Saturday, September 24, 2011

Toronto Observer redesign unveiled + newsroom tv studio new look


One of Toronto's award-winning community newspapers, the Toronto Observer brand, has been given a spiffy new look, and the first edition rolled off the presses Friday for distribution in the Scarborough area.

First edition of Scarborough Observer, new design

The newspaper, with its online companion, is produced by journalism students at Centennial College in Toronto. It has two readership catchment areas: East York, and Scarborough. This is due to our dual campus locations for the past half dozen years: East York's students at 951 Carlaw Avenue, near Danforth and Pape, and the UTSC/Centennial Joint Program students working from 755 Morningside, at Morningside and Ellesmere.

This fall, all the journalism programs are now located in Centennial Journalism's revamped newsroom in East York, where students from both the U of T/Centennial Joint Program and the East York fast-track and three-year programs work side by side with the Sports Journalism students.

The redesign, by Observer instructor Andrew Mair, who also works at the Toronto Sun, was unveiled earlier this week, after extensive consultations with outside experts and academics. Stories will be shorter, they will be focused on how they impact the readers, and layout and colour has been updated as well.

Andrew Mair with redesigned Observer template

Journalism students get a sneak peak of the new Observer
What do you think? Click here to see the old Observer and the new one, side by side.


As part of the overall renovations to Centennial Journalism, the broadcast studio has also been given a new look:  a new lighting grid installed by technicians from Videoscope, under the leadership of Ken Thasan. The anchor desk was donated by Earl Helland of Up Workshop, who's company has also built sets for Sportsnet, Maple Leafs TV, CTV and many more. It's still not done yet, but plans are to have everything ready for the live broadcast October 6, when students will cover the Ontario Provincial Election.


Digital Imaging class gets clicking in the courtyard with Instructor Neil Ward.

Neil Ward gives photo pointers to Fast Track journalism students

Radio host Nicholas Pescod has been busy with his popular online music show "Radio Nation" which is broadcast from the lobby of Centennial Journalism's East York Campus.

In June Radio Nation was mentioned in the Brantford Expositor:

(Page 25 middle column at the bottom.)
Pescod says,  "It's a small blurb but none the less it was pretty exciting." 

In July he was interviewed on a Florida online radio show called, Friends Music Life (FML Radio) on 

Listen for an interview with Sarah Lenore in late September. She was featured on America's Got Talent in 2008. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Centennial Journalism, Anderson Cooper, and Harry Potter

How I spent My Summer Vacation:  Centennial Journalism student visits Anderson Cooper's new show in New York.

Anderson Cooper and Aakanksha Tangri 

Anderson Cooper's new day time talk show hit your televisions this week in North America. It's a departure from his usual disaster-coverage reporting seen on his other show "Anderson Cooper 360" every night on CNN.

This lifestyle show, available at 5 p.m. on CTV Toronto, is called "Anderson".  It will feature folks like Snooki from Jersey Shore, and other softer news interviews.

Our own Aakanksha Tangri, who is in her final semester of the joint journalism program with the University of Toronto, scored some coveted tickets to several of the tapings and even got to meet Cooper.

Here are her impressions of watching the star at work.

I watched a taping (actually three…) of Anderson Cooper’s new daytime talk show Anderson in New York City. After getting through security and filling out the waivers, we were seated in the studio. The set is classy and overlooks Columbus Circle. Cooper got a standing ovation when he walked in. After the first taping, we were told they had a “surprise” for us. It turned out to be Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe! Radcliffe and Cooper worked together in the Broadway play “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” The conversation was lighthearted and he took questions from the audience.  There was another taping after and those who wanted to stay back could, and I of course did…

Throughout the three tapings, there was a lot of audience interaction and we could ask the guests questions (and to Cooper during commercial breaks). I observed the interviewing techniques he used and I knew those (and had even applied it) from what we learned in class. Leaning forward, pauses between questions, lingering eye contact and the different styles of questions. As a journalism student, I’m always curious to know what interviewing techniques good journalists use and I had a sense of reassurance seeing him apply what I’ve learned in j-school.

His producers and crew were very friendly and kept the atmosphere on the set light and humorous (some of them even danced!).

What struck me the most was how unpretentious and friendly Cooper is. He accepted when he made mistakes and discussed everything under the sun the audience wanted to. It was a memorable experience and I definitely learned a lot about interviewing by being part of the audience and watching the tapings.  
Anderson set in  NYC, photos courtesy Aakanksha Tangri

Do visible minority journalists in GTA newsrooms have to give up their cultural identity to be accepted by Canadian audiences/readers?

That's the question University of Toronto/ Centennial Journalism graduate Abbas Somji asked prominent journalists in the Greater Toronto area this summer in his new documentary film "Invisible vs Visible." The study of Toronto's newsrooms was part of his master's thesis for Ryerson and York's joint program.

He interviewed Tony Wong of the Toronto Star, Harold Hosein of 680 News, Aparita Bhandari of CBC, among others. His findings and documentary are here on Vimeo:

Oh, and you can now call him Abbas Somji, MA.

We've invited Abbas to screen his film at Centennial Journalism later this school year.

Where our Grads Are:

Dan Bilicki blogs about sports for the Toronto Sun…from a young person's perspective. 

Jon Spratt is the Muskoka reporter for Metroland. 

 Back to School: Week 1 

Journalism students search for story ideas everywhere. Pipe cleaners can even be a story, if you do a little research.
Pipe cleaner creation "eyewear" in J0-211-100 Intro to Reporting

Friday, September 2, 2011

My family helped Lloyd Robertson cover 9-11 and other memories of Canada's Most Trusted Anchor

"Goodnight Lloyd"

When the twin towers were hit on Sept 11, 2001, I was working for CTV News and CTV Newsnet in Toronto (before it was renamed CTV News Channel, it used to be called Newsnet) in several capacities.

I was a business anchor in the CTV national newsroom (see screen cap), but I also did writing, and editing for Newsnet, I worked as one of the writers for the CTV National News with Sandi Rinaldo, I wrote and posted stories on  and I worked on their coverage of Pope John Paul the second's illness and death.

At CTV National News, it isn't unusual for journalists to do a lot of things. That's one of the great things about working there: lot's of opportunities.

But part of the reason why folks do a lot of different journalistic functions at CTV News headquarters might be because the CTV national newsroom is pretty small, despite how it looks on TV.

Everyone works closely together in a main hub, at Channel 9 Court in Toronto. The assignment editors, writers, producers, video editors, master control, and the senior news executives' offices all are in or on top of this open hub.

Which is how I got to rub shoulders with Lloyd Robertson.

His office is, as CBC Ombudsman Kirk Lapointe points out in his blog, pretty small for someone who has been a giant in the Canadian news business for so long. It was located in the north east corner of the newsroom, right beside where the staff mailboxes were, on the way to the bathroom and some recording rooms and the library.

So when I was a business anchor there, my anchor desk was actually right beside Lloyd's office. I remember how awed I used to feel as he would come into work in the afternoons. He drove his own car. No limo driver for him. And he always encouraged everyone with a friendly greeting, a supportive comment, and made everyone treat him as if he was an ordinary guy.

I only heard him yell once in the years I worked at CTV (1997-2006).

It was when he was anchoring a newscast.   When the show went to commercial break, he was livid because someone had gotten the name of a newsmaker wrong in one of Lloyd's scripts, or had misspelled the name (I was never quite sure). He yelled down from his anchor chair to his senior writer Jeff Wigle (who is now at the helm of Sun TV News) to find out how this had happened. I imagine it was horrifying to Lloyd because he was a consummate professional and didn't enjoy what he must have felt was a blow to his credibility as a newscaster.

I also remember feeling secretly scandalized, yet proud, when I once saw Lloyd dressed for anchoring in his suit, but wearing bedroom slippers on his feet under the anchor desk. I thought that showed that he was a normal human being who also suffers from sore feet once in a while.

But Lloyd's the coverage of Sept. 11, 2001 showed how extraordinarily talented he is.

When the news broke about the Twin Towers, I wasn't scheduled to work that day. Like most people, I was glued to the TV and feeling extremely shaky and scared. But I called the human resources guy Ted Wilson and asked to be able to come in to the newsroom to help. When I got there at 5 p.m., Lloyd had already been on the air for hours, live.

We were all flying on adrenaline, as no one had experienced anything like this terror attack before. Tom Haberstroh and Joanne MacDonald and the specials team were hunkered down in the control room, while Lloyd was in the national news desk chair, calmly and authoritatively reviewing the information for Canadians, as it came in, and taking directions in his earpiece. As he has said, the crazier things get, the calmer an anchor needs to be to avoid panicking the viewers.

Lloyd's live 9-11 special needed continuous interviews and guests to fill the airtime, so I whipped out my little black book, and got to work. My step-sister Karen is a Canadian lawyer who lives with her family in New York City. I got her on the line, asked if she would take a call and be interviewed by Lloyd. I remember she told him she was sitting on the floor in their apartment hunkered down, and in shock at what had happened.

Next I got my sister's sister-in-law lined up for Lloyd to interview: Rhonda is a Canadian psychologist specializing in anxiety and stress disorders for people who've survived terrorist attacks. She's normally based in Israel but she was in New York on 9-11, and decided to make her way down to the hospitals to see if she could help out. Lloyd interviewed her, too, about what the psychological implications would be for survivors of the 9-11 attacks.

I don't remember seeing Lloyd leave the anchor desk for the entire 14 hours he provided live coverage of the 9-11 attacks.

Watching his daughter's tribute documentary and his final newscast last night will be required viewing for my television students this fall at Centennial College in Toronto.

Goodnight Lloyd.