Apr 30, 2016

Thanks, Sidney

My friend Sidney died this week. He would have been 94 in June. I haven't talked to him in more than a year, but I was thinking about him a few weeks ago and told myself that I should call.

I wish I had.

The first radio documentary I ever made was about Sidney. It was a story about an 87-year-old man who joins a women's fitness studio after the death of his wife. He takes classes in ballroom dancing, Pilates, pole fitness, belly dancing, and hula hooping. It's a story about resilience and how to live. 

Sidney was an ex-navy man and a semi-professional magician who could literally pull a bouquet of paper roses out of a hat. He was marvellous. 

Today I listened to the doc again, so I could hear Sidney's voice.

I cried at all the sad bits and I laughed at all the happy bits, including when he jokes about death:
"I have a friend in this building, who, he does think a lot about dying. He says to me, 'Did you never think about dying, Sid?' No, I laugh, I laugh. I say, I don't want to be there when it happens."
When my friend C told me Sidney was gone, all we could talk about was how happy we were to have known him. He told me:
"So he says, don't you worry about what happens when you're gone? I say, 'Now why should I worry about that? I won't be here. It's going to be someone else's problem. No, I don't dwell on that.'"
Thanks Sidney, for everything.

Jan 6, 2016

So long for now, Outside the Circle

In the spirit of a new year filled with new beginnings, I'd like to tell you about Outside the Circle, a project of mine for five years. In that link you can see the archives through Haligonia.ca. Five years is a long lifespan for a blog, and now I'm shutting OTC down.

In the last few years I have not been able to give it the attention or even the technical maintenance and care it deserves. It's time to say thank you, and good bye.

 OTC started when one man who lived in Spryfield challenged me about reporting there.

 "How come reporters never come out here when there's a good story?" he said. "They only come out for the stabbings and the shootings, and then they leave." I was freelancing and had a lot of spare time on my hands. I thought I would rise to the challenge.

 So I went to community meetings, wandered around the neighbourhood, interviewed people and reported little stories. I couldn't do it full time, but I did what I could.

 The OTC site was built in partnership with the people at Haligonia, and they have been amazing to work with over the years. I'm so grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to do this.  I never made a cent off OTC in money, but here's what I have gained:

  • Connections with great people doing noteworthy work in Spryfield
  • People in my neighbourhood telling me they read the blog
  • Other journalists in the city took notice of my work
  • A job offer. Yes, a job offer directly because of the site - not the job I currently have, but a job in journalism that would have been challenging and interesting had I chosen to go that route. 

I never, never expected any of those things to happen when I started OTC. I was just throwing things at the wall, practicing and playing. I learned what reporters do by imitating them.

Now I am a reporter, and I continue to hold a special place in my heart for stories about the neighbourhood of Spryfield and the whole Sambro Loop.

Dec 30, 2015

Faces of 2015

Many people have been kind enough to let me take their photo this year. From the owl who attacked a porcupine, to the mother who lost her son to suicide, to the family who journeyed from Syria to Bridgewater, these are faces from my year. Faces of 2015

Dec 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

To all of you, wherever you are, here's wishing you a happy Christmas. I am thinking of you, sending love and goodwill.

Dec 15, 2015

Handy links for people interested in digital journalism

As I mentioned in my previous post, I just came off a six week course instructing digital journalism at the University of King's College. My inbox is full of links to handy reading. So I thought I'd do a brain dump here. Most of these links never made it into my course material. But I took a look at them and saved them for later, thinking they'd be handy. So here they are for public consumption.

Mindy McAdams, journalism instructor at the University of Florida, on journalists as curators.

A teaser compilation from BrainPickings of journalist Nate Silver's book on the best infographics of 2014. Personally, I find those infographics very interesting to look at but I wonder about their ease of use. They seem quite difficult to read and that's pretty key in making something useful.

Marc Settle of the BBC delivers a talk on apps that are useful for mobile journalism. Not the greatest video or sound quality.

A couple of lists from Poynter of digital tools that were useful in 2013, more for 2014, and more for 2015. I have not used all of these, and some of them like Popcorn Maker are no longer being supported, but eventually I hope to get around to trying them.

I once had the pleasure of chatting with Craig Silverman when he was involved with OpenFile Halifax. He's part of a group of journalists who published the Verification Handbook, a guide to sussing out fakes online.

Also useful for finding the fakes, here's "Six easy ways to tell if that viral story is a hoax."

Dec 14, 2015

You can't stop the Signal

Molly and Sarah make their TV debut as CBC's weather guests
For the past six weeks, I've been heading up a little newsroom of nine people at the journalism school at the University of King's College. It has been both exhausting and rewarding. It's been an enormous learning experience for me, as much as for my students. They went to council, court, press conferences and the provincial legislature. They posted their stories on a website called The Signal. We had fun but we worked like dogs. 

The course drove me to insomnia. I would wake up in the middle of the night worrying about something I had or hadn't told them. I found all these phrases coming out of my mouth: 

"How do you know this?"
"There are no stories in the newsroom."
"You don't need these words."
"It is what it is." 

It was collected wisdom from dozens of people. I thought a lot about the way my assignment editor gets a read on people, the way my producer makes decisions. I thought about talented people I learned from who retired recently. They're never going to get to work with these young people. I felt a bit like I had to distill everything I've ever learned and pump it into my students.

So now I'm going back to CBC and the students are going on to other workshops to learn other skills. I'm very proud of them for how hard they worked and how much they learned. If they keep it up, they'll be unstoppable.

Oct 28, 2015

Back to school

Very excited to tell you that on Monday I’ll be on a brief leave of absence from CBC to teach at the University of King’s College journalism school.

I’m teaching a six week workshop in digital journalism to students in their final year of J-School.

Their job is to write and edit The Signal website. My job is to supervise them, advise them, and grade them. The workshop’s job is to prepare them with real world experience so they can be ready for the newsroom.

Hey j-students: if you are reading this, I'm guessing it's because you tried to find out something about my background. Right on. That’s the way you should be researching every single person you interview. Keep it up! I hope we’re going to have a great workshop together.