Thursday, February 20, 2014

Free Mohamed Fahmy and the other journalists detained in Egypt: Global Day of Action Feb. 27

Canadian Association of Journalists is a signatory to the petition and invites all of you to participate.



Where: Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square at 12:00 Noon.  There will be T-Shirts, banners, famous journalists.  Theme:  Journalism is NOT a crime. #FreeAJstaff

Three Al Jazeera English journalists are being tried in Cairo, simply for doing their jobs.  Charged with “spreading false news”, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed have been imprisoned in Egypt since December 29th, 2013.  They have experienced solitary confinement, torture and denial of medical treatment.  Along with other journalists accused of such crimes in today’s Egypt, they are our colleagues and friends and WE DEMAND THEIR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.

Canada can help get them out.  Here’s how:

TAKE A SELFIE (see below), add #FREEAJSTAFF and tweet it with a message of support. Thousands of others already have, all over the world.

Daniel Lak #FreeAJStaff.jpgcid:image008.jpg@01CF2E59.3ACE4F40cid:image009.jpg@01CF2E59.3ACE4F40

SIGN THE PETITION and JOIN US on February 27 as we show our solidarity with these journalists and affirm that journalism is NOT a crime.

What the world is saying:

Jay CarneyWhite House Spokesperson: “…drop the charges and release those journalists and academics who have been detained”

U.S. State Department:  Egypt’s “targeting of journalists and others on spurious claims is wrong and demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms"

William HagueBritish Foreign Secretary:  Egypt must “demonstrate its commitment to…. full freedom of expression and for journalists to operate without fear of persecution.”

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay “It is not a crime to carry a camera, or to try to report the truth. I have urged the Egyptian authorities to promptly release all journalists and other media employees imprisoned for carrying out legitimate news reporting activities, including Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed.”

What Canadians are saying: 

John Greyson, Toronto Filmmaker detained for 50 days in Tora prison in 2013:
“The journalists need to be freed immediately.  Mohamed and the others are respected internationally. They are senior journalists who are in Egypt doing their job.”

Lyse Doucet, BBC Chief International Correspondent: “I met Mohamed Fahmy just … in 2011. I noticed him immediately. He was always on the scene, in the crowds, on his phone.   We were trying to keep ahead of MF in the news game … and always failing. Free Mohamed Fahmy.  We need him.”

Peter Mansbridge, CBC Chief Correspondent: “It’s not right. It’s not fair. It’s something that affects all journalists. It’s not just those at Al Jazeera who clearly were impacted by this.  But any journalist who wants to tell the story of what’s unfolding in Egypt will feel a chill because of that.”

Michael Cooke, Editor in Chief, Toronto Star: “These journalists are bona fide.  They’re all doing good work. They are not spreading false news.  Everyone outside of that clique in Egypt knows that these charges are nonsense. Canada needs to speak out loudly and it hasn’t so far“

John Stackhouse, Editor-in-chief, The Globe and Mail:  “It’s unfortunate, even tragic for Egypt and it’s not something the world should just stand by and watch idly. “

Tom Henheffer, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression “Mohamed Fahmy is unjustly being detained and it is time to call for his release.. He went to school in Montreal, he is a Canadian Citizen, he’s a Habs fan.  He was supposed to get married this month and he was planning on resettling back in Canada. He considers Canada home and it’s time to bring him home.”

For more information, please contact:
Daniel Lak, AJE Canada Correspondent 416 822 8044 |                                                              
Jet Belgraver, AJE Senior Producer 416 543 7775
Tom Henheffer, CJFE Executive Director 416 515 9622 x. 226
Alex Zakreski, CJFE Programs Assistant 416 515 9622 x. 262

Alexandra Zakreski
International Programs Assistant
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)555 Richmond St W. Suite 1101, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 3B1
*Please note I am not in the office on Fridays*

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How spilling a Tim Hortons coffee in my journalism school newsroom helped my student create the 'must read' @SochiProblems Twitter account that has gone viral

By now, many of you may have heard about the washrooms in Sochi that didn't have shower curtains. Or the stray dogs wandering around the Olympics venues that may or may not have been euthanized by Russian veterinarians.

But what you may not know is the behind the scenes story of the new and extremely popular tongue-in-cheek Twitter account that started last week to document the hits and misses of the 2014 Olympics. It's been called the 'must read' Twitter account of the 2014 Olympics.


For my student, Alex Broad, 20, his creation of the @SochiProblems Twitter account started as a joke.
USA Today
He was in the newsroom with me and my colleague, Toronto Observer editor Eric McMillan, who asked the students to mine some stories. They have daily web reporting shifts on the Toronto Observer news site, which is our award-winning Centennial Journalism newslab. It's their capstone course at Centennial Journalism, meaning they spend four days a week as reporters, editors, videographers, designers, copy editors, social media curators and columnists.

(The print edition, the East York Observer, covers the hyperlocal area around the Toronto neighbourhood of East York. The online edition covers the city and surrounding areas.)

Some days, just as happens in newsrooms everywhere, there's not much going on to write about, except for some police press releases, or, that day, the story about the poor cat that was stabbed 17 times.

For Broad, who is in his second year of journalism at Centennial, spilling a Tim's coffee on himself (#Canadian problems), ignited the idea to do a Twitter account called @SochiProblems.

Two days went by, and by Thursday, Broad was glued to his computer in class, watching incredulously as his Twitter account took off, and began to attract hundreds of thousands of followers. Big time news reporters wrote about it. USA Today. ABC News. Huffington Post.
It got more followers then the official Sochi Twitter account.

courtesy ABC

Apparently even the Russian official in charge of Sochi had to answer questions about all the problems the journalists were Tweeting via @SochiProblems. That's when he revealed there were apparently, according to Mashable, spy cameras in the showers.

We watched all this develop and I couldn't contain my excitement. By Thursday, I felt that we at Centennial had better take ownership of this story, and break it first on before some enterprising mainstream media reporter put two and two together, data-mined the Twitter back end (as our colleague William Wolfe-Wylie has been training our students to do) and revealed who Alex Broad was.

I don't know if I did the correct thing, but I knew Broad's idea was a great one, and I thought that his account and his initiative deserved good coverage, and I thought we at Centennial should be the ones to do the first story about him.

Broad's classmate, student Nolan N. White, also working for the Toronto Observer, called Broad on Thursday evening, did a telephone interview with him, and spent Friday morning putting the story together.

I copy edited the story, added some photos and had White add some links, and fact check everything, and we published it on Friday afternoon on the Toronto Observer website.

Since then, Broad has had a ton of interview requests.

The Globe and Mail's Affan Chowdry interviewed Broad via Skype Friday.

CTV's Dan Matheson had Broad come down to the studios in Toronto Friday for an on camera interview.

And now my student's story is being told around the world. From Kenya to Australia. He has learned a lot since Tuesday when he launched @SochiProblems. He told one reporter that he is now crediting photos he uses, rather then just reposting them from other sources. And he also began to see his account as a journalistic way to use social media to uncover the underbelly of the $51 billion Russian Olympic preparations.

I wonder how he will concentrate on classes tomorrow? Congrats Alex!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Where are our grads?

With the latest National Post cuts affecting the Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa, and Ottawa Citizen offering buyouts to some of its staff, you can be sure some people in the journalism field  (and some current and prospective students)  are wondering what the future holds for them, and for finding a job.

On LinkedIn today, one of my former students announced she is now working at 570 News in Kitchener as an intern.  That got me to wondering where the Centennial College Journalism graduates are working these days.

So I've started a list. It's not comprehensive. And I've been at Centennial for 10 years. But it's pretty impressive. Feel free to add yourself, or let me know where you are. And it doesn't have to be journalism jobs!

Jonathon Brown   - Trend Hunter, Toronto,   Research Expert

Mark Cadiz  - intern at Newsana

Sarah Moore, Trendhunter, Toronto

Philip Alves, instructor and web content creator, Centennial College Story Arts Centre, Toronto.

Alexandra Sienkewicz  - show producer, CBC Toronto

Ciaran Thompson,   Government of Alberta , Edmonton,  Engagement Officer

Blaine Vander Griende  - Canoe, Toronto

Jon Spratt- Bloomex , web content,  Ottawa

Murray Crawford, Red Deer Advocate, Alberta

Scott Barber,  Reporter/Writer,   TC Transcontinental

Vanessa Brown,  Communications  Assistant University of Western Ontario Faculty Association, London, Ontario

Francois Biber – Reporter/Radio Host,  Saskatoon

Kayla Kreutzberg, News and Sports anchor, CKDR Dryden, Ontario

Emily Hunter, writer and  Film Maker at Eco Warrior Productions

Abbas Somjii, CBC Calgary

Kerry Prunskus, 680 News, Toronto

Michael Peeling, Editor at Your Paris Star,  Your Brant Connection

Andrew Moore-Crispin, Content Dev. Manager,  at Tucows

Jenna Conter, Assoc Editor OPTIMYZ magazine Dartmouth, NS

Geoff Mosher, Editor, CCSAI the Courier

Alexis Dobranowski, Communications Advisor Sunnybrook Hospital

Stacey Macleod, editor, Travel and Life Magazine

Colleen Fisher Tully, editor, Fresh Juice magazine

Salima Virani,  writer and editor, The Granite Club

Shaneeva Yassin, writer and social media content at Miami Convention and visitors bureau

Jonathon Coutts Zawadski -  Dalet Digital Media  Systems

Laura Godfrey, Pagemasters

Athena Mackenzie, associate editor Page One publications, and head of books, Zoomer magazine.

Aakanksha Tangri,    Intern  @ CNN News York, Fareed Zakharia show

Yamri Tadesse- reporter, Thompson Reuters, Toronto

Cole Carruthers, reporter Bow Valley, Alberta

James Wattie, CBC Toronto

Maryam Shah, Toronto Sun

Sarah Taguiam, Metro News, Regina

Chantelle Henriques, listings reporter TV Guide, Toronto

Mersiha Gadzo, reporter, Devon Dispatch, Edmonton

Jackie Dunham, CTV Toronto, chase producer

Aldis Brennan, ed. assistant, Global News, Toronto

Tamara Baluja, editor,, Toronto

Omar Mosleh, reporter, La Nouvelle Beaumont News, Edmonton

Eric Heino, multimedia specialist, Multiview, Toronto

Teona Baetu, Today's Trucking, Toronto.

Georgia Baloginannis, 680 News, Toronto

Bailey Stead, Ass. Prod. , Discovery

Karen K. Ho, freelance reporter.Toronto

Thandiwe Vela, Metroland Digital, Toronto

Brooke Reid, Manulife, Media Relations, Toronto,

Cindy Lu, editor in chief, Souxun88/Prime Advertising

Jamie Ngo, Assist. Manager, Corp Comm, Scotiabank

Andrea Cranfield, Editor, The Equity, Sherbrooke, Quebec

Kirsten Parucha, Abritrage Magazine

Irina Lytchak, Managing Ed., Canadian Jeweller Magazine

Maxx Smith, Manulife, Toronto

Irina Burtan, Project Manager, ESM Management