Posts Tagged ‘ CreComm ’

“We Are The Mac… Are You The Mac?”

Call me. …or email me… But don’t fax me, the world has forgotten about that.

So my first couple weeks at the Fort McMurray Today are in the books.

I’ve been having a good time here so far.  It’s pretty tough to pack up and move to a new city, and then try to figure out what exactly people care about here, and report it within about 48 hours of arriving.

I often find myself asking “Is this new information?” to some of the people who have been here longer than I have, because I simply don’t know.  But with everyday that goes by, the job gets easier, as I learn where things are, what goes on there, and the things I write about start to be follow-ups or add-ons to things I’ve written about maybe a few days ago, so I actually know a moderate amount of information on the topic.

I think part of what I love about this industry, and maybe this is going to sound bad, but as a journalist, it’s your output that gets measured.  Nobody really cares what the hell you do all day long, as long as you have good content at the end of the day.  Some days, yes, that might mean lunch doesn’t even cross your mind, but other days maybe you give’r and get four interviews done before noon, and take a nice leisurely lunch.

My beat has been pretty interesting thus far.  I’ve covered everything from a stolen excavator to a city council meeting.  Duncan, I think you should consider sending the first years to Fort McMurray city council from now on, things got pretty heated.

I also get to take a lot of photos here, which is something I hadn’t actually considered when looking for a job, but am definitely glad it’s something I’ll be doing a lot of here.  I don’t think I used the college’s cameras once in CreComm, but I practically slept with an HD video camera every night, because of my IPP.  I really came to love shooting video, and taking photos isn’t all that much different.  It really helps round out your portfolio too, if you can have an article that you wrote, accompanied by a photo that you took.

My living situation is what will take more getting used to than my job.  If you’ve met me (or, maybe more appropriately, not met me) you know I’m a pretty solitary person.  I enjoy being independent, and not having to answer to anyone except myself.  So living with people is an adjustment, but luckily the people that I live with are pretty nice. They bought me a fridge for my room so I mean… what more is there to say?

The actual city is beautiful, and I live in a pretty quiet, nice neighbourhood.  My drive to work every morning is more scenic than anything you’ll ever see in Winnipeg.  Also, if anyone’s wondering, that whole thing about Winnipeg drivers not being able to merge? Myth confirmed. It’s a Winnipeg thing.

So I think that’s pretty much it for updates since I last posted.  There’s a pretty ridiculous story about a kid who single-handedly got plastic bags removed from all of the stores here, making grocery shopping next to impossible, so maybe I’ll tell you about that next time around.


Leg 3 – Fort McMurray

*written May 1, 2012

Sorry this is a day late, but after a nerve-wracking five-hour drive, and unpacking all my things and getting settled, I found myself suddenly quite exhausted and called it an early night last night.

Finally nice out.

I hadn’t heard about the huge crash on Highway 63 until my mom told me about it while I was in Edmonton.  It was definitely good for me to know about it, so that maybe I’d be a little more careful than usual on the drive, but it definitely raised my stress level and made me quite anxious to just get on the road and get there.  Especially reading all of the user comments on various stories, calling the highway a “death trap” among other things.  Not gonna lie, I probably envisioned over 50 varying incarnations of my own death before going to bed that night.

The drive itself wasn’t as bad as I was prepared for it to be.  As a responsible driver, the worst part about driving on that highway now is fear of the not-so-responsible drivers.  There are so many inclines and declines on that highway that a lot of the time you can’t see the road directly in front of you because you have to make it up the incline first.  Those are the times you hold your breath and just wait for a car going 150 km/h to appear right in front of you, passing someone in the other lane.  That’s exactly what happened last Friday.

Yes, a house.

Then there are the “wide loads”.  Flat-bed trucks carrying anything from huge machinery, to ready-to-move homes.  Yeah, they’re going about 40 km/h, and on the highway it’s enough to drive the most patient motorist batshit crazy.  The worst part is, when you finally decide to pass them, you’re starting from 40 km/h and you spend so much more time in the wrong lane, when a regular pass is done in about four seconds.  Not to mention that all of the wide loads have entourages in front and back of them to notify the world that they’re there.  I call it “School Bus Syndrome”.  Why do school buses need the strobing blinding light on top of them? They are gigantic and yellow, people don’t need a flashing light to notice them.  I digress.

So I got into Fort McMurray pretty early in the afternoon, and found out that it would be about five hours before I’d be able to get into the place I was staying.  So I took the time to walk and drive around and check the place out.  It’s an absolutely beautiful city.  You actually drive way down, off the highway to get into the city, so the entire place is surrounded by these big, wooded hills.

Pretty standard shopping centre, near where I'm staying.

They’ve got pretty much every standard chain you’d find in any other city, whether it’s a restaurant or a grocery store, but I was dismayed to find they do not have an Applebee’s.  Which means I have zero places to take a girl on a first date.  I’m actually embarrassed to have just written that, but Ashley made me.

So I’m staying in a house with three other people, but it actually turned out to be a pretty sweet deal for the city I’m living in, where a standard one-bedroom apartment will run you about $1,800/month.  I have access to everything in the house, and a bedroom and my own bathroom, which is what I’ve found is a rarity when rooming with people here.  All for only a couple hundred dollars more than I was paying in Winnipeg.

So many of the residential areas here are just a massive jumble of houses/condos.  Fort Mac is a “boomtown”, and you can tell with one quick look around that when it suddenly became a boomtown, it was a mad dash to develop residential areas.  Houses are just crammed one next to the other, no driveways, park wherever the hell you can, oh, look over here, a random paved area off the side for parking, and six houses just in the middle of nowhere.  It’s definitely not like anything I’ve ever seen before.  People are there to work, not live. And I don’t mean that in a bad way or anything, I just mean that getting to Fort McMurray is the first priority for most people, and comfort of living is second.

The area where I’m staying is nice though, quiet, and will be great for rollerblading  in when it gets a little warmer out.

But this post is getting a little lengthy, so I’ll stop there, and will try to post again once I have a few days of work under my belt.

Leg 2 – Edmonton

Gonna be a short one today, folks.

I ended up getting about 12 hours of sleep in Saskatoon, which was nice, so I got on the road probably a little before 10 a.m.

I knew the drive from Saskatoon to Edmonton was going to be a lot shorter than the drive the day before, but it just seemed to breeze past.  It was probably a little under a six-hour drive, and thankfully it was a little more scenic than yesterday.

Almost the second that I pulled onto the highway, it started to rain – again – and rained for probably the first three or four hours of the drive, even when I was well into Alberta, so those clouds covered some pretty good distance.

Did you know there’s a town called Borden, Saskatchewan? I found that pretty funny because it sounds just like “bored in Saskatchewan” which is all I ever was driving through.

There was a section of highway just over the Alberta border that apparently mother nature forgot.  All of a sudden, I look out my window and it looks like November in Winnipeg outside.  It’s 10 degrees celsius out, but this snow apparently could just not be bothered to melt. Very odd.

So I’m in Edmonton now, just had some pizza and am about to call it a night so I can get on the road for Fort McMurray pretty early tomorrow morning.  Reason being that seven people were just killed in a head-on collision on the highway I’ll be driving on, which is apparently pretty treacherous, so I’d like to give myself a good amount of time to make the trip.

I also want to have as much time as possible in Fort Mac to get settled and check the place out before jumping right into work the next day.

I think I’m obligated to at least complete the blog series, and do “Leg 3”, so I’ll try to write that one up tomorrow evening after I’m settled in Fort McMurray.


So yeah, I’m moving to Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Making this decision has been, and continues to be, quite a roller coaster of different emotions for me, so if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to need to get a little bit personal and introspective for just a brief moment. I promise it won’t happen again.

I have had my fair share of personal obstacles to overcome to reach the point I’m at now, and, quite honestly, it’s nothing short of a miracle that I even managed to get a high school diploma, not to mention a post-secondary education.  And I’m not trying to portray myself as an incompetent moron, it’s just that school and I have never gotten along.  I’ve always known that I’m an intelligent and capable person, with skills in certain areas, just like (most) everyone else.  But in a classroom setting, I drown.

I’m also independent, at times to a fault, other times to my credit.  As my parents will back-up, I’ve been disobeying them since I was probably a few months old. And at 23, I’m apparently still doing it.  I was the kid who reached out to touch a hot lightbulb, and stopped when my mom would yell, “Don’t touch that, you’ll burn yourself!”  I stopped to listen to her. When she was finished, I touched the damn thing anyways, and burned myself.  And I’ve been burning myself ever since.

I’m the type of person who has to learn lessons for himself.  I have to.  I don’t think I’ve heeded a single warning in my entire life.  I just can’t leave anything to chance.  I need to make my own mistakes, so I can truly understand how to avoid making them again.  And I have made a LOT of mistakes.

But when I think about the person that I would be today if I hadn’t made those mistakes, it’s hard to regret having made them.  In a sick way, it’s almost an incentive to continue making mistakes.

I also know that doing things that scare you is one of the best ways to learn, and grow.  And moving to Fort McMurray scares the fucking shit out of me (don’t tell anyone, though).  I’m just glad that, through the infinite number of mistakes I’ve made in the past, I’m a strong and confident enough person to know that I’ll be fine.  As hard as it could possibly get out there, as much as Fort McMurray might try to throw at me, I know I’ll be fine.

Because when I think back to the eighth grade, and the fact that I was somehow failing elementary school, if you had told me back then that I’d be in this position today, I probably would have done the Riverdance on my desk.  I’ve worked my ass off to overcome a lot of different things that were stacked against me, and I know that no matter what happens in Fort Mac, there’s no way that I can come out of it worse off than I ever thought I’d be.

The truth is, I don’t feel like I can ever reach my full potential in Winnipeg. As corny and cliché as it sounds, I’ve suffered way too many setbacks here, and have too many bad memories that I associate with this city, that I feel pigeon-holed for failure here.  There are a lot of things about myself that I want to change, and change for good, and I feel like starting over in a new city is the best way to get there.

I think everyone eventually has an opportunity in front of them that they can use to find out what they’re really made of.  And the reward for success is something that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, and that will ultimately define you as a person. The hardest part is just the decision to do it.

So, I’m moving to Fort McMurray, where I’ll be working as a reporter for the Fort McMurray Today, the town’s only daily newspaper.  My beat will be municipal issues, crime, and the editor, mysteriously aware of my love of sports, even said I could cover a sporting event here and there.

I start May 1st, which tasks me with getting rid of my apartment, packing as much of it as I can into a new car that I’ll also have to get, selling everything that won’t fit, and saying goodbye to anyone who wants one, in the span of about… a week and a half, and then I need to hit the road.  Easier said than done, I think.

I imagine I’ll be blogging quite a bit about my experiences out there, so there is likely more to come on this development.  I feel like I owe the city of Winnipeg a farewell letter, as well.  Stay tuned.

(And anyone who wants to hang out before I go, please just let me know!)

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.)

Major Headache

This is exaggerated. I'm really not stressing quite as hard as this young boy here.

As most of you probably know by now, Journalism is out for me as a major next year. If you don’t know, click here.

I’ve exhausted three contacts and four attempts to smash my way into the J major, to no avail. While I may yet try a formal appeal as a last ditch effort, the time I’ve had to sit with my “situation” has me feeling a little bit differently these days.

At first I felt slighted and very “Bret Hart at Survivor Series ’97” about the whole thing. But the fact of the matter is that I’m already well on my way in the Journalism field, and perhaps it’s actually in my best interest that I focus on something else for a major.

Where does the headache come in, you ask? Let me tell you; I also chose Broadcast Journalism as an elective, so in order to keep that, I’d have to choose Media Production as a major. I have absolutely no interest in radio though, and while I have a little bit more interest in TV, it just barely beats out radio. I’ve also got a video documentary on my plate for my IPP, so that would just be more Media Production than I could handle in one year.

Public Relations was my very first, instinctual thought when I found out I couldn’t take Journalism. I’ve always fared well in PR, and, not counting event-planning, I enjoy the writing style of PR as well (news releases, pitch letters, etc). And we’ve all heard the running joke multiple times in first year, that journalists jump over to PR when they decide they “want to make money”, and movies like Page One: Inside the New York Times scare the shit out of me as a journalist. I’m in the magazine field at the moment, but those will be next to go once the newspaper goes the way of the dinosaur.

Advertising was never even on my plate until I suddenly realized recently that I actually enjoyed it. The “book learnin'” side of anything is never my strong-suite and that definitely goes for Advertising as well, but overall I did well in the course and actually enjoyed the assignments. Working on ads with InDesign was actually something I could willingly sink hours into, and not go out of my mind with boredom. I’m far from talented with the program, but I can produce B-worthy creations, and as an F-student for the better part of my school-life… yeah, I’ll take it.

Now ready yourselves, because I’m about to go full-dweeb on you (I’ll throw some curse words in there though, to try to keep an even plane). I feel like I’m a goddamn Hogwarts student and these four majors are the four houses in the school. And I wish I could just put on some raggedy-ass hat that would make the decision for me (I could let it smell me and it would put me into Journalism though).

So while I stew over my future at RRC, I turn the microphone over to you. Got a strong case for a particular major? Tell it in the comments. But at the very least, show some love to the poll and let’s see which major’s got the most love behind it!