Sunday, October 31, 2010

Election Night Coverage

What's a journalism student to do once the civic election is over? Talk about election night coverage, of course.

Around 30 creative communications students helped in election night coverage at news stations and papers across the city. I reported for the live student broadcast at KickFM, and if you want to relive all the election night excitement one more time you can listen to it here (my mini doc on advertising in the election airs at the 9:00 mark)!

I didn’t get to watch or listen to much of the media’s coverage because I was zipping from one campaign office to another, so I can’t really offer my own observations. However, the blogosphere is having a great discussion about what local news outlets did on election night and who had the best coverage.

Free Press TV critic Brad Oswald asks: where was local TV?

Free Press video producer Tyler Walsh blogged about the papers’ first ever “wall to wall live video coverage of a major event.

The Uniter’s Andrew McMonagle offers his observations on election night coverage.

Who do you think had the best election night coverage?

Monday, October 25, 2010

My day at the law courts

I was nervous going into the law courts this morning.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I’ve never stepped foot into a courtroom before, which, I guess, is probably a good thing.

Kim, Yvonne and I sat in on the provincial court’s “non-domestic” bails. It was surprisingly casual - lawyers walked in and out as they pleased, they typed furiously on their blackberry and talked to each other under their breath while other people were speaking.

We eventually ended up at a preliminary inquiry for a first-degree murder case at the Court of Queen’s Bench. The room was much larger and the process was more formal here. After an hour of watching, I actually found it hard to leave. I wanted to see and hear more.

I’m now compelled to visit the law courts in my free time just to watch big trials like this. It’s so much more fascinating than an episode of Law and Order.

Then I had to write an article. It was not as enjoyable.

So many details, which were details I couldn’t wrap my head around. Each time I thought I fully understood the charges and the outcome of the case, another piece of information would pop-up in my already clouded brain and nothing would make sense.

Today was definitely an eye opening experience—both attending the courts and writing a story with so many details I barely understood.
Image from

Monday, October 18, 2010

Live Tweeting:

What is OK and what is not OK to tweet?

Live tweeting--or live updated coverage in general--is a great journalistic tool. You instantly have people's attention by giving brief and specific details and you can provide up-to-the-minute information.

In class today we followed Colonel Russel Williams' plea and sentencing hearing through live updates from Globe and Mail reporters Timothy Appleby and Greg McArthur. Every four minutes or so the reporters gave updated information on what was being said, heard, or seen. It gave a fairly good picture of what was happening in the courtroom--as graphic and cringe-worthy as it was.

A year ago I wouldn't have known what "live tweeting" meant, but I think it's a fantastic way for journalists to report on unfolding events. Only if it's done accurately, though... like not tweeting that people are dead when they're actually alive.

I've personally found Bartley Kives' live tweets of mayoral debates one of the best ways to follow what the candidates are saying. I can get the same information from a series of 140 character tweets as I would by watching the entire debate or reading through a summary in the paper the next day.

As great of a tool it is, I also strongly believe there are some events that should not be live tweeted.

Take for example the live tweeting of a murderer's execution. Ben Tribett, a Virginia-based political blogger, essentially gave a play-by-play of the last minutes of someones life.

He tweeted:

“Virginia Execution Protocol: 8:50: The condemned inmate is led in restraints to the execution chamber where she is seated on the execution gurney, then placed on her back”

“Guards then strap the inmate down at various points.”

“The curtain is closed again and a physician examines the body and pronounces death.

GAH! He got more than 1,000 retweets, I guess it was worth it?

A journalist sparked a huge debate when she detailed her experiences with a sexual-assault victim in Haiti. Mother Jones human rights reporter Mac McClelland tweeted some disturbing and very personal information about a victim and what had happened to her.

Is Twitter an appropriate medium to publish such serious issues?

I'll leave you with the final and probably most shocking example of an event that should not be live tweeted, which comes from a blogger in Florida who live-tweeted her own abortion...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

We the Young People

When I told a friend I went to a debate between Sam Katz and Judy Wasylyicia-Leis, she interrupted me with a curious “who’s that?”

I simply told her Wasylycia-Leis was running for mayor. Then I asked her if she was going to vote and she said “Yeah, probably.”

She’s a smart university student, so I was slightly surprised that she had no clue as to who is running in the city’s civic election, probably knows nothing about the candidate's platforms, and yet still planned on voting on Oct 27.

I'm not about to make a blanket statement and say "youth don't care about this election." First of all, it's fairly safe to say most Winnipeggers don't care about civic politics. Secondly, the statement itself is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I do, however, think young people hold a lot of voting power and should further educate themselves about civic politics--myself included.

Yes, there were hundreds of students packed into the college’s cafeteria to watch the mayoral debate between Wasylycia-Leis and Katz. However, by far the loudest outbreak of cheers-from the entire two hours of discussion-came when Katz said the three magical letters N-H-L.

I attribute some of my youth voter criticism to the fact that young people are some of the city's biggest critics.

Our vision: This city sucks.

Our mission: To get out of here as soon as possible.

I don't think many young people see the election as an opportunity to change how things are going.

I really wish I could have seen a candidate get young voters interested in civic issues, someone we could have been excited to stand behind. I don't think any mayoral candidate has done a good job at engaging young voters in this election.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Healthy Butterflies...

...every dedicated journalist should have them.

Yesterday I interviewed Maureen Brosnahan, a national reporter with CBC Radio, for my IPP.

She shared some incredible stories from her 30 years as a journalist. She told me about a young orphaned boy she met while investigating a story in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, how a taxi-driver saved her life while she was covering the presidential elections in Jamaica, and she described what it was like entering ground zero two weeks after 9/11.

I asked her if she still gets nervous when going to cover groundbreaking stories and this is what she said:

I call them healthy butterflies. If you don’t have a bit of that anxiety and if you’re not sitting and worrying about the story before you get there, then something is wrong.It doesn’t really matter if it’s a horrible tragedy or whether you’re off to cover some big exciting event.

Even after 30 years, I still get those butterflies in my stomach. You still get the night before that you’re not sleeping well. You still get the second guessing- am I prepared, have I read enough, have I studied enough, do I know what the issues are, am I going to sound like an idiot. And I find that if you don’t have those anxieties you’re not going to do a good job on the story.

I'm not covering groundbreaking events like Brosnahan has, but having her say this makes me feel OK for constantly having anxiety over journalism assignments.

So fellow journalism students, embrace those “healthy butterflies” even if they sometimes make you want to vomit…