Monday, December 17, 2012

How journalists should cover shootings like Newtown, Connecticut and other traumatic stories: best practices for interviewing survivors

Resources for journalists covering traumatic incidents — from the CAJ

OTTAWADec. 17, 2012 /CNW/ - Media outlets from around the world have descended on Newtown, Conn. this week to cover the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. For many reporters and anchors and camera crews, the story has required them to interview survivors of the shooting, the families, children, and friends and neighbours of the people involved.
The Canadian Association of Journalists has some suggestions for how to interview survivors of trauma and how to get the story, without re-victimizing the victims in the process.
Just a few weeks ago, the CAJ invited experts to weigh in on this specialized form of interviewing, which has become, sadly, a vital skill for today's journalists.
"Journalism and Remembrance: Interviewing Survivors of Trauma" was held in TorontoNov. 20, 2012 at Ryerson University, in collaboration with the Ryerson Journalism Course Union.


The panel included journalist Ted Barris, author of "Breaking the Silence", Carol-Anne Davidson, broadcast journalist and interviewer with the Azrieli Foundation, Andrea Litvack, Social Work program director at U of T, and Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Anishnaabe writer, as well as moderator Esther Enkin of CBC News, recently named the organization's new Ombudswoman (she is also Vice-President of the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma.
The panel suggested several key ethical considerations for journalists to keep in mind during these fast moving situations, as well as presented some successful methods for journalists to help survivors of trauma tell their own stories, in their own way, be these old traumas such as the Holocaust or Residential School abuse, or more recent ones such as sexual assaults or serving in the war in Afghanistan.
Give the subject control over the telling of their stories:
"These stories have to be told, but we must always be cognizant that there's a person behind the story.  There is responsibility to not further oppress the oppressed," Andrea Litvack said. "The main thing to remember when you're interviewing victims of trauma is that they are all vulnerable," she added.  "What they've all shared is the experience of being helpless, the experience of intense fear, and the experience of a lack of power."
Remember your reason for doing the interview:
"Good ethics and good craft equals great journalism," Esther Enkin said, quoting Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute.  "When you're mindful and you ask yourself 'what is my journalistic purpose … what is my duty to truth telling, what is my duty to the people that I'm broadcasting to or writing for, but also to the people I'm using in my story?'  The more you think about that … people will trust you and they'll open up."
Use a slower pace:
Ted Barris has interviewed 3,000 veterans over the course of 40 years and is a practiced hand at a more subtle approach.  He shared how that worked when Korean War veteran, Hal Merrithew (now deceased) was telling his story.
"(He) had gone into a minefield to retrieve Canadians …. two of them were dead and four of them were wounded," Barris said.  "In the middle of the story … he fell apart, and I thought it was because I was bringing back all those horrific images to his mind … and I stopped.  I gave him time and space."  It turned out, the veteran was sad because he had never been reunited with the surviving members of his unit.
(Above quotes are taken directly from coverage of the CAJ event by freelance journalist Paula Last and published
Remember their right to privacy:
(from CAJ's Ethics Guidelines June 2012)
The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected or hired to serve its interests. People also have a right to privacy, and those accused of crimes have a right to a fair trial.
However, there are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, and the rights of all citizens to be informed about matters of public interest. Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.
We do not manipulate people who are thrust into the spotlight because they are victims of crime or are associated with a tragedy. Nor do we do voyeuristic stories about them. When we contact them, we are sensitive to their situations, and report only information in which the public has a legitimate interest.
We take special care when reporting on children or those who are otherwise unable to give consent to be interviewed. While some minors, such as athletes, may be used to being interviewed, others might have little understanding of the implications of talking to the media. So when unsure, or when dealing with particularly sensitive subjects, we err on the side of seeking parental consent. Likewise, we take special care when using any material posted to social media by minors, as they may not understand the public nature of their postings.
The full guidelines are posted on the CAJ's website and can be downloaded  here.
There is also abundant resource material available from organizations like the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma (Dart's "Covering Children and Trauma" by investigative reporter Ruth Teichroeb is just one helpful guide for those covering events like the Newtown shootings).
The Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma'social media sites also provide a good aggregation of advice and commentary regarding the coverage of traumatic stories and for helping journalists also take care of their own health.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with hundreds of members across Canada. The CAJ's primary roles are public-interest advocacy and professional development for its members.
Entrevues disponibles en fran├žais
SOURCE: Canadian Association of Journalists
For further information:
Hugo Rodrigues, CAJ president - 519-756-2020 ext. 2226, 519-535-8680 cell,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best New Toronto Magazines ever from Centennial Journalism's joint program with the University of Toronto

Blits magazine editors

From a magazine to help Ontario's tech start up entrepreneurs, to the newest magazine covering high school sports in the Greater Toronto Area, the graduating students of the University of Toronto's joint journalism program with Centennial College have launched seven fabulous new niche magazines.

Before an industry panel made up of more then a dozen magazine publishers and editors, journalism professionals and industry experts, the students pulled out all the stops Wednesday to make their launches a splashy affair: judges were treated to samples of butter beer, ceviche salad, lava lamp making demonstrations, and Danish butter cookies, and more. Special guests included Sharon Mooney, from Centennial College's Centre for Entrepreneurship, Alex Levy, CEO of MyVoice, Entrepreneur of the Year, Dean Nate Horowitz, School of Communications, Media and Design, Maija Saari, Chair, School of Communications, Media and Design, Phil Alves and Eric McMillan, Toronto, Ted Fairhurst, Coordinator, Joint Journalism Program with University of Toronto, and the Cavanaugh family.
Peter Young, publisher Canadian Security magazine, Scott Jamieson, group publisher (front row)
Nancy Kay Clark, editor, Design Edge Canada magazine,  Martin Seto, Texterity, (middle row)
  Wallie Seto, Career Insider, Barry Finn, The Rider, (holding camera in the air), Adrian Doran, designer. Missing from this photo: Julia Eskins, The Magazine. (back row)

After a four hour competition that saw the students describe their new magazines and explain their business plans, and answer some tough question about advertising revenues and rival publications, the judges met "Canadian Idol"-style to try to decide the winner. (Answer? At the end of the article.)

"To put together a magazine from start to finish in just four months is absolutely amazing," said Paul Grossinger of Annex Business Media, one of the instructors of the senior level course at the journalism program. For the past three years Grossinger and his colleague Ellin Bessner, have co-taught this course that aims to introduce senior level students to the entrepreneurial side of the world of magazine publishing.
Paul Grossinger, MC for the launch event

From conception to content, from design and layout, to marketing and advertising, the students worked tirelessly over the fall semester to create their own niche magazines, companion websites, multi media material, and social media communities. This year for the first time, some magazines created mobile versions that can be accessed on Ipads and using the new Windows8 platform.

"The aim of the course is for students to use all of the journalism skills which they have developed in their time at Centennial, and then become entrepreneurs to create their own jobs in the magazine industry, which some students in previous years have gone on to do successfully," Bessner said. "The course also prepares students to work for existing magazines, in the Rogers family or at other consumer or B2B magazine portfolios."

                                   This year's crop of new magazines included:

Blits: a magazine for book lovers. The editors say it is for book geeks, kind of like watching the extra features on DVDs. The premiere edition has features on best travel holidays such as the Harry Potter tour, Hobbit sites in New Zealand, and Shakespeare's birthplace. Also, how to buy book swag such as perfume made to honour Game of Thrones. And love it or hate it: Fifty Shades of Grey.

Strive Magazine: for parents of special needs children in the Greater Toronto Area. A magazine with features to help stressed out parents do the best for their children. Stories include how to get the most out of parent teacher interviews. Riding as therapy for autistic kids. Inspiring success stories in athletics.

nine twelve the magazine: the only magazine covering high school sports in the Greater Toronto Area. With 300 high schools to cover, the editors say it's time someone covered the top teams in basketball, football, swimming, golf and more. A profile of the best basketball player in the city. Birchmount High School: a sport powerhouse. And the volunteers who devote countless hours to varsity sports.

Teddy Girl Magazine: a fierce blast from the past honouring vintage lifestyle in Toronto, the vintage capital of Canada. The stylish editors are inspired by Marilyn Monroe, Mad Men, long lasting marriages, and perfume, and...high heels. Read about how to create vintage looks without spending a ton of dough. Why suits make the man. And see the photo shoot at St. Michael's College.

Reach Magazine: from science fiction to science journalism. The editors delve into the science behind Star Trek's teleportation, limitless pills to expand your mind, and more. And discover that Canadian scientists are already on the cutting edge of these achievements in medicine, technology and space that most people only know from the big screen.

Maria Maria: Toronto's newest English language magazine about local Latin culture in the Music, dance, success stories. Aimed at newcomers to Toronto as well as second and third generation Canadians of Hispanic origin, and people like the editors, who just love all things Flamenco! Named after the famous Carlos Santana song.

ONset Magazine: For start up entrepreneurial students and young Ontario 20 somethings with ideas for new games, apps, software and business ventures. From how to get venture capital (not easy), to where to meet a co founder (online, and at the pub), to how to design a workspace that is funky and functional.

Elie Kim, Alicia Ferroro, Teona Baetu, Cortney Cook : Strive Magazine

Georgia Williams, Shantal Otchere, Nino Meese-Tamuri, Aki Tse, Leigh Cavanaugh: Reach Magazine

Jennifer Pang, Dylan Robertson, Sarah Taguiam, Sunnie Huang: Onset Magazine (Ipad mobile version)

Shaun Thompson, Ali Dar, Mohammad Arshad: Nine Twelve Magazine

Paulina Pestryakov, Jabbari Weekes, Rebecca Raveendran, Tichaona Tapawamba: Maria Maria magazine

Elita Tsilo, Lucy Qi, Evan deSouza, Jane Igharo: Teddy Girl Magazine
The seven new magazines launched December 2012

Making Butter Beer: Blitz magazine

The judges met after the presentations to review all seven magazines. Third runner up for best magazine: Strive. Second runner up: Reach. Best overall new magazine: OnSet.

Thanks to all the judges. Congratulations to all the students and may your magazines continue in the future, with plenty of success.
Next stop:stay tuned for the results of the annual Independent Publishers Association of Ontario magazine competition. Coming in January 2013.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Holocaust Survivors' video testimony project will help Rwandan children heal: Canadian history professor

By Ellin Bessner

In the near future, having a living Holocaust survivor pay a visit to Canadian schools in person, will no longer be possible. But now, seventy four years after Kristallnacht heralded the beginning of the Nazi annihilation of European Jews, a new online website supported by Stephen Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation is working to bring the students to meet the survivors, via the Internet. 
Once Voice at a Time
IWitness is the name of the new online Holocaust education project. 

It gives students aged 13-18 and their teachers, access to over 1,300 videotaped testimonies of survivors and witnesses culled from the foundation’s extensive archives housed at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.  These include eight web pages of materiel based on interviews done here in Canada during the 1990s with Holocaust survivors, camp liberators, and political prisoners.  Testimonies include interviews with well known Toronto speakers Max Eisen and Pinchas Gutter.

According to the program director Kori Street, IWitness is designed to engage today’s web-savvy students.
“We have to do it in the present, in their digital world,” Street said Sunday during a lecture at Beit Rayim’s annual Holocaust Education Week event with the Town of Richmond Hill, at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. Street feels educators have to “meet [students] where they are, in a mobile, digital space.”

While IWitness is still in development, the beta website is up and running, and has already been used by inner city students in several U.S. locations, as well as in Australia. It will be tested in Rwanda in January 2013, as that country copes with the aftermath of the 1993 Tutsi genocide.

“Our colleagues in Rwanda are…looking for hope,” Street explained, saying the compelling stories of elderly Holocaust survivors “transform” Rwandan students who hear these testimonies, especially when the survivors talk about having grandchildren.

Aside from the complete long interviews, students can search for specific topics in shorter clips inside IWitness, using keywords. They can also find out more information from provided links to databases at American Holocaust museums and at Yad Vashem in Israel.

Possibly the most exciting feature of IWitness is its ability to allow users to record and create their own videos, using their own personal reactions to the survivor testimonies, and make mash ups and multimedia projects using the provided clips. 

“For students in this day and age, building something, as opposed to writing something down, is an incredibly powerful activity,” Street explained. Currently, the classroom activities, including the students’ video responses, are confined to the IWitness website, and supervised by their teachers and the project administrators, to protect the integrity of the material. 

The main goal, according to Street, a Canadian, is to use the video testimonies of the survivors to create a generation of empathetic, globally conscious, responsible young people.

“Forgetting comes with a lot of dangers,” Street warned.

Rabbi Chezi Zionce, Beit Rayim’s spiritual leader, also spoke briefly at the event, and echoed her message.
He described his first visit to Auschwitz years ago, saying he went to try to figure out why the Holocaust happened, but discovered the question was and is, “impossible to answer.”
In his view, referring to Holocaust deniers such as the leader of Iran and countless academics, “the real question now, is, how we, 67 years after the closing of the last death camp, respond. How we treat other people.”

Educators or community leaders who wish to register for IWitness, should email 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Journalism school prof says Thank you Rob Ford

Rob Ford's first council meeting after judge's decision Nov 2012

Toronto-Nov 27, 2012-- by Ellin Bessner.
I owe a big thank you to embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and not just for this semester, but ever since he was elected to office in 2010.
Because of him, teaching municipal reporting to my journalism students has never been so easy.
Until Ford came into office, you couldn't count the number of eye rolls and yawns in my class when we got to the unit mid-November about why it is important to cover civic politics.  Usually there might be one or two students out of a class of thirty who even knew where city hall is located  (hint: it will be on the quiz) and probably only three or four students who cared anything about local politics. This was especially true under the David Miller administration.
Enter Rob Ford, the colourful, shoot from the hip, controversial mayor, with his conflict of interest trial, his libel suit, his astounding use of a TTC bus for his Don Bosco football team, his driving while reading infraction, and so on.
The result?
Now, not only do my students jump at the chance to go down to cover city council meetings, but some even dress up for the outing.
They are engaged, and eager, and they all turned up for today's (November 27) council meeting, the first one since Ontario Superior Court judge Charles Hackland ruled Monday that Ford violated provincial conflict of interest rules and should be removed from his position.
And what a spectacle they witnessed.
The public gallery was as packed as I've ever seen it. EMS workers were there in their yellow emergency jackets to lobby for more new hires. Two workers turned up from the west end cookie factory that is about to be closed and turned into condos (they wore t-shirts that read: Don't let condos eat my job).  And there were more reporters and journalists and members of the media then I've ever seen there, even more then when Rob Ford was sworn in two years ago and Don Cherry wore his pink jacket for the occasion and called Ford's opponents Lefty Pinkos.
The benefits of having such high drama play out in a forum that is open to the public, where anyone can watch it in person, including my journalism class, is something worth all the homework and essays and Canadian Press style quizzes that they also have to learn during their training at Centennial College.
When the journalists from CP24 and CITY TV and the others scrummed councillor Giorgio Mammoliti today, a close Ford ally, my students were right in there with their tape recorders and note pads.
It got so noisy that the speaker, Frances Nunziata, kept threatening to kick the media out, and even scolded the councillors for disrupting the proceedings when they headed up the stairs to the back of the council chamber to give their 30 second sound bytes to the press corps.
With at least 14 camera crews on hand, plus tables full of reporters from every media outlet imaginable present in the council chamber today, it was certainly a memorable event.  Usually, the city hall press corps stays downstairs in their offices on the first floor when council meets, and comes upstairs only when something particularly interesting is being debated, like the plastic bag ban, or more ice time for girls' hockey in Leaside.
Today, with everyone there waiting to see who would say what after the legal ruling that could kick Ford out of his job in 14 days, the excitement in the air was palpable. One of my shiest students participated in four scrums today with outspoken councillors including Mammoliti, and Adam Vaughan, and was emboldened enough to tell me he wanted to nab the mayor's brother, Doug Ford, too. A second student who is a foreign trained journalist now back at school to gain Canadian credentials, was the only one to clinch an exclusive interview with one of the most respected politicians in the city, former councillor Mike Feldman, who is in his 80's, who was in the public gallery today. And if that wasn't enough excitement, the Grey Cup was in the building too, as the Argonauts victory Parade and rally was held just outside the front doors and the football players were carrying the cup in the lobby of city hall.  Three of my students (who I know want to be sports reporters), didn't hesitate to get their quotes and photos in and around the rally at Nathan Phillips Square.
Want to get journalism students excited about their chosen profession?
Here's the formula:  Rob Ford + the Grey Cup + Argos cheerleaders + rubbing shoulders with Christie Blatchford.  Mix together, and you've got  a winning recipe for journalism education. So thank you, Rob Ford.
SeYoung Park, Tamar Atik, JoieAnn Merana of Centennial Journalism

Mark Cadiz, Aaron Niles and Centennial Journalism reporting students at Toronto City Hall
Argos rally outside Toronto City Hall

The Grey Cup

The Grey Cup

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Don't revictimize the victim when interviewing survivors of trauma: journalism panel

In case you missed last night's thought-provoking Canadian Association of Journalists' panel discussion on Journalism and Remembrance: Interviewing survivors of trauma, in Toronto, here is the link to the live blog done by Scribblelive and others at the Oakham House at Ryerson University where the event was held.

Click here:

More to come in the coming days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Interviewing Survivors of Trauma: Journalists and Remembrance

The Canadian Association of Journalists & the Ryerson University Journalism Course Union are pleased to present:

 Remembrance and Journalism:
Interviewing Survivors of Trauma

As Canadians commemorate Remembrance Day and Holocaust Education Week in November, the role of journalists is often overlooked, despite their vital role in bringing to light the stories of the people who lived through these traumatic milestones of history.

From Canadian war veterans to Holocaust survivors, and from victims of Canada’s residential school system to the victims of sexual assaults, journalists document their suffering and survival.

Join a distinguished panel for a workshop on interviewing survivors: learn some best practices and the ethical considerations of journalism of remembrance.


Ted Barris author of “Victory at Vimy”, “Deadlock in Korea”,  “Breaking the Silence”.  Centennial College Journalism professor.

Carol Ann Davidson, broadcast journalist, interviewer with the Azrieli Foundation.

Kateri Akiwenzi-Damm, Anishnaabe writer. Contributor to “Speaking My Truth”.

Andrea Litvack, Director, Master of Social Work program, University of Toronto, professor of interviewing at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Moderator:  Esther Enkin, CBC News, vice president of the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma.


Tuesday November 20, 2012
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Oakham House
Second Floor Oakham Lounge
Ryerson University
Toronto, Ontario


Students: free
CAJ members: $5.
General admission: $10 for pre-ordered tickets, $15 at the door.

For further information please contact:

Ellin Bessner
National Director, Canadian Association of Journalists, Toronto Chapter.
416 289-5000 ext. 8826

Avital Borisovsky
Ryerson Journalism Course Union president

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chipmunk relocation summer 2012 video

I shot this video in the summer at home, to prove a couple of things: I do not kill the chipmunks which I catch trying to eat through the plastic in my garage.  And, I am always thinking of better ways to teach television to my students at Centennial College, even when I am on holiday.

I bought a HavaHart trap because I have been plagued with chipmunks for the past couple of summers. If they don't come to my garage, they are next door at my neighbours, or under our basketball net on the driveway. They ate my brand new pink trillium plant which I'd bought at a native plant sale in Markham this summer, so that was $10 down the drain. They chewed through the rubber on the underside of the garage, and left little souvenir droppings all over the place. I had had enough.

My family nicknamed me "Chippy Killer".  That's not true. Despite my insistence that I just "ethnically cleanse" my garden of the cute creatures, and that I do relocate them to a nice park a few blocks away.
So this video is proof of that.

And it shows all the various shots which can be used to tell a video story: wide shot/establishing shot, medium shot, close up, extreme close up, cutaways, pan, and some action shots with audio!

I don't know what happened to this chipmunk after it ran free into the forest of its new home. Happy trails!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beam me up Scotty: New TV News control room at Centennial Journalism

455 Promo from NewTek on Vimeo.

I keep calling it a Tricorder. You know. The one that was on Star Trek.
It was a gizmo that helped Captain Kirk and his team do scans of alien planets, record data and probably looked a lot more futuristic on camera then it actually was.


Well, just wait until you see Centennial Journalism's new TV control room in the news lab when you come back to campus next month.
Gone are the racks of 1950's-style monitors and VHS machines which served as a backdrop to one of our graduates' testimonials.
(Editor's note: Fast Track grad Francois Biber was working in Vermillion, Alberta as an editor for a Sun Media paper there and is now moving to Saskatoon to work for NewsTalk 650.)
Francois Biber, testimonial about Centennial Journalism
The equipment did work, and it certainly give Centennial Journalism students a real time, live to air experience of producing their own Observer TV newscasts and election programs. But the gear consumed a lot of electricity, wars noisy, slow, and the cameras were Standard Definition, not High Definition, which is where TV News and Current Affairs is at, these days.

In the last week, folks from Cinequip have been hard at work in the News Lab installing the new equipment, green screen, robotic cameras, teleprompters, IFBs (talkback system between anchors and producers), new audio mixer (16 channels!!!), and the "TV studio in a box" called a Tricaster, which will -- at the touch of a few buttons -- give us a new switcher, allow us to go live, stream to the web, capture programs as they are going out on the air, enable students to have graphics and subtitles, and store ENG packages.  It will make their stuff look professional, especially in HD.
Take a peek at the NewTek promotional video higher up in this post, of the Tricaster 455. Or click on the link:

(Maybe the Tricaster can mark assignments?)

The New York Giants use a Tricaster for their interactive shows. 

Oh, and I nearly forgot. 
It can do virtual sets. 
Which gives students the option of broadcasting with the working Observer News newsroom in the background, or maybe, even doing their live reports.... from some new planet, "where no man has gone before" where Captain Kirk and Dr. Spock will be using their Tricaster -- I mean Tricorder -- to scan aliens. We're being trained on how to use it next week. 

Sylvan Ng with purple cables!

Tricaster from Newtek

Extra lighting, for new Green Screen

Nasser Mroueh, head of installation, Cinequip.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dinner music at a soup kitchen in Montreal

Photo Courtesy Federation CJA
Vegetable frittata. Red cabbage salad. Navy bean soup. A dinner roll. Banana or blueberry cake for dessert. Unlimited juice and coffee.
 That was the menu Thursday evening in Montreal for 230 customers of Le Cafe, a free dinner service offered twice a week all year round by the Cummings Centre. Since 2009, Le Cafe has been feeding hot meals to underprivileged people from the Snowdon area of the city, including plenty of seniors, new immigrants and people living with mental or physical disabilities.
 I was visiting family in Montreal last week and decided to accompany my mother as she fulfilled her monthly shift at Le Cafe, which she does together with members of her synagogue.
 Armed with a white name tag, and a black apron with Le Cafe on the front, I joined the group of volunteers just before five o'clock as supervisor Paula Wasserman explained the evening's duties.
Two men would each handle a juice cart and rove around the cafeteria on the main floor of the senior citizen's centre. A pair of women would hand out the soup. Other volunteers were put on tray washing duties. The rest of us were assigned to wait tables.
   I was assigned to help my mother with her three booths at the east end of the dining room. In my opinion, they were the best seats in the house, because they were small and private, and offered a nice view of the street through the floor to ceiling windows.
  When the doors opened to the public at five, our customers began to take their seats.
  It had been unbearably hot that day in Montreal, sunny and 29 degrees Celsius. Many of the clients don't have air conditioning in their apartments, I was told. The cafeteria at Le Cafe was nice and cool, and must have been a welcome respite from the oppressive heat.
    Diners with walkers, or canes or otherwise needing help are allowed to enter first. We waiters lined up beside the area where the chefs dish out the meals on paper plates, and placed our orders. While all the adults get the frittata, kids can have macaroni and cheese instead.
  Over the next 90 minutes, I served a Russian grandmother with her two grandsons, a young man with bushy hair, a Spanish speaking mother with twin boys (they all chose macaroni and cheese), a well dressed couple, and a single gentleman who said his apartment was too hot that day, because he didn't have air conditioning. I made sure to keep asking him to drink more water or juice. He had three styrofoam cups worth.
 It was all going smoothly at our small booths, but I soon noticed that no one at the long table next to us had received any meals yet. The volunteer for that table had come in late. So I grabbed two university students who were there to help out, and between us four, we delivered the trays as quickly as we could, with profuse apologies.
 One of the men at that long table politely told me he didn't want any tomato sauce on his frittata. That's the way it comes.
Back at the serving area, we scraped the sauce off carefully and wiped down the paper plate so he wouldn't notice.
He was thrilled.
 The tables filled up, and even though many diners had finished their meals, none seemed in a rush to leave. They lingered over another cup of coffee, or asked for an extra soup, to be taken home for the next day's lunch, or for someone else in need.
 A thin man with wispy grey hair wearing a black T-shirt touched my shoulder, then quickly apologized for the contact.
"It's fine," I told him. Not to worry.
 "I wanted to tell you I like you better [as a waitress] then the other people," he said. "Can you come back next week?"
No, I told him. I live in Toronto. Then we got to talking.
 He told me about the time he had taken a bus to what he thought was Ottawa, but it actually ended up in Toronto. And how he had had a good time, despite the misadventure. That was when he had made lots of money investing. Now with the economy the way it is, he had some advice.
"Bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar," he urged me.
 We shook hands and introduced ourselves. I told him I had enjoyed chatting with him. I truly had.
  Le Cafe fills more than just the bellies of the hungry. It also offers companionship to those who want it, with a chance to socialize with other diners, and with the volunteers and staff.
  "Friday is my favourite meal," a man in a straw hat was telling his female dining companion. He was already looking forward to the next day, because it's when he goes to another location with free food distribution where "you can get three hot dogs," he said, smiling.
   It was nearly closing time at 6:30, and the man who had eaten his frittata without tomato sauce was also still there, with three desserts wrapped up to take home later. He quietly got up from the long table and went to sit down at the upright piano in the corner. He didn't have any sheet music. But he began to play melodies, which he said he composes himself.
 Dinner music.
 "Do you play at any clubs or restaurants?" I asked him, as I came over to listen.
  Not really, he answered, just at home, but his electric keyboard is broken now, so he has no place to practise.
  I told him I really liked his music and encouraged him to ask the organizer if he could come to use the piano even on days when he wasn't eating at Le Cafe.
  Wouldn't it be great if someone in Montreal could find the man a keyboard? A used one. Even a new one isn't that expensive: Best Buy has them on sale for $199.