Monday, May 30, 2011

Centennial Journalism grad brings underwear and schoolbags to India's Dalit "untouchables"

Centennial journalism brings school supplies and underwear to orphans in India’s Dalit communitiy of “untouchables"
Centennial Journalism grad Jennifer Kai is leaving for Chennai, India on
 Tuesday May 31 to bring 300 backpacks filled with supplies to orphans and
 outcasts known as Dalits. Kai is traveling with members of her church 
called the Hope Centre, in Toronto. It’s run by a former Toronto Argonaut, Brian Warren. The mission was to bring supplies as well as work with the children and villagers considered “untouchables” because they are a lower caste.
Jennifer works for Bell as a corporate loyalty associate, 
and has been involved with humanitarian and church related 
work for several years.
Here’s a bit of her note:
·       On Tuesday May 31st, 12 colleagues including myself from a church called The Hope Centre, will travel to Chennai India to minister to the outcasts of society, otherwise known as the Dalits as well as orphans from a government Juvenile home, showing them that they are not forgotten, they are loved and bringing them school supplies such as back packs, notebooks, packages of pencils, markers, erasers, t-shirts and rulers... We will also be bringing undergarments to the girls there, many of whom do not have underwear.

This will be a short but intense mission as we travel into the heat which is now about 50 C Celsius, so we are definitely stepping out of our comfort zone.

I need to raise $3,000 to be a part of this trip and by grace in a short period of time have already raised about $1,750. Most of the funds go towards transportation. Each of us is allowed to bring two large bags, which is standard, one of the bags we travel with is already filled with school supplies which we packed Victoria Day Monday.

The easiest way to give is by email money transfer. You can email me at All funds will be handed to The Hope Centre. If you would like a tax receipt please also email me your full name and address. Thankfully, we in Canada can choose to work hard and move our way up in society. Because of the caste system in India - you are forced to remain marginalized... Watch some of this documentary on the Dalits:

    For more information on our church please


Tamara Baluja has been nominated for the South Asian Journalists Association award, for a story she did while reporting for the Province in B.C. She’s the only Canadian nominee. Results will be announced at Columbia University next month.
Tamara will be interning for the Globe and Mail this summer in Toronto.


Gord Thain is coordinator of communications and coaching for Ontario Basketball in Toronto.

Vincent Man is at the St. Catharines Standard. Following Centennial, he worked at the Daily Press in Timmins as the sports editor. He was there for 4.5 years, until he left Timmins a couple of months ago for St. Catharines. He is now a paginator at The Standard and does layout for the paper and others in the Niagara region.

Leslie Phalen has been living in Vancouver for a year and a half, where she is looking for a publisher for her new novel. After Centennial, she interned at ET Canada, and Rogers, then traveled to Australia), and took up waitressing/bartending while she wrote her novel. Leslie writes that it’s an update of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. She set it in modern day, out in Tofino BC and added characters and twists.

Kevin Barley is an assignment editor at The Score in Toronto.

Angela Brunschot is in Edmonton as editor of SEE Magazine in Alberta, where she started after graduation as a reporter. She’s writing about politics, the environment, and human interest stories, as well as learning how to manage and edit.
Stacey McLeod is an editor for SMG Digital (Star Media Group), the digital side of the Toronto Star. She’s editing special sections for entertainment and working with the corporate side of the business on content direction and strategy.  She also runs Hooks and Ladders, a blog site for journalists and musicians. She also DJs and performs with grad Phil Villeneuve in the I love You Toos.

David Nesseth spent three years after graduation as a journalist  in Canada, working first with the Lindsay Daily Post, then the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder. He’s been traveling abroad, living and working as a journalist in London, England. He’s now on his way back to Canada to test the journalism waters once more. His website:

Iman Sheikh is a copy editor at the National Post, where she appeared in the society pages Saturday at a swanky party.

Neil Springer writes about the MMA and the UFC for the Toronto Sun and also does videos for these stories.

Bre Walt moved into the communications/PR/marketing world working as a senior issues coordinator with the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services since June 2009. She says she does media relations for the Ministry, as well as all the contentious issues management/PR work.

Dan Bilicki is working for the Toronto Sun now as a copy editor on the sports desk and he also writes columns during the NFL football season

Kristen Calis is with the news site, and you can read her stories and column called  Kristen’s Kritters, a blog about animals she helps find homes for. 

Jessica Hume is reporting with the National Post in Toronto, after several years reporting in the United Arab Emirates and freelancing in Toronto.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rapture and Centennial Journalism

I’m sending this out for the May 24 long weekend in case the world ends on Saturday, May 21, 2011.


Centennial Journalism students and professors collected lots of kudos in May at awards ceremonies recognizing the best in community newspapering, broadcasting, writing, and investigative journalism. 

Former associate editor Alexis Dobranowski’s newspaper Vaughan Today won second place as Best Community Newspaper Site at the OCNA awards in Niagara Falls. She also won a second place in business and finance reporting for a story on two partners in a micro distillery.
Read the story here:

Congrats to  @Editor Eric, Eric McMillan, Editor in Chief of the Toronto Observer Scarborough newsroom, because his Town Crier newsrooms (his day job) won first place for their special education section at the same OCNA awards.

And, Fast Track student @Aileendonnelly, Aileen Donnelly,  (2010) who just finished interning at the National Post, won third place at the OCNA awards for student news writing for her story in the Toronto Observer.

Dylan Robertson, a U of T/Centennial joint journalism student, was a finalist at the CAJ awards in Ottawa , for best investigative story by a student. He was nominated for his look into changes in the university of Toronto’s social sciences department. Sadly he was beaten by a team of about 15-crack computer assisted reporting students at Kings College in Halifax.

Yamri Tadesse of the U of T/Centennial joint journalism program, won Best Spot News (Audio) for her quirky radio story on the most popular sex gadget on sale in Scarborough, for Valentine’s Day. The story aired on Observer Radio News and was posted to The award comes from the Broadcast Educators Association of Canada, and the ceremony May 28 in Victoria. Yamri is making plans to attend and collect the prize and the cash award.

Where our grads are now:

Tristan Carter, UTSC/JJ  2010 is at the Vaughan Today where his byline is all over their online site. Read his story about a cancer patient looking for a donor here.

Sarina Adamo USTC/JJ 2011 is interning at Scrapbooking and Cards Today magazine, and Luggage Leathergoods and Accessories magazine. Both contacts were made when Sarina and her Beat Magazine student colleagues Angela Rotundo and Sarah Moore won the IPAO (Independent Publishers Association of Ontario) award for best new niche magazine and came to pitch their Social Shift Magazine to the publishers earlier this winter.

Minshu Mo, Centennial Fast Track 2010 is working full time at the Today Commercial News, the top free Chinese language daily in Toronto, and the only Canadian Chinese paper accessible in Mainland China, according to the media kit. Head office is on Progress Avenue in Scarborough.

Dharm Makwana  (Centennial three year grad 2007) is in Vancouver where he got married in September. After several years with Metro News doing stories and video, he became Editor in Chief. After Sun News Network hired someone else, he went back to being a reporter for three months. He recently started a new web editor gig at The Province. Dharm says he would be happy to provide lots of good war stories and tips for students.  He’s on Facebook and @Dhmakwana on Twitter.

Thandiwe Vela (UTSC/ JJ 2008) is reporting with Northern News Service for the summer for the he Yellowknifer. And the temp today was  9 Celcius! They publish 2 x a week circ. 5,400 and 6,100 according to Wikipedia. Almost like the Toronto Observer! She interned at the Toronto Star radio room, and worked there for a year, worked in Edmonton, and now is spending her summer in the north. Follow her on Twitter @ThandiVela

Monday, May 16, 2011

Former Toronto Star intern sparks newspaper war in Squamish, B.C

Gagandeep Ghuman, founder of The Squamish Reporter, at the Canadian Association of Journalists conference in Ottawa, May 2011

His family in India wanted Gagandeep Ghuman to be an engineer or a diplomat. But armed with a journalism degree from Toronto, a masters in English from India, and several years writing at the Toronto Star, the Guelph Mercury, freelancing in Vancouver, and working for the Squamish Chief newspaper in B.C, the young entrepreneur is taking on his former employer in his adopted West Coast community with his own weekly paper, The Squamish Reporter.

Ghuman was at my table Saturday night at the Canadian Association of Journalists annual conference in Ottawa. He had been nominated for one of the top investigative journalism awards. His story about the controversial state of Squamish's fire department after six homes burned down earned him a spot on the shortlist for the award. Read it here:

He didn't win, but he says his aim was to gain some buzz about his paper among the CAJ members and panelists.

Because money is tight, and advertisers and the district give most of their dollars to the Chief, which has been around for two decades, Ghuman says he spends two days a week driving a cab to help defray expenses of putting out his weekly, and maintaining his online site.  Come to think of it, driving a cab is probably a great way to get story ideas! 

Ghuman probably isn't all that popular these days in the newsroom of the district's rival paper. In 2009, he worked as a reporter at the Squamish Chief, before going freelance. Now his own paper is coming out and competing with the Chief every Friday in the community of 15,000 people, an hour north of Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky highway. He emails each new edition every Friday to 1,800 people.

He's planning to revamp the website, and is thinking about adding an online donation box, to help cover costs. And he's musing about enticing an intern to come work there, with the offer of groceries and a place to stay. He's also assembling an editorial board that includes a BBC reporter, and journalism professors and academics (full dislosure: not me.)

One sign that Ghuman is becoming a respected member of the media in Squamish? He was recently featured as a panelist --along with folks from the Chief and from the Garibaldi Times, another local news site that seems to have stopped updating its website -  at Quest University's May 8, 2011 philosopher's cafe on the topic of civility and censorship in the blogosphere. 

Censorship is something Ghuman knows a lot about, now.  His September 2010 story about the Squamish Fire department prompted the threat of a lawsuit from the town's chief administrative officer if he didn't retract his story and tell them who the whistleblower was who leaked the internal document about the fire department.  He didn't back down. Read his reply here.

The story has made an impact on Squamish. It prompted the municipality to make major changes in order to make the community safer, with more appropriate levels of fire protection. See story here.

I say: good for you, Gagandeep, and good luck to you.  Most journalism students prefer to stay close to home, for financial reasons, as well as family and personal reasons. We professors and news industry veterans always suggest that journalism students go to a smaller news outlet in a small community for their first jobs, where they can learn about a new part of Canada, cover issues they haven't faced before, learn about themselves, and build a portfolio. Be a big fish in a small pond. And become more experienced and make mistakes far away from the hiring managers in Toronto, if that's where they want to end up, eventually. 

Centennial Professors at CAJ conference Ottawa 2011

Just came back from a fabulous Canadian Association of Journalists conference in Ottawa with the profs at Centennial College. I will post soon about all we learned, and who we met. Kady OMalley, Chantal Hebert, Tom Clark, David Akin, Jack Fleischman, Murray Brewster, David Mckie, and more..

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sex Toy story wins Broadcast Educators Association Award

A story for Valentine's Day by student Yamri Tadesse about a Canadian invention called We Vibe 2 has won the Spot news award (audio) for 2010-2011 by the Broadcast Educators Association of Canada.
She did the story for both the Toronto Observer newspaper and for my radio news course, at Centennial College. At the time, she was a bit nervous to submit it for radio, since it has noise of the vibrator, and a quote about how it works, with graphic description of where the appliance sits and how it works.
I told her not to worry about this, but I did blush and do a bit of a double take when I had to edit the story, and heard the quotes from the sales person!
Nevertheless we are thrilled for her. The BEAC president said this about the award:


Your BEAC entry titled Valentine’s Day G-Spot was judged to be the winner in the Audio Spot News category in this year's BEAC National Student Awards competition.

Comments from the judges:

-       Interesting angle on Valentine’s Day
-       Well-written, informative and easy to understand

A copy of your winning entry is immediately being sent to Yvonne Colbert, President BEAC for consideration for the BEAC-President’s award in Audio or Video.

Thank you for your entry and please pass along the judges congratulations to your student(s).

Take a listen to her story, as well as see and read the online version of the print story, click here:
Way to go Yamri!
The award is being handed out at a gala dinner in Victoria, BC May 28.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jim Babbage leaves, UTSC students tour, Ke$ha and Kylie Minogue

Goodbye Jim Babbage

I knew something was up when digital imaging and photography professor Jim Babbage walked into the staff meeting last Friday at the CCC. Sure he was still wearing one of his bright red Hawaiian shirts. And shoes with no socks.
But he looked different.  He was minus the trademark beard. Wow, I thought - something must have changed in his life. And indeed, it will change in the lives of many journalism students next year.
Jim Babbage without his beard!
With beard, before!
After 21 years at the helm of the photojournalism courses at Centennial College, and elsewhere, Jim has accepted a full time job with Adobe.
It is a logical step because he has been writing how-to text books for Adobe and training countless people how to use Adobe's Creative Suite software. Now he will work for Adobe's education branch with lots of travel involved, but he won't be in the classrooms of Centennial anymore.
Yes there were a few teary moments when he made the announcement. (We know you had to love what you did here, Jim, because you stayed for two decades of dedication teaching as a part time instructor, always hoping the College would create some more full time faculty positions, which never happened.)

Hello UTSC journalism students

For the first time since the University of Toronto and Centennial College teamed up to provide a joint journalism program, incoming students who will attend Centennial in the fall of 2011 paid a visit to the Centre for Creative Communications Thursday, to see first hand where they will be spending the next 18 months.  Coordinator Ted Fairhurst welcomed the group of eager students to the newsroom at the East York campus at Danforth and Pape. You guys are a talented bunch, with your own radio shows on Fusion, the UTSC campus radio station, and editor of the Varsity,  Dylan Robertson , who has been nominated for one of the student awards by the Canadian Association of Journalists.
Other students want to go into music journalism, or be a human rights reporter, or politics, or sports. Looking forward to having you with us in September!

Return of the Jedi:
Steve Cogan, Natalie Samson, Tara Losinski, Alicia Baird, Lindy Oughtred, Courtney Kraik, Laura Granda, Meegan Scanlon, Meri Perra (not shown Dan Heyman, Chris Higgins, Nastasha Alli)

A dozen graduating students from the three year and fast track journalism programs met in room 149 last week to brief Lindy Oughtred and Steve Cogan about their experiences working on internships from January to April, as required to complete the credits for graduation. It was so exciting to hear all their stories from inside the newsrooms of Toronto's journalism giants including magazines like "Today's Parent" and  "House and Home".  And to hear where our grads are being hired after their internships.

Chris Higgins will be spending the next six months reporting at the Slave River Journal in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. The paper is an award winning small circulation weekly serving Northern Alberta and the NWT.

Tara Losinski has been at House and Home where she has been offered a contract position with the magazine run by designer Lynda Reeves.

Courtney Kraik was a digital intern at Canadian Family, (read one of her articles about 20 books for toddlers) where she didn't take lunch breaks and was the hardest working intern they have ever had.

Laura Grande was at Today's Parent and spent her internship doing the morning blog and Twitter/Facebook content and will continue to do this 3 days per week there. She will be interviewing Theo Fleury for the September issue. During the election campaign, she used social media to get all 5 political parties to send their platforms to Today's Parent on behalf of Mom the Vote.

Dan Heyman is now a staff writer at, where he uses Final Cut Pro to edit the video reports he produces about car test drives.

Nastasha Alli worked at the Canadian Living website during her internship and she has now been hired two days per week there. She edit pictures, uploads links, makes powerpoints, and does interviews such as one she did with cookbook author Trish Magwood (In My Mother's Kitchen) at the author's Rosedale home.

Natalie Samson interned at Quill and Quire where she embraced her inner book nerd.

UTSC grad Brad Featherstone interned at Kelly Mason Productions, where they make web commercials and content for clients including Apple, and has now been hired (it's even on their website!) Watch his video here: 

Dancing with the Stars

 Graduate Phil Villeneuve, who writes for Chart, saw a You Tube video of himself dancing to Kylie Minogue's music on the subway, go viral. So much so, that connections at EMI music arranged for the pop star to see the video, and apparently she loved it so much, she invited Phil to Montreal last month to spend some time chilling with her at her recent concert! Now Ke$ha has called him, to make a dance video to one of her tunes!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Canadian election night coverage at Centennial College Journalism

Classes are over for the year. But a hardy group of journalism students volunteered fanned out across the city to cover the ridings around East York, and the federal party leaders campaign receptions in Toronto.
Check out their first video broadcast before the polls closed.

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They'll do another one in a few moments.