Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Journalistic style.

FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2009

The "journalism dream"...

I've decided to start another blog in the hopes of bettering my writing skills. I've recently applied for the creative communications joint program at Red River College and the University of Winnipeg, in the hopes of obtaining my degree in journalism. Over the course of the past two years I have been fortunate enough that have my tiny little world open up, as I have been exposed to the wonderful world of formalized education.

I love learning, and being aware of the world around me. I love the psychology of people, and dynamics of their actions, reactions and the reasoning behind how we all see and act within this world.

I am not going to limit myself to writing solely about politics however. I am also going to write as a columnist would, and cover the parts of life (like the NKOTB concert) that are interesting and fun.

My goal for this blog is simple; I just want to write, and I want to be good at it.

Oh, and on a side note; the night before my cre-com interview I was reading "The last Lecture" By Randy Pausch. Since I don't have a lot of time to read anything other than my academic books/text books, it was strange that I would decide (right in the middle of exam time) to read this book before bed...

But alas, it was exactly what I needed before facing the panel of academics who will ultimately decide my fate...

Chapter 11, pages 51 & 52...

Pausch is talking about being rejected as an Imagineer at Disneyland, even after obtaining a PhD from Carnegie Mellon, and his determination in realizing his childhood dream;

"The brick walls are there for a reason. They're not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."

Brilliant words from a brave man.

Last year, before being accepted into CreComm, I started a blog. I wanted to better my skills, so that I would be more prepared to write "journalistically."
I only got a couple of posts in, when I switched blogs (to the one I have now) because I wasn't feeling it...I missed my old, "unique" style of writing, and started to wonder if "Journalistic writing" had just one style.
Flash forward to now, my second year of CreComm, and I am still more confused than ever. I'm not a great hard news writer, but I have come to think that there is more to "journalistic writing" than hard news.


Monday, September 27, 2010

She has two cats...And she wants to own an island.

Meet today's SUNshine girl (from the Winnipeg Sun.) She wants to own an island.

Now, perhaps I am wrong in assuming that everyone in the Winnipeg Sun newsroom had a good chuckle at the wording of this little gem that is found on the third page of the paper. I know that I had a good laugh when I saw it! (It's hilarious, it made me laugh out loud while I was by myself on the bus.)

I am assuming that the model did indeed say that she wanted to own an island. However I can't imagine her saying that she had two cats and wants to own an island in the same breath, as it is written in the paper.

"I have two cats and I want to own an island."

What?! Noway.


Good job on being funny Winnipeg Sun!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Speaking political language...

Being journalism students, my classmates and I have the daunting task of covering the upcoming civic election for a news outlet in Manitoba. (Sorry, political buffs, but I can say with certainty that this assignment really is daunting!) We have to speak to residents in the ward we've been assigned, as well as the candidates who have thrown their name in the hat to run for city councillor or mayor.

That doesn't sound so bad, right?!

Well, here's the thing: speaking about politics is like speaking a foreign language to many people, especially civic politics. Seriously. When the term politics comes up in conversation, I would venture to say that many people -- from uneducated to extremely educated -- shutter at the word. It's like the cancer of the english language.

This is not because there is a lack of political-filled content in the newspaper, and on the TV and radio. Nor, is this because candidates haven't put themselves 'out there,' (because, for the most part, they have.) This is because formal politics are hard to understand.

The newspaper, for example; it's written at a grade six reading level. Well, that's fine and dandy, but when you write about something like politics -- a subject that makes use of big words, terms and phrases that are often difficult to understand the meaning of -- the "easy to read" news story becomes rather difficult.

Take, for example, this paragraph in today's Winnipeg Free Press:

There are a total of 51 people running for 15 council ward seats, plus four candidates for mayor. None of council’s 12 incumbents – Katz and 11 councillors — will run unopposed. That means there will be no acclamations in Winnipeg for two straight elections. There were no acclamations in 2006, either.

Sure, this starts off relatively easy to understand:

There are a total of 51 people running for 15 council ward seats, plus four candidates for mayor.

"Yeah, yeah; there are 51 people running in the election in 15 wards of the city...I get it."

But then, some of the words in this story (perhaps easy for some people to understand, especially if they follow civic politics...) get a little touchy:

None of council’s 12 incumbents – Katz and 11 councillors — will run unopposed. That means there will be no acclamations in Winnipeg for two straight elections.

"What?! No really; what?!" (This, my friends, is what I like to call that "Charlie Brown teacher moment," when everything you see, hear, or read becomes the 'Wah-wah-wah-wah' voice of Charlie Brown's teacher.)

I don't consider myself stupid, and I even took a few politics classes in university, but after a few years of not really following civic politics, I'm a little confused by this. (Like any language, if you don't use it, it tends to wear off!)

It's really a shame, because you can't blame people -- voters -- for not caring about civic politics, if they don't fully understand. And you certainly can't blame me (and my journalism classmates) for thinking that covering the election is daunting.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sometimes you just get lucky.

The other day in broadcast journalism class we were assigned the task of shooting video and writing a voice over for a thirty second clip (of a news item) of our choice.

With both our partners and our job positions assigned to us by our instructors, Steve Vogelsang and Forde Oliver, we were sent out into Winnipeg to capture a story.

I was partnered with Sean Angus and was assigned the role of shooter/editor, while Angus was assigned the job of reporter.

Since Angus was the reporter, the story idea was up to him. When I asked him what story he wanted to do, he suggested that we cover the Bodies Exhibit, which was slated the open (to a mixed reaction of controversy and excitement) the following day.

"Ok," I said, secretly doubting his idea. -- Though the story seemed like a good one, I was skeptical that I could deliver on good video, since we didn't have access into the actual building.

When our time to shoot rolled around, Angus and I signed out a camera and a tripod and made our way to Portage Avenue and Donald Street, the site of the exhibit. Lugging the heavy equipment and still doubting my partner's story choice, I drilled Angus on the details of his story while trying to come up with shot ideas in my head.

"Ok, we can get a ground shot of people walking, and a couple shots of the building..." I thought. "We can get a shot, or two, of the Donald Street sign too."

To me, the story didn't look hopeful, since we didn't have access to film the actual bodies in the exhibit. I was frustrated with the idea of filling thirty seconds of video (which is a lot more than you'd ever think) with a bunch of mediocre shots that had nothing to do with the actual story or exhibit.

But, this was his story, and I didn't want to complain, or bully him out of it.

We began filming outside the MTS Exhibition Centre; shots of the building, shots of the street sign, more shots of the building...We joked about pretending the be the real media, and asking for a tour, when we noticed a group of people outside the door to the MTS Exhibition Centre, waving us over.

When we made our way to the door, the people told us that they would call the media coordinator for us. We were stunned. (Did they think we were real media? Had God somehow answered our prayers?! Was this a practical joke?!)

When the media coordinator came out (A woman named Christina I think...I can't remember her last name though!) she asked who were we with. Instantly, Angus and I both confessed that we were "only students" in the CreComm program.

Waiting to be expelled from what we now realized was the media showing of the exhibit, Christina offered us press kits and told us that she too had recently graduated from CreComm. (Score!)

Within minutes, thanks in part to a stroke of luck and the CreComm mafia, Angus and I were up in the exhibit with the rest of the Winnipeg media, getting some neat shots of the actual bodies in the exhibit.

We haven't yet been graded on our assignment, but I am very pleased with the shots that we got. (Especially since I am not very good with the ENG cameras.)

Now, there's no real moral to this story...Perhaps, if any, I guess it would be: It's good not to bully your partner? Or, sometimes you just get lucky. Or maybe the moral would be: Sometimes, as a journalist/reporter, you just need to put yourself out there (for the story you want) and see how far your willingness (and luck) will take you before you decide you can't do it.

Who knows...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Making a horrific story readable...

Most Manitoba people know the story of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair; the little girl who was tortured and eventually murdered by her mom and step-father. (For those of you who have not heard this story, it is an extremely sand and tragic one that will literally hurt your heart.)

The reporters that were assigned to this story must have been emotionally wiped, after hearing the horrendous details of Phoenix's short life throughout the widely publicized trial. -- I can't imagine having to sit through days and days of testimony describing the torture and killing of an innocent five-year-old.

I just can't.

Often, we as the the consumers of media fail to realize how taxing aspects of a reporters job are. We'll nit-pick over details of a story, or look for spelling mistakes and errors, but usually fail to realize the more important aspects of the job like story delivery in a way that is detailed yet toned down enough to read over breakfast in the morning.

Kudos to good reporters out there.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Is it news?

The other day, the Winnipeg Sun had a story about a woman who had an affair with a former WWE wrestler. (Not news?! Perhaps not "hard news," however in our TMZ-infused society stuff like this can now been deemed as front-page worthy, if it's dirty enough...)

Anyway, the reason this story (of an affair) is so captivating is because it is probably one of the trashiest things I have bore witness to in years. -- The mistress at the centre of the story is a local woman who took the meaning of being vendictive to a whole new level; after outting her lover to his wife on Facebook, the woman then allegedly stalked the couple (by phoning, emailing and texting them at their Florida home) and then posted angry telephone conversations (between herself and her former wrestler lover) on YouTube. She also made a series of videos, telling the story of how she met said-wrestler, complete with the use of hand-puppets, detailing aspects of their "relationship."

A real class act.

In the recorded conversations, which play to a picture slide show of the couple in "happier times," the woman shifts from playing dumb (about posting the pictures on Facebook for the wife to see, and "destroying" his marriage) to warning the guy "not to be on her bad side."

For lack of a better term, this entire story is completely fucked up. In fact, it's gruesome enough to be a well-scripted "reality TV show," with the attention-starved villianess in the starring role. The only difference though, is that usually in reality TV shows, there is some kind of funny, amusing or redeeming quality of the villian. In this situation, the local mistress/attention-starved villianess doesn't appear to have any redeeming qualities. None that she's shown yet anyway.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stop killing the language.

You know what drives me bonkers? When people abbreviate words -- especially simple ones -- when they write, type or text.


Wht R U doin 2day? (Translation: What are you doing today?)

Arrrgh. This blatant disregard of the English language really, really, REALLY annoys me; it literally makes me want to scratch my own eyes out with a corner of the worlds biggest dictionary, because it just seems so wrong.

However I am a hypocrite because in some cases I do this too. (Ugh, I can't help it, this new variation of the English language is bigger than me.) I mean, I try my hardest not to butcher the language; I rarely ever use a mere letter instead of an actual word nor do I replace words with numbers. I try to use all vowels, even incorporating the extra 'u' for the Canadian spellings of words like colour and favourite...but alas, when I am in a pinch, or using my Twitter account, sometimes I can't help but shorten my words.

Let's make a stand and make a commitment to stop killing the English language. Seriously. Let's all start using vowels and real words again...

Monday, September 6, 2010


After an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, I have learned that some of the things I post on the internet may be misconstrued by some of you who regularly read my stuff. Therefore, I've decided to write a little blog post -- A reference of sorts -- outlining, and explaining, the content I post on the internet.

So here goes...

Pretty much every single thing that I post, or have previously posted on the internet is sarcastic and not serious.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

What is journalism...

When I entered into CreComm, my ambition was to be a "print journalist." (Yeah, I even put that term on the portfolio/application that I submitted. -- when I was asked Journalism instructor, Duncan McMonagle, to explain what I meant by "print journalist" during my entrance interview, I said I wanted to write for a newspaper. Only a newspaper.


Flash forward to a year (and a bit) later, a couple of industry internships under my belt, and some intense journalism classes endured at Red River College, and I am not sure that I even want to embark on a career in the "print journalism" industry. (Number one reason is probably because there is actually no such thing as a "print journalism industry." But fundamentals aside, I have also come to realize that I don't think I want to be just a 'regular journalist' either. -- A columnist, maybe...)

You see, I have come to realize that when I dreamed of being a journalist I actually had no stinkin' idea what this job entailed. In fact, it wasn't until I was well into my first year of CreComm that I realized how different this job was from the job I made up in my head.

Truth be told, I assumed that it was what I wanted to do because I liked writing and watching the news. I was wrong. (Journalism -- even non-existant "print journalism" has very little to do with creative writing...)

This leads me to the questions: What is journalism:

Well, friends, the profession of journalism is one that sees a group of people -- reporters, editors, photographers, etc. -- come up with news stories, write the news stories, and package it all up in a neat little parcel (in the form of a newspaper, TV, radio, blog, etc...) And present it to the public for consumption.

(Note: Before I continue, I should clarify that when I say that: "Come up with news stories" I mean that these news outlets have means to information that regular joe's like you and I don't. -- They have access to police scanners, and news/press releases. They are invited to press conferences and have credibility when speaking to the public... "Hi, I'm Shelley Cook, a reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press..." That never got old when I used to say that!!)

Some people have a knack for journalism; the to-the-point writing style with little to no inputed opinion about the story; the tight deadlines; the uncertainty about what the day will bring. I would almost venture to say that journalism is a lifestyle for the reporters, editors and other media folks, who are impassioned about their careers and the "news" that goes on around them.

This, however, is not me.

I love to write, share my opinion and I really love to use adjectives. (This, my friends, is not journalism. Or, so I have been told.)

Cartoon: Courtesy of Natalie Dee (

Saturday, September 4, 2010