The Humber School of Media Studies and Information Technology//Winter 2011
DRUG WARS IN MEXICO
Journalists at the cartelsâ€™ mercy
The miracle in TV advertising FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: What really happened at the G20 protests?
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Message from the Dean
Free Expression. It’s the cornerstone of democracy – but who ever stops to look at cornerstones? It is Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; The U.S. First Amendment; Section 2(b) of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the central tenet on which we base all of the teaching in the School of Media Studies. But for most Canadians free speech is like air. It’s just there; undervalued and, mostly, unconsidered. Until you don’t have it anymore. It’s that realization that prompts those who enjoy this right to annually honour international journalists, photographers, filmmakers and cartoonists who have quite literally put their lives on the line in places where free speech is denied. It is also the focus of this issue of Convergence as we draw to a close the first decade of the millennium. Editor Jon Hembrey presents the story of journalist Fahem Boukaddous who, when imprisoned for reporting on protests in that country started a hunger strike to protest the conditions in jail. Hembrey also joins Canadian Journalists for Free Expression in recounting the struggles of journalists in Cameroon. The enemies of the press map on pages 30 and 31 briefly highlights some of the most egregious violations of Free Expression in far flung corners of the world. More than that, however, this issue of Convergence details struggles closer to home to get the story, to present the story and to find the truth. Catherine Labelle recounts the battle between image and environment as warring public relations and advertising campaigns
pit Alberta’s oilsands protagonists against the ever more savvy environmental activists. In the same vein, Alicia Condarcuri follows the numbers – often false and misleading – surrounding the summer’s devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In our cover story, Emmanuel Samoglou writes of the terror facing not only the citizens of Juarez, Mexico but of their media. More than 30 journalists have been murdered or are missing in Juarez since 2006. The city is under seige by the warring drug cartels who think that killing the messenger is the solution to bad press. The tragic response from a battered media: Just tell us what we CAN print so we can stay alive. Awaiting an extradition hearing as of press time, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being threatened for what many believe is simply telling it like it is. The data dump from a military insider has prompted death threats from a nation well noted for castigating other nations for stifling free expression. Jonathon Brodie gives us an update. Still closer to home, Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan is currently serving 19½ years in notorious Evin Prison for urging Iranians to follow his lead in uncovering wrongdoing in Iran. For Teheran, that’s a crime against the state. Amanda Graham reports. In our backyard, Ryan Charkow takes a look at the impact of the concentration of media in Canada. What happens now that the content deliverers have bought up most of the content providers? Lance Holdforth investigates the disturbing fallout when members of the media meet the end of a police officer’s baton on the streets of Toronto during the G20 Summit. And as for the battle over whether Canada can handle a right wing news channel? Jason Rauch discovered that the strident voices on both sides of the political spectrum quieted somewhat when the CRTC decided Sun TV News could air, but only with a restricted approval. Canadians, it seems, are okay with other voices as long as they don’t have to pay for them. Perhaps it is, after all, as the cartoon character Pogo famously said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” William Hanna, Dean School of Media Studies and Information Technology.
Our cover image was taken in the summer of 2008 by Luis Horacio Nájera, win-
ner of CJFE’s 2010 International Press Freedom Award. The photo, taken after a deadly riot at a municipal jail in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, shows a member of the “Pura Raza Mexicana”, described by Nájera as one of the most violent gangs operating along the United States-Mexico border.
CONVERGENCE Editor-in-Chief JON HEMBREY Executive Editor TESSIE SANCI Managing Editor Words RYAN CHARKOW
Managing Editor Production JASON RAUCH
Research Chief BRANDI DOUCETT Copy Chief JOHNNA RUOCCO
Art Direction ALICIA CONDARCURI GURPREET GHAG TAI DUONG KYLA SERGEJEW
Assistant Copy Editor MELANIE KERR
Photo Editor LINDSAY BELFORD
Managing Editor Online Section Editors CATHERINE LABELLE JONATHON BRODIE AMANDA GRAHAM Assistant Editor Online MALORIE GILBERT LANCE HOLDFORTH KYLA SERGEJEW ANDREW SUTHERLAND Online Editor Production International Editor JUSTIN MILLERSON EMMANUEL SAMOGLOU
Publisher William Hanna Faculty Advisers Terri Arnott, Carey French
SCHOOL OF MEDIA STUDIES AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM CO-ORDINATORS Heather Lowry, Jane Bongers, Barbara Elliott, Michael Rosen, Alison Bruce, Ken Wyman, Heather Lowry, Vass Klymenko, Chitra Reddin, Kalene Morgan, Lorne Frohman, Terry Posthumus, Karen Young, Sheila Walsh, Paul Cross, Rob Robson, Greg Henderson, Ravinder Singh, Eva Ziemsen, Michael Glassbourg, Carey French, Mike Karapita, Lynne Thomas, Robert Richardson, James Cullin, Andrew Ainsworth, Noni Kaur, Bernie Monette 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 http://convergencemagazine2011.com firstname.lastname@example.org WINTER
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COVER STORY: Yielding truth to power
by Emmanuel Samoglou
6 Merging content by Ryan Charkow 30 8 A little too close to home by Tessie Sanci 32 11 Chronicling chaos by Lance Holdforth 14 The right to truth by Jonathon Brodie 15 Reporting at any cost by Jon Hembrey 18 The two faces of Alberta by Catherine Labelle 21 Playing the numbers game by Alicia Condarcuri 26 Honouring truth by Jon Hembrey 28 Blogger behind bars by Amanda Graham 4 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
Enemies of the press Open season on photojournalism by Gurpreet Ghag
34 34 37 39
Voice of persuasion by Johnna Ruocco Marketing goes viral by Andrew Sutherland The miracle of advertising by Brandi Doucett
How well do you know your apps?
43 45 47 48 49 50 52 54 62 67
A novel approach by Justin Millerson
by Kyla Sergejew
Arguing the news by Jason Rauch Changing standards by Malorie Gilbert All the news that fits to screen by Tai Duong
Accepting feedback by Melanie Kerr Mapping bravery by Lindsay Belford In brief... Student portfolios Where are they now? In memoriam: Pius Njawe by Jon Hembrey
We asked the media...
There are more ways to deliver information than ever before. What impact has this had on the quality of the content? WINTER
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Illustration by Timothy Pattison
Merging Content With the ownership of Canadian media increasingly converging, the concern is that programming will be left hanging at the mercy of profits by
ise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild, leans back in her chair and takes a furtive gaze out the window of the spacious boardroom at the guild’s offices in Toronto, a stone’s throw from the CBC’s headquarters on Front Street. “It’s the Wild West out there now,” she says, referring to the new challenges facing the structure of the Canadian media industry. When BCE announced this past September their plans to wholly acquire CTV, it marked a dramatic shift in the organization of Canadian media. The control of private television broadcasters now lies in the hands of the country’s four major telecommunication companies; distribution has fully 6 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
merged with content. “It’s a huge shift because broadcasters used to be able to control their own destiny and negotiate with some strength with the people who distributed their material,” Lareau says. “Now they’re owned completely by them and so content is essentially taking a secondary role to the means of distribution and profit from distribution.” Karen Wirsig, the Guild’s communications coordinator and regulatory expert, is more blunt about the situation. “The telecom companies all want your eyeballs and they’re trying to figure out how people engage with media,” she says.
The problem, she says, is this competition for audience share is having a negative effect on overall content because the CRTC has no regulatory power over what is broadcast over the internet or mobile phones. “What we have in Canada is a telecommunications act and a broadcasting act,” she explains. “They both meet at the CRTC but broadcasting goes through the heritage ministry and telecommunications is handled by the industry ministry. We continue to have these two silos becoming less appropriate because we’re moving toward a converged industry.” Indeed, CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein has scheduled a hearing for May 9 to discuss
concerns with increasing vertical integration in the broadcasting industry. But Wirsig says she fears this hearing may come too late, the acquisitions being long since finalized. “The CRTC will wait to set out policy after the barn door is closed behind the stolen horse,” she says. Ian Morrison, spokesperson for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a watchdog group for Canadian programming, says the CRTC should show more teeth when dealing with such an important resource as the Canadian airwaves. “Convergence is here to stay,” he says. “It means that the regulator has to be very sophisticated and persistent to make sure that the goals of the Broadcasting Act are adhered to.” However, he says it would be unfair to expect telecom companies to compromise profits in exchange for a supposed “greater good” for Canadians.
other large media/telecom conglomerates follow our assumptions and lessons. The acquisition of Global by Shaw, the more recently announced acquisition of CTVglobemedia by BCE, or that of NBC Universal by Comcast are all clear demonstrations that these entities have no future if they stand alone.” These words ring false in the offices of the Canadian Media Guild. “They’ve all tried to say their various acquisitions have been charity deals,” says Karen Wirsig. “Bullshit.” The regulatory expert says the strategy is clear. “They clearly saw value in these broadcasters, otherwise they wouldn’t have bought them.” Her colleague says if these massive conglomerates were not so fixated on the bottom line, they could maintain a healthy broadcasting environment for Canadians to enjoy and still make money, albeit not hand over fist.
The telecom companies all want your eyeballs and they’re trying to figure out how people engage with media. Karen Wirsig,
communications co-ordinator, Canadian Media Guild “It makes it more difficult for public policy to promote Canadian programming because the telecom companies have a built-in incentive to promote American programming,” he says. “They get the American channels [and programs] very cheaply and so their cost is far less than acquiring Canadian programming. “In their business model, you’d rather fill your channels with less expensive content.” Jonathan Burston, a professor in the faculty of information and media studies at the University of Western Ontario, agrees. “Private broadcasters do not have a responsibility to show only Canadian stuff,” he says. “We needn’t expect for-profit companies to invest more money in Canadian productions on their own networks because they are, first and foremost, for-profit companies.” On Oct. 5, Pierre Peladeau, president and CEO of Quebecor Inc., delivered a speech to the Canadian Club in Ottawa at the luxurious Chateau Laurier. His main talking points surrounded his company’s reasoning for their proposal of the controversial Sun TV News channel. He also addressed how the increasing and changing convergence in Canadian media, he says, is inevitable for the health of the industry: “At the time of the AOL/Time Warner merger, a lot of commentators were skeptical of this convergence model, just as they were when we bought Videotron, ten years ago. “But we succeeded and we are now seeing
“CHCH [in Hamilton] was bought by Channel Zero, a little operation, and now they’re doing fine and proud to be on the air,” Lareau says. “I asked the president what the profit was and he said four or five per cent but he’s happy with that. “That’s a different approach to broadcasting. The big broadcasters seem to think that because of their shareholders, they have to make obscene profits. We don’t have to turn over massive profits, that’s what’s killing it.” Ottawa lawyer Monica Auer, who specializes in CRTC regulatory decisions, says increased convergence could hurt the quality of discourse on Canadian airwaves. She says the commission’s current policy surrounds what it labels a “diversity of voices.” The intent, she says, is to ensure Canadians are exposed to a variety of editorial opinions. “But if you have cross-media ownership where you have one journalist reporting for radio, TV and the internet, that really isn’t diversity.” Western’s Jonathan Burston takes this argument further, saying Canadians live in a “million-channel universe” and therefore, according to media conglomerate rhetoric, can find “anything they want.” “The ongoing bulking up of media capital by telecom companies in no way ensures we are going to get genuinely diverse programming on these million channels,” he says. “What we’re guaranteed of is multiplicity, not diversity. I’m still waiting to see the Social Justice Channel, I’ve
got all the golf channels I need.” Auer says the CRTC does not keep numbers regarding true diversity over the airwaves. “We have excellent policy proposals and statements of intent regarding diversity but when push comes to shove, we don’t have the evidence to show what is actually happening.” Burston says discourse is also hurt because some journalists may become more careful when it comes to reporting on issues relating to their parent companies since convergence has narrowed the employer pool. “When you have hugely powerful owners, you often self-censor when you’re a news reporter so that you don’t annoy your bosses; you don’t want to get fired,” he says. Lise Lareau says this is the reason these major acquisitions don’t make sexy headlines. “When you own the whole stream of distribution and news gathering, you can create the consensus,” she says wryly. “You’re very unlikely to hear any reporting about public broadcasting policy because head offices are unlikely to criticize decisions that may work to their benefit at some point in time. No one cares about this stuff. “Are we really that far from where Shaw will only be carrying Global and Global-related products? If you don’t subscribe to Shaw, will you be cut out of Global?” she asks. “These are the questions Canadians should be asking but they’re not – because none of these pending decisions are being reported on.” Sitting back in her chair and tilting away from the midday sun, she pauses as if to ponder this last statement. “Broadcasters and telecoms have different cultures and serve different needs,” she says. “But now they’re two trains on the same track and the question is, will they hit each other?”
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A little too close to home When the pressure from chasing the local story becomes overwhelming
Just two small buildings separate an old-fashioned red-brick military museum from the County of Hastings Court House in Belleville, Ont. The military town takes pride in its background though that took a hit last year with the trial of former colonel Russell Williams. The case intrigued and shocked the country. Williams was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Cpl. MarieFrance Comeau and Jessica Lloyd as well as 86 other charges, including two separate sexual assaults. Luke Hendry covered the story for the Belleville Intelligencer, a community newspaper with four city reporters. “We knew it was going to be bad but we didn’t know the extent of his depravity,” he says. “We knew he had raped and killed but what came out in court was the how.” Hendry is sitting at a dilapidated picnic table, facing the court house, which is on a hill, looming over one of Belleville’s main streets. On this November day, the sun shines a warm spotlight on the building, in stark contrast to the chilling focus laid on it the previous month. The “how” in this case was shown through photographs and video taken by Williams. “While we didn’t see the details, on video or hear audio recordings, we saw enough and heard enough in court that I think a lot of people felt like they had been in the room when he killed them,” says Hendry. The facts surrounding this case devastated the victims’ families and stunned millions – including many journalists who were assigned to the story. Luke Hendry and other journalists are proof that a reporter does not need to get on a plane to witness horrifying events. Sometimes, you just step out into your own backyard. Pushing this idea into mainstream media analysis has become the project of Cliff Lonsdale and Jane Hawkes. The married couple are the co-founders of the Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma, based in London, Ont. The Forum was designed with the purpose of bringing more attention to the effects on reporters who cover violent and upsetting stories. Lonsdale says the changing attitude in many newsrooms toward helping foreign correspondents deal with post-traumatic stress “is encouraging but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.” The former CBC news producer and editor is a journalism professor at the University of Western Ontario. He teaches risk 8 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
Luke Hendry sits in front of the Hastings Court House in Belleville, Ontario. Photo by Tessie Sanci
awareness seminars where he begins by looking at war zones, not because they’re the only place where journalists can experience trauma but because it’s the easiest way to get his students to see it. “Then we try to kind of back away from that and look at the domestic situation, which is what 90 per cent of them are going to be concerned with. The obvious things there are the Williams case and the [Robert] Pickton case, which again are sort of the equivalent of the war zone story,” he says. Jeremy Hainsworth, a Vancouver-based freelance reporter, agrees with this. Hainsworth covered the Robert Pickton trial for the Associated Press. The pig farmer was accused of murdering 26 women. The story was horrific, the evidence graphic and the consequences huge. “There was nothing ordinary about this,” says Hainsworth. Right now, he’s sitting in his apartment getting ready to start the day. He has decided to take it easy on this overcast morning. In fact, he takes it easy every morning whether by going for a swim or spending some time in a jacuzzi or a hot tub. “It’s so I don’t start my day stressed,” he says. This is just one lesson that came from his time as a crime reporter. The preliminary hearing for the first trial began in 2003. The press and jury heard how B.C. health officials issued a tainted meat advisory to the accused’s neighbours because there were fears of human remains within the meat; skulls of two victims that were cut and stuffed with their own hands and feet; and human bones found within manure. “We didn’t know what was coming. It was brutal as more and more of this stuff began to unfold,” says Hainsworth. Of the three AP bureau chiefs who were working during the Pickton trial, Hainsworth recalls only one asking him if he needed help. “Because I was playing ‘tough reporter’ at the time, I did not avail myself of this one editor’s offer and I paid heavily for it. Knowing what I know now, I should have jumped on that and taken the assistance because it damaged me,” says Hainsworth. Lonsdale understands this. “There is a strong residual feeling that ‘we’re tough, we’re journalists, we’re not like other people but we just suck this stuff up’ and it’s always been nonsense.” Hainsworth lost that attitude when he went into rehab to treat a pre-existing substance abuse problem. While there, he was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is defined as change following a traumatic experience that can horrify or make one feel helpless. Dr. Marla Buchanan, a counselling psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, has studied the condition as it relates to journalists.
She says that to be diagnosed with PTSD, one must have all three elements: intrusive imagery, which can include nightmares or flashbacks; hyperarousal, where the individual is always on edge and looking for an escape; and avoidance strategies. “Reminders of the event can be really emotional; it can just flood you, incapacitate you,” she explains. Hainsworth describes his dreams as scars from his reporting experience. “In the past, one of these dreams has included a friend of the family being raped and killed by Pickton and that woke me up. It was just so brutal. It’s still all there.” Though he was horrified by the details and his substance abuse was getting worse, he continued to cover the trial. “As a crime and court reporter, I have a serial killer sitting in front of me. It’s the top,” he says.
He tells his story because he worries there is not enough attention on the impact that covering local stories can have on reporters. “The most important thing that the newsroom has going for it is not the newsgathering, it’s the people gathering the news,” he says. “Top-notch journalists are finely tuned machines. If you want to run a top-notch news organization, you need the finely tuned machines to be operating properly, and if you’re not looking after the mental health of journalists who are in dangerous traumatic situations no matter where they are, then you might as well just call it a day.” His lifestyle choices go beyond staying away from drugs and alcohol or even how he starts his day. As a freelancer, he is selective about the stories he covers. He doesn’t shy away from crime stories, but chooses them carefully. Hainsworth says his AP editor understands his
I’ve got enough of perverted, nutso, psycho sex maniac horrific killing in my head to last god knows how many people several lifetimes. Jeremy Hainsworth, freelance reporter Photo by Dan Burritt
With the help of his family, Hainsworth finally realized he’d had enough and stopped covering the trial in October of 2007, two months before Pickton was found guilty of his crimes. “It was just over. I had to get help,” he says. “If you want to talk ambition, the ambition at that point was to continue living.” He speaks openly about his experiences. He says he learned his lesson from the trial, when he would go to his friends and relate the facts of the case, as opposed to his feelings. “I didn’t tell them that I was horrified, I was disturbed, I felt sick,” he explains. “I didn’t talk about it from my point of view. I talked about it as the journalist and that was my big mistake.” Lonsdale stresses the importance of talking to someone, whether it is a colleague or a counsellor, about the effects of a story. It is a way to do “your mental laundry at regular intervals, just to clear the backlog. For most reporters that’s enough.” Hainsworth has been sober for three years now. He attends 12-step meetings three to five times a week. “It’s what I need to do. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to remain healthy, happy and sane,” he says.
situation and accepts it if he refuses a story. He is also careful about the stories he follows. He chose not to pay attention to the Williams case, saying he knew it was going to be disturbing and that it would not help him. “I don’t want to sound like I know it all but I’ve got enough of perverted, nutso, psycho sex maniac horrific killing in my head to last god knows how many people several lifetimes,” he explains. While Hainsworth was deliberately not looking at the images, Hendry was in Belleville surrounded by the disturbing details. The days were hectic, starting at 6:30 in the morning and usually going until 10 p.m. He ended them by speaking to his parents and girlfriend. “Just like we did, they knew that what we were experiencing wasn’t anything comparable to the ordeal of the families and the surviving victims, but they knew it wasn’t an easy work day so I would check in and say, ‘Yes, I’m okay – I think,’” he explains. His editors would also ask how he was doing, which was a difficult question. “We’ve been so focused about ‘hear story, write story down, file story, get ready for next story,’” he explains. “Your brain hasn’t really had any space WINTER
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to think about, ‘Gee, how am I doing?’ You’re just focused on making sure the job gets done and worrying about the rest later.” As a local journalist, Hendry had interviewed Williams, then a respected community leader, before the rest of the country had even heard of the man. Their last interview was in January of 2010. At that point, Williams had murdered Comeau. “When his name is mentioned, what comes to mind for me are my own photos, you know, see-
ing this guy posing for me and him knowing what he’d done and me having no idea,” says Hendry. He recalls Williams sitting across the table from him, smiling and “talking as the gracious confident wing commander, when really he was already a killer and on his way to killing someone else.” It was this knowledge of the man that prevented him from accepting his editor’s offer to work from the newsroom on the final day of the trial. “I couldn’t really believe I was saying it having been through the Tuesday that we all just experienced,”
he says. The court would view Williams’ highly publicized videotaped confession that day. “I felt I needed to see that so that I could connect the Russ Williams that I knew with the David Russell Williams before the courts.” Williams was convicted that day, bringing an end to an intense and shocking trial. The Intelligencer reporters on this story were offered a few counselling sessions. At the time of writing, Hendry has been to one session and says he’ll probably go back for another.
The truth behind the trauma
Trauma training and support for media is a relaOne reason Hawkes and her husband, Cliff Lon- challenging assignments there is.” tively new phenomenon, having emerged from sdale decided to start the Forum was to bring Shapiro says studies looking at PTSD and first virtual obscurity in the past decade. That changed more attention to the harmful effects local stories responders, including journalists, police officers when the BBC incorporated a systematic ap- can have on reporters – the car crashes, the trials, and fire fighters, suggest that one of the factors proach, which included that people at all levels of the kidnappings. “There aren’t as many cases as that increases the statistical risk of serious psythe organization should be educated chological injury is how much in trauma and be able to gauge any they empathize with or feel conproblems reporters have following nected to victims. Covering local difficult assignments. tragedies can be problematic beThe U.K. public broadcaster did cause the reporter may know or this with the help of the New Yorkrelate to the victim more than if based Dart Center for Journalism reporting on situations in other and Violence. The blurb on the orgacountries. nization’s website says it is dedicated Collectively they emphasize the to providing reporters with the skills importance of peer support and and support to cover violence. This having a fellow journalist in the support comes from news profesnewsroom that can check in with sionals, mental health experts and reporters to see how they are researchers of traumatic stress. feeling. Shapiro says the support Bruce Shapiro, Dart’s executive model that is used in the Austradirector, says Reuters, Associated lian Broadcasting Corporation Press and the Australian Broadcastcould be applied to North Ameriing Corporation have followed suit can newsrooms, in the last few years with a systemAt the ABC, every bureau and atic approach but acknowledges U.K. journalist John Owen, left, speaks to participants at the 2008 Journalism newsroom within the organizathat training for local reporters has in a Violent World conference. Courtesy Ryner Stoetzer tion has a peer support worker. lagged in North America. This person is trained in the language “It may not be as obvious to reporters and news bad as the [Col. Russell] Williams one, but [con- of trauma by a clinical psychologist hired by the managers that trauma, psychological injury is a sider] a series of murder trials where you are the ABC and a Dart member. They will check in with risk, is a fact of life for domestic reporters. Our filter between the raw evidence and the public. reporters and provide feedback to managers who studies show that it is,” he says. What does that do to you over a period of years? are deciding how to best cover a story. The supJane Hawkes, co-founder of the Canadian Jour- We need more – more attention paid to this sort port workers are not doctors, so if a reporter nalism Forum on Violence and Trauma, says it’s of thing,” says Lonsdale. needs clinical help, the case is referred to the psythe reaction to local stories that can often be the As far as Shapiro is concerned, it’s the local chologist, Shapiro says. most surprising. “It’s the stories you cover in a safe journalists that don’t understand the potential for The program was put to work during the 2009 society that can catch you off guard, that can have trauma from their stories. bushfires in the state of Victoria. It was the counthe most profound effect.” “I do think that many local reporters look at try’s worst bushfire disaster, killing more than 170 Part of the discourse means moving away from their own challenges and in a way don’t appreci- people and leaving thousands homeless. Shapiro the “us versus them” mentality, Hawkes says. “It ate how brave and thoughtful they really are,” he says many reporters have spoken about how helpcan’t be about ‘oh my boss is terrible, he doesn’t says. “They’ll compare themselves to foreign cor- ful the peer supporters were during this difficult care that I’m traumatized.’ Everybody has to un- respondents and say, ‘Well I could never do that, assignment and “made a big difference in the covderstand the issues and accept that they’re impor- that’s really the hard stuff’ when in fact reporting erage of the ABC and the ability of those extremetant.” on your own community can be one of the most ly stressed journalists to stay professional.” 1 0 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
Photos by Ryan Charkow
A new CJFE report aims to shed light on the issues surrounding the G20 summit by
housands of angry voices echoed through Toronto’s streets, tear gas filled the air and the rain came down as people protested against the G20 summit. Police cars burned, the raised fists of “troublemakers” were shackled, and journalists found themselves running for cover alongside legitimate protesters and rubberneckers. Behind a riot shield barricade, police held their ground before ushering protesters and accredited journalists into detainment centres where they were held for hours before being released, many without ever being charged. Despite having proper credentials, Toronto Sun reporter Joe Warmington was caught in a “kettle,” a police tactic used to corral the mob. On the second day of the protests, he recalls being herded with hundreds of people into a fenced area where police determined who was friend or foe. “I think it was incorrect and repulsive the way some of the police acted that weekend. There were many instances that they did a good job, but there were just as many where you had to wonder what they were thinking,” he says. “I’m not against the police, but you have to call it as it is, and that was not one weekend I think they should be proud of.” Police tactics used during the protest have sparked Canadian Journalists for Free Expression to compile a report based on the treatment reporters received from police.
Warmington has been a journalist for 25 years, 19 of them with the Sun. Of all the stories in his career, being in the middle of the protests and detained for three hours with thousands of other people stands out in his mind. “I’ve never seen anything like what I saw that weekend, in terms of police presence and tension,” he says. “It was martial law that was brought in without any parliament deciding upon any such thing.” On the weekend of June 25-27, world leaders gathered in Toronto to discuss the global economy and the financial stability of impoverished countries. Violence escalated at the corner of Queen Street and Spadina Avenue as masked protestors believed to be the Black Bloc, an anti-G20 protest group from Quebec, and others destroyed storefronts and vehicles inciting a mass police presence. In the midst of the violence, some reporters were arrested and detained under false pretenses. It was those allegations that caught the attention of Toronto media lawyer Peter M. Jacobsen who, working with CJFE, surveyed the experiences of more than 20 journalists. “We got a very strong response from a large number of journalists who had concerns about the way they were treated by the police and the tactics used by the police,” says Jacobsen. “In a number of instances that occurred, journalists were carrying clear accreditation and, as WINTER
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it appears to us, they were very heavy-handedly treated by the police.” Jacobsen says the response to the survey warranted further investigation. “We haven’t decided exactly who [the report is] going to, but certainly it will be directed to the authorities who were responsible for the policing, which would include the federal government, the provincial government and the Toronto police,” says Jacobsen. “It appears people showing accreditation of some kind didn’t seem to carry much weight with police. They either doubted the accreditation, or they ignored it completely.” Accusations of police using excessive force and abuse of power have surfaced since the protests, and Jacobsen says there is “no question” journalists and their credentials were not respected. “The integrity of the system depends on journalists being able to be present, without threat, and to provide a transparent and fair report on what occurs, and they can’t do that in a jail cell,” says Jacobsen. “Other journalists, unfortunately, have experienced similar complete disrespect to the fact that they were accredited.” Mark Pugash, a spokesperson for Toronto Police Service, says some reporters were arrested and detained, but maintaining order was top priority during the G20 summit. “There were some reporters who took great exception to the fact that they may have been arrested, or that they were in with a large crowd,” he says. “Being a reporter gives you no greater access, and it doesn’t give you any more rights than anybody else who was out on the street.” Pugash says reporters were forewarned about the severity of policing and if some were arrested, it was because they broke the law or interfered with police. “We tried to explain this to people in advance and it seems there were some who perhaps didn’t understand the message,” he says. “It was our belief that perhaps a lot of reporters had never covered an event of this kind, and perhaps they weren’t familiar with the way in which these events run, and the way these events are policed.” Stephen Davis had full G20 credentials, but says he wasn’t forewarned about policing procedures, and wasn’t prepared for being pulled from a
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crowd, detained and searched while reporting for McGill University’s daily paper based in Montreal. “I was searched and had my camera gear dragged through the rain, and the reason that [the police] gave me was because I was wearing a red bandana around my neck,” he says. “The ID I had on me said the McGill Daily. There’s a photo of me being arrested and my press pass is dangling on my chest.”
I pulled [my press pass] out and . . . I was waving it in my hand saying ‘I’m a journalist.’ Stephen Davis, freelance journalist In addition to the university paper, Davis was shooting photos for Maisonneuve magazine, also based in Montreal, when he became one of the many people to feel the long arm of the law. “They pulled me out of a crowd on what really must have been a stupid hunch,” he says. “When they grabbed me I looked down and realized [my press pass] had got tangled in my rain coat. So I pulled it out and I think I was waving it in my hand saying ‘I’m a journalist,’ and their response was ‘You’re wearing a mask,’ referring to the bandana around my neck.” The streets became a boiling pot of vandalism when protestors and police squared off during the conflict, and Davis says police were arresting first and questioning later. “I said something and one of them responded ‘Didn’t you notice all those Black Bloc guys were carrying cameras?’” Davis says. “At the
Photo by Ryan Chark
time I thought that was absolutely ridiculous. The other type of person who carries a camera is a photographer.” The Sun’s Warmington says he was released when colleague Rob Lamberti approached police and identified himself and Warmington as reporters for Sun Media. Although that Sunday appeared to be the culmination of protester-police stand offs, Warmington says Saturday was when the city really needed police assistance. “My big problem with the police during the G20? They had their job to do and all that and many of them did it well, but the problem with it was they were too lax originally. With the real bandits – the Black Bloc and the other anarchists that were here to wreak havoc on the city – they turned a blind eye collectively,” he says. “The next day they took a payback approach, in my view, which was to pick off the street anybody who looked a tad bit alternative.” Years of reporting have honed Warmington’s observational skills, but he says what he saw didn’t indicate the need for the police reaction. “In that instance and many, many of the other instances as well, I don’t think anyone was doing anything wrong, so I think the police really had no reason to do the kettling,” Warmington says. “In my opinion, based on what I knew and what I saw, I didn’t see any ‘troublemakers’ there at all.” If anyone thinks the manhandling of journalists has been lost in the subsequent political fingerpointing over responsibility, lawyer Jacobsen is there
to disabuse them. “There was one case where a journalist quite clearly had been told he was allowed to be in a certain area. Different police moved in and they took him away despite the fact that he was holding up credentials,” he says. “I don’t think it’s good enough for police just to say there were no problems. There certainly were problems. With respect to journalists, clearly there were.” Jacobsen says the focus in the aftermath should be what led to reporters being detained, and how it happened. “In circumstances like this, police have a job to do and they’re dealing with a lot of people, but it would seem to us that one of the big issues here is recognizing credentials,” he says. “One of the troublesome things in all of this, is individual police officers are not going to be held accountable. I think that’s a very bad message.” He says he hopes reporters will see the positive side of what the upcoming report states and what it represents, but the biggest benefit ought to be the potential impact it will have on future events. “Because the CJFE and others have shone a light on what happened, this will make things better for journalists in the long run,” says Jacobsen. “I do not think freedom of speech is under a huge threat. I think that what this means is there will be a heightened awareness about the way journalists are treated.” That means setting rules, he says. “What we are hoping is that the security enforcers will take a careful look at this, and that we’ll be able to come up with a protocol that will ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
There are more ways to deliver information than ever before. What impact has this had on the quality of the content?
There has always been a huge gap in quality no matter how the information has been delivered. The fact that there are more ways to get information doesn’t mean there is a drop in information. You still need to be a smart consumer of information to pick out what’s great and what’s garbage. - Matt Galloway, host, CBC Metro Morning
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The right to know When does the public need for information outweigh the expectation of privacy? by
ne of the certainties about the debate over WikiLeaks, and its airing of diplomatic dirty laundry, is that there’s no middle ground. The other is: it ain’t over yet. It’s only since November that Sweden-based WikiLeaks began posting classified United States Embassy cables. Since then, publicly describing Julian Assange, editor-in-chief and the face of WikiLeaks, has become an extreme sport. On one end of the whacky arc are those who believe he is an anarchist who deserves assassination. On the other are the hero-worshippers calling for a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. As Convergence goes to press the dripping tap of more than a quarter-million cables shows no sign of being turned off, and ranges from the mundane to the truly surprising. “Those messages are just tidbits, they’re part of an on-going conversation,” says Toronto Star columnist James Travers. “Somebody somewhere has said, I think this is interesting, and this is interesting, and this is interesting, but that’s like looking at one scene in a movie. What you want to know is the entire spectrum of the conversation,” says Travers. WikiLeaks launched in 2006 with the organization describing itself as having been founded by Chinese dissidents, as well as journalists, mathematicians and a start-up company of technologists from the United States. Assange has represented the site in public since January 2007, describing himself as a member of the WikiLeaks advisory board. Those who believe the documents shouldn’t be released argue that WikiLeaks is compromising the stability of international relations. “My objection is not to any content of these cables, but the fact that they were hacked and stolen and published to our enemies and that WikiLeaks has endangered lives and helped our enemies in a time of war, “ says Toronto Sun columnist Ezra Levant. Assange topped a poll from Time magazine readers for Person of the Year in 2010, running ahead of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and pop diva Lady Gaga, despite surrendering to London police to face allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. He has since been replaced by Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. But Levant says Assange is merely a hacker, who has 1 4 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
“never been a democracy activist a day of his life.” Levant argues this is not just about government secrets, but also about the lives put at risk by releasing the documents. “He published military secrets. He published the names, villages, and GPS locations of a hundred Afghan human rights activists that have been co-operating with the U.S. and they’re going to be hunted down and killed.” Although he may be viewed as a whistleblower, “Assange is actually putting in jeopardy real whistleblowers, real human rights activists, and real journalists. He’s just a hacker and a spy,” says Levant. The United States may charge Assange under its Espionage Act but there has never been a successful prosecution in American courts for someone who publishes classified material, only for those who have leaked the documents. “If the Americans have a case to put against him then they should, I don’t see that case though,” says Travers, who finds it difficult to believe “any court would think that information shared by nearly three million people is a legitimate secret. If there’s any accountability or responsibility on this, it’s on the part of the state which was so careless in its distribution of information that it now says is sensitive.” But Levant’s view is stridently different. “I think it’s the moral equivalent of putting a hidden camera in a ladies’ bathroom and then publishing it on the internet and saying you’re a great film maker.” “You’re stealing the images, you’re violating people’s privacy, and there’s no public interest being served in so many of the things he’s doing. ‘Oh that’s free speech, I’m a filmmaker;’ no you’re not. You’re a weird peeping Tom who stole some images of people when they thought they were in privacy,” says Levant. The WikiLeaks website won The Economist’s Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award in 2008, and an Amnesty International human rights reporting award in new media in 2009. “I can’t tell you what [Assange’s] motivation is, only he can do that. But looking at it on the surface it seems to me that he’s making use of the information that he has and the information he has is American,” says Travers. “The man is not a democracy activist. He’s a rogue. He’s a selfish autocrat himself in the way he runs WikiLeaks. It’s funny, he treats his own privacy preciously but he violates others’.”
Reporting at any cost
Tunisian journalist Fahem Boukaddous in the Farhat Hached Teaching Hospital not long before he was sentenced to four years in prison. Courtesy Facebook group: Pour la libĂŠration de Fahem Boukaddous
On an April morning in 2008, Massaoud Romdhani stood in the centre of the small, impoverished mining town of Redeyef, located in the desolate, sparsely populated south-western edge of Tunisia. Among the sandy desert, rock strewn hillsides and low lying houses, nearly 1,000 people gathered to protest against worsening economic conditions, part of a series of sit-ins and protests that erupted in the Gafsa region during January of that year. WINTER
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Romdhani, a Tunisian human rights activist, says it was a remarkable scene as the crowd, divided along gender lines, converged into one mass. “There were women coming from one side and men coming from the other and they met in front of a lodge,” he says in a telephone interview from his home in Kairouan, 200 kms from the capital of Tunis. As gender lines dissolved, so too did differences of income and class. The crowd, comprising mainly of poor miners, also featured a number of teachers and nurses who were marching in support of their less fortunate brethren. For three hours, the crowd listened to the speeches of trade union leaders and intermingled to discuss the issues of the day. Lurking around the edges of the demonstration were the authorities. “The police were right there around them, watching them. Maybe taking the names of leaders, those who spoke, learning who they are and preparing for what was going to happen later,” he says. What was going to happen was a violent crackdown in May and June of 2008, when Romdhani says the police attacked the demonstrators, arresting the leaders, injuring many and killing two others.
Another casualty of the crackdown was Fahem Boukaddous, one of only a handful of Tunisian journalists who covered the protests. He is currently serving four years in a Gafsa prison after being charged with “disseminating information liable to disturb public order” and “forming a criminal association liable to attack persons and property.” “It’s too much for someone who did nothing except reporting what was happening,” says Romdhani. “He was only doing his job.” 1 6 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
When I chose to be a journalist, I chose the side of free, decent and truthful speech, fully aware of the price to be paid by those who make that choice.
case of Ben Brik, Tunisian authorities claimed he assaulted a woman during a traffic accident. However, Dollet says the accusations are a work of fiction created by the government to punish him for criticizing Ben Ali. “They just build something; it’s fake cases.” In another worrying move, the country recently passed an amendment to Article 61a of the penal code that establishes up to five years of jail time during peace time for “contacts with agents
Fahem Boukaddous Boukaddous, a correspondent for Al-Hiwar al-Tunisi, a French satellite station that broadcasts into the country, was arrested this July, less than 24 hours after leaving the Farhat Hached Teaching Hospital in Sousse where he was being treated for an acute asthma attack, says Kamel Labidi, a Tunisian-born freelance journalist and consultant with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Before being incarcerated, Boukaddous wrote an open letter from his room in the pneumonic ward on July 12, saying the police are “even now stalking me so that they can throw me in jail as soon as I leave the hospital.” On October 8, he started a hunger strike to protest conditions in the jail. He also began refusing medication to alleviate his breathing difficulties, which were exacerbated by overcrowding and the large number of smokers within the prison. “It is really a life-threatening hunger strike. He might not only hurt himself but he might die because he is in poor health,” warns Labidi. Soazig Dollet works for the North Africa and Middle-East Desk at Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières. She says this sort of treatment is common in Tunisia where reporters are routinely threatened, or worse, beaten and thrown in jail. She says the situation in the country has deteriorated since the re-election of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in October 2009. “We don’t know what they are going to do next,” she says of the authorities’ harsh response to any criticism directed at the government, Ben Ali or his family, many of whom occupy powerful positions within the country. Not long after the October 25 election, two dissident journalists, Taoufik Ben Brik and Zouhair Makhlouf, were given prison sentences of six months and three months, respectively. In the
of a foreign power or a foreign organization with a view to inciting them to harm the vital interests” or the “economic security” of Tunisia. Dollet cautions this could be used to target journalists and human rights activists who work with NGOs and try to expose governmental abuses. In the closing paragraph of his open letter, Boukaddous says he is aware of the risks. “When I chose to be a journalist, I chose the side of free, decent and truthful speech, fully aware of the price to be paid by those who make that choice, and I will not be less daring or courageous than my predecessors, nor daunted by unjust sentences, even at the cost of my own life,” he wrote. “Let my life be the price to be paid for freedom and democracy.” Romdhani too knows the danger of trying to spread information deemed dangerous by the government. On May 1, not long before the government crushed the protests in Gafsa, he awoke to find a plainclothes police officer standing in front of his house in Kairouan. The police would follow him for the next 12
months because of his activities with a committee that supported the miners in Gafsa. “There they were, 24 hours a day, changing every six hours,” he recalls. Romdhani was also savagely beaten in Tunis, and was told he would be killed if he ever returned. “It started just before they arrested the leaders,” he says. “At that time they were planning to finish the movement so they followed me to stop any solidarity with these peoples.”
To this day, the police will still occasionally follow him. Tunisia ranks as one of the world’s worst in terms of the suppression of opinion and expression, sliding 10 places in 2010 to 164 in the Reporters Sans Frontières Press Freedom Index. Bottom of the list, at 178, is Eritrea. The Tunisian ranking stands in stark contrast to recent economic and social progress within the largely secular country, including advances in women’s education, says Anthony Mills, press freedom and communication manager at the Vienna-based International Press Institute. He visited the country in April to assess the level of press freedom under the banner of the Tunisian Monitoring Group, a collection of 20 International Freedom of Expression Exchange members who monitor the country. IFEX is tasked with aggregating threats to free expression from NGOs around the world. “On the one hand there is this image of Tunisia as a very progressive Arab state. It’s an ally of the West on a variety of levels, both economic and in
the effort to combat terrorism,” he says. “At the same time though, the current regime has slowly but surely over the years tightened a vise on freedom of expression and any sort of independent criticism of the system,” he says. Apart from violence and jail time, Tunisian authorities use a host of techniques to tightly control the flow of information within the country. The majority of news outlets, including newspapers and TV or radio stations, toe the line of the government and its main outlet, Tunis Afrique Presse. “There are five private radio stations in Tunisia and they are all owned by President Ben Ali’s relatives or close friends,” says Labidi, who also works with the IFEX-TMG. In the fall, “the government granted another license to the son of one of his advisers. That gives you an idea on how the media landscape is run.” Accordingly, there is very little that questions the status quo or informs the public about critical issues within the country, including coverage of the protests in Gafsa, explains Mohamed Bouriga, a Tunisia journalist who lives in Montreal but writes under the alias Omar Khayyam. “This kind of information about the demonstrations in Tunisia, only a few people knew about them.” The small number of outlets that do challenge the government line, including opposition party papers such as al-Maoukif and al-Mouwatinoun, are stymied by both direct and indirect means. Bouriga says the government will put pressure on the printers, reducing the number of copies in circulation. As well, a 2008 RSF report entitled The Courage to Inform the Public, said authorities will pressure the vendors not to sell the papers, further restricting the ability of Tunisians to hear opposing viewpoints. The government also restricts the funding for these papers by controlling the distribution of ad revenues, explains Bouriga. “The few independent media do not have access to advertisements, public or private,” he says. The government heavily filters and restricts the information coming from the web, denying access within the country to dissident websites like tunisianews.net. “Internet access for Tunisians is just a nightmare,” laments RSF’s Dollet. Government control includes selective blocking of keywords and URLs as well as the censoring of specific IP addresses and emails. “You’ve got internet police in Tunisia who watch the net all of the time and look for what could be critical [of the regime] and anything that could be critical is blocked,” she says. Tunisia also holds the dubious honour of being the first Arab country to jail a cyber dissident. Zouhair Yahyaoui was thrown in prison for 18 months in 2002 for publishing a letter criticizing the legal justice system on his satirical website TUNeZINE, during which he lost considerable weight due to hunger strikes, says Bouriga. Yahyaoui died of a heart attack on March 13, 2005, the same day Bouriga decided to reveal his
true identity to honourYahyaoui’s commitment to free expression. As the case of Fahem Boukaddous demonstrates, the government saves much of its hatred for the individual journalists and their families. “When you decide to be an independent journalist, it’s really a courageous position because it implicates a lot of consequences for your life and your family life,” says Dollet. Exiled freelancer Kamel Labidi says he was forced to leave the country after being denied accreditation after he challenged the government. He says police would tell him to leave an area or that he could not attend a particular news conference.
When you decide to be an independent journalist, it’s really a courageous position because it implicates a lot of consequences for your life and your family life. Soazig Dollet, RSF
The government will also interfere in the lives of family members by denying passports, says Bouriga, from his exile in Quebec. “Thank God they didn’t do anything to my family,” he says of his decision to publicize his name. “Sometimes they take revenge on the family because they cannot reach the person who is writing or criticizing the government.” Despite these challenges, independent journalists like Fahem Boukaddous continue to operate both inside and outside the country, shedding light on the human rights abuses and heavily restricted flow of information. Surprisingly, Tunisian-based activist Massaoud Romdhani says he harbours no ill will towards the police who followed him. “I think they are human beings,” he says, marking a clear distinction between those officers and the ones who beat him in Tunis. “It’s not their fault, it’s the people who ordered them.” For Romdhani, there is no option other than to do what he thinks is right. “I don’t think the best strategy would be to be keep silent and follow things. We are trying our best to change things to the way they should be and we assume the full responsibility for that.” WINTER
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the Two Faces
Canadian Press / David Noton
An international public relations war is brewing between environmental groups and the provinicial government over a valuable resource by
90-second video opens with a canoe gliding across a crystal clear lake, against a backdrop of snow covered mountains. The narrator describes an idyllic place “where thousands of bird species live peacefully amongst bear cubs and bumblebees.” The visuals and message quickly dissolve as images of vast industrial landscapes, dead ducks and billowing smokestacks flash onto the screen. The narrator warns of over 170 square kilometres of toxic lakes, and 11 million litres of poisons released daily into waterways, where natives living downstream increasingly suffer from rare cancers. The clip ends with a simple, clear message. “Thinking of visiting Alberta? Think again.” Videos, photographs, billboards, sound bites and celebrity endorsements have become the weapons of choice in the battle for public opinion over the oil reserve. 1 8 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
Located in a remote area few Canadians will ever visit, the sprawling operations of Alberta’s oilsands generate massive amounts of money, energy, employment and controversy. While the weapons in this battle for hearts and minds are not lethal, the stakes are high and the opposing sides aren’t taking any prisoners. “We hear and we see campaigns talk about Alberta tearing up a piece of boreal forest twice the size of England, but that’s a bald-faced lie,” says Jerry Bellikka, director of media relations for the Premier of Alberta. Misinformation campaigns, primarily in Canada, are increasing, he says. “We are not afraid of having a discussion about the cleaner energy in the oilsands … but let’s have it based on some facts and not the rhetoric that is out there about the tailings ponds you can see in space.” The view from the other side of the battle lines
couldn’t be more different. The “Re-Think Alberta” campaign, credited with the hard-hitting video, was launched by Corporate Ethics International during this year’s Calgary Stampede. The intention was “more to send a message and to sound a warning bell, than to hurt tourism in the first year,” says Michael Marx, the group’s executive director. And CEI’s message is clear – the tarsands are not being managed, production is expanding too fast and there are severe environmental and social risks associated with development, he says. They want the government “to sit down and engage in constructive dialogue with scientists, environmental NGOs and First Nations to limit the expansion and to address these harms.” Looking to the future, Marx says CEI plans to expand the campaign. “We will double-down in the spring in the United States and the United
of Alberta Kingdom.” The organization was inspired to take action when the Alberta government, in response to the criticism of the tarsands operations, committed $25 million towards rebranding the province and promoting itself as an environmentallyfriendly tourist destination and a great place to do business, says Marx. “Brands are golden.” Jerry Bellikka, a 20-year newsman before taking a job in the Premier of Alberta’s office a dozen years ago, sees things very differently. The money was for the development of a new Alberta brand, boasting the slogan “freedom to create, spirit to achieve,” and had nothing to do with the oilsands, he says. The “Tell it Like it is” campaign, created for the province’s energy industries, including the oilsands, likely consumed less than $400,000 this year, he says. “Most of the people who work in those industries know what type of hoops they
have to jump through to meet the environmental and regulatory standards,” he says. “They know a fair bit about the amount of research their companies are doing on cleaner energy production and we are just encouraging them to tell those stories to people that they know.” The government’s website dedicated to the oilsands is eye-catching. Brilliant blues and oranges dominate pages brimming with images of smiling workers, spotless laboratories and modern looking equipment. Videos are plentiful, covering everything from Alberta’s clean energy story to wildlife and biodiversity. Visitors are not only invited to connect with Facebook, Twitter and blog sites, but also to send e-cards to friends and family with simple, catchy statements like “7.5 million seedlings planted. And counting” and “Oilsands projects produce less than 0.1 % of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Canadian Press / Larry McDougall
With all the “misinformation” out in the public domain, “we just felt it was time to kick it up a notch,” says Bellikka. In response, the government has released print and radio ads across the province that have been linked with web campaigns and a Wall Street Journal op-ed. It also invested in a billboard in the heart of New York City’s Times Square. “For us, it was a prime opportunity,” he says. “You have got the media mecca of North America surrounding the square and hundreds of thousands of people per week passing through.” Billboards of a different nature have caught people’s attention halfway across the world. The World Wildlife Federation has teamed up with Co-operative Bank and Greenpeace to bring the Tarnished Earth photo exhibition to the United Kingdom. On display are 24 billboards, each measuring about three to four metres by two meters. WINTER
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Corporate Ethics International launched ads in London, England asking people to re-think visiting Alberta
According to Anthony Field, toxic field campaign manager for WWF in the U.K., the boards depict the destruction caused by extracting oil from the Canadian tarsands. “Showing the development captures people’s imagination.” The landscapes, he says, have been likened to a meteor hitting the earth. For Field, the image that speaks to him personally is filled with all kinds of brownness with a lone figure in the middle. “You don’t know what it is, it’s only when you get up close that you realize it is a scarecrow on a tailings pond.” The image personifies the vastness of the project, he says. After visitors have toured the exhibit, they are asked to support a petition to keep Canadian tarsands oil out of Europe. “You don’t even need to
Courtesy Corporate Ethics International
motivate people to sign,” says Field. Visitors’ names and photos are recorded and later uploaded to the exhibition’s web site, where their headshots blanket a map of the world. The message on the site is clear: “Say no to tarsands”. The Tarnished Earth exhibition will appear in nine cities across the U.K., having already wrapped up a showing in one of the most prime locations in the capital, between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. The U.K. has become a key front in the battle for global public opinion with the government of Alberta recently launching an electronic billboard campaign in London’s iconic Piccadilly Circus. But the further people live from the oilsands, the less likely they are to be able to jump in their
car and see in person what it is like, says Carol Christian, a reporter with the Fort McMurray Today newspaper. Those who view the project from abroad, do so through lenses provided by agendadriven image-makers. “Everyone has their information they want out and they present a certain perspective.” Travelling abroad, Christian has found herself defending her community, which started off hundreds of years ago as a trading post. “Everyone believes all the bad press about the town,” she says. A former Ontario resident, Christian moved to Fort McMurray for what was supposed to be a six months stint. She’s still there three and a half years later and about to buy a condo. But that doesn’t mean she pulls her punches when it comes to reporting on the oilsands. “There is no favouritism.” Accusations of being in the pockets of oil companies are simply wrong, she says. “If it’s news, it’s news, no matter who is generating it.” The paper has covered everything from oilsands emissions through contentious court cases to tailings ponds reclamation. James Cameron, the Canadian-born Oscar-winning filmmaker, recently toured the tarsands after an invitation from the Alberta government and local Aboriginal leaders, including the Indigenous Environmental Network. The idea behind the invitation was to profile “the real Pandora’s mother earth,” says Clayton Thomas-Muller of IEN referring to the harm caused by extraction. According to Christian, the most common reaction from the general public in Fort McMurray to Cameron’s visit was “who cares?” However, the visit did attract Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times and other global media outlets to the region, giving both sides the opportunity to fire off another salvo in the global battle for public opinion. Somewhere, amid the cacophany, there’s a message on which both sides can sign off, says Christian. “Decide for yourself.”
The Tarnished Earth exhibition, focusing on the impact of Canada’s tarsands, is touring around the United Kingdom. Courtesy Cooperative Bank 2 0 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
Courtesy Cooperative Bank
Playing the Numbers Game
Itâ€™s the evening of April 20th, and following a mysterious but massive explosion just off the shore of Louisiana, BPâ€™s Deepwater Horizon oilrig in the Macondo Prospect is spewing thick black smoke into the salty Gulf of Mexico air. The world will soon learn that 11 workers are missing, 17 more are seriously injured, and up to 8,000 barrels have escaped into Gulf waters. Ships try to douse the flames of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 21, 2010. Associated Press WINTER
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Two days later, the rig breaks off and sinks to the bottom of the ocean, coating it with a 13 square kilometre oil sheen. Within the next 24 hours, remotely operated vehicles uncover two leaks in the well, the federal government releases an estimate of 1,000 barrels per day (bpd) leaking from the ocean floor, and BP’s vice president says, “It certainly has the potential to be a major spill.” Three months later the oil finally stops gushing, but somewhere along the way the public lost trust in the oil spill amounts released by BP and the government. “That’s a reality of 21st century crisis management,” said Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management in California. “If it’s there, it will come out, and since you know it’s going to come out you’re better off revealing it yourself than getting the whistle blown.” Bernstein thinks BP was handicapped from day one because it was not prepared. He says about 95 per cent of companies in the United States are not prepared for the probable crises in their industry. “A major blowout of a well is a predictable event for the oil industry, but they lacked the preparedness,’ said Bernstein. “[At] a certain level of catastrophe, the public won’t turn a blind eye to [it]. You can’t drill that close to the shore and get away with that.”
They went out, made a public statement that appeared to be deliberately deceptive based on what we knew and what was coming out. Jeff Ruch, PEER Executive Director Many questions were focused on the federal Flow Rate Technical Group, formed to give official public estimates of the controversial oil flow rate. Formed on May 19 by the U.S. Interior Department and headed by director of the U.S. Geological Survey Marcia McNutt, the group was made up of federal scientists tasked with assessing and reporting on how much oil was leaking. From May 1, the public heard the initial amount of 5,000 bpd from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Then, on May 27, the published range was announced as being 12,000 to 19,000 bpd. For the next month, the numbers 2 2 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
ranged as high as 60,000 bpd, with the final number settled at 62,500. But what the public didn’t hear is that much higher numbers were sitting on government shelves since the first explosions rocked the Deepwater Horizon. Andrew Miall, a professor of oil politics at the University of Toronto, says the intent to downplay the size of the spill was regrettable, but new numbers were constantly released due to new technology. “I think the incorrect information was changed to the correct information down the road due to media coverage,” said Miall. Public confusion led one group to dig deeper into the numbers game. The non-profit organization PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), a U.S.-based watchdog on government agencies, wants to get to the bottom of why government estimates fluctuated so wildly. Based on what PEER executive director Jeff Ruch calls “inside information and the inconsequentiality of what they provided,” PEER filed a Freedom of Information request for the FRTG’s communications relating to the spill in July. What they received was only a percentage of the documents. “They went out and made a public statement that appeared to be deliberately deceptive based on what we knew and what was coming out,” he says. “Clearly, what we’re interested in are the directions that [FRTG] gave the various teams and the communications back from them,” says PEER’s Ruch, “because there’s not a cogent explanation of why the unified command was saying it was 12,000 to 19,000 a day when they clearly had evidence it was much, much higher. We’re trying to get to the bottom of that and get to the question why.” PEER filed a lawsuit in September against the federal government for breaking FOI law on the grounds that “science is still being manipulated under the current administration.” Ruch says there have been multiple extensions by the federal agency; in mid-December the FRTG again moved the schedule back. The release of the documents will begin in early 2011 and will be rolling out every three weeks. “I think that these documents will give us some explanation,” says Ruch, “But the only coherent thing that explains a lot of their decisions is, I believe, there was a decision made to try to minimize the public perception of the seriousness of the spill, and to lessen either the pictures or the public fear that the beaches of the Gulf would soon be black.” The President’s Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was formed a month into the disaster to independently investigate the cause and issues of the explosion. The commission’s October 17 working paper, titled “The Amount and Fate of the Oil,” points out discrepancies.
The paper shows that at least three scientists who studied a 30 second clip of the oil gushing from the leak – within 24 hours of the video’s release – revealed numbers that were much more accurate than official estimates.
Maximum estimated flow would be 60,000 barrels a day, with a mid-range estimate of 40,000 barrels a day. BP statement to NOAA, May 4 These numbers may have been the original “worst case estimates” that were not officially released, but were used internally for clean up efforts. “Maximum estimated flow would be 60,000 barrels a day, with a mid-range estimate of 40,000 barrels a day,” BP stated during an NOAA briefing on May 4, while the public was just hearing the 5,000 bpd estimate. The USGS, the FRTG and the NOAA had no one available for comment on this story. Ruch called the 30-page document “a big shoe that dropped,” and applauds the staff of the commission for the initial vindication of PEER’s efforts by “echoing our concern… They’re flat out saying that the administration of the White House and the Unified Command were less than forthcoming.” Although it will be “embarrassing” for all those involved, Ruch hopes PEER’s case will get the truth out to the public. “Particularly when they’re feeling sheepish or embarrassed about it, the only way you’re going to get them is to take them to court and finally get to the point where they have to explain to the government lawyers what they’re doing,” says Ruch. “It’s a slow motion effect. I think people will wonder unless someone takes them to court.” Bernstein calls the disaster “a classic study in wrong-way PR for a long time to come,” and Sean Kelly agrees. “They were probably better off erring on the other side of it and saying it was much higher,” Kelly says. “And then coming back and saying, ‘guess what, after we really crunched the numbers we realized it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was.’ “When you lose credibility and your communications becomes an issue, you’re in real hot water. “You’re sunk.”
Yielding truth to power
Mexican drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez erode confidence in the fourth estate
Armando “El Choco” Rodriguez was a former crime reporter at El Diario, the most widely read newspaper in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s fifth largest city. In 2008 he filed over 906 stories, which documented the murder, mayhem, and anarchy infecting the streets of Juarez. The number would have been higher if he hadn’t been sprayed with 10 bullets in front of his home on the morning of November 13, 2008 while waiting for his white Nissan sedan to warm up. His eightyear-old daughter, waiting for a ride to school, watched the shooting from the back seat. She was unharmed, apart from the mental scarring of watching her father get murdered. Rodriguez’s 907th and final story was published hours after his death. Almost two years after the murder of Rodriguez, Luis Carlos Santiago, an El Diario photographer, was shot to death in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Juarez. That incident on Sept. 16, 2010 was the moment the situation in Jaurez came to an apex for the men
and women at El Diario. The paper had been pushed to the limits of tolerance. Three days later, the paper published a frontpage editorial under the headline, “What do you want from us?”, sending shockwaves through the media establishment. Addressed to the city’s drug cartels, the paper’s editors asked the gangs, “What are we supposed to publish or not publish, so we know what to abide by? You are at this time the de facto authorities in this city because the legal authorities have not been able to stop our colleagues from falling.” Critics lashed out at El Diario, claiming the paper absolved itself of its responsibility to speak to power, and that it gave up “independent reporting and freedom of expression,” as journalist Lourdes Cardenas wrote in the pages of the El Paso Times, paraphrasing the critics. Martin Orquiz, an 18-year veteran reporter with El Diario, says they missed the point though. Speaking over the phone in the middle of yet another busy day in Juarez, he explains
the paper’s actions. “It’s a rhetorical question, and its not only for them, it’s for government, and it’s for society,” Orquiz and his colleagues weren’t expecting a response from the criminals, but at least an acknowledgement of their predicament from a democracy’s theoretical face of authority, the government. With a hint of understandable frustration, he says no answers were forthcoming. Rodriguez was one of his best friends. To truly comprehend the motive behind publishing the editorial, one must understand the working conditions that journalists face daily in Juarez, a city in a nation increasingly being described as a “failed state.” A full-on assault is being made on free expression in Juarez along with other Mexican cities, undermining the basic tenets of democracy. In 2009, there were 2,660 murders in Juarez, a city with a population of 1.5 million. U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual,
Photos courtesy Luis Horacio Nájera WINTER
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has described it as “the most violent place in the Western Hemisphere”. In contrast, Baghdad, with a population five times larger than Juarez, witnessed 1,545 civilian deaths that same year. Tales of brutality and depravity loaded with potent gore-factor are splashed across the front pag-
In Reynosa, the Gulf criminal group controls the government, the police, even the street vendors. (But) You won’t see that story in the local press. The cartel controls the news, too. Excerpt from CPJ report: “Silence or Death in Mexico’s Press”
es of newspapers, when editors are brave enough to publish them: a decapitated body hung from a bridge; a corpse with a pig mask tied to a school yard fence awaiting students early in the morning; seven SUVs filled with masked gunmen pulling up to a party and mistakenly shooting 16 teenagers in the head. These are just a few of the violent deaths out of an estimated 28,000 in the country since Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared war on the nation’s illicit drug trade, an industry which brings in an estimated US$40 billion across the border every year, as reported by the BBC. The beneficiaries of the drug money are the nation’s omnipotent drug cartels, “the de facto authorities” of Mexican society. The power of these criminal organizations is difficult to comprehend,
but one of the kingpins of the Mexican drug trade and also the nation’s most wanted man, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, made headlines in 2009 when he made it on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s richest people, with an estimated wealth of around US$1 billion. Carlos Lauria, senior Americas program co-ordinator for the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, minces no words in describing the current state of affairs in Mexico. “This is a national crisis,” he says. Those who agree say observers need look no further than Reynosa, a city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, to find an example of the gravity of the situation described by Lauria. In a CPJ report he co-authored titled “Silence or Death in Mexico’s Press”, a state of affairs is described in detail where that city’s media has become impotent in its ability to bring the news to its inhabitants. The report states: “In Reynosa, the Gulf criminal group controls the government, the police, even the street vendors. (But) you won’t see that story in the local press. The cartel controls the news, too.” The document goes on to explain how journalists who play by the rules are held in line by the cartels through a mixture of “intimidation, violence, and bribery.” Journalists who choose the dark side take bribes to clean up the image of their predatory patrons, often at their own peril, as the practice makes enemies with other warring cartels. The result is that while mayhem continues to be reported abroad, at home, “everything from horrifying violence to mundane municipal corruption
goes uncovered,” the report laments. Either way, Reynosa’s citizens remain in the dark, which was evident on April 1 last year. In a brazen show of force, one of the two cartels battling for supremacy in the city drove a convoy of sports utility trucks to the front of an army base and attacked the soldiers with rifles and grenades. Apart from a press release issued by the military, Lauria’s report says the incident was ignored by the local press. However, the region’s main newspaper, El Mañana, ran a front-page story on voter apathy the next day. Refusing the coercion exerted upon the media of Reynosa, Armando Rodriguez had to pay the ultimate price for not compromising his constitutional right of free expression. In an interview with the CPJ just before his death, he said, “The risks here are high and rising, and journalists are easy targets … but I can’t live in my house like a prisoner. I refuse to live in fear.” Only days before he was murdered, he had penned an article which accused a local prosecutor’s nephew of having connections with the criminal underworld. “There’s a close relationship between a free press and a vibrant democracy,” Lauria says. “The public discourse is vibrant and aggressive and citizens are well-informed and they can discuss and debate different issues with freedom. This is not happening in Mexico today, unfortunately.” His concerns are backed by a new report from Fundación MEPI, an independent investigative journalism center based in Mexico. The report, published shortly before Convergence went to press, says the regional press in Mexico are covering less than five per cent of violent crime linked to
Beheadings are commonplace in Mexico’s drug wars. The head of this body was found at the Juarez Plaza of the Journalists in early November 2008 2 4 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
In 2009, there were 2,660 murders in Juarez leading the U.S Ambassador to Mexico to dub it “the most violent place in the Western Hemisphere.”
criminal gangs [organized crime] in the country, and that gag orders imposed by the cartels on the media have created “black holes of information.” Orquiz, still filing stories for El Diario after being devastated by the murder of Rodriguez, admits that fear has permeated nearly every facet of his work, and at times he may not even be aware of it. The degree of autonomy in which a journalist can operate has been drastically altered, he says. “Censorship can be conscious or unconscious.” Sometimes, the violence makes its way to the doorsteps of his newsroom. “I’ve been in shootouts, right here outside the newspaper building,” says Orquiz. “You have to deal with it, because it is the reality that all are confronted with here in Juarez.” Luis Horacio Nájera, a former reporter who worked in Juarez for La Reforma media group, was a journalist who perhaps did his job too well in this climate. He had been subjected to numerous death threats before, but things changed when his family became the target of those threats. He recalls an incident when his wife had returned to their home and parked their minivan on the driveway, encountering two men who had been waiting for her. No words were spoken. It was just a simple gesture of a hand mimicking a gun, pointed directly at her. In September 2008, shortly after this incident, Nájera, along with his wife and three children, fled Juarez for Vancouver. “Letting the people know what’s happening in Juarez could help to promote some changes from the government because if nobody knows what’s
happening, nobody is going to do anything, especially the government,” he told Convergence. Speaking from the West Coast, far removed from the bloody streets of Juarez, Nájera describes what life was like as a journalist, particularly, how he muzzled himself as a reporter in Juarez. “I used to think, ‘OK, this is a very good story, probably my story will make it to the front page, but what will be the consequences?’ And you have to think twice, more than twice, and at the end, you say, no” he says despondently.“Since 2007, you have to do this mental exercise daily.” The CPJ, represented by Carlos Lauria, has been lobbying the Mexican government to take responsibility for the hijacking of free expression. He has placed sharp criticism on the administration of Mexican president Felipe Calderón, who launched an all out war against the drug cartels when he took office in 2006. “The government has systematically failed to provide minimal safety guarantees for journalists and the media to do their work without fear of reprisals. And this is not only affecting journalists, it’s affecting citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information, undermining the stability of Mexican democracy.” After meeting directly with the president, Lauria says Calderón’s administration, although overwhelmed, has begun to recognize the problem, and as a result the leader has proposed legislation to federalize crimes against free speech. Lauria says this policy will precipitate change by bringing in federal investigators to assist in the prosecution of criminals in free expression crimes, which are
violations of Mexico’s constitution. Currently, investigations into these crimes are the domain of individuals at the state level, something the CPJ finds troublesome with its allegations that many of these officials are “in league with criminal organizations.” Additional measures have also been introduced by the Mexican government recently. In October, authorities announced a decision to create a mechanism that protects members of the Mexican media. The mechanism is designed to assess atrisk journalists and provide safety on a case-bycase basis. While welcomed by various NGOs, many are concerned by the program’s lack of resources and the lack of participation being granted to Mexico’s civil institutions. In Juarez, there is a monument in a public square called The Plaza of the Journalists. At the centre, sits a statue of a young boy peddling newspapers. It is an ironic, yet tragic tribute in a city where more than 30 journalists have been murdered or have gone missing since December 2006. The loss of innocence was symbolized succinctly in early November 2008, when the decapitated head of a body was placed at the foot of the statue of the paperboy, days before the murder of Armando Rodriguez. From his exile in Vancouver, former El Diario reporter Luis Nájera reminisces of the days when there was some semblance of normalcy in his former city. “I remember, you could go to Juarez Ave., it was packed with nightclubs and restaurants,” says WINTER
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Nájera. “I hear now in Juarez, there is no nightlife because nobody wants to be involved in the crossfire.” The 18-year veteran journalist has temporarily put down his reporter’s notepad and camera and replaced it with a broom, working as a part-time janitor. Meanwhile, Orquiz labors away in the newsroom of El Diario, interrupting himself every hour or so to phone his family, making sure they are safe. “I’m 46 years old. I am what I am. I can’t change right now,” he says. “I also still love my work. I still care about people, about my city. I think all journalists have to keep working to get to the problems that we face right now.”
was murdered weeks later.
At the time of writing, the murders of Rodriguez and Santiago remained unsolved. In July 2009, the lead investigator on the Rodriguez case was shot and killed, and his replacement
On a cold November night in Toronto, hundreds of media personalities gathered to celebrate a handful of journalists, including three from Cameroon, who had risked their lives in the pursuit of truth. Ngota Ngota Germain Cyrille a.k.a. Bibi Ngota, editor of the Cameroun Express, Serge Sabouang, publisher of the bimonthly newspaper La Nation and Harrys Robert Mintya, editor of the weekly newspaper Le Devoir, were honoured with one of two International Press Freedom Awards at the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Gala: A Night to Honour Fearless Reporting. Ngota died while in the Kondengui prison in Yaoundé, Cameroon on April 22; the conditions of the death remain unclear. All three had been arrested last year, accused of possessing “documents compromising to key figures in the Republic” for obtaining, but not publishing, a memo that implicated presidential aide and minister of state, Laurent Esso. Despite the sadness surrounding Ngota’s death, the night had a celebratory tone because the previous day, Cameroonian President Paul Biya had released Sabouang and Mintya. Patrick Gossage, co-chair of the gala, told the crowd much of the credit could be attributed to international condemnation led by groups such as CJFE. “This is a story with a happy ending thanks to this group assembled tonight because I’m happy to announce Serge and Robert have been released,” he said. “I think it’s just amazing. It’s not very often we can have this kind of success,” Gossage said. “I’m very moved,” said Ngota’s sister, Thérèse Tchoubet through a translator, who accepted the award along with husband Bosco Tchoubet. “I 2 6 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
Photo by Jon Hembrey A picture of Bibi Ngota was on stage during the CJFE Gala: A Night to Honour Fearless Reporting
would have liked my brother to be here with me. Nonetheless, it is a great honour to celebrate him here tonight.” According to the CJFE’s 2010 International Free Expression Review, the three journalists were arrested after Mintya reportedly sent a copy of the document to Esso with a list of questions. The government claimed the document, which referred to an illegal payment of 1.3 billion Cameroonian francs ($2.6 million) to three officials from the country’s state-run oil company, was a forgery. The three journalists were arrested on Feb. 5 along with another, Simon Hervé Nko’o. They were eventually released but were arrested again on March 10. Nko’o fled into hiding.
During their period of incarceration, Mintya was attacked in his cell by another inmate on August 8 and was eventually taken to hospital 17 days later. A 2010 report from the Federation of African Journalists says Cameroonian authorities frequently persecute journalists. “Arbitrary arrests and criminal prosecution of journalists as well as torture have become routine forms of abuse against press freedom,” the report, Journalists Under Fire, says. “Cameroon is ranked as one of the worst jailers of journalists in Africa,” it states. Questions continue to swirl around Ngota’s death. A government inquiry concluded that he died “as a result of opportunistic infections linked to HIV, in a context in which his immune system has completely collapsed.” However, Ngota’s widow, Georgette Ngo’o disputed the findings in an interview with Reporters Sans Frontieres. “We lived together for 13 years. Bibi was ill when he entered the prison. He had high blood pressure and diabetes, but he did not have the AIDS virus,” she said. “I cannot accept the official version. All this has been staged in order to hide the underlying fact that my husband and his colleagues were arrested and placed in provisional detention although no complaint had been filed against them.” “I would like to thank CJFE for their solidarity and for their compassion and for their choice of my brother and his colleagues in giving us this award,” Thérèse Tchoubet told the crowd. “I know that it is because of this award and the attention it has brought to the case back home that we are celebrating today the release of Robert Mintya and Serge Sabouang and I will bring home this message of solidarity to them.”
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Blogger behind bars
Illustration by Timothy Pattison Illustration by Timothy Pattison
In Iran, even online journalists can find themselves under threat of censorship, imprisonment or worse
t has been two years since Sandrine Murcia last saw her partner after his arrest in Iran. Murcia finds the circumstances appalling. “I am shocked and it is simply unacceptable. I just want to tell them that is not acceptable and that Hossein is not a criminal, he is a blogger,” says Murcia with a quiver in her voice. “A journalist should not be in jail. Jail is not a place for bloggers,” Murcia told Convergence from 2 8 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
her home in Paris. Hossein Derakhshan was sentenced to 19½ years in Evin prison on November 1, 2008. He was charged with collaborating with enemy states, creating propaganda against the Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctity and creating propaganda for anti-revolutionary groups. Prosecutors had asked for the death penalty. Derakhshan, a Canadian citizen, tried to break
the barrier of censorship by preaching exactly what he practiced – freedom of speech. Known as the Blogfather, he created a website in 2001 to teach Farsi-tongued Internet users how to blog. The 35-year-old journalist’s no-holds-barred approach to writing swiftly brought him to the attention of the Iranian government, after he expressed what many others in his country wanted
to say but couldn’t because of censorship within Iran: democratic change and free speech. Online media sources in the country have been placed under a microscope since 2007, when the government passed a law requiring that sites register with the government. They also need to be approved by a committee of government officials, including members of the intelligence, judiciary, telecommunications and Islamic guidance communities prior to publication. Julie Payne, manager of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, says this crackdown was motivated by fear. “They recognize what a powerful medium the internet and blogging sites are and I think they are afraid of it, I think they are afraid that they can’t control it,” says Payne. In a 2007 article in London’s The Guardian, Derakhshan said the government restricts information to maintain control over the domestic political situation. “I am even a victim of the paranoid state of Iran that censors criticism and punishes dissent for fear of foreign-backed revolt,” he wrote. Born in Iran, Derakhshan moved to Canada in 2000, where he launched an online instructional site titled Sardabir: khodam (translated, Editor: Myself) teaching Persian writers how to blog. Popularity of blogging within Iran skyrocketed in 2005 as the country’s blogging community grew to 75,000. At that time, Farsi was the fourth most common language found on blogging sites. Taking to the net under the online nickname Hoder, Derakhshan proclaimed a prodemocracy stance and promoted freedom of speech, particularly in the form of blogging. Brendan De Caires, program co-ordinator of PEN Canada, a non-profit organization committed to defending freedom of opinion, says he thought highly of Derakhshan’s work on the web. “He was just a young man, yet he wrote with courage in a tone not that of an aged journalist.” Derakhshan first ran into trouble when he returned to Iran in 2005. Authorities forced the
blogger to sign an apology for his opinions that were critical of the country. “He was a contrarian, going back to Iran,” says De Caires. After apologizing for his views, Derakhshan returned to Canada but continued to openly criticize the Iranian regime. Derakhshan left Canada for the last time in 2006, travelling to Israel in an attempt to break down stereotypes of hatred between Iranians and Israelis. Blogging from Israel, Derakhshan hoped to open communication between the two groups. However, the blogger seemed to have a sudden political change of heart during the trip, reversing his political views and instead favouring President Ahmadinejad. The reason for this about-face is uncertain. “I suspect he wanted to return home, he wanted to visit his family, wanted to reconnect and thought that he would be allowed to return,” says Payne. “In preparation for that return he felt that he could change the tone of his discourse on Iran to be seen as more of a supporter of it.” Derakhshan returned to Iran in 2008, but if his intention was to change the government’s perception of him, it was unsuccessful. He was arrested in his family home on Nov. Murcia says Derakhshan assumed there would be trouble if he returned home but never anticipated a near 20-year prison sentence. “He was actually quite stressed and worried about going back, but he really wanted to return for an extended period of time because the last time he was in Iran [at the time] was over three years ago. He missed his family,” she says. On the day of his sentencing, neither Murcia nor Derakhshan’s family learned any details until it was reported by a conservative news source based in Iran called mashreqnews.ir because the case was under a heavy publication ban. Though Derakhshan’s fate seems bleak, several human rights organizations have rallied to his cause by applying pressure on the government. Article 19, an organization that promotes
freedom of expression around the world, CJFE, Index on Censorship and Brendan De Caires with PEN Canada have joined together to raise awareness about the sentencing of the young blogger. They are doing all they can to keep his name in the media, forcing the Iranian government to take note. Along with media attention, the groups
They recognize what a powerful medium the internet and blogging sites can be and I think they are afraid of it. Julie Payne, manager CJFE
have also created an online petition called “Free Hoder,” where people can express their support and sign on. As of press time, 12,313 people have signed the petition. They are also urging people to write letters of support for Derakhshan to the both the Canadian and French governments. With aid from various organizations putting pressure on Iranian authorities, Derakhshan was released for a temporary period of two days to spend with his family on December 10, according to a post by Derakhshan’s sister on the blog, Justice for Hossein Derakhshan. An article by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran claims authorities granted Derakhshan a 48-hour pass on an unprecedented bail of $1.5 million. Murcia was unable to see her partner at that time but she has not given up the fight for his permanent release. Murcia believes that people have the power to make a difference in Derakhshan’s case. “There’s a lot people can do, I don’t want people to think that just writing letters or signing petitions is not enough. That’s a lot.”
There are more ways to deliver information than ever before. What impact has this had on the quality of the content?
The biggest change has been the growth of social media. In a crisis situation, social media can become a problem quickly as false information is able to be spread quickly. The important thing is to look at the source closely and determine if it is a credible source of information. - Sean Kelly, PR manager, Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Oil Board WINTER
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Enemies of the press Belarus
Aleh Byabenin, founder and director of Charter 97, a news website critical of the current government, was found dead on Sept. 3 inside his summer home outside Minsk. It was alleged at the time to be a suicide but friends and family expressed serious doubt Byabenin would have been suicidal, as he had recently agreed to aid in opposition candidate Andrei Sannikov’s election campaign. An inquiry into Byabenin’s death is ongoing which the Minsk Prosecutor’s Office has extended twice.
Honduras Journalists have not been safe since President Manual Zelaya was removed from power in 2009. In March, five journalists were killed, including José Bayardo Mairena Ramírez and Manuel Juárez, who were gunned down in their car on Mar. 26, and Nahúm Palacios Arteaga, anchor for Channel 5, who was killed by hit men on Mar. 14. There have been a total of nine journalists killed this year. In November, the Honduran government finally pledged to investigate the journalists’ deaths.
Mexico On Nov. 10, a slew of gunmen broke into the offices of El Sur, a newspaper in Acapulco in the state of Guerrero. No injuries were reported but the men littered the premises with bullets and doused the newsroom in gasoline, threatening to set it ablaze. El Sur is seen as critical of Zeferino Torreblanca, governor of Guerrero, and Juan Angulo, the paper’s director, has suggested Torreblanca could be behind the attack. This attack comes near the end of a bloody decade for Mexican journalists, with 69 killed since 2000, including 12 last year.
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On Aug. 11, Vasyl Klymentyev, chief editor of Novyi Stil, an investigative weekly often critical of the corruption in local government, was reported missing by his girlfriend. Local news reports said he was seen leaving his home with an unknown man in a BMW. His mobile phone was subsequently found by police in a boat in a nearby lake but his body was not found by police divers. Petr Matviyenko, Klymentyev’s deputy editor, said the pair had photographed luxurious homes belonging to government officials two days before Klymentyev disappeared. Novyi Stil has since ceased publishing.
On Dec. 8, Libya Press, the sole independent news agency in the country, announced it would be vacating its offices in Tripoli due to increased “police harassment” of its reporters. In a statement, Libya Press expressed dismay “at the security escalation, the deliberate restrictions against Libya Press and the way its reporters were treated as if they were members of a terrorist cell.” The agency was established in 2010 by the al-Ghad Media Group, owned by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the reformist son of Muammar Gaddafi. In November, the Internal Security Agency arrested 22 of the agency’s reporters and media workers. They were released at the insistence of the elder Qaddafi. Libya News plans to operate out of various foreign capitals.
China Iran RSF reports 26 journalists remain in prison, including Nima Dehghan, arrested on Nov. 28. Dehghan works for the popular weekly Chehel cheragh, which was suspended by the government on Nov. 22. Eleven journalists were arrested and 10 others were either picked up by government forces or were in hiding during the upheaval surrounding the 2009 general election. These numbers do not take into account the bloggers behind bars, including 18-year-old Navid Mohebbi, the world’s youngest detained blogger, whose trial began on Nov. 14 without his lawyer present.
Following the announcement made on Oct. 8 to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese government held or questioned 40 of the intellectual’s supporters, including journalists, bloggers and his wife, Liu Xia. Authorities also launched a smear campaign in the national media and made attempts to suppress any information regarding the award. Reporters Without Borders had launched a campaign for Liu’s release in time for the Nobel ceremony on Dec. 10, without success.
Eritrea Eyob Kessete, a journalist working for the state-owned radio service, was arrested on an unknown date. Eritrea is one of only a few countries in the world without an independently owned media source. Kessete was apprehended en route to Ethiopia and his whereabouts are unknown. The location of many journalists arrested remains a mystery and Eritrea has held the lowest spot on the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index for the past four years.
Sri Lanka Prageeth Eknalidoga, a cartoonist and journalist, has been missing since Jan. 24, 36 hours before the polls closed in the Sri Lankan presidential elections. His wife Sandhya has been in and out of court at least seven times, demanding an investigation into her husband’s disappearance, only to be rebuked each time by the police. On Aug. 10, the 200th day Eknalidoga was missing, IFEX, RSF, CPJ and others wrote the Sri Lankan government demanding a comprehensive investigation into his disappearance. As of Nov. 24, his 300th day unaccounted for, the Sri Lankan government still has not complied.
In the waning days of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency, three journalists were killed within the span of one week. Desidario Camangyan, a radio journalist, was killed on June 14 while he was hosting a singing competition. Camangyan had been receiving death threats possibly linked to his coverage of an illegal logging operation. The following day, another radio journalist, Jovelito Agustin was shot, after also receiving death threats in the preceding weeks. Finally, on June 19, newspaper reporter Nestor Bedolido was shot while buying cigarettes, a possible victim of political backlash. CPJ, IFEX and RSF have subsequently implored new president Beningo Aquino III to ensure the safety of journalists.
Compiled by Ryan Charkow with files from IFEX, CPJ, RSF WINTER
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n the Serengeti, in and around lunchtime, Brenda Rusnak sits in a safari van. She and her group closely watch a lioness eyeing two leopards and their freshly caught gazelle. The frightened smaller cats take notice of their approaching nemesis and take their kill up a tree. The lion gets closer and closer to the tree. “Lions,” Rusnak recalls the words of her safari guide, “even though they are cats, do not climb trees.” The group continues to gaze until something unusual happens. “Oh my god!” exclaims the guide, “That [lioness] is going to jump! Quick! Take a picture!” The lioness goes up the tree, forcing the small cats further and further up and then lets out a big roar. An amateur in the world of photography, Rusnak holds her recently bought DSLR which is almost useless because she has forgotten the spare battery at home. Running on a trick she learned from her 15-year-old daughter, she takes out the dead cell and rubs it on her jacket, creating a static charge and allowing possibly two or three more shots. Locked and loaded on automatic, burst-mode, Rusnak fires away. “Immediately I looked at (the pictures) and I couldn’t believe I had caught the leopard in mid air,” says Rusnak. Rusnak says her guide, who had been working the same gig for 20 years, said he had never witnessed such behavior from these cats before and encouraged her to send the picture to National Geographic. “In about two days,” says Rusnak, “they contacted me and said that I had been chosen as the publisher’s choice.” In the August 2010 issue, Rusnak’s picture of a lioness in a tree staring up at a leaping leopard was seen by the world at large. Bruce Dale, who worked for National Geographic for 30 years and had more than 2,000 pictures in the publications, says technology has allowed practically anyone to be equipped to take National Geographic-worthy pictures. Photo by Alex Wypyszinski 3 2 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
To Wypyszinski’s surprise, a bison, horribly burned in a forest fire, was being chased down the road right in his direction by a grizzly bear. “The affordability of very high quality and high speed ISOs allows you to capture pictures that you could not have before and it also has changed the way you light pictures,” says Dale. He was quick to jump on the digital wave by buying one of Epson’s first digital cameras in the early ‘80s. At the time Kodak’s first digital camera on the market was priced at $10,000. Dale says the Kodak camera couldn’t do anything more
than today’s equivalent of a $50 camera. Back when Dale was shooting for National Geographic, before he retired from the publication in 1994, he says he would often carry four or five suitcases of lights, something that again has been replaced by more efficient technology. With this change in technology, Dale says the photographic face of National Geographic is changing as more pictures by photographers with little or no experience are getting into the magazine. “It is easy. My grandchildren are seven and eight years old and they have pictures published in the Geographic.” At the time, Dale’s grandchildren were four and five and on a trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Six photos from their trip were published in National Geographic’s Guide to Digital Photography in 2006. In a similar case, Yellowstone National Park employee, Alex Wypyszinski, made a splash with some eye-catching pictures that were run by many newspapers. Wypyszinski says one of the many perks of his
job at Yellowstone’s post office is the chance to shoot pictures before any visitors arrived. “I just stepped out of the car to take some pictures of the landscape with the geysers in the distance,” Wypyszinski told Convergence. “But then I heard a sound, like a horse and buggy, which is a weird thing to hear in Yellowstone.” It wasn’t a horse and carriage, but something just as odd. To Wypyszinski’s surprise, a bison, horribly burned in a forest fire, was being chased down the road right in his direction by a grizzly bear. Already with his camera in hand, Wypyszinski started shooting the chase, ducking back into his car only when they were metres away. The pictures ended up winning a photo contest in Yellowstone, says Wypyszinski. The story and photos were picked up by a television station in Montana and then slowly started appearing in newspapers across North America. “I got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.”
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Voice of persuasion
Photos by Amanda Graham 3 4 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
A quixotic journey from ad man to popular CBC Radio host: the story of Terry O’Reilly by
A labyrinth of hallways passing a fully stocked kitchen, several recording studios and a number of fish tanks eventually leads to the office of Terry O’Reilly. One half of the office feels more like a living room with low-lighting, a comfy couch and arm chair giving off a mellow feel. The other half of the office bears witness to the time he dedicates to his work;
“I can honestly tell you, I’ve never looked at the clock one day. I’ve had tough days, I’ve had stressful days, but I have never, ever been bored in 30 years.” Terry O’Reilly
various awards including the Les Usherwood Lifetime Achievement Award by the Advertising and Design Club of Canada and the Fritz Speiss Lifetime Achievement Award by the Television Advertising Bureau, line the long windowsill, CDs and tapes of actor auditions for advertisements are stacked on shelves, beside boxes of cereal. Taken together, they paint a portrait of a professional whose private persona is far more serious than his witty and laconic on air personality would suggest. He is an author, director, entrepreneur, crosscountry raconteur and radio host, best known for
opening the doors to the Through The LookingGlass world of advertising. “I heard it on O’Reilly,” is a common precurser to an adecdote around watercoolers across Canada. The host of CBC Radio’s Age of Persuasion, and co-author of the similarly titled book, knows a great gig when he sees one. “I can honestly tell you, I’ve never looked at the clock one day. I’ve had tough days, I’ve had stressful days, but I have never, ever been bored in 30 years,” says O’Reilly. The co-founder and owner of the post audio production company Pirate Radio and Television works so hard he has his co-workers confused. “We’ve discovered there’s actually five Terry O’Reilly’s,” jokes Steve Gardener, a writer and director at Pirate. Before he found his niche in radio, O’Reilly was a hit on the seminar circuit. So much so that in 2005, a friend suggested he take the most entertaining and informative pieces to the airwaves. Mike Tennant, O’Reilly’s now-former co-writer and producer, agreed and the pair took the idea to the CBC. The pitch was simple, says O’Reilly, sounding ever so reminiscent of his mellow and instinctive radio voice. The show would take the public on a wild and fun ride through the hallways and boardrooms of the advertising business. He says the plan was to explain and analyze advertising for the general public. But O’Reilly thinks the reason the CBC bought the show was really because “Mike and I aren’t acaWINTER
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demics, or pundits or journalists – we’re working admen who have access, who are in the trenches, who are in those boardrooms every day.” O’Reilly’s hope is that his show encourages listeners to be more informed consumers. At the same time, he’s promoting good advertising, so at the end of the day, advertisers will ask for higher quality advertising from people like himself and Tennant. The feedback from listeners? They love the show, but they still hate advertising. The fact is, AOP is something O’Reilly works on in stolen moments, late at night and on weekends. His nine-to-five is at Pirate Radio and Television, which he co-founded in 1990. Pirate handles all the sound for television advertisements, creating background sound, directing voice-overs and writing music. For radio, agencies bring the script to Pirate and they direct it from the ground up by handling casting, sound effects, music, directing and mixing. The goal for Pirate was to create the company O’Reilly could not find. He worked as a copywriter for nine years at advertising agencies, and for the most part he says he ended up trying to save his work from directors. “When I stopped to think what kind of company I wanted to create, it was really a production company that directed commercials from a writer’s point of view, a company that understood the writer’s intent and what the spot had been through to get to that stage,” says O’Reilly. It helps that he loves what he does, Gardener says. “He believes in it. His passion has not remotely extinguished.” Tom Goudie, a partner, writer and director at Pirate, says O’Reilly won the lottery when it comes to his voice and his speaking abilities. “He’s fantastic at selling ideas, and he finds a way of explaining so you’re seduced into ideas.” And if he can’t succeed with what’s inside his head, there’s always the outside to consider. “He broke 10 boards with his forehead once,” jokes Gardener, recalling that O’Reilly started studying martial arts in high school and has a green sash in Five Animal Kung Fu and a brown belt in karate. His passion for advertising extends to his favourite band, The Beatles. He admires them because of their marketing savvy, and included a post about their branding power on his advertising blog. But Beatlemania is not universal in the O’Reilly household. “It’s a running joke; how much I’ve been subjected to not just the Beatles, but John, George, Paul and Ringo on their own,” laments Debbie
O’Reilly, his wife of 27 years. O’Reilly loves hunting for Beatles memorabilia while the couple shops for antiques and likens choosing his favourite Beatles song to choosing his favourite kid. After a long pause, he gives an evasive answer. “I’m a big George Harrison fan, so ‘Here Comes The Sun’ would be right up there.” But it really is A Hard Day’s Night for O’Reilly,
Terry O’Reilly recording his CBC Radio show, Age of Persuasion.
who stays up late to work, generally getting five hours of sleep before it’s back to the office. “He’s a busy guy and he’s easily distracted, but when he is around he is completely engaged,” she says. “It’s impossible to balance life perfectly, but he does it pretty well.” When their daughters were little they would love to have him sit on the couch while they would stick bows and barrettes in his hair, she recalls. “Of course, those were the days when he had some hair.”
While she was out one day, a neighbour came to the door to ask her husband a question. After he had left, O’Reilly thought the neighbour acted a bit strange. “Then he sat down and realized he had just had an entire conversation with our neighbour with little red, white, blue and yellow bows and barrettes all over his semi-bald head,” she says. She loves her husband’s sense of humour, but becomes bothered by his sense of direction. “Every time we’re driving to our cottage I have to tell him where to turn right or turn left because he can never remember,” she says. With all of his projects, O’Reilly doesn’t get a lot of downtime, but still loves reading about the advertising business. He also enjoys biographies and business books, but does not care for fiction. “I’ve probably got five books going at a time. I’ll just rotate between them. When I need a break from one, I’ll just pick up the other and read that.” He credits Debbie for keeping his priorities straight. “This industry can turn you into a bad husband and a bad dad very quickly, even if it’s absolutely not your intent, because it’s so unforgiving and the hours are so long and the clients are so demanding,” says O’Reilly. “When you suddenly have to work late, it’s your family that gets the unfortunate phone call. It’s not the client. The client never hears no, and your family always does.” The couple met through a mutual friend after O’Reilly’s second year of studying radio and television at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. “He did as little as possible back then,” she laughs. “That’s the only recognizable difference.” She says nobody works harder than he does to make sure he has the right script or person cast for a commercial. But when he was a student he didn’t put as much effort into something if he thought it was a waste of time. To succeed, she says, you have to work not only on what you love, but also what you hate. Upon leaving Ryerson half a credit short, O’Reilly sent out 60 resumes to advertising agencies. He got back 61 rejections, he recalls. One agency rejected him twice. A paycheck came at a gig at a radio station in Burlington and O’Reilly found his calling. “That complete serendipity of being forced into radio affected the entire rest of my life because eventually, 10 years later, I would open up a radio company. Now I have a radio show, all because agencies wouldn’t hire me but a radio station would.”
There are more ways to deliver information than ever before. What impact has this had on the quality of the content? think content always be extremely important, it will be the thing everybody will pay for at the end of the day. PhotoI caption and will credit The Internet is just a vehicle, social media are just vehicles, the thirty seconds on television is just a vehicle.
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Marketing goes viral
n the TV screen, a young and sultry Heather Locklear has just gotten out of the shower. She clutches a light blue towel around her shoulders with one hand, and in the other, a bottle of Fabergé cosmetics original organic shampoo. This shampoo has brought such luster and vibrancy to her feathered mane that she’s decided to tell two friends about it. Of course those friends will love it so much, that they’ll tell two friends, and then they’ll tell two friends, and so on. This iconic ‘80s commercial, now a piece of pop culture nostalgia, is considered a stellar example of the power of word of mouth marketing; the fore-runner for what’s become known in the last five years as viral marketing. Now the commercial’s resurgence onYouTube means in a sense that it too, has gone viral, and Locklear can once again start telling friends about her favorite shampoo.
Younger people are not impressed with traditional publicity, they want something more organic. Tim Richardson, University of Toronto “This commercial was a perfect example of word-of-mouth marketing, and the method works better today than ever, thanks in large measure to the internet,” says Tim Richardson, an ecommerce professor at the University of Toronto. “Word-of-mouth marketing has been around for many decades before the internet, but like anything, technology can enhance capabilities to allow a simple situation to become more intense,” he says. As of late, some of the most intense viral campaigns have been launched in promotion of films, such as the horror movie, Paranormal Activity 2. Envelopes containing flash drives were covertly distributed to writers at popular horror blogs such as Bloody-Disgusting and Dreadcentral. The drives contained brief clips of eerie security footage from an unidentified residence. The return address on the packages led to Franklin Pierce University, and after some digging readers found an article in the Pierce Arrow, the university’s newspaper, which featured an article on Paranormal Activity 2 and its connection to the school. The article included an email address for readers to contact and share their own paranormal experience. When readers followed it they got a
response from the address in the form of a confidential incident report about the haunting, which led further down the rabbit hole to a dizzying collection of online puzzles, and snail mail letters that encouraged bloggers and readers alike to do their own detective work and become more involved in the campaign. “Younger people are not impressed with traditional publicity, they want something more organic,” says Richardson. Viral marketing is a term coined by venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, to describe the unique referral marketing program created by Microsoft Hotmail, one of the first free email services. At the end of each email sent by a Hotmail user, the company would include a promotional line for its free services. Hotmail users were inadvertently promoting Hotmail every time they sent an email. This technique netted Hotmail 12 million new subscribers within 18 months of its launch, according to Jurvetson’s website. Now viral marketing has spread beyond simply tagging emails, and has crept into the interactive world of social media. Last fall a rumour of a unicorn sighting in Toronto’s Don Valley swept across social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. There was even a video of the creature running majestically through a clearing, supposedly shot by local birdwatcher, Peter Hickey-Jones, who was trying to film a pileated woodpecker when he saw the fabled creature burst through the foliage. The rumoured unicorn sighting was publi-
cized through a Canadian Newswire Group media release, as well as through social networking sites and designed to promote the Ontario Science Centre’s Mythic Creatures exhibit. “We have been experimenting with using social media releases,” says Anna Relyea, associate director of strategic communications at the Ontario Science Centre. “With mythic creatures, due to the very nature of the exhibit, we wanted to be a little bit more creative and playful in our approach to media relations.” Within the first 24 hours the media release had received 11,000 views. The unicorn sighting video on YouTube now sits at over 150,000 views. “Social media is expanding, its influence is expanding, particularly with engaging the under 30 audience,” says Relyea. “It’s a segment we want to grow,obviously our core
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demo is families with children. One of the reasons we have exhibitions like Body Worlds, and some of our films, is to look at other audiences.” Relyea also employed ambient tactics that took the campaign beyond the confines of the internet. The “unicorn” appeared at Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair as part of a demo of therapeutic horseback riding for children with autism. “Sasquatch” made appearances on the sidelines of Argos games, a Wiggles concert and at the Eaton Centre. The OSC also commissioned sidewalk art depicting dragons and Bigfoot at busy Toronto intersections, such asYonge and Dundas and Queen and Spadina. But viral marketing isn’t an exact science, and U of T’s Tim Richardson points out some pitfalls that those hoping to employ the technique might want to avoid. The best viral campaigns work on the principle of value not greed, according to Richardson. Trying to use money as an incentive means there is a chance the offer will be perceived as being too good to be true. The message could suffer as the virus mutates. “Viral marketing spreads the message widely, but could also distort the creator’s original intent,” says Richardson Perhaps one of the best examples of viral marketing gone wrong, is the 2007 Boston bomb scare, where a number of LED signs placed around the city to promote the Cartoon Network movie Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters were
mistakenly identified as explosive devices, resulting in mass panic and the deployment of the Boston bomb squad. The blunder ended up costing parent company the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. $1 million to reimburse the police and the various agencies that responded to the incident, and $1 million to fund homeland security and other programs, according to the Associated Press. “Still any kind of controversy that helps to get the message out can be helpful. It’s kind of a sad comment on our society,” says Richardson. Even when it comes to the use of social media for viral promotion, there are still frontiers to cross. During the summer, the Los Angeles-based Visionaire Group, a digital marketing agency, found a successful marketing use for Chatroulette, a webcam-based chat site that connects users to random people from around the world, promoting the horror film The Last Exorcism. Users thought they were getting a treat when the cute girl chatting with them teasingly started to unbutton her blouse, but it proved to be more of a trick when she suffered what appeared to be a complete demonic possession.The ad agency quickly edited a string of the best reactions together and posted the video on YouTube. Within 72 hours, Visionaire says the reaction video garnered over one million views. “The idea to use reactions from Chatroulette as a tool to market The Last Exorcism came about after a shift in marketing strategy from Lionsgate
toward playing up the scarier, creepier elements,” says Todd Havens, the senior account director at Visionaire responsible for the Chatroulette piece. Havens says although different options were discussed, the company ultimately decided that Chatroulette would be the best platform for their campaign. “It ultimately came down to speed, volume and where it was easiest to disrupt the expectations of a live viewing audience,” says Havens. “The film had a documentary feel to it and was cast with largely unknown actors, which actually provided us greater latitude to work on building basic awareness of the film’s release.” But despite the campaign’s success, Havens doesn’t see viral marketing taking over from traditional advertising. “It’s hard to envision social media overtaking traditional advertising given its mercurial nature,” says Havens. “The digital landscape is simply too nimble, it shifts too rapidly right now to allow Advertising (with a capital ‘A’) to anchor itself enough to challenge the tried-and-true traditional marketing venues.” Havens says segmentation doesn’t necessarily decrease audience engagement as much as it speaks to the expansion of the channels where consumers may engage with brands. “If real estate is all about location, location, location, advertising will always be about fishing where the fish are.”
There are more ways to deliver information than ever before. What impact has this had on the quality of the content?
The only way to cut through the noise is to tell a story that is really going to reach out through all those different platforms and grab people. Maybe it’s a bit pollyanna-ish but it’s made us remember that there has to be great story telling, whether it’s in 140 characters, which is possible, or in a documentary, it’s got to be a great story. - Adrienne Arsenault, correspondent, CBC News
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The Miracle of Advertising A series of television spots proves the continued worth of the medium
Photos courtesy john st. advertising agency
skydiver falls from the sky without an open parachute. Two men run into the frame. “Jason! Jason! You’re ok! He’s ok! It’s a miracle!” Another man appears in the frame wearing skydiving gear. “Hey! That’s not a miracle; broccoli has 12 essential vitamins and minerals, all lovingly packed into these tiny green trees. Now that’s a miracle. Shame on you! Shame!” In January 2010, three versions of The Miracle Food commercial were produced, but only two versions ran for the duration of the campaign. The commercials ran on all Television Bureau of Canada member stations in Ontario and British Columbia and on specialty stations across the country. Within weeks there were parodies of the commercials on YouTube, and Facebook groups sprung up with thousands of members. Few, it seems, realized that the spots were less about the wonders of broccoli and more about the efficacy of TV advertising. The commercials were part of a TVB told-you-so message, to potential advertisers, that used a case study to prove the continuing effectiveness of television as a selling platform. The results were published last September. The study reports top-of-mind awareness for broccoli went from receiving no mentions to being the second most recalled produce in the study.Thirteen per cent of consumers responded that they had purchased at least one more bunch of broccoli in their latest shopping trip compared to the pre-campaign period. Additionally, consumers responded that their intent to purchase one more bunch of broccoli also increased by 13 per cent. There were no negative responses from the public. Theresa Treutler, president and CEO of TVB, explains why January was an appropriate launch date. “The year 2009 was a tough year for all media, [it
was] tougher for everyone to secure advertising funds … it’s very easy for traditional media to become a target; the larger you are the easier to target you are,” says Treutler. “The other media started to issue research that had very negative results to TV. No one seemed to care about the fact that the research was suspect.” She says she sat down with her team late last year and brainstormed a plan to kill some myths and convey accurate information about television advertising. They thought they would need a commercial to communicate the benefits of television. “It’s not a novel idea,” Truetler says. “Apparently, decades ago, there was a [not so compelling] television commercial that did that. Also, TVB in the U.S. has developed commercials like this, that speak to the power of shot television, as has ThinkBox which is the U.K. equivalent of TVB in Canada.” But after meeting with a team from the advertising agency john st., based in Toronto, they agreed that a case study would be the most effective method. Founded in 2001, john st. has represented Bullfrog Power, Moosehead Breweries and Maple Leaf Foods. Adam Zolis, account director at john st. at the time the broccoli campaign was launched, says a case study was the best way to produce the tangible results that TVB was looking for. “And those results exceeded our expectations.” There are many misconceptions surrounding TV viewership, a common one being that its advertising reaches an older demographic than its online counterpart. Zolis says that is just not true. “There’s definitely overlap, from what we saw we reached a very diverse group of people...some of the greatest success we had was with kids and tweens, that’s just what we’ve seen through the Facebook group audience, basically every demographic you can think of has been engaged,” says Zolis. WINTER
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Another misconception is that online advertising is in direct competition with television advertising, he says. “The conversation being one versus the other is a bit ridiculous, it needs to be the combination of all those factors. I would hesitate to even comment specifically on TV, I think people need to be looking at the context of all channels.” Zolis says the confusion could be “just a common sense response to the emergence of new media channels, when you’re just thinking about where things are going, the prevalence of social media tools and the combination with personal video recorders, the natural response is to say that people are skipping commercials,” and thus the commercials become less effective. But Treutler says that viewers are cognizant of commercials whether they are fast-forwarding or not. Unlike the broccoli campaign, the Old Spice campaign that launched in February 2010 embraced the partnership between television and online. The “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign featured former football player Isaiah Mustafa. The original television ad features Mustafa reciting a quick monologue about how “anything is possible” if a man uses Old Spice. Because of the TV spot’s success, aYouTube campaign featured Mustafa as the same character responding to more than 100 YouTube, Facebook and Twitter comments in a series of brief videos. Weiden+Kennedy, the Portland, Ore. based ad agency responsible for the Old Spice Campaign, has produced and developed spots for well-known brands such as Nike. Great writing, great casting and uninhibited use of new media made this one of the most memorable campaigns of the year says Mike Tennant. The writer, broadcaster and author who, up until last spring,was the producer of CBC Radio’s The Age of Persuasion, says : “You have to start by realizing that ad creative is all about art and not science, so there’s no formula or paint-by-numbers to a success like the Old Spice campaign. It’s just done by a first-class agency; very, very clever writing, and they knew who they were talking to.” Tennant, who together with AOP host Terry O’Reilly, combined social history and industry experience to show how the art of persuasion shapes culture, says TV advertising may not be reaching the same audience it garnered before the internet. But “we still have this sense of credibility and being in the spotlight that comes with television and that’s the virtue of the push medium. Television sort of imposes itself in people’s homes, and there’s a sense that if you’re on television, you’ve made it and you’re credible.” But there’s no turning back the online tide. “What we’re witnessing is the end of TV as a flagship medium, and I don’t think anything’s going to change that. The online time is dominating, and it is becoming the dominant medium in our culture.”
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O’Reilly agrees. Sort of. “Everybody is talking about the internet, it’s the biggest, hottest topic in the world, but television is still the powerful vehicle in advertising. Old Spice wouldn’t have been the phenomenon it was if it wasn’t for television,” he says. “People think it [TV advertising] is diminishing. It’s not, it’s increasing.” As the new producer of The Age of Persuasion, as well as the voice behind the show, O’Reilly warns advertisers using the internet that the medium also has its drawbacks. “ The thing about the net is, ‘how do you control your message out there?’” he asks. “When you send something out on the net you kind of lose control of it. That’s part of the deal. On television and on radio and magazines, they deliver very specific audiences, like a program delivers a very specific audience.” While online advertising clearly has the ability to reach a broader audience, O’Reilly says control and specific reach is a better way to assure clients that their message is reaching the right people. “On the net it’s a little harder to do that, it’s a little harder to be that specific, or it’s hard to control when they’re going to look at your message, whereas television and radio, it’s always very timely. “I think broadcast still has a lot of sway in this world,” says O’Reilly. But even if online becomes the dominant medium in years to come, he says, that doesn’t mean TV will become obsolete. “The old media don’t die, they never do, that’s why we still have live theatre after cinema came along, and that’s why we still have radio after TV came along. TV’s not going to die because of the online presence,” says Mike Tennant. “I would suspect that the broccoli campaign, which I thought was very well executed, overstated the case in bringing up quotes about TV being dead.” In the world of advertising, it is not a matter of whether TV is more or less effective than online advertising. “Every medium and every tactic has its strengths and weaknesses,” says Tennant. “TV is a great demonstration medium, radio is a fantastic branding medium, and print can be a fantastic detail medium. So it depends on your needs.”
How well do you know by
Inside the sleek frame and high-resolution screen of a smartphone is a tiny computer that powers all of the device’s applications and also contains a trove of personal data. And, much like its larger cousins – the desktop and laptop computers – it is susceptible to cyber attacks. Trouble is, most people who use their phones to browse don’t know this. “Now there is so much internet usage,” says Alicia diVittorio, director of marketing at Lookout Mobile Security, a California company that creates security software for mobile phones. “If you take a look at 2007, the data usage was much smaller; in 2009, it skyrocketed and is expected to increase even more by 2013.” Much of the threat comes from applications, the small programs that do any number of tasks, from complex audio editing software to fairly mundane, time consuming games. There are three types of threats, says diVittorio: digital, including malware, viruses and spyware; data loss, things like deleted contacts, call history and photos; and lost or stolen phones. According to Chetan Sharma Consulting, a Washington-based consulting company that works exclusively with mobile communications, app downloads will have grown from 10 billion apps in 2009 to 15 billion in 2010 and will grow to a predicted 50 billion in 2012. On an average user’s phone, about 31 apps can access identity information, 19 can access location and five can access SMS and MMS messages , according to information compiled by Lookout. DiVittorio says in most cases users think they are downloading a harmless application, but it’s not always the case. Some contain malicious software including viruses and spyware that can create privacy breaches. “Recently there has been the SMS Trojan,” says diVittorio. “It’s a malicious app that poses as a media player; but in reality, contains a piece of code that will wake up the phone in the middle of the night and send premium SMS text messages to numbers in China, for example.” Spyware is another concern. It is generally downloaded unbeknownst to the phone owner and can be used to track a person’s location. “[Someone else] could download a spyware app on your phone and see where you are and what you are doing,” diVittorio says. It can also access information such as phone ID, email accounts or phone status, she says. However, just because a phone can access personal information, doesn’t mean it will use it un-
lawfully, says diVittorio. Google Maps, which is a prominent application included in iPhone packages, requires access to the phone’s GPS data. Vance Lockton a policy analyst at the office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, says nothing can be done once a person’s privacy has been compromised so securing the operating system beforehand is crucial. “We understand the benefits of the functionality of apps, but you have to ensure that you have both privacy and functionality,” he says. “You have to look at the application on your mobile phone and really make sure it is made clean.” In conjunction with security software, diVittorio says users need to take steps to protect against mobile threats. This can include using a secure password for downloading, being conscientious about installing updates and only downloading from trustworthy sites. She also suggests looking at product ratings and reviews. The threat level can also vary according to the type of phone. diVittorio says Lookout products protect Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones but not iPhones. “We don’t feel Apple shouldn’t be protected,” she says. “iTunes curates the apps to make sure they are safe, but there are always vulnerabilities.” Jonny Evans is a blogger for Computerworld. com, a source of technology news and information. His blog, Apple Holic, follows and discusses Apple products and innovations. In his opinion, Android apps are less secure than Apple iOS apps. “While Android relies on the users to share and detect security problems [an open source type of model], Apple has its own staff who vet and check apps,” he says. “Android does have app checking to an extent, but not like Apple.” On the other hand, for some users this oversight comes at a cost. “Apple is more secure, but also gets accused of being a bit controlling because it vets apps,” he says. Citing New York-based The Nielsen Company data, Lookout reported that by the start of 2011, one in two mobile phones used in the United States will be smartphones. According to Lookout, it took 15 years for PC viruses to do what smartphone viruses will do in two. “Securing mobile phones is different because threats are not quite the same as on a PC,” says diVittorio. “A phone is a personal device, it is like a credit card,” she says.
Photo illustration by Kyla Sergejew WINTER
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t a u o y r o f
WEB DEVELOPMENT AT HUMBER
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Next start date: September 2011 4 2 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
A novel approach HEADING IN A NEW DIRECTION, FORBES MAGAZINE HAS ADDED A TEAM OF BLOGGERS TO WRITE FOR FORBES.COM Photo Illustration by Justin Millerson by
In late May, an elderly, well-respected 93-year-old looked in the mirror and didn’t like what looked back. Despite having lots to celebrate since its birth in 1917, the old body of Forbes magazine saw signs of aging in this ever-growing digital age, but like others in their dotage, it is looking to the fountain of youth for renewal. “There is a new CEO of the company and we are in a new stage.” That’s the word from Lewis D’Vorkin, Forbes’ chief product officer. Actually, it’s 15 words, which is the sum total extracted by Convergence from Forbes in two grueling months of phone calls. From his New York office at 90 Fifth Avenue, D’Vorkin would comment no further on the new direction the magazine is heading, or his part in it. When Steve Forbes handed the CEO baton to media veteran Mike Perlis last November, it was Lewis D’Vorkin pulling the strings for Forbes. After feeling the punch of a massive decline in advertising profits, the magazine, led by D’Vorkin, had no choice but to refurbish its operations by shifting to the younger online market. D’Vorkin introduced a vast network of bloggers to write for Forbes.com. By adding hundreds of outside contributors, the hope is to attract more traffic to the website, but what is interesting about these present and soon-to-be
bloggers is their lack of experience working the journalistic beat. An Associated Press article written in September by business writer Andrew Vanacore reveals, “many of these Forbes bloggers won’t have any background in reporting. Instead, Forbes is recruiting specialists to write on specific topics.” And that, to put it midly, raised a few eyebrowns in the business media. “These are ambitious times at Forbes, one of the most storied brands in American media. We recognize and embrace the need for an all-inclusive conversation,” D’Vorkin, a former New York Times editor, wrote on his own Forbes.com blog. “Consumers want their voices to be heard on an equal playing field with content creators. Marketers want to get their message across in new ways that enable them to form relationships with both the audience and journalists.” But will this be the right fit for Forbes readers? Forbes magazine targets mostly wealthy forty-somethings according to the magazine’s own 2009 media kit. Vancouver-based journalism academic Alfred Hermida acknowledges there is an existing preconception that blogging is inferior to journalism, that the quality of writing is not as distinguished. But that doesn’t mean that the Forbes’ blogforce will be made up of second-rate writers. WINTER
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“There are bloggers out there that know far more [than journalists] about a specific topic and offer insight that is unique,” says Hermida during a telephone interview from his west Vancouver office. Hermida leads the integrated journalism program at the University of British Columbia and is an online veteran who helped found the award-winning BBCNews.com website. Since 1997 BBCNews.com has increased its hit rate to nearly 6.5 million global viewers a day according to Tim Weber, business editor of BBC News. While most publications are still trying to tackle digital journalism in a way that’s profitable, Hermida gets it. He says there is value in D’Vorkin’s strategy, provided quality doesn’t slide. “What are the screening procedures, how are they deciding who blogs?”
Courtesy Jack Willoughby
I look at journalism as more of a process where it involves a tension between someone who writes the article and someone who edits. The object is to serve to reader. Jack Willoughby, senior editor, Barrons’
This loose idea of marrying journalism with bloggers drawn from outside the craft stemmed from D’Vorkin’s previous web project, True/ Slant, where the blog-driven website proved to be notably successful. Starting with 65 hand-picked bloggers, the eclectic site comprised a variety of topics such as sports, entertainment, heath, and politics; no deadlines, no edits, just content and no limit to the length of postings. D’Vorkin calls this “entreprenurial journalism.” Writers received just a small stipend but the model allowed writers to have their own blog page featuring their work and also receive a cut of the advertising profit for that particular page. In an even bolder move, True/Slant also encouraged advertisers to blog and post information, allowing marketers to communicate directly with viewers. And it worked. According to records from comScore, a provider of marketing data to many of the internet’s largest businesses, True/Slant’s traffic grew from roughly 90,000 unique viewers a month to 335,000 last April. As an early investor, Forbes Media liked the low-cost, high-density approach to journalism and hired D’Vorkin as chief product officer in May. Skeptics on Wall Street saw it as dressing up an elderly lady in a debutante’s clothing. Jack Willoughby, the tell-it-like-it-is senior editor of rival business magazine, Barron’s, said this is one of the “continual missteps” that Forbes has made since the late Jim Michaels, a former iconic editor, retired in 1999. “Why it’s a mistake is that same reason why it’s a mistake to use focus groups. I look at journalism as more of a process where it involves a tension between someone who writes the article and someone who edits. The object
Jack Willoughby, an award winning business journalist and senior editor of Barrons’, is skeptical of the Forbes strategy.
is to serve the reader,” said the Wall Street veteran who started his career in Toronto on the Globe and Mail’s Report On Business. Willoughby, an award winning writer with a reputation for getting out in front of issues – he forecast the dot com collapse – says blogging by nonjournalists will not help the Forbes brand. “You don’t have someone there to tell you, ‘I don’t understand your point, or you’re nuts; I think you’re wrong.’” Forbes however, would argue that the online sector is a different beast that demands a good flow of information as well as timeliness and relevance. D’Vorkin believes it’s now about speed; editorial command is a relic of the past. “It’s not about craftsmanship,” D’Vorkin told the The NewYork Observer in July. “Quality online does not equal craftsmanship.” So what does this give the Forbes reader? At the time of writing, Forbes.com draws over 18 million unique visitors a month worldwide according to Forbes Media. D’Vorkin’s innovative model was proven successful for the nameless, nicheless brand True/Slant, but Lauren Kirtchner, assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review asks in her own article, how it will work for a well-rooted institution.
There are more ways to deliver information than ever before. What impact has this had on the quality of the content? Content has gotten worse. And better. And weirder. There’s just a lot more content to deal with! We’re all generating it as we consume it. So the emphasis shifts to aggregation and curation – someone who filters content may be as important (or more) than someone who actually makes content. Sometimes the way people select and feature other people’s content is itself new content. - Jesse Brown, host, TVO, Search Engine podcast
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Arguing the news
Photos by Lindsay Belford, illustration by Tai Duong
The launch of Sun TV News has sparked a debate about the future of political discourse in Canada but are comparisons to Fox News at all accurate? by
ow that Quebecor has approval from the CRTC to launch Sun TV News, Avaaz, an online-based advocacy group, is working to stop the channel from being bundled with other channels; they want it to be a stand alone digital channel. “Avaaz feels [Sun TV News getting a licence is] fine,” says Emma Ruby-Sachs, a campaign director for Avaaz.org. “We’ve never tried to keep Sun TV [News] off the air, but what we are hoping for is that those different providers, Bell, Shaw and Rogers, keep Sun TV as an a la carte option.” Ruby-Sachs says this will stop people from having to pay for a channel they don’t want. Quebecor Media is set to launch Sun TV News, its 24-hour news channel, in the spring of 2011. Ezra Levant, Sun TV News host and conservative pundit, says that the petition and constant attempts to derail the network by Avaaz is a sign of fear from the left wing. “I think that people who say, ‘Oh, I’m complaining about the other side being out there’ is often because they have had a monopoly for so long,” says Levant. Originally, Quebecor applied for a Category 1
broadcast licence, which would require all cable and satellite companies to carry the channel. That application was denied by the CRTC, which is not accepting any new Category 1 licences until October 2011. A new proposal was submitted by Quebecor for a Category 2 licence, and was approved by the CRTC on Nov. 26. The original application alone caused quite a stir with the advocacy groups like Avaaz. It led an online petition to stop Sun TV News from getting a Category 1 licence and said the channel would “mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics.” “Here’s a foreign lobby group, based in New York City, trying to tell Canadians what they can and can’t do,” added Levant. “Where are the Canadian nationalists, where’s the Council of Canadians telling theseYankee imperialists to buzz off?” But Ruby-Sachs says Avaaz isn’t based in New York, it’s based online. Also, she says their fight against Sun TV News is not about telling Canadians, of which she is one, what to do. “Every once in a while, a political group gives me the opportunity to sign a petition and I jump on board,” says Ruby-Sachs. “That’s me telling my-
self what to do and it’s about democracy. Ezra Levant doesn’t seem to understand that part of how Avaaz works. I’m not sure if he’s a member, but we’d encourage him to participate.” Levant says that it’s not fair that Sun TV News has to jump through hoops with the CRTC when CBC News Network and CTV News Channel already have mandatory carriage licences. “In Canada, we’re starting against two well-entrenched competitors. One with a 20-year head start, one with a 10-year head start,” and they’ve been collecting those carriage fees during that time, says Levant. “It’s almost like a tax and you’re forced to pay for [those channels].” What does this mean for Canadian television news? Not much is the consensus. Sun TV News won’t be the end of the world. “You really don’t have to worry about a Canadian station giving you American conservatism because that wouldn’t serve its goals,” says Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, which has its main offices in Boston. “They’ll be wanting to figure out, ‘What is Canadian conservatism?’” “There’s no problem with a variety of types of stations on the air,” says Ian Morrison, a spokesWINTER
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person for the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. “But I think [Sun TV News] would have continuing problems with the CRTC because of complaints that it’s not meeting Canadian standards for balanced coverage on the air.” Morrison also said that Sun TV News should have to conform to the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters before Quebecor gained approval. He paraphrased the code by saying, “A reasonable person watching for a reasonable period of time would be exposed to a reasonable variety of points of view.” As a condition of approval of Quebecor’s licence, the station must adhere to industry standards, including the Journalistic Independence Code, and the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada Code of Ethics. These codes require the broadcaster to present diverse points of view and help keep journalistic integrity intact. “I’m not aware of a service being taken to task for being too right wing, for example, or too left wing for that matter. This is a somewhat new concept,” says Peter Foster, director general of television policy at the CRTC. “In general, most news services tend to provide a balance of opinion across the spectrum.” The American government on the other hand, no longer takes such a hard look at the content streaming into American homes. “Since the 1980s, functionally, the [American] government has been out of the business of really looking at the content of media and has simply looked at ownership structure,” says Tom Rosenstiel, founder and director of Pew Research’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “We got rid of the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time Doctrine and things like that, which is why we can have a TV station that is all liberal or all conservative.”
“Factors of geography, which have given rise to many flowers blooming in the United States, have always taken on a somewhat more restrictive character in Canada,” says Dr. Paul Brown, a professor in public administration at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
We’re always going to be in the shadow of the Great Republic, but we are quite different in many fundamental ways. Ian Morrison, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting Even if Canadians have taken to some American political norms, the former are always more reserved, according to Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. “The U.S. does show Canada its future in many areas [however] there are still quite different temperaments,” says Wiseman. “You don’t have the craziness around guns or abortion or capitol punishment in the same way, so the Canadian identity is different and that’ll also play out differently. There’s much more ambiguity here about what it is to be Canadian. “Canadians realize the whole world doesn’t revolve around them, American’s don’t quite realize that.” Morrison says Canadians are just different. “Maybe [they] are moving more in the direction
of the United States, but my opinion is a lot of Canadians recoil from the anger and the shouting, whether it’s left or right.” “We’re always going to be in the shadow of the Great Republic, but we are quite different in many fundamental ways,” says Morrison. Differences aside, there is another good reason to believe that Sun TV News will not be the end of reasoned discourse in media: local news. “I think this is a little bit misunderstood and exaggerated,” says Rosenstiel. “The thing to understand about the United States market… is that most of our media are local. We have 1,400 newspapers in the U.S. 1,397 of which are local.” “In the U.S., for an ideological model to work, you have to be a niche outlet, which tends to only work for national news,” and those local news programs are much more balanced in their reporting, says Rosenstiel. For Sun TV News, being national will allow the network to grab as many paying viewers as possible, even if nearly half the country will never watch. Described as political bias, argumentative culture, or propaganda, news networks like Fox News have their place, but no one, including Rosenstiel, really knows what their effect really is. “Most media scholars will tell you, if you ask them [whether] the media reflect political polarization or create it, they would say [both].” Whatever viewpoint a person holds on Sun TV News’ appearance on Canadian airwaves, Levant says that it will reach for the number one spot in ratings and have a conservative voice, and those are the only ways someone could compare Sun TV News to Fox News. “I really don’t think that, if you look at it from a technical or business point of view, there’s much of a comparison at all.”
Photo by Kyla Sergejew 4 6 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
CHANGING STANDARDS by
HOW A BOLD NEW BUSINESS MODEL IS BRINGING ONE OF BRITAIN’S OLDEST PUBLICATIONS AND OTHERS INTO THE FUTURE
The London Evening Standard has been a constant presence in the lives of Londoners for more than 180 years. The iconic publication has seen those in the capital through the coronation of Queen Victoria, Dickensian squalor, the bloody havoc wreaked by Jack the Ripper, the destruction of two world wars, the insanity of Beatlemania, Margaret Thatcher’s iron will, and the horrific 7/7 terror attacks of 2005. The paper, established in 1827 by Charles Baldwin, has indeed had a colourful history, including a curious tale of intrigue from 1923, when Canadian newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook finessed the paper away from an ill Sir Edward Hulton, under the nose of the latter’s family. “And today, the paper whose editors have included such famous Fleet Street names as Charles Wintour, Simon Jenkins and Paul Dacre, while boasting writers including Randolph Churchill, Harold Nicholson and John Betjeman, seems once again to be saved from history’s dustbin by the pride of a new, unconventional proprietor,” Stephen Brook said in a January 2009 article in The Guardian. Certainly, one could not get more unconventional than Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent who bought the paper in January 2009. In October of the same year, the decision was made to turn the paper into a freesheet. Richard Berger, head of postgraduate research at the media school at Bournemouth University, says one noticeable change is the size of the publication. “It’s a lot smaller than it used to be,” Berger says from his campus office on the English south coast. “It used to be quite a substantial newspaper, it’s not anymore.” Berger says the breadth and focus of content in the Standard has also suffered. “There’s more of a focus on celebrity gossip and that kind of thing. It’s less hard news, there’s less investigative journalism,” he says. The 135-year-old San Francisco Examiner, the first publication in the vast media empire of William Randolph Hearst, made the shift to a freesheet in 2003. With a list of former contributors that includes Jack London, Mark Twain and Ambrose
Bierce, the paper has a similar place in San Francisco’s history that the Standard has in London. With a current weekly circulation of 790,000, president and publisher John Wilcox says the paper has been reaping the benefits of going free. “We’re having a rather good year. We’re up significantly year over year in our revenue and we’re up over our budget – have been every month this year,” he says. Wilcox says the Examiner’s corporate philosophy mirrors some newspapers in Europe, which he believes are ahead in “getting the 21st century newspaper. Free papers there have been around longer and, in some countries, are the leading papers in terms of circulation and readership. “We have a younger readership than our competitors in [the Bay Area] and I think some of that is because we’re free,” he says. The dynamic of a free newspaper can be very different than its paid-for counterpart, Berger points out. “The concepts of these newspapers change completely, erratically, once you move to another business model,” he says. Metro, an international freesheet conglomerate which prints in 24 countries, reaches 555,800
readers a day in Toronto, according to the Newspaper Audience Databank. “When you look at readership data, those cities that have free newspapers have higher readership of all daily papers versus those that don’t,” says Suzanne Raitt, vice president of innovation and marketing at the Canadian Newspaper Association. Bill McDonald, group publisher at Metro Canada, says his paper’s high readership and diverse demographics are in demand with advertisers. “By delivering, we think, a good product, we see our readership numbers grow to a level whereby we can charge a significant price for advertising,” he says, indicating Metro operates on a 50/50 advertising to editorial ratio. “We live or die on the revenue we can generate through advertising.” In San Francisco, Wilcox says advertising has been essential to the Examiner’s success but it took some time for the industry to come around to their situation. “Advertisers are about as conservative a group as there is so they are slow to accept new ideas,” he points out. But “it’s clear that our model is working well.” Bournemouth-based Berger says the London Evening Standard needs to convince advertisers that its new business model will be successful in the future. “[Lebedev’s] argument is the paper is reaching more Londoners now,” he says. “Because it’s free, it’s everywhere in London, there are piles of it. “Advertisers may pay more for that, that’s what he’s banking on.” The jury is still out on whether the scrappy veteran newspaper, which once vowed to “take a stick” to government and which was banned in 1930s Italy for lampooning dictator Benito Mussolini, will appeal to Londoners in its slimmer, fluffier garb. “Journalists are expensive,” says Berger. “We’re seeing an erosion of current affairs and political investigative journalism.” But as far as the business model is concerned, the Standard’s new owner may have got it right. “For some reason, people want to read about celebrities more than politicians these days,” says Berger. WINTER
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All the news that fits to
Screen Photos by Tai Duong
Newspaper publishers are looking at tablet technology to bring their work into the 21st century. But will the gamble pay off? by TAI
It’s easy to understand why Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul in charge of News. Corp., decided to invest $30 million to create The Daily a newspaper exclusive to the iPad. The 99 cent subscription is going to be tough for daily readers who may be used to getting their content for free but Murdoch is banking on the iPad to pave the way for newspapers to change. “It’s where the newspaper industry is going,” says John Hinds, CEO of the Canadian Newspaper Association. “Really it’s all about providing a full menu of options for individual readers to get their information how and when they choose it.” Reading content on mobile devices can only increase so going purely digital may be Murdoch’s best idea yet. Matt Frehner, mobile editor of The Globe and Mail who spearheaded creation for The Globe’s iPad app says that the traffic they’re getting now on the web is almost overwhelming. “Our mobile traffic through Blackberry and iPhone in our mobile sites has grown by 500 per cent in the last year,” he says. At The Hays Daily News in Kansas, Andrew Duscher, web developer and one of the first to create an iPad app for a newspaper, says, “We’ve really started to lose out on some with the paper product, the younger generation has started going more online. “It’s really about the market shares and the readers we can reach.” Murdoch’s move takes advantage of the increased reader loyalty iPad applications appear to provide. According to the Dutch Daily News, Murdoch made the move to the iPad because he was impressed by a survey that showed people spent more time immersed in content on the iPad com4 8 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
If you walk around and ask people on the street whether or not they have an iPad, one in 20 might say yes but in publishing, especially now, you don’t aim for the one, you aim for the 19. Joshua Errett, Now Magazine
The Daily will cost 99¢ for a weekly subscription.
pared to web surfing. But making these commitments doesn’t come without problems. Joshua Errett, online editor of Now Magazine, which has also recently developed an iPad app, says the number of consumers a daily can reach on an iPad is limited. “If you walk around and ask people on the street whether or not they have an iPad, one in 20 might say yes but in publishing, especially now, you don’t aim for the one, you aim for the 19.” Errett says it’s going to be difficult to make news readers pay for something they’ve already been given for free. Errett, paraphrasing from a book by Jaron Lanier, says the web is much like the narrow tunnels of the London subway system. “It was built in such a way that once you build and once you innovate you can’t go back and change it,” he says. “Once things are established in the way they function it’s very hard to go back and change that.” The subscription price can be a turn off for people, even at 99 cents, but the pay walls may just be very well what saves the print dinosaur. Patrick Lowry, editor and publisher of The Hays Daily News, says going digital will cut down on distribution and printing costs. Twenty to 25 per cent of the cost structure is dedicated to delivering and printing the paper, he says. While change may be difficult when it comes to paying for content, the way it is consumed is evolving. In Kansas, Lowry says this change is how news is consumed. “The consumption is changing by the introduction of these devices.” The Daily has been slated to be released with iPad’s iOS version 4.3 which is set to release in the early part of this year.
Courtesy Debra Yeo
Accepting Feedback How journalists’ blogs can blur the lines between readers and editors
When something interesting happens on reality TV, Debra Yeo wants her readers to be the first to know.Yeo’s blog Reality Check is on the Toronto Star website. She updates frequently and quickly. One particular blog post ignited the wrath of many American Idol fans in February 2010. That month, Yeo picked up on an American blog that 2009 winner Kris Allen had made plans to go to Haiti and help with earthquake relief but that he had to postpone the trip. “I had gotten some incorrect information from a website and posted it without double checking,” she says. “For some reason, it had been posted after he had already gone to the country and so I was thinking, ‘Oh, the trip had already been postponed again,’ and posted that and made a joke about how Kris had some explaining to do about when he hadn’t gone to Haiti although he said he had.” The response was immediate and fierce. Within hours, Yeo went back to her computer to type up a retraction and an apology. Even so, Kathy English, the Star’s public editor, decided to make her own statement on the situation through an online editorial. The piece shared comments from readers such as: “Even though this isn’t the most important news story in the world, I don’t think your paper wants false stories presented as fact on its website” and “An apology is owed to Kris Allen, and your readers for not fact checking.” English wrote that readers expect the same process of verification and monitoring for the online content required for the newspaper. For the Star, “accuracy online is as important as it has always been in the paper and bloggers always have just as much responsibility to be accurate even in expressing
their opinion,” says English. “Blogs are a different thing [in] that they are more interactive, they have reader involvement and sometimes the accurate facts come through that conversational process.” Shane Holladay, a Ryerson University online journalism instructor and strategic business analyst at Torstar Digital, agrees that blogs are more interactive, and should be. “You might as well be a columnist if you have to have an editor proof it all the time.” Blogs should involve “a quick idea” that should “be happening right away instead of [having] a carefully thought out reaction to it.” The comment section of this “conversation” can be just as important as the article itself, says Jesse Brown, the Toronto-based host of TVO’s Search Engine podcast, which takes a look at the internet’s influence on politics and culture. “There are real experts out there so when you write about something that you are new to you’ll often get all of the facts corrected in the comments,” he says. English says she rarely has to deal with any issues regarding bloggers, who are generally trusted writers and that not every single post “is edited like a column or a reporters’ work would be, but the editors here are still responsible for what is published in those blogs.” English commended Yeo in her online editorial for responding as quickly as she did to the error. “It was an important lesson about always double checking stuff you find on the web,” saysYeo. “I got on the blog as fast as I could and wrote up an apology and an explanation of what had happened.” WINTER
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The U.S. Army is spotlighting the efforts of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients with a new web initiative
Courtesy U.S. Army
On June 21, 2006, in the Gremen Valley, a mountainous region in the northeast corner of Afghanistan, Sgt. First Class Jared C. Monti was killed. His patrol of 16 soldiers came under intense fire from a much larger enemy force. Monti died trying to rescue an injured soldier who was stranded between the enemy forces and his own patrol. He made three attempts to reach his comrade before being mortally wounded by a rocket propelled grenade. Monti was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest medal for valour, on Sept. 17, 2009. On July 24, 2009 President Barack Obama signed the authorization for Monti to receive the Medal of Honor for his action. The medal was presented to the family by the president in a formal ceremony at the White House on Sept. 17, 2009. Now, a new website created in conjunction with Google and the United States Army will help to retell his story and the story of others with a host of interactive content, giving a step-by-step account of what led to the bestowal of the medal. “It makes you very proud, but I’d give up everything to have him back,” says Paul Monti, the father of the fallen soldier. The website features interactive topographical maps depicting where the soldiers were, video footage showing what they went through and audio clips from soldiers who were there and survived. There are also pictures and personal information about recipients, from childhood right up 5 0 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
to their military careers. “There is no live footage of what happened. We have satellite footage, but sometimes that’s classified,” says Maj. Juanita Chang, director of the online and social media division of the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, U.S. Army, who helped put this site together. Instead, the army has produced in-depth logs and video of people retelling the story of the fallen soldiers.
“I often go to Google and punch my son’s name in and I spend hours looking for new things . . . or even hours just looking.” Paul Monti “We’re honoured to do it,” says Chang. “It’s an honor to be able to create something to honour them.” Some of the information, like detailed interactive maps, were fairly easy to compile, says Chang. “The Army has no shortage of maps. Everything we do is so well documented, of where a person is and at what time,” she says. The websites also contain personal information and pictures of the soldiers throughout their lives starting from childhood, something Chang says was harder to get. Collecting this requires, in most cases, going to the families of the soldiers, which can create an
emotional rollercoaster for them, says Chang. Despite the challenges, she says her creative team did a great job collecting the information that was used for the website. “It is difficult, there is a nasty backlash when you have to go through pictures and personal belongings . . . there won’t ever be any closure,” says Monti. The Congressional Medal of Honor was created in 1861 and is given to those who go above and beyond the call of duty. It has been given to 3,400 members of the military, Coast Guard and a few civilians. “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade,” is the motto on the medal’s website. “He was a humble, generous person. I’m not speaking of him as a soldier, I never do,” Monti says of his son. “The humanitarian that he was, the peace and joy he tried to bring to everyone, to fellow soldiers and people in other countries that he’d never met. He’d give away everything sent to him in care packages, he has a phenomenal heart.” The Army plans to “continue to update the site as much as possible,” says Chang. These updates help out the families who are mourning the loss of a loved one. “I often go to Google and punch my son’s name in and I spend hours looking for new things . . . or even hours just looking,” says Monti. “As long as you have the memories they live in your heart and soul.”
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In Brief... by
Number of imprisoned journalists at 14-year high In its annual census of imprisoned journalists around the world, CPJ reports that 145 journalists are currently in jail, the highest number since 1996. China and Iran sit atop the list with 34 each, representing almost half the global total. Eritrea, Burma and Uzbekistan round out the top five worst offenders from a list of 28 countries. China’s total increased by ten since the 2009 census. This 14-year high comes despite the fact that this year, Cuba released 17 journalists who
had been in jail since a 2003 crackdown on dissent. “The increase in the number of journalists jailed around the world is a shocking development,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director, in a CPJ release. “It is fueled largely by a small handful of countries that systematically jail journalists – countries that are at war with information itself.” According to CPJ, the most common charges laid on journalists worldwide involve “vague” antistate charges, with 72 journalists in jail on these
Canadian resident given death sentence in Iran
CRTC not to open up French-language pay TV market to competition Quebecor Inc.’s desire to enter the Frenchlanguage pay TV market has been denied by the CRTC. Quebecor was planning to expand its TVA network and launch Ciné-TVA, a pay station to feature entirely French content to compete with Astral Media’s Super Écran service, which began operating in 1983. The commission’s decision states TVA wanted to air predominantly new-re-
Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian-born website developer with permanent residence in Canada, was sentenced to death by an Iranian court for the publication of an adult web site. Malekpour, who became a permanent resident in 2004, was arrested in Iran when he visited his sick father in October 2008. In March 2009, he admitted to running the website in a confession aired on national television, a statement he later recanted, saying he was tortured and forced into giving it. It was later revealed his online identity was hijacked and used without his knowledge to create the website. At trial, he was convicted of being a “warrior against God” and “corrupt on earth.” It is not known when the sentence will be carried out. 5 2 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
Supreme Court hands down ruling in Ma Chouette case Daniel Leblanc, the Globe and Mail reporter who helped blow the lid off the Liberal government’s sponsorship scandal, will not have to identify his source if he can prove hiding the identity is in the public interest. The Supreme Court of Canada sent the case back to a lower court after a unanimous ruling gave the Quebec Superior Court a set of rules to determine the results of the issue. According to the CBC, Leblanc told reporters he was confident in his ability to prove hiding his source’s identity, known only as Ma Chouette, is in the public interest. “I think everyone agrees it’s always a balancing act, case by case, but [the ruling] puts a great weight on protection of journalists and protection of sources and the freedom of speech that comes with being a journalist,” he said.
grounds. These charges include treason, subversion or acting against national interests. Also, the United States has disappeared from the list for the first time since 2004, as it had imprisoned at least 14 journalists in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. All journalists were eventually released. The last was freed in 2010. In 1996, CPJ reported 185 journalists were jailed, with Turkey topping the list with 78, stemming from their crackdown on ethnic Kurdish journalists.
lease films but could not prove the amount of this type of Canadian programming would be able to supply two competing services. Also, the CRTC expresses concern that two services would lead to an influx of English-language films dubbed in French, leading to an overvaluation of such films on the foreign market, with no benefit to Canadian interests.
Canadian Press bought by major private media consortium In November, the Canadian Press was purchased by three major newspaper companies and will be turned into a for-profit news organization. Torstar Corp., parent company of The Toronto Star; Square Victoria Communications Group, which publishes La Presse; and The Globe and Mail will be changing CP into Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. and will share equal parts of the new company. In recent years, CP has experienced a $34.4 million pension shortfall and has faced new competition from former members such as Postmedia and Sun Media, who now have their own wire services. The Canadian Press was established in 1917 and is considered a trusted source for breaking news in the country.
Jim Shaw abruptly steps down as Shaw Communications CEO
Jim Shaw, the colourful CEO of the largest cable company in Western Canada, made the sudden decision to step down from the position two months ahead of the scheduled transfer of power to his younger brother Brad. The plan for the elder brother to step down was made in order to facilitate a smooth change in the company’s structure from a cable and internet provider to a mul-
tifaceted media conglomerate. The move started with the acquisition of CanWest’s former television assets and culminated with the establishment of Shaw Media. Jim Shaw’s announcement came a week after a Nov. 12 lunch in Vancouver with investors where he acted erratically, with some reports saying he appeared intoxicated and was belligerent to those asking questions. Brad Shaw is widely considered to have a quieter and more businesslike demeanor. Jim Shaw had been CEO since 1998, when he took over from his father who founded the company in 1966.
U.S. magazine industry hopes to endure under new leadership The faces at the top of the American magazine industry have undergone a drastic change this year, as the nation’s four major publishers all ushered in new CEOs. Condé Nast, Time Inc., Hearst, and Meredith have not seen change on this level since the mid90s, when new chiefs were appointed over a two year period. Justin B. Smith, president of the Atlantic Media Company, told The NewYork Times the industry was long overdue for a changing of the guard. “It is quite remarkable that it took until 2010, 15 years after the arrival of the internet, for a new generation of leaders to emerge,” he said. Although each company has felt a different im-
petus for change, one common theme is the focus away from being overtly pursuing advertising revenue to being concerned with offering value to the consumer. Jack Griffin, new CEO at Time, told The New York Times he wanted to reinvigorate the concept of “charging a fair price [for copy], and charging consumers who are interested in the product.” Increasing cover prices will be inevitable, said Robert Sauerberg at Condé Nast. “We have a group of people who are so committed to our brands that I could easily see them wanting to commit to a bigger monthly commitment for lots of things they get because they’re such junkies,” Sauerberg said.
If you’ve got all these platforms and media you’ve gotta fill it with something. Right now Canadians are filling it with CNN, which I think is sort of embarrassing. - Ezra Levant, Sun Media
MuchMusic is denied amendments to broadcast licence
In a decision handed down on Nov. 25, MuchMusic was denied a number of changes to its broadcast licence. Specifically, MuchMusic was looking to cut the number of music videos it broadcasts to 25 per cent from 50 per cent and fill the void with an increase of lifestyle and realitybased programming. It was also hoping to alter its Canadian content commitments, with a focus on eliminating a CRTC requirement that the station to devote at least 50 per cent of airtime to Canadian content during prime time to 55 per cent throughout a broadcast year. Finally, the station proposed to cut its contribution to VideoFACT, a fund aiding in the production of Canadian music videos, in half. In its decision, the CRTC ultimately disagreed with CTV, the owner of MuchMusic, which maintained the majority of the structure of its current licence. CTV believes the licence is holding back the channel in an era where music videos are widely available and not restricted to television. The commission decided CTV’s proposed licence alterations would change MuchMusic’s designation as a station devoted to music and music-related programming. If allowed, the change would have aligned MuchMusic almost exactly with MTV, another CTV station, and therefore contravene the CRTC regulation restricting broadcasters from possessing Category A licences for stations of the same genre. The CRTC did, however, approve a change in MuchMusic’s broadcast day from 24 to 18 hours. WINTER
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visual & digital arts
film & television production
Still from The Ties
Still from Behind Wooden Walls Still from Unsung
package & graphic design
Mike Sonosky Sarah Egberts
advertising & graphic design
Humber Et Cetera Former Humber student DJs at Toronto clubs, page 12
Do flu spray vaccines trump needles? Find out on page 4
Humber Et Cetera Thursday, November 11, 2010
Vol. 42 No. 7
A day to honour the fallen
Canoe ceremony opens Aboriginal Education Month on North campus Stories and photos pages 3, 16
Russel Noganosh dancing during the opening ceremony.
Remembrance Day is a day for the young to remember the old. Every year, on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, the world stops to remember lives lost to war many years ago. Humber College will once again be participating in the national moment of silence. For as long as anyone can remember, Humber has held a Remembrance Day ceremony. This year’s will start at 10:50 a.m. in the North campus concourse with Alister Mathieson, dean of hospitality recreation and tourism, leading the group on the bagpipes. Mathieson has organized the ceremony for the last two years, since Dorris Tallon died. Mathieson says Remembrance Day is important to him because of his own associations with the Second World War. “I had family who had fought in the war,” he said. “I had an uncle who was killed in the Second World War and I was named after him.” As part of the ceremony, children from the daycare centre will sing the national anthem with Don Foster, a veteran and former faculty member. Mathieson says it is important for children to learn the meaning of Remembrance Day. “Some of their relatives could be in peacekeeping missions around the world,” said Mathieson. “It’s important for young people to know the significance of Remembrance Day.” Carey French, journalism print and broadcast program co-ordinator, has been the MC for the ceremony for five years. To him, Remembrance Day means many things. “It means a variety of things, it means family, friends,” said French. “ I do believe that these people who have gone and taken the sharp end of the sword, have played a role in who we are and what we are and what we will become.” In past years the ceremony has been run through the president’s office. Val Hewson, executive assistant to the president, says that these ceremonies are important for younger generations. “It is a tradition that should be kept going, no matter what happens. It’s important for young people to know how they have the freedoms they do.” During the ceremony, HSF president Brian Tran will read In Flanders Fields. There will also be a music student playing both parts of the Last Post to signal the beginning and the end of the minute of silence. A similar ceremony is taking place at the Lakeshore campus.
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Where are they now? Convergence catches up with graduates of Humber College’s School of Media Studies and Information Technology KENDRA COONS Fundraising and Volunteer Management Coons graduated from the fundraising and volunteer management program in Fall of 2010. She began her internship in June at VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children and finished her internship in August. She was hired by the organization and is enjoying her role as a Development Officer at VOICE. She is their only fundraiser and is responsible for events, grant proposals, campaigns and social media. She says, “Everything we did in the program is exactly what you do in your real job.” For Coons what she really took away from her experience at Humber was “anything to do with donor relationships, connecting with them has been invaluable, it’s not just common sense like you’d think.” Her advice for students who are close to graduation is to “look for a job that means something to you, not just a job for the sake of having a job.”
CAPTAIN FRASER CLARK Public Relations Capt. Clark graduated from the public relations program in 1994. He was in the military on and off from that point on and was promoted to an officer in 2003. He has also completed a PhD in History at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. He is now a captain and the director of history and heritage – music, as well as the chief of military Personnel at the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. He says the writing component of the public relations program has helped him in his career as he travelled to Afghanistan, went on tours with the soldiers and wrote about it for military publications as well as articles that were picked up by the National Post and The Globe and Mail. His advice to students who are graduating is to use the skills they have accumulated in school and apply it to the workplace. “Be flexible and willing to adapt, you might have a certain job in mind, but you might end up doing something completely different,” says Clark. 6 2 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
JEN NEZIOL Public Relations After graduating from the public relations program in 2001, Neziol has had a colourful career. She received an English degree from the University of Guelph and a Master’s degree from Miami University of Ohio in Exercise Science. She says, “The best thing about the program was when you were doing projects, you were able to cater them to your personal interests.” Neziol interned at Nike and has since worked for several PR firms, TSN and CBC Sports where she worked on Hockey Night In Canada. In 2009, she moved to Lululemon Athletica in Vancouver and has been there ever since. Neziol says the program prepared her well for her experiences in the workplace. “I felt very confident because I was so well prepared after finishing the program.” Her advice to students about to graduate is to start out at an agency. “It prepares you for everything, it’s a great way to go because you can figure out what works best for you.”
ANGELA MURPHY Fundraising and Volunteer Management Always an active volunteer, Murphy realized that she could turn her passion into a career. Murphy graduated from the fundraising and volunteer management program in 2004. From there she went to McMaster University in Hamilton in its development office. She was headhunted from there by the SickKids Foundation. Murphy says the thing she liked most about the program was that it “gave a great holistic view of types of fundraising, whether it was major gifts or event fundraising, it gave a great orientation to the field.” She says the way the program is set up was helpful because most of the instructors are professionals in the field. Murphy advises students to keep one principle in mind when entering the workforce. “Relentless preparation – it is so important. If you really put some time and energy into researching the organization then you look prepared and committed.”
JORDANA RAPUCH Advertising Copywriting Rapuch graduated in April 2010 from the advertising copywriting program. Before attending Humber she was enrolled in the four-year journalism program at Ryerson University from 2005 to 2009. She worked for a number of magazines and newspapers and was the editorial director for Heritage Homes before coming to Humber. She is now working for DDB Toronto in the direct response department. She writes the copy for mail sent out by banks or internet providers. Rapuch says when you get into the field you realize all skills you’ve learned come into play. Her advice for people who are getting ready to graduate is, “Never be discouraged. Ideas get shot down all the time, regardless of your position, so you need to work on your portfolio. Make as many contacts as you can, and just stick with it.” DOMENIQUE RASO Advertising Copywriting Raso graduated from the advertising copywriting program in the spring of 2010. As part of her course work she began an internship in May 2010 at DDB, an international advertising agency. The internship lasted until August 2010 when Raso was offered a full-time contract position. Raso is thankful for the time spent at Humber because, “the benefit of being at Humber is that the program helps you build a portfolio and creates a great jumping off point.” She says that the advice she has for students about to graduate is, “everything will work out, even if you feel discouraged. It might take longer for some people to land that great job, but it will work out.”
SHERYL SO Public Relations So graduated from the University of Toronto in 2005. Not sure of her next step, she took the advice of her guidance counsellor who suggested the public relations program at Humber. She graduated from the program in 2006. As part of the course requirements So interned at Corus Entertainment. She moved on to Environics Communications, a public relations agency, and worked there for three and half years. She said that her time at the agency wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without having taken the Humber program. “I wouldn’t have felt prepared without it,” she says. “It covered everything we could possibly be faced with; event planning, marketing, communications.” She has advice for students entering the workplace. “You need to be confident in your skills and not sell yourself short. Don’t just take the first offer you get, don’t sacrifice your happiness,” she says.
ALISON BROWNLEE Journalism Alison Brownlee, a Humber College journalism grad, really pounded the pavement after graduation and was rewarded with a job as a reporter in Huntsville, Ont., north of Toronto. She says her experience reporting for the Huntsville Forester is quite the departure from the safe confines of the Humber newsroom, but the comprehensive education she obtained at the college has prepared her for the job demands of today’s journalist. Prior to attending Humber, Brownlee attended the University of Guelph where she earned a degree in English with minors in political science and music.
REMY PODRATS Advertising and Media Sales After graduating from the advertising and media sales program in 2008, Podrats was hired by CTV to be its sales administrative assistant. After only a few months she was promoted to her current position of national sales co-ordinator. She works to build and maintain relationships with clients. She says that the best thing about the program is that the “teachers have real-world experience and an extremely thorough understanding of all the different areas of the industry.” Her advice for students is something they should keep top-of-mind while still in their program at Humber. “Absorb everything you can from your instructors. Their advice, knowledge and skills are more beneficial than you think,” says Podrats.
DAVE THORNHILL Advertising Copywriting A recent graduate of the Advertising Copywriting program, Thornhill landed a job at Rethink Canada, an advertising and design agency based out of Vancouver. Thornhill joined Rethink in May 2010 and says he credits his experience at Humber for the success he’s already enjoyed. “In terms of this profession, the program at Humber is the best in the country,” said Thornhill. “You gain an understanding of the industry and acquire an invaluable skill set.” He has also had the rare opportunity of working with a mentor at Rethink who is a graduate of the same program.
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STEPH DAVIDSON Journalism Davidson hadn’t yet graduated from the journalism program at Humber when she was offered a job at Avid Life Media in Toronto. She first interviewed staff at the company while reporting for Convergence but later found herself being interviewed for, and accepting, the job of media relations co-ordinator. “It’s good to be in the industry,” she says. “I’m having a good time, I really like it.” As a public relations rep for the company, Davidson is face-to-face with reporters and journalists every day and says her time at Humber prepared her for the job. “I’m talking to journalists all the time and doing some freelance work for contacts I met here,” she says. “I’m able to use my inside knowledge to create the best story, or pitch the best story.” TERI PECOSKIE Journalism After graduating from Humber’s journalism program in 2010 Pecoskie wasted no time beginning her career by finding a home at the Hamilton Spectator. “I’m shooting video, taking pictures, writing stories and just about everything else,” she says. Pecoskie made the newsroom her home and put the experience she gained at Humber to work. “A newsroom isn’t mundane at all. It’s always busy and there is always something to do,” she says. “Because there is so much involved with the industry now, it gives reporters the opportunity to do so much, and Humber helped prepare me for that.”
MICHAEL DUBRICK Advertising Copywriting Dubrick graduated from the advertising copywriting program in April 2010. After completing the Humber program, he received a copywriting internship position at Crispin Porter and Bogusky (formerly zig) in Toronto and was hired on after the summer. Before coming to Humber he went to the University of Toronto and received a degree in Political Science. He says to get into any creative department in advertising you need a solid portfolio. The Humber program really focuses on this and pushes students to make their books strong. “Portfolio development in the program is huge,” says Dubrick. His advice for students about to graduate is, “don’t wait for anything to come to you. Get out there and meet people. Make things happen. Above all, be hungry, enthusiastic and always humble.”
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RYAN HANNA Advertising Media Sales Hanna graduated from the advertising media sales program at Humber in 2008. The staff set him up with an internship at the Outdoor Broadcast Network, one of the first organizations to get into digital outof-home advertising. His supervisor put him in touch with the CEO at the Canadian Health Media Network, where he is now involved in marketing relations. Hanna says one of the most important things he learned from the program was the language. “If you’re lacking the lingo then you can’t understand what people are talking about. Having the language gave me the opportunity to speak up more.” Hanna says the confidence he gained by taking the program led to the opportunity for additional responsibility at CHMN. He says students entering the workplace should “never be afraid to voice your opinion and keep a positive attitude, and know that [advertising] isn’t a nine to five job.” DAVID PERRI Journalism Prior to completing Humber’s journalism program, David Perri studied political science at York University. Using his education at Humber along with a diverse writing portfolio, he landed a job after graduation with The Northern Miner, a global mining newspaper. Perri describes his experience at Humber as very practical, saying the skills he developed in college have been very useful in the professional world. What advice does he offer to those about to enter the job market? “Apply for as many jobs as possible,” he says.
COURTNEY SIDSWORTH Fundraising and Volunteer Management Sidsworth graduated in 2006 from the fundraising and volunteer management program. She interned with Tennis Canada doing marketing and event management. From there she has worked for the Canadian Diabetes Association, Kids Help Phone, taught English in South Korea for a year and a half and worked a three-month contract with the Canadian Association for Wound Care. Sidsworth is currently working with Elephant Thoughts, a registered teacher-based charity striving to provide a high level of education for all children despite economic and geographic barriers. She says that the program helped her “invaluably in terms of preparing for the field both technically and literally, as well as for entering into the fundraising field” without which she “wouldn’t be where I am today.” Her advice to students who are about to graduate is that “there are so many opportunities out there and each experience is just as important as the previous – grab onto those opportunities.”
SARAH TUITE Public Relations After completing the public relations program in 2000, Tuite moved onto her internship at National, Canada’s largest public relations firm. She works on strategic planning, public consultation and engagement for a wide variety of clients. Tuite has a Master’s degree from the University of Toronto in arts and history. Knowing that she wanted to get into public relations from there, she realized that she was missing the practical skills to be successful. She says the program did,” a very good job of preparing its grads for the workforce, everything from the skill set to the interviewing skills.” Tuite also has advice for students about to graduate. “Don’t be afraid to approach people for information interviews in the area you’re interested in, and if they give you their card make sure you follow up.”
RYAN VELLA Journalism Vella graduated from the journalism program in April of 2008. Soon after graduation, Vella started working for CBC TV News in Toronto. Vella also spent two months in New Brunswick at the CBC New Brunswick, reporting local news on radio and television. Vella is still with the CBC, at CBC News Network. Vella says the expertise and experience of the instructors in the journalism program helped prepare him for the industry, along with the Humber newsroom, which he says replicates a real daily newsroom. To be successful in this industry,Vella says it requires perseverance and determination. His advice to those going into the industry is to know for sure you want to be there and be committed. “Once you have an opportunity you want to run with it.You never know what doors that could open for you.”
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Pius Njawe 1957 - 2010
After facing arrest more than 120 times and spending almost a year in prison, Cameroonian journalist and press advocate Pius Njawe was killed in a traffic accident outside of Norfolk, Va. on July 12. The founder of Cameroon’s first independent newspaper, Le Messager, he promoted freedom of expression in his home country and abroad. He was 53. Njawe earned numerous accolades for his devotion to free speech including the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom Award and International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. He was in the United States to attend a convention focusing on the political situation within his country, organized by the Cameroonian Diaspora For Change, a pro-democracy group based in New York. “Pius Njawe was a great friend of press freedom and also a loyal supporter of journalists, not just in Africa, but around the world,” Aidan White, general secretary for the International Federation of Journalists said in a statement on the IFJ website. “As an editor he was courageous and as an employer of journalists he always respected the need for decent working conditions, one of the key foundations of a democratic media culture.” Njawe was president of the Free Media Group, publishers of Le Messager. “I retain of him the image of a man of conviction, a man of principle, a man who had convictions he was willing to defend,” Frederic Boungou, current editor-in-chief of Le Messager said on the website of the International Press Institute. “He was someone who had a vision for human society, someone who fought for justice for all, and who was also a great defender of freedom of the press and freedom in general.” Pius Noumeni Njawe was born on March 4, 1957 in Babouantou, Cameroon. He got his start in the industry working as an errand boy for a newspaper, Semences Africaines, from 1972 to 1974. He quickly drew the ire of the authorities as a young reporter, publishing articles critical of the country’s education system. Challenging the government and exposing corruption would become a common theme throughout his life. On July 15, 2010, The Washington Post hailed Njawe as one of the “most defiant independent editors and publishers in Western Africa, a region known for autocratic regimes and censorship through violent intimidation.” In 1979, at the age of 22, Njawe started Le Messager, which brought attention to alleged abuses of power by the government and the country’s wealthy elites. In an interview with the Austria-based International Press Institute, he said he founded the paper “just to be in accordance with my conviction about the social function of the journalist.” 6 6 | C O N V E RG E N C E |
After receiving death threats in 1992, Njawe fled with his family to Benin where he established another paper, Le Messagère. When he returned to Cameroon in 1993, Njawe, created the Cameroon Organization for Press Freedom. Although he was arrested 126 times, Njawe was imprisoned on three occasions, the first in 1995, after he and a colleague were given two month deferred sentences for exposing the misuse of police funds. They were also fined for the “abuse and slander” of police chief Jean Fochive. Just one year later, Njawe spent a month in jail after publishing two cartoons and an article that was deemed insulting to the president, Paul Biya, and the National Assembly in his satirical magazine Le Messager Popoli. He spent his longest time in prison in 1998, after being charged with “spreading false information” for claiming that Biya suffered a medical emergency during a soccer game. Njawe served 10 months of a two year sentence before receiving a pardon from Biya following international condemnation, The Washington Post reported. During that time, Njawe continued to speak out by publishing articles from his prison cell. Ronald Koven of the World Press Freedom Committee, who helped translate and distribute the letters, said “His very presence in a room made those around him want to enter with joy in Associated Press the fray for press freedom. He was an example for journalists in Africa and everywhere of a man willing literally to risk his all to advance freedom of the press. He was a very big man in every sense of the word,” according to a tribute published on the IPI website. Njawe was no stranger to tragedy. During his last incarceration, his wife Jane suffered a miscarriage which he claimed was a result of the stress of him being jailed and assaults on her during visits by prison guards. In 2002, his wife was killed in a traffic accident on a highway between the capital city, Yaounde, and their home in Douala. In a bizarre twist of irony, the event spurred Njawe to devote some of his time to road safety and he founded an organization dedicated to promoting safe driving in Cameroon. Njawe’s devotion and resolve to continue speaking truth to power earned him international recognition of his efforts. In 2000, he was named a World Press Freedom Hero by IPI, one of only 60 so honoured over the last 50 years. “A word can be more powerful than a weapon and I believe that with the word … we can build a better world and make happier people,” Njawe said in an interview with IPI just a month before his death. “So, why give up while duty still calls? No one will silence me, except The Lord, before I achieve what I consider as a mission in my native country, in Africa and, why not, in the world.”
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Convergence examines the international media landscape from a Canadian perspective. Published twice a year by graduating students in th Humb...