Category Archives: journalism

americans may have demagogues but we’re toppling our government this week

I must say I loves me the day to day uncertainty of a multiparty parliamentary democracy. Our federal election began a year later than the American presidential race, finished three weeks earlier so Harper could welcome Obama as neighbouring leader, and now the NDP and Liberals reach a deal to topple the minority Tory government next week but they haven’t decided who the new leader of the Liberal party is yet, so who knows who the Prime Minister will be when Obama stops being the president-elect? Will protocol demand that Bush leave a congratulatory message for someone? When we aren’t even having an election over this? I love these flurries of activity. What’s going on in the states? A whole lotta waiting for 1/20/09. We could have three more leaders by then.

(For my American reader(s?), our NDP and Liberal parties are our Centre-Left and Business-Centre parties. The Conservative Party is currently in power but don’t have enough members in parliament to do what they want with impunity, which is why this is possible. We’ve talked about this before.)

Note that I am not by any means an expert on the actual non-trivial implications of any of this, so please excuse any misinformation you might feel is part of my commentary.

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no ‘rithmetic

I’ve hit a bump in my reading. I’m trying to start the second Canopus book by Doris Lessing, but am completely not being sucked in yet. I have a bunch of books I’d kind of like to reread but can’t decide which one to follow. I’ve got a Rudy Rucker book on my phone I’m sort of getting into, but scifi makes me feel inadequate recently, because I can’t come up with those kinds of ideas. Those really interesting ones that don’t seem to have been done before. Maybe I’m more literature than sf in my writing than I’d have myself believe.

Also, you may not have noticed but I’m trying to put more content up here than I was doing in the last couple of months. Over in the right hand sidebar you can see how many posts I’ve done in any given month of this blog and I’d like to get that number consistently up in the couple of dozen range again.

Another thing I’m going to start paying attention to is this site Broowaha. It’s billing itself as a citizen journalism newspaper, and might end up a good place for me to do some writing of a less bloggish more journalistic sort. David Cohn (one of the Assignment Zero editors) is the editor there and he says they’re going to be trying some interesting experiments. I liked being part of AZ so I hope this’ll be interesting as well.

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not quite schadenfreude

Remember back in the summer when I was applying to The Canadian Mennonite for the National Correspondent position? Today I’m glad I don’t have that job. I mean, it would be nice to be writing professionally, but I really wouldn’t have fit in over there.

Case in Point: Aiden Enns writes a column for the magazine. He’s the editor of Geez and a generally cool guy. In the 10/15/07 issue of The Canadian Mennonite he wrote this column. Go read it (it’ll open in a new tab) and guess what made me mad about it.

If you don’t feel like checking the whole thing, here’s the money shot:

Take an interfaith approach. If you can’t abide by some of the core Christian affirmations, then you may wish to consider an interfaith approach. I know this is unorthodox, but look for the God that is present everywhere, in all people and, dare I say, in all faiths, including Christianity and your local church. [Note that the church teaches that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world, referencing Acts 4:12: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name . . . by which we must be saved.” Ed.] Look for glimpses of wonder, love, grace and compassion, you’ll find them.

That editorial interjection was a bit of a turning point for me. I don’t get angry when the magazine covers everything in that earnest oh so well-intentioned way it does with its use of words like “dialoguing.” It’s not supposed to be substantial. In my job interview Tim Miller Dyck told me they get complaints about Aiden’s column just because it mentions Geez’s name. Because it’s blasphemous. Fine. They’re going for the middlest common denominator of the Mennonite world. (That came up in my interview because of my previous writing for Geez.)

But to actually pop into a column about interfaith dialogue with a little “Actually there’s only one right way. We’ve got it. Says so in the bible”? That’s bullshit. Happily, I read the letters in the 11/26 issue and they printed two from people who were also pissed off about it.

I get why whoever was acting as editor on that made that interjection; they didn’t want to piss off the grandmas and the farmers and such (gross overgeneralization there), and it’s not like the young mennonites care what happens in the magazine. We don’t read The Canadian Mennonite. Because who wants to read that kind of pap? Vicious cycle hey ho!

Ah, that’s it. I’m glad I don’t work there because that’s the kind of thing I’d have either gotten vociferous about and had to quit in some big gesture, or done nothing and been all mad at my lack of integrity. But this way I get to be cranky on my blog with no consequence at all.

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quicker than jskool

Want a book telling you how to be a journalist? Here’s Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive. A “digital literacy guide for the information age” by Mark Briggs, in a 2MB PDF. I got this link from Just flipping through it now, clicking I guess, and it looks good, like the Benedetti class updated for our times. Probably more useful to people within a news organization than someone like me, but whatever. I like to pretend I’m a journalist sometimes.

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le fucking sigh

Got the email this evening saying I didn’t get the Canadian Mennonite job. In the last week or so I thought I’d become fairly resigned to this happening. I’d started making my comments about how if it took this long to make a goddamned decision maybe I didn’t even want the job. Turns out I still did. Want it.

So yeah. I remain poor. And unemployable in what I like to think is the field I’m good at. But I’ve still got more seniority at the library than the retarded guy!

It’s funny how much I was looking forward to non-staple groceries (staples include ice cream but not beer). Hell, the lack of existential/budgetarial crises every time I want to buy replacement pens would be nice. [UPDATE: I’m not actually that poor. I mean, all the money I earn goes into rent and food but I have reserves I don’t talk about a lot. My fake poverty is basically just an inconvenience. I don’t actually need the money. It’s just easier to write about the financial stuff than about the worthlessness stuff.]

Just more stabs in the gut to write I suppose. I read a story about Sinclair Lewis while I was putting away a book yesterday. He was at a banquet in his honour and got up to give his speech. He asked “How many of you here are serious about becoming writers?” There were a bunch of hands that went up. “Then why are you here instead of at home writing?” he asked and sat down. Having a job would just make it easier to not write my own stuff. More excuses and such.

I finished off that issue of 3dWorlder this afternoon before going to the library (and before getting the news). Next up is a short play for an Australian festival that… it seems I need to finish by Monday. Well, that’s my weekend then. Then back to 3dWorlder issue 2, get the synopsis honed, start shopping it around. And other things. Working doesn’t cost anything. Anything more than the internet costs built into my rent. And ink for the printer.

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Remember a few weeks ago when I did that interview about Crowdsourcing with Karim Lakhani? Maybe you don’t. It was up on Assignment Zero as part of this crowdsourced experiment in writing in-depth journalism. Well, is running the story on the Assignment and what Crowdsourcing means and all that. This includes links to all the interviews that were done which were also the bases for other stories and stuff. All in all, interesting stuff.

And today they’re running my interview with a link to it from the front page. I now have a real byline. I feel much better about this one than the “additional reporting” credit last time I was in Wired (which was also on Assignment Zero back when I was just stepping up). This time it’s based on actual work I did that required me to be a journalist, and my contribution wasn’t reduced to a chunk of a single sentence.

Also, my mom’s been getting many positive reactions to my Young Prophets thing in the Canadian Mennonite. And not just my grandma either. Actually I don’t know how my grandma liked it; I just know she read it. But other people are saying things about how nice it is to read something that isn’t so overtly churchy in there. And I keep on wanting them to write emails in to the magazine to tell them that I’m what the people want, damnit! (No, I haven’t heard back yet about being hired or not, but he said it’d take some time and that he’d let me know either way. It’s a far cry from walking out of an interview and getting a call that afternoon saying “Way to not be an idiot. Here’s a job.”) I also haven’t received my cheque for that piece yet, but I don’t want to bug them until I find out if I’m an employee or not.

Anyway. I’ve had a pretty good few days of confidence building on this whole writing thing. It’s reassuring that just because nobody will hire me doesn’t mean I’m completely wasting my every moment behind the keyboard. And if they decide not to want me as a professional Mennonite journo, that’s fine. There are far worse things than being my level of poor.

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biding time

While I’m waiting to find out if I’m getting a job with the Canadian Mennonite, here’s the thing I wrote for them as part of their Young Prophets series: A Train to Nowhere? One of the things about long turnaround times is that I can’t remember if I actually gave it that title. And there are two paragraphs in a row that end with an exclamation point. What was I thinking? Other than those exclamation points I think the thing plays all right.

You may have noticed my productivity here on the blog has been going down a bit. One of the reasons for that is that interesting things I find in my daily online activities have been getting filed without much comment on either my or in my RSS reader. If you are looking for more of the links to things I found interesting here’s where they’re collecting. This is almost exactly the same as what’s in the sidebar of the blog here, but it has it’s own RSS feed if you’re into that.

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no weightlessness included

Wouldn’t this be awesome? Too bad they don’t want journalists. Also this morning I saw a story on about typos in a NB highschool yearbook. Why on earth should we care that they spelled it “liturature”? One of our yearbooks was missing an N on the cover; where was the CBC then? Stupid.

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there’s a reason I’m not a sick MC

Monday I was a journalizer early in the morning. I called up my source and interviewed the heck out of him for half an hour. Actually I didn’t do much. Got through a few questions and let him talk. It went well, and he did compliment one of my questions so I felt validated. Yesterday when I was transcribing the thing (man, transcribing sucks) I quickly stopped listening to my own voice, which I hate hearing. I’m not sure how people can handle my ridiculously unflowing words. Transcribing stuff is weird because of all that extra crap people add to their spoken communication. My interviewee filled his speech with “sort of” and “like” and fragments. I forget that sometimes, especially when I’m writing dialogue. Anyway, here’s the interview. We’ll see if any of it gets used in Wired or not.

I worked at the Osborne library on Monday too. That was so different from Millennium. Branch libraries suck to be a patron at, but are easy places to be a page. There were two carts that I just monitored and kept shelving from. Barely anything to do. Nice work if you can get it.

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working man

Yesterday I got to be somewhat of a journalist. I called an interviewee. I talked to his assistant. I waited around for him to call me back after a meeting went long. I rescheduled an interview. On Monday I’ll be even more of a journalist. It’s good to remember I’m actually capable of doing all this stuff.

Especially good since I’m being interviewed for the National Correspondent position at the Canadian Mennonite. It probably sounds more impressive than it is, but I’d be doing something I’ve trained for to earn my living. I haven’t done that since I left Campaign.

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