Monday, March 31, 2008

Celebrity Newsmakers at Centennial College Advanced Interviewing Class

Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley, Mrs. Onley, greet Ann Buller, president of Centennial College, with security officer Rose Arsenault in the background.

Photo by Matt Mitchell.

I am adding an article here by student journalism Annesha Hutchinson, from the joint Centennial College/ University of Toronto Scarborough Journalism program, on a visit to our class by Ontario's Lieutenant Governor  David Onley March 19, 2008. 

The article was published by The Vine, Centennial's employee newspaper

Kudos to Annesha and all the other students in the class who interviewed him, Sharmin Hassaniani, Karen Ho, and Muzna Siddiqui. It was nerve wracking enough for them to have to interview such a prominent person, in front of the whole class, not to mention to O.P.P. officers, protocol staff, and the president of Centennial College Ann Buller, who also attended. 

Lt.Gov. David Onley submits to students' questions

By Annesha Hutchinson

Thursday, March 27, 2008
Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley took some time out of his busy schedule to visit a class of Centennial Journalism students on Mar. 19 and submit to their questions as part of their reporting assignment, a special visit arranged by faculty member Ellin Bessner. Here is student Annesha Hutchinson's account of His Honour's life story.

Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley and his wife stop for a photo at the Centennial HP Science and Technology Centre on Mar. 19 2008

Almost 50 years ago, Lt.Gov. David Onley wrote a school assignment on what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“When I grow up, I would like to be a TV announcer. Not just any kind, but the kind that covers space shuttles. It would be fun to watch the rockets go up. Besides, the money's good.”

Onley, now 57, has accomplished his childhood dream, as well as many others. He admits his achievements weren't easy.

Onley wasn't like other kids: he hasn't been able to walk on his own or make full use of his arms since he had polio at the age of three. Having polio has fundamentally shaped who he is.

“We are all products of what we come from and that's what we are as individuals,” Onley said, sitting on his navy-coloured scooter, his hands rest in front of him. “I do believe that coping with adversity can and does bring out the best in individuals - if you choose to let it do so.”

As a youth, Onley felt he couldn't pursue many of his dreams because of his disability. He couldn't go into electoral politics because his disability required conserving his energy and maintaining a particular diet. A career in journalism also seemed bleak.

“With no role model as I went through my teens and into my twenties, I just thought, well, what's the point?” Onley said. “Why should I pursue television? There's nobody on television with a disability.”

Onley leaned towards other careers and did not pursue journalism until the 1980s. By this time, he had become an expert on the U.S. Space Shuttle program after writing his novel, Shuttle.

“If I made myself an expert in a new field . . . then I could be a person who was in demand and an expert,” Onley said. “I thought I could get myself into broadcast media that way.”

And that's exactly what happened.

Onley sat as the co-anchor of CTV news when the space shuttle rocketed into space for the first time in 1981. Later on, he would be the host of Breakfast Television on Citytv, as well as other hosting duties. A long-time resident of Scarborough, the popular broadcaster was inducted into the Scarborough Walk of Fame in 2006, becoming a role model for all disabled people.

He has been actively involved in the Government of Ontario's Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, the SkyDome Accessibility Council, and the Air Canada Centre Accessibility Committee. He has also received the Clancy Award for Disabled Persons.

Onley hopes to change the face of accessibility while serving as Ontario's Lieutenant Governor, an honour he was named to last July.

Onley admits that he was “blissfully unaware” of any discrimination towards his disability. His many achievements show that his disability hasn't held him back from achieving his goals.

“Sometimes the biggest setbacks that you can experience in life are the ones that really grab your attention,” Onley said. “They really force you to sit back and take notice and be honest with yourself.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Dalai Lama and me

All the news this past few weeks about the recent uprising in Tibet and the Chinese handling of the protests has made me remember my own encounter as a reporter and foreign correspondent with his Holiness the Dalai Lama. But he wasn't in exile in India at the time- he was on an official visit to Rome, Italy, or to be specific, the the Vatican, to meet the late Pope John Paul II.
I was a foreign correspondent living and working in Italy for CBC, Canadian Press, Deutsche Welle and other radio stations..and I had a press pass as a member of the Vatican Foreign Press Association. It was called the Sala Stampa Vaticana.
In order to get accredited in the late 1980's and early '90s, you had to be approved by a very stern nun named Suora Giovanna, who worked for Joaquin Navarro Valls, the Spaniard in charge of the Pope's public affairs office. if they didn't like the news articles you had written, you wouldn't get approved, and access to any official Vatican events was difficult.
Luckily, I passed muster and was invited, along with the rest of the foreign press corps and the Italian domestic reporters, to a news conference by the Dalai Lama in a palazzo one Friday afternoon, after he had met with the Pope. It was August. It was hot. A friend of mine from CBC Radio, Peter Leo, was visiting Rome and we decided to go for a nice long Italian lunch in the Ghetto area, before heading over to cover the news conference at 4 p.m.. Needless to say, after a lunch of pasta and fish and wine, having to cram into a non-air conditioned room in the Renaissance era palazzo to wait for the spiritual leader of all the world's Tibetans was a daunting task.
The room was crowded with people: journalists, hangers-on, monks, followers, and me. And I had a deadline. The Dalai Lama arrived, and began a few remarks in his language that would preface the news conference. Well, the remarks stretched on for 30 minutes, and I was beginning to feel faint. It was stifling in that room, plus I had a deadline to file my story for CBC Radio and I thought "If he keeps on going, we'll never make a deadline". I thought it was supposed to be a news conference: that's what the press release said on it that invited us all.
So I started to get an idea.
It took me about 15 more minutes to get up enough courage to carry out my plan. I was going to interrupt him, and ask him if it would be alright to soon ask our questions, in English.
I think if it hadn't been so late on a Friday, and so hot, and the glass of wine I'd had several hours earlier at lunch was probably partly at work too....I probably would not have done this. But at 45 minutes into his remarks in Tibetan, I raised my hand, and said in a clear loud voice" Excuse me, Your Holiness. Would it be alright to ask you some questions? We thought this was a news conference and we have deadlines."
Well, from the shocked looks on his followers faces, to the hissing from the monks standing along the side and back walls, i thought the floor might need to open and swallow me up right then and there. In fact, I still recall to this day how hot my face felt, and how flushed my cheeks must have looked to everyone. I was embarrassed.
But what did the Dalai Lama do? He was as gracious and gentle as could be. He looked at me, and replied " Certainly", and finished his remarks within record time, and then opened the floor to questions all in a span of a minute or two later.
The other reporters standing with me had mixed reactions: those on deadline were relieved and whispered their thanks later, as we filed down the steps and out onto the street.
I got my clips and a story too, and the Dalai Lama's quotes on his morning meeting with the Pope. And I too, raced back to the Foreign Press building to file my stories.
Later, I would dub this day a life-changing experience: it would be remembered as The Day I Interrupted the Dalai Lama.
And to this day, in 2008, whenever I run into my old friend Peter Leo, that's what he remembers, too.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My students at Ontario Association Broadcasters Career Day

March 3, 2008 - Toronto - I feel like a proud parent today, although I know that my students all have their own parents to feel proud of them.
Nevertheless, today about two dozen Centennial College Journalism students (from the East York and the joint University of Toronto programs) attended the annual Career Day held at the Rogers Media building in Toronto. The event is put on by private broadcasters and journalism programs around Ontario, to bring together the top hiring managers, news directors, on air talent, and recent graduates who are now working in the field, with final year students in j-schools around the province.
It's set up like "speed dating". A dozen tables where the big-wigs sit, and the students get to meet them for a half hour "date" and learn how to get jobs, what's going on in the industry, and basically seek advice, and contacts. Then they rotate to the next table. And so on.Some of the "big" names that attracted a lot of student attention included Mark Dailey of CITYtv, Ron Waksman, head of Global News in Toronto, Scott Metcalfe, of 680 News, Christina Chernesky of CFRB and Glenn Williams of Corus in Kingston.
I know that my students were keen because it's reading week but nevertheless they donned business suits and skirts and came prepared with resumes and even business cards. That's the way to make a good impression, and important contacts for internships and possible careers after graduation.
I sat in at one table, with the radio news veterans from CFRB, the new All News Radio station in Vancouver, and a newcomer to 680 News who started doing traffic. The students were from Fanshawe, Ryerson, Humber and others. Some had amazing voices, one wanted to do sports play-by-play and was already calling games for his school varsity teams. One wants to intern at CBC and said she knew Carol Off, which was in my view, a good place to start, although i told her to go to Kate Pemberton, the woman at CBC Radio in charge of interns, to apply formally. Then I joked that I shouldn't help her, since she might be competition for my own Centennial students! Ha ha.
The news director from the All News Radio station in Vancouver, Jacquie Donaldson, gave some sage advice about resumes etc: she throws them in the garbage if there is even one spelling mistake on them. Students: there is a message here!
She also says don't stalk news directors, by calling them every day. Slejana Taminsic (?) of 680 News says contact once every few weeks is enough to be persistent without stalking. The highlight of the event was the award ceremony to Centennial Student Adam Bemma. He won the first ever Ontario Association of Broadcasters' Michael Monty Award, named after a former educator and broadcaster who died after a 3 decades long career. Adam is currently on placement at CBC in Toronto, and also very involved in Darfur, Journalists for Human Rights and other community social action groups. Not only is he a great student in radio and television at school, but an all around great fellow. Congratulations Adam. We are proud to have nominated you and you deserve it!
I'd love to hear feedback from my students who attended. Was it valuable? Make lots of 
 contacts? Was it useful?