Archive for October, 2011

I Had To Go To Court Today.

Post title was chosen tactfully in order to secure that one extra frantic page view from my mother.

As most CreComms are fully aware, today was “Law Courts Day” in Journalism, and the J Majors hit the courts bright and early to try and find something to write about.  I feel like I’ve been there before one reason or another, but for all intents and purposes this was my first time to the Law Courts, and certainly my first time there simply to poke around and familiarize myself with the place.

I actually used to want to be a lawyer when I was quite a bit younger, and law is still something that I find interesting.  It’s also something I can find torturously boring at times, which is probably what ended up turning me off of pursuing it as a career; it’s just not a true passion of mine.

Overall, I had a good time at the courts today.  I sat in on a bail hearing which began at around 10 a.m. and lasted about an hour and a half.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the way the Crown and defence lawyers referred to one another as “my friend”, despite each fighting for a completely opposite result.  It came off as so incredibly unnatural and forced to me, especially since the two actually got into a couple minor disputes and still continued to call each other “my friend”.  It made me wonder if this is something that is done in the United States as well, because it just seemed so Canadian to me.

My friend and I found it particularly amusing how casually both lawyers chose to throw around the term “beef” to describe a dispute.  At one point, I believe the defence lawyer actually used the word four times in a single sentence.  It’s one thing to use slang when you’re reading a quote or something like that, but I found it odd the way those two just threw the word around as if it were a technical term with no more professional synonyms.

The hearing actually had no conclusion, and was scheduled to resume again tomorrow afternoon, but I was surprised at how easy it was for me to write my story when I finally sat down to do it.  There was a lot of information exchanged between all parties in the courtroom, and although nothing was decided, there was still a lot to report on.  It gave me a pretty good idea of why newsrooms might just send someone down to the Law Courts on a slow news day to try and find a story.  It really is pretty easy to do there.

Claude Noel: Press Conference Killa

And so October 17 will forever be immortalized as the day the new Winnipeg Jets celebrated their first ever regular season win, over the Penguins of Pittsburgh, in a truly impressive showing of skill, determination and passion that we’d not seen in the previous three games.

But what I want to talk about is the Jets’ head coach, Claude Noel.  Originally I had criticized him for being too hard and bitter toward his team.  He would say things like “I really don’t know what’s going on with them” and would place a lot of the blame on his team, and seemed dumbfounded as to why the Jets were performing as poorly as they were.

Claude proved me wrong tonight.  Seemingly from out of nowhere, the Winnipeg Jets that stepped onto the ice tonight were not the Jets that we’ve seen in their last three games.  And against an established contender like the Pittsburgh Penguins?  Even without Malkin and Crosby, the Pens are a formidable opponent, and we went toe-to-toe with them.  I give Noel credit for not panicking.  He was right to say he had no idea what had gotten into his team, and why they weren’t performing, because all along they could perform like they showed tonight, they simply weren’t doing it.

I also said earlier in the day that I hoped Noel would start Ondrej Pavelec in goal tonight, and was glad to see that he did.  Pav had a rough start – rough as hell – but he is a great goaltender, and this is something that is known.  You don’t just lose your talent one day and that’s it, you’re benched.  Noel benched him for a game, probably scared him straight, and then said “Okay, chance #2, let’s see what you’ve got” and boy did we see.  Should have been a shutout for him but Matt Cooke did what he does best and made a dirty play, causing us a goal.

My post today is a little bit more on the PR side of things.  I have to say, I think I love the way Claude Noel handles pre and post-game press conferences.  There’s something about his speaking style that’s appealing to me, he’s so blunt about everything.  After the game tonight he just sits there and finally says, “Shoot, someone must have a question.”

The way he checks his facts right there at the press conference, no matter how long it takes, and doesn’t guess at anything is commendable.

There is still a lot that needs to happen before Noel can solidify his reputation with the franchise in a positive light, but right now he is back in my good books, and we’ll see what happens from here on out.

Place Me, Please!

Tomorrow is scheduled to be our first day with a designated “work placement information” time slot!  Definitely looking forward this.

Honestly, “work placement” is ultimately the biggest reason I entered this program in the first place.  Let me explain.

Before I came to CreComm, I really had no direction whatsoever.  CreComm didn’t give me my much-needed direction, I simply found it and CreComm ended up being a part of my direction.

As we all know by now, I have always loved to write, and even in this program that is so diversified with writing, web design, advertising, media production, radio, I have always stuck with my love of writing, and never once wavered.

Right before I started CreComm, I was working as a cook at Boston Pizza on Kenaston.  I think my family has actually boycotted that specific BP because they treated me like such shit there.  That job was sort of my “last straw” as far as trying to “make it work” without a post-secondary education, which was my Plan A.  “Make it work without a post-secondary education”.  I thought that was pretty well thought-out.  Anyways…

Funny thing is, I actually could have made it work without one.  I was given a management job at a new restaurant that had just come to Winnipeg, because the owner was a former boss and friend of mine.  The opportunity to make good money for myself was there, and it actually was a pretty big break for me, but I ended up just blowing it off completely, and surprised myself in the process.

I had always told myself that I didn’t care what I was actually doing for a living, as long as I was making good money.  Turns out that’s not the case.  After that I realized I needed to do what I enjoy.

I simply “applied” to places where I wanted to work, like the Winnipeg Free Press and other publishers.  I was a competent writer back then as well, and knew there had to be a job out there for me, but none of these places even got back to me.  I sent them samples of my work, told them I was a hard worker etc. etc. etc.

Finally, I admitted defeat and resigned myself to the fact that I needed a post-secondary education if I wanted anyone important to even look at me, and began my CreComm adventure.

But CreComm is full of opportunities along the way, as well, work placement being one of them.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I take these opportunities more seriously than probably anything else I do in the program.  Manitoba Bisons, Winnipeg Free Press, DEL Communications, these are all companies I got to work for over the past year just because I’m in this program.  People look at me now, and it’s important that I show them everything I have to offer so that when the school spits me back out into the real world, I can go to these companies and say “Hello, remember me?  … :-)”

So I guess all I’m trying to say is that I’m excited for tomorrow, and to be able to add another company to my list of places that know who I am and that could potentially be my employer within the next year.

Just no Winnipeg Sun, I refuse to do it.  …kindly refuse.

Here’s the Thing About Journalism

Since I first began in CreComm over a year ago now, I’ve learned a hell of a lot about journalism along the way.  I’ve learned good things, I’ve learned bad things, and I’ve learned things that are just good to know.  But the fact remains: you can only learn so much about anything in a classroom.  I’ve long been a believer that school only gives you the tools you need to be competent in the real world, and that the majority of your actual learning will happen when you’re out of school and into a job.

This concept certainly held true last night.  I was working for the Winnipeg Free Press, on an election night intern opportunity, and this was something that I had done before, during the 2010 Civic Election.  Exact same job, two very different experiences.  Last night I was set up in Karen Velthuys’ (PC) headquarters in St. Norbert.  For those who followed the results of the election last night, St. Norbert ended up being one of, if not the, closest race of the entire election.

Working for the Free Press means my submission needs to be timely, and you’d better believe there’s a deadline.  It’s really not cool for me to single-handedly muddy the reputation of the city’s most prestigious newspaper.  So, in preparation of the night’s events, I wrote out a template for a PC victory, with blanks that I would fill in with a couple of things like quotes, and specific numbers.  I wrote one that I would submit to be published immediately on the WFP website (called a webbie) and another one that would be published in the paper the next day.

As the night progressed, Dave Gaudreau of the NDP pulled ahead.  Now I’m nervous.  An NDP victory would mean I’d have to hop in my car and drive over to his headquarters instead and get a quote from him.  Beginning to sweat, I pulled out my laptop and wrote another webbie for an NDP victory, as well as a paper copy version.  I’ve now got four different variations of stories that I’ve written for the night.  Want to take a guess at which ones I ended up using?

Correct!  None of them!

I was in frequent communication with WFP editor, Bartley Kives, and during one of our last phone conversations he told me he’d be sending another reporter to the NDP headquarters just to be safe.  By this time, the St. Norbert race was so close that a winner simply couldn’t be safely predicted.

In the end, the NDP ended up winning St. Norbert, and now there was already another reporter at his headquarters.  So I called up Mr. Kives, and asked what he’d have me do.  I tell him I have quotes from Karen Velthuys, and he asks me to just “send along a quote, and add a little bit of colour”.  Yes sir, Mr. Kives, sir.

So, Starbucks is closed by now, it’s around 11:00 p.m., but I drive over there anyways because I imagine they maybe leave their wi-fi on for me to mooch.  Wrong.

So, no template to use for this one, I write out my story on my iPhone.  Yes, my iPhone, I didn’t even have the convenience of a full-keyboard BlackBerry for this venture.  It was only about 174 words, but trust me, at the speed I was typing, my iPhone made those 174 words seem like 1,000.

What I learned last night, is exactly what I already knew.  School only teaches you so much.  Classmates; how many times have we been told to expect the unexpected in journalism?  To be prepared to change our plans on the fly?  It doesn’t matter.  You haven’t learned that until you’ve learned it.  Out there.

I also had a great time last night, which surprised me.  It was an odd feeling, to be panicking and stressing so hard, but as soon as I hit ‘send’ on my email to Bart Kives, I actually almost said out loud, “Huh… That was pretty fun.”  I actually surprised myself.

And so, I will leave you with this one tidbit of information regarding journalism that you can try to remember all you want, but (un?)forunately it is something you will simply need to learn on your own, as we all do.

Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.

(You can check out my WFP story here.  I now go by my middle name of “Staff” and married a beautiful young woman and took her last name of “Writer”.  Apparently lots of men are doing it nowadays.  Also, I am not responsible for the misspelling of Velthuys in the second graf.  Enjoy.)

E-Night.

Looking forward to spending tomorrow evening with the Winnipeg Free Press, covering some events of the election tomorrow night.

I’ll be stationed at PC candidate Karen Velthuys’ headquarters in St. Norbert.

Still not 100% sure what I’ll be doing, but I assume it will be a lot like what I did for last year’s Civic Election with the Free Press.  Though, I thought I heard something about shadowing an actual reporting from the WFP this year, I could be wrong.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter if you’re not already, at @JournoJT, as I’ll be tweeting about the night’s events, and pick up a copy of the Winnipeg Free Press on Wednesday to check out my contribution!

JT