada, we don’t have quote approval because I think that it gives our media, the media that we consume, a little bit more authenticity.” According to Sarah Bain, director of communications for the Liberal Party of Canada, quote approval isn’t even a consideration on the table. “It’s not a process that I’m familiar with, 36
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that we use, simply because we come to an agreement in advance during the request process as to what the [logistics] and the aspects of the interview [will be],” she says. “You have anything from logistics to theme and to whether or not it’s on or off the record and then journalists respect that.” None of the other federal parties responded to interview requests. Don Wanagas, former political journalist and director of communications for former mayor David Miller, knows about the topic from both sides. As a political writer for about 30 years, Wanagas never accepted a request for quote approval or questions prior to an interview. He thinks, however, that rookie journalists might be more likely to give in to requests. Now, in his role as journalism instructor at Humber College, he teaches his students to decline such demands. “I try to impress upon my students that you open that door and it’s a slippery slope,” he says. “You get a reputation for doing it, it doesn’t do you any good as a journalist, and it doesn’t do your interview process any good. You’ve turned control of the whole process over to the person you’re interviewing.” Wanagas tells students to say no and, if
necessary, find another source to interview. He says if asked for quote approval, journalists can decline and mention the request in their story. “I never requested it and I would never have allowed it when I was a journalist, so, from my perspective, my advice to people is don’t go there,” he says. “Don’t be bullied or intimidated into doing it.” When he was asked to join Mayor Miller’s team in 2005, Wanagas jumped at the chance for a new experience. Instead of writing the stories, he was responsible for communicating with the media. But he never asked for quote approval for his sometimes loquatious boss. “I tried to treat everybody that I was dealing with in a professional manner; I never asked for questions, I never subjected anything to quote approval,” he says. “I tried to treat people who were journalists the way I would have been treated or wanted to be treated when I was a journalist.” He says it’s the responsibility of Canadian reporters to make sure quote approval doesn’t become popular here. “If that’s where we’re going, I don’t think it bodes well for journalism in this country or any other country with a free press,” he added. C
Humber schooL of media studies & information technology
Humber College is home to the largest group of media-related programs in Canada, which produce top quality talent and industry ready professionals. For more than 40 years Humberâ€™s School of Media Studies and Information Technology has been a leader among cutting edge courses in new media and art. Students produce inventive and original work in all areas whether itâ€™s in 3D modeling, marketing, visual arts, or graphic design. Humber has a reputation for helping students meet the challenges of rapidly changing industries like journalism, film and television, leading to students getting hired immediately after graduation. Working with former and current experts, Humber students work in a professional environment that goes beyond the classroom. Here is a look at some of the excellent work Humber students crafted in 2012.
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KEVIN KRUUSI39 CONVERGENCE
film and television
STILL FROM THINE IS MY KINGDOM
STILL FROM FRAGILE THINGS
STILL FROM I LOVE RHONDA 40
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visual and DIGITAL arts
WON HEE PARK
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account manager - robin barahan art director - meagan patry & sumaya alibhai copy writer - taylor guthrie
art director - kinnari patel copy writer - meagan patry
rayron tambron Winter 2013
Graphic and package design
andrea van dyke
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graphic and package design
jenn bobbett 46
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where are they now? Humber College graduates are everywhere. Designing, building, reporting and filming in their respective industries. Below are some Humber grads that have made waves and found success in their field, proving that in the end hard work and perseverance pays off.
jimmy battaglia advertising & graphic design 2012 Jimmy Battaglia is currently working as a marketing director at International Language Academy of Canada, which has received numerous national and international awards. He graduated in June 2012 from the advertising and graphic design program, which not only gave him the tools to succeed, but also connected him to opportunities and helped him find a job. In fact, at the end of his second semester, Jimmy was already working for the education industry. He says he couldn’t have achieved his goals without “the tools and knowledge I received from Humber.” Following his convocation, it took Jimmy only three months to find his current marketing position.
nicole bogart Journalism 2012 After interning with the national online team at Global as part of the three-year journalism program at Humber, Nicole Bogart was immediately hired as a contract employee for The Morning Show. Currently, she still works with Global as an online producer and reporter, and helps with national and international news coverage. Her original contributions to Global include stories on the U.S. 2012 presidential election, the Eurozone debt crisis and Rob Ford’s conflict of interest case. In addition to reporting, Nicole is also a tech supporter for Global’s two websites. While at Humber, Nicole was the photo editor of Scribe magazine and the managing editor of the online publication The Daily Planet. She credits Humber’s hands-on approach and outstanding professors for her success in journalism.
where are they now? elliott chun public relations 2005 After receiving a public relations certificate in 2005, Elliot Chun started with a two-month internship with Weber Shandwick, and was then offered a fulltime job after only a few weeks of starting the internship. Elliot currently works as the communications manager of Future Shop. He says his time at Humber gave him the foundation to succeed in his internship, and later his career.
KYLE HALLADAY GAME PROGRAMMING 2012 Kyle Halladay graduated from game programming in 2012, and currently works as a junior mobile and unity developer at BNOTIONS, a leading manufacturer in the development of augmented reality and unity3D applications. He has worked on numerous mobile AR games, and part of his job involves keeping clients happy by offering them the best and most up-to-date AR technology. Kyle says the program at Humber gave him the prerequisites in video game development, particularly math and physics, while introducing him to a variety of programming concepts.
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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. - Eleanor Roosevelt -
andrea hall Journalism 2012 Andrea Hall made such an impression while interning at the CBC that she was invited to stay on as an editorial assistant. She is also an associate producer, primarily in national radio news, and holds a variety of positions with the hourly news, syndication and World at Six. Andrea writes copy stories, edits audio, monitors news conferences, cuts clips, handles social media, and acts as a studio director. She acknowledges her time at Humber helped her understand the news value of a story, develop skills in both the technical aspects of the job and the writing of quick and concise copy. “By the time I showed up as an intern, I had gotten so used to dashing off copy for newscasts that they told me to slow down or I would run out of stories to write.”
ainsley miller computer programming 2005 Since graduating from the computer programmer analyst program in 2005, Ainsley Miller has worked as a web developer for various companies including Bell Canada, CAMH and Aviva Insurance. He specializes in SharePoint development, a Microsoft business collaboration platform based on the .Net framework. He also created Promilia Corporation, a consultancy offering services in web development, social media marketing and online presence management. Ainsley’s first job was rebuilding Humber’s school of media studies website. He credits this work for helping develop his independent thinking, project management and business analyst skills. Ainsley believes his success is primarily due to concepts he acquired in web services, object oriented development, and personal home page. Ainsley says he is a strong believer in the future of opensource because “with technologies like Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP and limited resources, virtually anyone can create the next Facebook.” Visit his website at www.promilia.com and follow him on Twitter.
where are they now?
The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. - Aristotle -
jamie piper graphic design 2012
justin robertson Journalism 2009
Nearing the end of her threemonth internship for Chatelaine magazine, Jamie Piper was recommended to Today’s Parent magazine where she currently works as a junior designer. She says the Humber program, which she graduated from in 2012, opened the door for the internship and “really kicked my butt in gear from the beginning, giving me no time to lose myself in that first year of partying.” The program also taught her the realities of the design world and motivated Jamie to continue pursuing opportunities in the industry.
Justin Robertson is a freelance writer who started his career in a six-month internship at the Town Crier following his graduation from Humber’s two-year post-graduate journalism program. He then packed his bags and moved all the way to Melbourne, Australia to work for the Pakenham Gazette. He returned to Toronto and currently works as an urban writer for the Toronto Standard and as columnist for the Spectator Tribune. His work has been featured in The Walrus, the Globe and Mail, and the National Post. The program taught him how to multi-task in a fast-paced, deadline-driven industry. However, Justin emphasizes the importance of ongoing learning and updating skills in order to keep up with the competition.
Perry schwartz public relations 1998 Perry Schwartz is the director of communications for Boston Pizza International, and also has the primary task of managing public relations for all 350 Boston Pizza locations in Canada. Perry says the job involves a number of roles including “proactive and reactive public relations, issues management, crisis communications, marketing and promotional support, and communications to external stakeholders such as franchisees, suppliers, business partners and industry associations”. Since graduating from Humber with a public relations certificate in 1998, Perry has worked as a public relations intern for NIKE Canada and spent six years working for a large PR firm that gave him the opportunity to work for clients such as General Motors, Nestlé and Labatt Breweries of Canada. He then went on to corporate positions with AIR MILES and Yellow Pages before settling down in his current role at Boston Pizza. Perry says the Humber program provided him with relevant training in oral and written communications, media relations, and teamwork.
elena zueva computer programming 2012 Elena Zueva is a php/mysql web developer at WebCanada. Working with creative descriptions and content provided by her project manager, she is responsible for website developmenti, which includes either creating new web pages, or updating and maintaining existing content. All the websites Elena handles are CMS-based applications that allow users without programming experience to easily control and maintain content. Elena says the computer programming stream at Humber not only gave her technical knowledge, which forms the basis of her work, but also helped her develop communication, leadership and organizational skills. Thanks to Humber, she was able to find a job within two months of graduating from the program in 2012.
RAYMOND SOUSTER 1921-2012
COURTESY RENE JOHNSTON / THE TORONTO STAR
By Sharon Tindyebwa
aymond Souster was a prolific poet and editor whose career spanned seven decades. Souster published his first poem in the Toronto Star at the age of 15, and helped kick start the career of many Canadian authors such as Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaajte. Yet, in spite of his long career, he remained somewhat obscure. His legendary shyness kept Souster largely out of the public eye, but his mark on Canadian poetry was indelible. “Pivotal” is how George Vanderburgh, Souster’s publisher, described the poet’s role in Canadian poetry. “He encouraged poets to get started, helped them with their work,” Vanderburgh explained. Along with Irving Layton and Louis Dudek, Souster created Contact, which published Atwood’s first poetry collection, The Circle Game. The collection later won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1966. Upon hearing of his death, Atwood tweeted, “Goodbye Raymond Souster, fine man and poet, who helped run Contact Press, my first ‘real’ publisher.” Souster was born in Toronto in 1921, and spent most of his life in the city. Other than the four years he spent in service in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, Souster worked as a teller at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce from 1939 until retirement in 1985. Known as Toronto’s “unofficial poet laureate,” Souster made the city the centre of much of his literary work. Fellow poet and friend, James Deahl, called him the “true Bard of Toronto” in an obituary published in Open Door Toronto. “No other poet has written so deeply about the Queen City,” 50
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Deahl wrote. In a 1998 article, critic Robert Fulford noted that while Souster wrote “eloquently on nature, on war, and most passionately on love, his wife being his muse,” he was best known “as the poet-in-chief of Toronto”. Souster was the co-founder of the League of Canadian Poets and served as its first president from 1967 to 1971. Allan Briesmaster, poet and publisher with the League, told Convergence that as a poet, Souster helped modernize the genre in the late 1940s. “He brought in a contemporary flavour and colour to the writing of poetry in this country.” Briesmaster said Souster wrote about “street life, people who were drunk, dysfunctional [and] impoverished” without “beating around the bush,” an approach to poetry which was slow in coming to Canada. Briesmaster also recognized Souster’s contributions as a publisher. “He was dedicated to poetry in general, not just his own, to his fellow poets. It’s one reason he was so instrumental in founding the League of Canadian Poets,” he said. The League recently established an annual poetry prize in Souster’s name, which will be presented for the first time in June 2013. In a recent column in the Toronto Star, city columnist Joe Fiorito recalled how, as a young writer, he found Souster’s number in the directory and asked for his help. Souster agreed to meet Fiorito for lunch, and after the meal, which Souster paid for, he agreed to introduce Fiorito to his publisher. “I thought I’d won the Nobel Prize,” Fiorito said. In 1964, Souster received the Governor General’s Literary Award for Collected
Poems, the Colour of the Times. He was nominated again in 2006 for Uptown Downtown. He received the City of Toronto Book Award in 1980 and was named to the Order of Canada in 1995. Souster did not attend the ceremony in Ottawa in 1995 and even when the Governor General offered to present it to him when travelling to Toronto, Souster declined. “He didn’t seek that kind of recognition,” said Vanderburgh. Even when close to death, he shunned the limelight. Deahl said that Souster told him he did not want an obituary a few days before his death. “Ray had no use of obituaries. In his view, the personal details of a poet’s life are unimportant.” Deahl wrote one anyway because he “could not let it go at that”. “Souster led a life that was pure inspiration to all who were fortunate to know him,” said Deahl. “He spent more time editing, publishing and promoting the work of other writers than he gave to his own poetry. In short, he was the most decent, generous, modest man I have ever known.” Souster published more than 50 books of his own poetry. In 1998, Fulford wrote that one couldn’t read “the history of Canadian poetry without encountering [Souster], but that his shyness had created a curious form of anonymity: he’s at once omnipresent and invisible. “ Despite going blind in 2000, Souster continued to write up until a few weeks before his death. “He wrote poetry every day,” his publisher said. “Some people write to live, other people live to write. Raymond was the kind of guy that wrote to continue living.” He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Rosalia. C
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Convergence examines the international media landscape from a Canadian perspective. Published twice a year by graduating students in the Hum...
Published on Mar 1, 2013
Convergence examines the international media landscape from a Canadian perspective. Published twice a year by graduating students in the Hum...