Monday, December 2, 2013

Ron Burgundy anchors the news for real in Dakota

KXNet - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson

He's actually not that bad. Good ad libbing. Good body language if a bit stiff. And reacts to what he sees in the content. Good work for the local anchors there of keeping a straight-ish face as they soldier through their usual shifts. It's hard to catch when a famous actor tosses an ad-lib. I often teach my beginning students that they need to let each other know when they are going to toss an ad lib to their co anchors, so it doesn't fall flat and gives the co-anchors time to prepare a snappy comeback.
Newscasts are all about showing harmony among the crew (even if they hate each other in real life) because the audience expects this. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Shoot and edit with Imovie app: doing TV news on your iPhone and iPad

What's the best kept secret at Centennial College's East York campus? 
That was the assignment we gave to dozens of journalism students this week at Centennial College, in a workshop designed to teach them how to shoot, edit, and file a news story quickly, while they are in the field, using their Iphones or Ipads. 
It's a skill they need to know, in this fast-paced world of live, breaking, 24/7 news.
On hand to help train them Friday afternoon Oct. 18, were George Browne, Global's managing editor, Kevin Buffitt, video guru extraordinaire at Global News, Abbas Rizvi, of Apple Canada, who brought 20 fully loaded iPads and minis for the session, me, and Rohan McLeish, freelance cameraman, and my teaching partner in the Intro to TV News courses here at Centennial Journalism in Toronto. 
In 2003, when I was in Florida on holiday, and the Columbia space shuttle blew up, I rushed to be on the ground at Cape Canaveral to cover the aftermath for CTV News, but I had no crew and no camera. Just my cellphone with no camera (obviously, in those days). And a notebook.  In order to start broadcasting for CTV News, it took me nearly the whole night just to find a satellite truck from ABC News to borrow, in order to do a 3 minute hit with Scott Laurie back on the anchor desk in Toronto.
Read my article here about the Columbia disaster
Nowadays, with an Iphone, or an Ipad, and one $4.99 app, Imovie, a reporter can begin storytelling immediately, from wherever they are, like the vlog which this Global News reporter Emily Baron Cadloff  emailed in this week from the scene of a violent protest in New Brunswick.

  After a brief introduction by George Browne, who explained the growing popularity of online news with consumers, Kevin Buffitt showed some examples (like the one above by Baron Cadloff) of videos which Global News reporters regularly send in during the day.
  Browne explained that no longer do reporters get to work all day on one "perfect" story for the evening news.
 Instead, it is constant Tweeting, sending in photos, sending raw video by email, sending VLOGs, updating the newsroom, engaging with the audience.  All of this forms part of the as-it-happens reporting now being practised in the industry.
McLeish then gave a master class on how to shoot video with a mobile device (landscape mode with the camera at the too, not vertical), how to use your body as the zoom, get in close, lock your arms, pan slowly.
And I taught them how to tap the screen and pinch to autofocus and white balance.
Then we sent them out, in pairs, to shoot a story in 30 minutes: What is the best kept secret at Centennial's East York campus?
By 3 p.m, they were all back, flushed with excitement about the hidden secrets they had uncovered.
Armed with this handout, which I'd prepared for them, relying on previous experience and an excellent pdf courtesy of O'Reilly Books and Abe Handler, the students sat in their pairs, and began assembling their stories.
 We had told them to aim for 1:40 to 2 minutes total, with supers, b-roll, and a voice over.
 Note: IMovie allows you to record your voice directly onto the audio timeline, add supers, and even put b-roll on top of an interview. That last one is a little tricky to master, and it doesn't work on Iphone 4s.
In the end, despite some glitches, and a near miss when I tried to hand one of Abbas' iPads to him, but dropped it on the floor, (thank goodness it didn't break!) we got some great pieces from the students.
Here are just a few of them.

We will put them all up on our secure servers, let the TV News students vote "Canadian Idol"- style, and the winner of the best video will receive a fabulous prize from Apple, courtesy of Abbas (no, unfortunately it isn't an Ipad.)

You can find more videos at our Youtube channel, centennial journalism's youtube channel

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How to become a more confident journalist? #Onearticleaday challenge


Most of my journalism students this fall will recognize that photo without too much trouble. Heck, most of the world will probably know all about twerking and Miley Cyrus and the whole video of her gyrating behind, and whether she should have or shouldn't have done this. But I'm guessing not as many will know what this next photo is, nor why it is newsworthy:


Hint. It's Japan's new Maglev elevated train that is able to reach 310 miles per hour, at least in current performance trials. 
Why should they be worried if they don't know about this? Well, because as journalists, it's their job to interview all kinds of people, even at the last minute, such as when an editor hands you a news release or BBMs it to your mobile phone, and says that you will be interviewing the train's inventor tomorrow morning. Gulp! 
This past summer, in my work as a consultant in on-camera performance in a major national daily newsroom, I spent time with a talented, young editor who had to interview people about subjects that she wasn't all that familiar with, including the Arab Spring, and other business topics. The main issue that she and my young journalists face? Lack of confidence. They say they fear looking stupid in an interview or on camera because they don't know stuff about the world, or at least, they don't know enough stuff. And lack of confidence is a bad thing for a journalist. It makes them stumble, stutter, blank out, ask questions with a lot of ums and ers, and most importantly, ask superficial questions instead of more educated, in depth, probing ones.
My advice to young journalists has always been: READ. READ. and READ SOME MORE. 
You will become more confident as you get older, but meantime, READ!
You all spend hours surfing the net, watching funny cat videos, and searching for Miley Cyrus pictures.
So turn at least 60 seconds of your down time every day into a brain booster for your career: read something you normally wouldn't care about, such as an article in the Economist, or Maclean's, or Wired. Read an agriculture story. Read to really understand what fracking is. 
I am challenging all my students to take a #onearticleaday challenge this semester. They can even tweet the link to the article they read, via @centennialjourn, so other students can read it too. The more, the merrier. Let's see how much stuff they can learn on their own time this semester; stuff that will help them become more well rounded as journalists (and as human beings, too!). No, there are no marks attached, at least directly. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Iceland's penis museum: size does matter

For many people who travel to Iceland, their must-do list probably includes climbing the menacing Hekla or Eyjafjallajokull volcanos, or perhaps swimming in the geo-thermally heated Blue Lagoon, or even a drive to see the geyser at Geysir blast water three metres into the air.

But how many people take photos of themselves on a stop at the bizarre but popular Iceland Phallological Museum in Rejkyavik?

Quite a lot, as I recently discovered on my own visit to the world's largest display of penises and related equipment. In fact, there was a lineup to get in to the museum, on Laugavegeur 116.

Now before you read on, you need to know that while the rest of my family was excited about coming to Iceland to hike and to experience the rugged landscapes under the midnight sun, I was not. Indeed, the only thing that sparked any interest for me in this voyage had been the anticipation of seeing this quirky museum for myself. For weeks before the trip, I told people about my plan, and was greeted with catcalls and eye-rolls from my family.

Our rental flat in Reykjavik was two blocks away from the museum, and I spotted it the first day we arrived. We had to pass it every time we walked into the main shopping area of town. But for the first few days, I couldn't interest anyone to come with me. My two teenaged boys and husband couldn't understand my keen interest in the whole subject.

"Because we have our own," became the standard joke.

Then one rainy morning that week, after we'd done a volcano hike, and the Blue Lagoon, and seen Geysir, my husband agreed to accompany me and we set out to cross the museum off my bucket list.

The museum opens at 10 a.m. and it was already crowded when we got there. We joined the line behind a group of Italian tourists, paid the $10 each in cash, each, turned the corner and came face to face with the biggest penis I had ever seen.

It belongs to a long dead whale, and it demands your attention as it stands there upright in a glass case, in some kind of preservative liquid. As you can see it is way taller then me.

Nearly 300 specimens line the walls and shelves of the four rooms, from whales, polar bears,  seals and smaller land mammals, all collected over the decades by the original founder, SigurĂ°ur Hjartarson. The museum is now curated by his son. 

Seeing such a big specimen came as a shock, and then the visit  just got worse as I passed by each subsequent jar.

My nausea began to grow. I felt cold and clammy. Sure it is supposed be scientific, and there are cards displays and materials explaining each genus and species.

The human penis is on the far right

But there are some humorous artifacts, such as penis-shaped rocks, and sculptures, and toys.

Walk by the case and this toy flashes you
But when I saw the lampshades made out of bulls testicles, I thought I was going to throw up. And by the time I reached the piece de resistance in the last room -- the grayish, hairy specimen floating in a jar donated by a deceased 95 year old Icelander, Pall Arason, I know my face looked just as gray.
Pall Arason's penis
For his part, it appears that my husband was actually enjoying the visit. I, on the other hand, wanted to get out as soon as I could, even though I was the one who had wanted to see the museum in the first place. Strange, no? You would think that a woman who has changed diapers for two sons, three nephews, and has been married for 16 years, might have been more matter-of-fact about seeing a penis or two.

I still don't know why I had such a strong reaction; it might have been the way the penises were ghostly white or cream coloured, or yellowing, just floating there, in their specimen jars. Or it might have been some of the penis-themed products, such as the tie made from scrotum skin of a whale.

Tie and scarf made of animal scrotum skin

 Or maybe it was the life-sized plastic cast which some American man had made of his penis (he calls it ELMO) which he has pledged to donate to the museum when he dies -- the legal documents he signed are on the wall, too.
Life sized casting of American would be donor's penis nicknamed Elmo
I wonder if visitors would have the same reaction in a vagina museum.  But wait. There isn't one. Hmmm.
And would anyone really wear earrings like these?
Penis bone earrings from an Alaskan Marten

Since we have come home, when people ask us how the trip was, my husband raves about his hikes and about how Iceland uses geothermal energy to heat homes and businesses. But my favourite reactions are when I pull out my cell phone and show people the penis museum photos. Like what happened at dinner last night with friends:  one woman who has surely seen more penises then I have, (she is a family doctor) took one look and her eyes nearlly popped out of her head. And she started laughing.

Bottom line: should you go to see the museum if you are in Iceland? Yes. Make sure to take some Gravol with you, just in case.

P.S. I have just learned that two Canadians created a documentary, shown at the 2012 Hot Docs festival in Toronto called "The Final Member", about the museum's quest to obtain a human penis.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Five things Anne Frank taught me in 2013

Ellin at Anne Frank house. Amsterdam, August 2013
   Twenty five years ago, on a brief stopover in Amsterdam, I got to spend all of five minutes at the Anne Frank Museum. Why only five minutes? Well, I had only an hour between planes, so I took a cab from Schipol airport directly to the museum on Prinsengracht and it was 4:55 p.m. when I got there, just five minutes before closing. This was 1988. The guard at the entrance wouldn't let any more visitors in the main door,  so I snuck around to the exit and went inside that way. Nobody stopped me. I pushed myself past people who were leaving, and raced up the steps to see where the Frank family had stayed in hiding for two years before they were arrested and deported in 1944. Those precious five minutes were enough to satisfy me, until now.
   This week, I am back in Amsterdam, after a quarter century. This time, I'm here with my husband and family. We are staying in a canal house apartment just one block from the Anne Frank house.

263-267 Prinsengracht in the restored Anne Frank house, her father's jam making warehouse
For 25 years, I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about Anne Frank. And her story. But on this trip, she taught me a lot. I honestly didn't know how close to the museum our flat was going to be when I booked it. The flat is on Leliegracht 34, and the Frank family business, where Otto Frank arranged for them to hide, was on the next canal over, Prinsengracht 263-267. You can see the back of the Frank family's hideout from our flat's windows. And you can hear those same church bells and carillon play from the Westerkirk church steeple:  the same bells that Anne must have heard cooped up in the attic of her father's warehouse.

(I took this video on my cellphone outside our flat August 2013.)

1. Listening to the church bells and hearing the carillion play was oddly comforting, not annoying.

The flat we rented is right on top of a popular pizzeria, called Da Portare Via, and it is also next door to a marijuana "coffee shop" called Cafe Brandon. At night, when the smokers and drinkers were outside enjoying themselves, and eating pizza, standing packed like sardines between the sidewalk and the edge of the canal, until 3:30 in the morning, and the wafts of smoke (of all kinds) drifted up into my windows, along with the noise, I lay awake, feeling alternately furious that the smoke was keeping me up, but also it was the time when I thought of how Anne and her family might have felt.  While the bells of the church sounded the passing of time all through the day and night, the Franks and their guests could not be part of the every day life of the streets; they were hiding from mortal danger while right next door, right down the street, and right across the canal, ordinary Amsterdam people went about their daily lives as best they could during the occupation, not knowing there was someone lying silently above them, listening and watching, and trying to pass the time. And all the while, the bells sounded off the hour, and the quarter hour. The hours actually seemed to pass by more quickly in the dark with the bells sounding, as we got closer to morning, when the smokers will leave, the street will be quiet, and the air will be clean to breathe in my flat. I thought about how Anne might have been listening to these same bells all those years ago, at night, when she and her family were able to move around in their attic hiding place.
Da Portar Via, ground floor, Leliegracht 34, Amsterdam with our flat on second, third and fourth floors. 

2. Anne wanted to be a journalist.

I never knew this. Or at least,  I didn't remember it. For 25 years the fact didn't jump out at me, until after I had visited the museum this time around, properly, slowly, carefully, taking my time to read everything, and watch all the films. I don't remember the museum being as big, or as comprehensive in 1988 when I streaked through it in five minutes. This time, when I discovered her wish to be a writer when she grew up, and to change the world, and maybe be a journalist, a shock went through my body.

“I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write ..., but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent ... 
Courtesy: Times of Israel

And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! ... I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?"

 I definitely used to identify with Anne Frank when I was her age. I thought we even looked alike. I kept a diary, too. And I wanted to be a writer and eventually, I became a journalist. And I wanted to change the world. I still do. She would have been 84 this summer, had she lived.
Ellin aged 10
3.  Anne died just a few weeks before the British Army liberated her concentration camp in the spring of 1945.

A book by documentary film maker Willy Lindwer, called "The Last Seven Month of Anne Frank" was on display in the gift shop as you made your way out of the Anne Frank museum. I had never known anything about Anne except what I'd read in her diary all those years ago when I was a young girl.  The book that filled in the horrible pieces, came out in 1988, in Dutch, the same year I spent my 5 minutes in the museum. It was translated into English and reissued only this year, in 2013, by Macmillan Childrens Books, in the UK. I bought a copy, and read it all in three days while in the Amsterdam flat. It brought me back nearly seventy years as we walked around the city, and helped me see the stories behind the neighbourhoods and buildings of modern Amsterdam.

The book is a collection of interviews with six women who had known Anne Frank, and pieces together what  happened to her and the Frank family and the women, during the Nazi occupation, and during the last seven months, after the raid on her hiding place. The women say she and her sister Margot died of typhus, in April 1945, in Bergen-Belsen camp. 

4. The Netherlands lost a higher percentage of its Jewish population (75%) then any other European country, except Poland and Greece. 

When they arrested the Franks, the Nazis brought Anne and her family to a famous Jewish theatre in Amsterdam that had been transformed into a holding station for deportees. Called the Hollandsche Schouwburg, it's been a monument since 1962. 
Jeanette Loeb at Hollandsche Schouwburg
We hired a local historian to be our guide today, Jeanette Loeb. She is a daughter of Dutch Holocaust survivors. At the Hollandsche Schowburg, she pulls out a book of names. It lists the 105,000 Dutch Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Most of the ones from Amsterdam died in Auschwitz or Sobibor. She shows us where her grandfather's name is listed, and as she is telling the story of how some of the orphan children interned in the theatre were eventually saved, I open the book to find Anne Frank's name, although it is listed as Annalise Frank

Newspaper front page day of Nazi occupation, 1940

Jews wearing Yellow Stars
Nearly 75 per cent of the Netherland's Jews were deported and killed. Loeb tells us why it was so easy for the Nazis to find the Jews: Dutch civic records were so efficient before the war, they listed everyone's address and also everyone's religion. Plus, she says, the Nazis forced the Jewish council to identify every street and neighbourhood where Jewish people lived. There is a map of Amsterdam in the theatre, that shows thousands of black dots on it. That's where the council had to pinpoint where to round up Jews. While the Franks actually lived outside the city centre, in an area to the south of the centrum, called the Merewedeplain, Mr. Frank's jam making business was in town on the Prinsengracht. We still don't know who ratted the Franks out to the Nazis. 

During 1945, with most of the city's Jews deported, their homes and stores were torn apart, literally, by the residents of Amsterdam, and used for firewood. But Amsterdam's centuries old Portuguese synagogue was left untouched, and today, is a soaring but eerily shadow filled tourist attraction, since it was once the largest synagogue in Europe, and built in the 1600s as a monument to Dutch tolerance. It now holds services for a community who's official numbers are at only about 350 members, according to Loeb. The sumptuous Torah scroll coverings and ornate fabrics that once were a symbol of the fabulous wealth and stability of the prosperous and established 350 year old Amsterdam Jewish community, are now behind glass, underneath the synagogue, in the newly renovated museum. 
Esnoga (Portuguese) Synagogue Amsterdam 2013

Tourists leaving the courtyard of the Portuguese Synagogue

Torah scroll coverings

Torah Scroll coverings with gold thread

Torah ornaments (rear) 

Bowl and pitcher used for ceremonial occasions

5.  The King of Denmark did not wear a Yellow Star to show solidarity with oppressed Jews during the Second World War. 

While Dutch Jews were forced to buy yellow fabric (and pay for it themselves), cut it into shapes of Jewish stars, and sew them onto all their clothes as of May 1942, according to our guide, Jeanette Loeb, there is no truth to the long standing story that Denmark's King Christian donned a similar yellow star to support his own country's Jews against Hitler. I was shocked to hear this, as was my husband. We have both grown up hearing about the courageous resistance shown by the Danish king. 

A check of confirms what our guide has told us. It is a myth. The King of Denmark never wore the Yellow Star, and Denmark's Jews didn't have to wear them either.

For their part, Dutch citizens did stage a mass protest against the deportation of Amsterdam Jews. It happened in February 1941. The Nazis quickly killed the leaders of the uprising. The protest is commemorated each year near the old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, in front of a statue of a dock worker, where our tour ended. Just before we parted ways with Jeanette, she pointed out five bronze squares embedded into the sidewalk in front of a house across from the dockworker's statue. They are called Stolperstein, or stumbling blocks, and are among some 40,000 memorials placed so far across Europe by artist Gunter Demnig, who wants to commemorate victims of the Holocaust in the last places they were known to have lived voluntarily (not in Ghettos or other places they were forced to live). Aside from Jewish victims, his Stolperstein also commemorate gay, gypsy and political prisoners between 1933-1945. 

Stolperstein in Amsterdam

Jeanette tells me she commissioned some Stolperstein for her grandparents and invited the Mayor and other dignitaries to the ceremony when they were installed. Then she pedalled off on her bike, with a wave.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What publishing your first story feels like

Saw this great post from Robert Washburn on my Facebook feed today. Do you think it would be a good icebreaker for first day back to school at Centennial Journalism next month?

My first byline was a story I wrote when I interviewed Margaret Trudeau for Carleton University's campus paper, and they spelled my name wrong on the byline!

But I remember what it felt like to see the story in print.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What does CBC News reporter Paul Hunter keep in his ready bag?

What does CBC News reporter Paul Hunter keep in his ready bag for when his phone rings and he must  fly off to the next disaster zone? What does he suggest reporters need to carry with them to cover a war or an earthquake, or even the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt?
"It's like camping, on steroids," said Hunter, during a briefing for delegates at the Canadian Association of Journalists national conference in Ottawa, in early May. "There is nothing there, where you are going."
(A live blog of the talk is here thanks to the work of Paula Last, freelance journalist and student at the Centennial College Fast Track journalism program.)
Hunter, the Washington-based correspondent for CBC News, brought his kit with him for his Saturday morning May 4, 2013 workshop.
The most important thing about the travel bag, he said, is to make sure it is durable, and already well worn-in. He found that out the hard way in Afghanistan, when his new duffel was strapped to the outside of an armoured vehicle and took a brutal pounding while Hunter and his camera man were traveling with the Canadian forces stationed near Kandahar.

Other important items included:
1. ballcap
2. fresh socks
3. your own meds (Hunter always has cipro ready)
4. water bottle with filter
5. medical kits
6. headlamp
7. sleeping mask
8. USB key
9. Colourful ID with 'NEWS' printed on it.
10. Phone charger for your phone
11. pocket-sized digital camera
12. battery chargers
13. Flack jacket
14. iPhone with Shure mic and cable (for recording voice overs)
15.  Sat phone

When Hunter covers stories like the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima,  the 25 year veteran news reporter said he always keeps his own personal health and safety in mind, and weighs the risks of where he will chose to stand and where he will go for an interview. But he wasn't prepared for what happened to him in the middle of New England in December 2012, when he was in Newton, Connecticut, after the massacre of Sandy Hook schoolchildren.  Hunter revealed that while on the job, both he and his cameraman spent "the worst day" vomiting, because both picked up a nasty stomach bug from drinking contaminated local tap water at their hotel.

A BlackBerry user, Hunter raved about the iPhone for recording video himself, which he sends back to Toronto for live hits with the News Channel anchors. And for the quality of the sound they provide for his voice over scripts. He records them in his hotel room (often with a towel over his head to cut the echo-ey sound) and then emails the file to his editors. Some of his favourite apps?  Hindenberg for voicing, and the GoPro for recording video.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CityNews Channel's demise and why demand for local television news is expensive

Gord Martineau's promo for new CityNews Channel

My recent story on this published in

The abrupt closing of CityNews Channel Thursday May 30 came at an inopportune time for news consumers in the Greater Toronto Area, observers say, because it happened while appetites for local news coverage are stronger then usual, thanks to the continuing scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford and the alleged video showing him smoking crack cocaine. 
            According to Bill Harris, the national television critic for Sun Media, the 20-month old all-news-channel was, indeed, providing important public-service journalism.
               “I knew I could tune there when something was happening and they’d be on it, so that is a big loss,” Harris said, referring to CityNews Channel’s live broadcasts from Toronto city hall. 
            Since Thursday morning at 9 o’clock, the channel has been airing only an audio feed of the Roger’s-owned flagship Toronto radio station 680 News, plus weather and images from local traffic cameras.
            In a statement released last week, the president of broadcast at Rogers, Scott Moore, blamed shifts in global advertising and in viewer habits for the decision to shutter CityNews Channel. More than 60 full time jobs were lost, including some employees at OMNI Television.
            In Harris’ view, Rogers launched CityNews Channel with the best of intentions, in October 2011, intending to compete in the local news niche with long established Cable Pulse 24, owned by Bell Media.
            “I would assume they launched it thinking there was a void, thinking that people wanted a choice from CP24,” Harris said. “And even though they were doing a decent job of it, in the end, when you are monetizing that, and looking at the entire health of your company, it didn’t turn out as rosy as they would have hoped.”
            While CityNews Channel could leverage the respected Citytv brand, including high-profile news personalities Gord Martineau, Kathryn Humphreys, Avery Haines and Cynthia Mulligan, it was CP24’s feed that was usually playing on television sets in most bars, waiting rooms, restaurants and gyms around the city.
            CityNews Channel even offered its programming in high definition a year before CP24 started to, but that wasn’t enough to make viewers change the channel.
            “People are creatures of habit and if people don’t have to change, sometimes they won’t change,” Harris explained. “If CP24 is on that boxed TV that’s chained to the wall, it’s going to take somebody actively changing the channel.  What people say and what people do in terms of their viewership or reading habits, is often quite different.”
            In a Tweet two days after he announced the demise of CityNews Channel, Rogers’ exec Moore said they thought they were better then CP24 but  “too many other issues got in the way of success”.

            One issue that he might have been referring to, was the revenue from subscribers. Financial statements filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission tell a stark story that the accountants at Rogers couldn’t ignore: CityNews Channel drew 1,525,017 subscribers in 2012, compared with CP24’s 3,033,805. CityNews Channel showed a 2012 loss of $3,926,995 compared with CP24’s profit of $1,350,657.

            Nearly all of CityNews Channel’s expenses went to production and salaries ($4,200,456), proving Harris’ theory that while people say they want local news, it costs media companies a ton of money to provide it.
            “People always scream that they want local news, but do they actually watch it and are they willing to pay for it, that’s the dilemma for the industry,” Harris said, suggesting that if the Rob Ford scandal had happened when CityNews Channel launched, things might have been different.
            “Maybe the decision was made in the upper echelons long before bombs starting going off at city hall,” Harris said.
            The financial woes may also stem from the kind of broadcasting licence which the CRTC granted to Rogers: CityNews Channel was approved as a Category B (meaning optional), specialty local channel, seen only on Rogers cable and also on Shaw and Cogeco in southern Ontario. The CP24 licence is a Category A (meaning mandatory) national service on basic cable, and on direct to home satellite. Rogers  had to carry CP24 but Bell did not carry the CityNews Channel.
             CityNews Channel earned just $304,716 in 2012 from subscribers, while Bell earned about $3.5 million in 2012 from both its satellite and cable customers.
2012 CRTC Financial Summaries

CityNews Channel

 1,525,017 subscribers

CP 24

3,033,805 subscribers


CityNews Channel

Subscribers $304,716
Nat. Ad Rev.  $ 1,093,485
DTH  $0
Local Ad revenue  0
Other   368


Sub.   $ 1,876,748
DTH      1,670.293
Local ad.    9,635,400
Nat ad     9,680,270
Other        71,416


            While much of the fallout from Rogers announcement has been focused on the shuttering of CityNews Channel, the company last week also cut its OMNI television programming in Alberta, and cancelled its Toronto-based English language nightly South Asian news program.

Toronto-based news host Angie Seth was among the casualties of the layoffs. In a Tweet May 30, Seth thanked viewers for “welcoming me into your homes” and promised to be “back on the air somewhere soon.”


Retired OMNI news editor Jules Elder sees the retrenching at OMNI as a “blow for diversity television in Canada.”
            Elder, who spent 15 years at OMNI in Toronto as a news producer, considered OMNI a “leader”. Now he is worried that Canada’s large South Asian community has lost a vital outlet to tell their own stories properly.
            “The mainstream media doesn’t cover the issues affecting the communities very well, unless it is a crisis like crime, but the other important things that happen in these communities don’t get covered,” Elder said.  “And many times when an attempt is made to tell those stories it’s distorted because people don’t understand those communities” the way OMNI journalists do, Elder explained.
            While Rogers has pledged to continue doing news in four other languages this isn’t the first time this year the company has made major changes in its ethnic programming. In January, 2013, Rogers re-launched its OMNI 2 channel in Ontario as an all-ethnic channel with “an increased focus on content geared towards the Asian and South Asian communities,” according to a Rogers news release at the time.
An online petition was launched that month, after OMNI cut its nightly Portuguese language news program.
            For Elder, ethnic-oriented news programming is important not only to tell diverse stories, but also to cover the mainstream issues of the day in a way that is relevant to the OMNI audience.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Amazing Race and The Star's Radio Room

Reports are out today that the Toronto Star is considering closing down its famous Radio Room as part of staff layoffs and belt tightening because of declining ad revenue. Here is the Toronto Star Union bulletin  about the cuts.

The news also came in Steve Ladurantaye’s story in the Globe and Mail.

This story has special reverberations for Centennial Journalism.

Many of our best and brightest students have launched their journalism careers thanks to the Star’s “infamous” radio room, where student interns monitor the police scanners and chase down stories on overnights and weekends and holidays, and then are rewarded with bylines on the online front pages, and print editions, as well.  Several of our students worked at the radio room during the school year, and juggled their “real” jobs while also trying to meet course requirements and assignments and attend meetings with their classmates. Some are still there now.

Clinching a job at the radio room has been seen as one of the best journalism internships in the country, and students from across the country (many with master’s degrees) compete fiercely for a slot.

We do hope the Star changes its mind about the radio room.

Photo of Adam Chester by Toronto Observer reporter Kevin Campbell
It’s Reading Week for journalism students and staff at Centennial Journalism in Toronto, but that doesn’t mean everyone is on a beach somewhere drinking pina coladas. Well, except for Ted Fairhurst, the coordinator of the Fast Track and University of Toronto Scarborough joint journalism program with Centennial. Hola Ted!

But the sports journalism students and faculty are also down in the sunny south, in Florida, although they are not lounging by the pool all day.

Program Coordinator Malcolm Kelly @sportsnag and Digital Imaging coordinator Neil Ward and the students arrived in Tampa on the weekend, after 25 hours on the bus, and are now busy covering sports in Florida, including MLB’s Spring Training, and also reporting on up and coming varsity athletes now living in the sunshine state.
Even when the athlete hails from across the pond in England! Here is student   Kevin Campbell’s story about Marquette University golf recruit Adam Chester, posted in @TorontoObserver “The Toronto Observer”.

Advanced Interviewing students with instructor Lindy Oughtred got some up close and personal time recently with CBC interviewer George Stroumboulopoulos, during Centennial Journalism’s annual trip to watch his TV show at CBC headquarters in Toronto.

Centennial Journalism students with George Stroumboulopoulos (photo by Mark A. Cadiz)

Fast Track journalism graduate Alexandra Innes recently won an Award of Excellence from the Poetry Institute of Canada for a story she entered in their 2012 National Short Story Contest. The Poetry Institute has now published a collection of short stories called Fireside Dreams, which you can buy online through the organization.

Student Tichaon Tapawamba is making a name for himself among the @CityLife film crowd in Toronto, and beyond, with a screening of his film recently at the Toronto International Film Festival Bell Lightbox. 
Tichaon was one of three finalists selected to create a documentary, with the support of Academy Award winner Ben Affleck.
A story about Ticahon’s work was recently published by GoodNews Toronto, where another of our JJ/UTSC students Georgia Williams, is currently interning.

Here’s Tichaon’s Bio from the CityLife project itself.

Bailey Stead, a graduate from Centennial Journalism’s joint program with the UTSC, is applying to be a contestant on the new Canadian version of The Amazing Race.

Deadline is Thursday. Bailey now works for Discovery. 
Here’s her audition tape, with her potential race partner and cousin Aly Ferguson. Good luck girls!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lingerie model, Blue Jays, and covering a sex orgy: All in a day for Centennial Journalism students

We all know that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) means you have to put searchable key words into your news stories and headlines, so that people will easily find your stories on your news site.  Put in the term Justin Bieber, and you are guaranteed more hits. Put in x-rated terms, and watch the analytics statistics skyrocket even more.

But we  didn't have to make anything up for the SEO headline in this latest news post about Centennial Journalism.
Ashley Diana Morris (courtesy Vancouver Province)

That's because the new photos of Centennial Sports Journalism grad Ashley Diana Morris are among the most viewed on Google these days. She has been doing a flurry of media interviews and photo shoots after being discovered and named Guess Lingerie and Bikini's newest international model.  The blond Scarborough native now lives in Vancouver, where she moved after graduation from Centennial to work as an intern at CTV. She did want to be a journalist, but her naturally stunning curves and smile are taking her in a completely different direction. 

At Guess, Morris will be following in the footsteps of supermodel Claudia Schiffer. Here's what the Guess campaign looks like.



Threeyear journalism grad
Adam Bemma spent time in January working for Ghana’s Pravda radio
during the country’s recent elections, where he got to interview, among others, former UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan. Here's the link for one of his radio broadcasts.

And here are some photos from his Facebook page.
Adam Bemma interviewing Ghanaians in Accra. (courtesy Adam Bemma)

Adam Bemma in Accra, Ghana (courtesy Facebook)


CTV Canada AM co-host Marcie Ien visited Lindy Oughtred’s advanced interviewing class on Thursday Feb. 7, 2013. Ien also sits on the Journalism school’s Program Advisory Committee.
CTV Canada AM co host Marci Ien at Centennial Journalism  (Mark Cadiz/Photo)

Scarborough Observer and Page Design instructor Andrew Mair and his family had to flee their home after a massive January 27 weekend fire.  The Mairs were among 35 people who had to be evacuated from the townhouse complex. No one was hurt. He says the family was moved to the Westin Prince Hotel by their insurance company, a spot which his kids loved because there is a candy store in the lobby.


Overheard in the newsroom:

Student was covering the University of Toronto's sex orgy event: “I did record two minutes of background sound of moaning, but should I use it all the way through the radio piece? “


Jerry Howarth, Blue Jays play by play announcer, with Sports Journalism coordinator Malcolm Kelly (Ellin Bessner/photo)
The voice of the Toronto Blue Jays for more than 30 years, Jerry Howarth visited students at Centennial Sports Journalism last week.  Howarth has held that play-by-play role since 1982.  He worked together with the late American Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster Tom Cheek in the Blue Jays booth until Cheek died of cancer in 2004.  Until the end of the 2012 season, he worked with Alan Ashby.
Read former Centennial Journalism professor John Lott's story on Howarth's recent award by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Centennial Journalism internship supervisor and Internet Radio Station coordinator Jules Elder has been receiving a lot of congratulations lately. The long time journalist and professor has retired from the news room at OMNI Television after 15 years. Elder says he will spend more time at Centennial and take courses in improving his command of social media.   Prior to joining OMNI Television, he was managing editor of Share Newspaper, which he helped to launch. He is a former columnist for the Toronto Sun and freelance contributor for Radio Canada International. Elder is a member of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists and the Canadian Ethnic Media Association.