Monday, 12 November 2012


I have been thinking about where I will be at this time next year and it makes me feel scared. I have some plans and whatever, but I feel as though one of the downfalls of being a journalist - or any sort of creative person - is that nothing is guaranteed career-wise.

I guess nothing is guaranteed for anyone, ever. But I feel as though nothing is guaranteed even more for people who enter jobs that are not “in demand” like a doctor is “in demand.” It is strange to me, though, that journalists are not more in demand because the world would certainly be difficult to understand for the average person without them. I touched on this a little bit in my last post, about how, in my opinion, the job of a journalist is to help the public understand occurrences around the globe. 

Anyway, as I was saying, that’s the downfall - that there is so much competition and so few jobs and the industry is changing and getting even more uncertain. But I also think those things are kind of like highlights. I usually like things to be rollercoaster scary, and I have gotten myself in and out of trouble all of my life so I feel as though I am as prepared as the next person to enter something like this where everything is kind of uncertain. It is almost like a trade off - as a journalist, and as I experienced on a small scale interning at a paper this summer, you get to go around and observe a number of things every single day, and then you get to tell the whole world (as you know it) the story, what happened. Up until I was about 20 that used to be my life anyway, just cruising around and deciding on what I should do depending on how good of a story it would be later, so it was pretty nice to get paid to do it and not have to be so personally involved at the same time when I worked for the paper. Having a sweet gig like that obviously doesn’t come for free. That’s what I mean when I said it’s like a trade off - the jobs are few and you have to work your fuckin ass off to hook anything up. But in the grand scheme of thing it makes sense because I guess if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

I remember at the paper this summer I was cruising around on Portage in the company car with my Lennon rose-colored shades on. And I had covered a story where someone drowned in a pond so I was feeling sad. I was sad that, before my very eyes, the mission of the underwater police unit turned from a rescue mission to a recovery mission. And I was sad that the kid was so young and just drowned in a pond, just like that. But I was a little happy because I got to be there to observe and try my best to get all the facts about what lead up to this, so in a way, and on a surface level, I was doing my part in helping others around the city understand why things went the way they did. It didn’t feel like doing enough, really, because if I could I would bring that kid back, but it was the most I could do as a journalist, you know what I mean? I guess I was happy too because, on a personal level, observing that whole recovery mission and all the people standing around waiting for this kid to get pulled out of the water made me think about my own life as a kid (yes I am still a kid I don’t care what you say) and that I was alive and doing a cool job and it was summertime and later that day Katherine (the other intern and my pal) and I were going to Chapters and she was going to pick out some cool fiction for me, even though I felt like I was living a life I didn’t even need to escape from. Talk about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses.  
And I remember getting to go to a farm one day when I was reporting, and learning about how damaging wild predators can be to livestock, and seeing farmers loosing their money and their minds over it, and I remember thinking I was pretty lucky to get to know different things like that. And to have the opportunity to make a difference in someones life by being the vehicle through which their story gets told.

So that’s what it’s about, I guess. There are no guarantees but if you work hard enough to hook it up for yourself it’s pretty fuckin sweet. And I’m okay with knowing that. 

Monday, 29 October 2012


As I usually do, lately I am thinking a lot about the differences between fiction and non-fiction, or journalism, in writing.

I watched Chicken Ranch, the first documentary Nick Broomfield made when he got out of film school, on Saturday. He discovered the Chicken Ranch, which is a legal brothel operating outside of Las Vegas, through an amateur pilot friend who read about the ranch in a plane magazine, because the ranch has a plane that flies in clients. 

The documentary made me think about my need and desire to open my eyes to things going on around me and things going on, even if not so much around me: to read the paper, listen to the news, and know what’s happening. It’s strange because I developed a very strong idea about news media outlets after working for the paper this summer: I was very skeptical leaving once I saw the way news is manufactured, I guess you could say. I left thinking news was not in line with the truth, or that is was merely some version of it.

And then the editor of that paper, Paul Samyn, came in to the school I go to and did a presentation about the paper and the media in general to first year CreComm students. I managed to sneak in for the last few minutes of it, where Samyn described the paper itself, and the media in general, as a tool people can use to understand the world. So maybe I had it all wrong, then. Maybe the paper is only the beginning for a curious reader: it will give you the story, as honest and straightforward as possible (at least that is how it should be) and then if you want, you can go and find out more about what you’re reading about on your own time. I find comfort in understanding the paper that way, though: as a way of understanding all kinds of occurrences. And that is what I want to do for others: help them understand certain rules and laws and situations and people, whether it be through journalism, documentary filmmaking, or general motion picture.

And then something else happened that made me notice something entirely different and unrelated about fact and fiction. I went to one of my favorite places on planet eart as I know it: Chapters. I spent the whole day there in the fiction and literature section, and after selecting Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, I went down to the Young Adult section. I went straight to the Judy Blume books. She is one of my favorite authors, and I’d say most young girls have read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, or at least most “half-Jewish” girls like me. Anyway, I picked up a copy of Blubber, which I’ve read already but do not own, and started to read it again.

And I am in love because automatically I was brought into the fifth grade class of Jill Brenner and I felt sad for Linda Fishcher who Jill and her friends call Blubber and I understood Jill’s mother as she huddled in the corner of the family bathroom and smoked a cigarette after she had quit and I was no longer in Chapters or in Winnipeg or in my own life.

And then I went home and a girlfriend of mine picked me up. After we went out for dinner and we were driving home in the dark, we stopped in front of the seedy hotel where the former subject of a documentary I was shooting lived. The same one who left me messages that kept me up at night and the same one who had me worried he was going to fuck me up the way he fucked some guy up in jail. Anyway, I saw him as my girlfriend and I drove by. I saw him standing outside the hotel, now rooming house, in the dark, and I remembered there are scary things and people in the world. And then I remembered that unlike in fiction, where the author creates worlds and lives in them while writing, and others live in while reading, journalists do not get to choose the story. They have to remember bad things happen. And that scares me and makes me want to live in fiction forever. 

Monday, 22 October 2012


Today in Journalism class the instructor told us that we are going to be doing a U.S. election assignment. 

That made me start thinking about what types of things different Canadian publications cover, and what types of things they should cover. I guess I started thinking about why Canadian publications and media outlets cover political happenings in the United States, or in Europe or the Middle East. Should we be concerned about stuff that happens far, far away?

I think the answer is yes.

Whoever gets elected in the upcoming election in the States will probably affect Canadians in ways that I do not know, but more importantly, Canadians have the right to knowledge about what’s going on anywhere in the world. That is one of the most amazing things about being Canadian: unlike different parts of the world, we are not limited when it comes to information. 

If I want to go and read about the political climate in Syria, I can do that and I can rest assured that the website will not be blocked by the government. In fact, I can look up anything from terrorist attacks to various religions to gay porno and no one is going to stop me because I live in a country defined almost entirely by freedom and our media outlets reflect that. Through interning at a newspaper this summer, I learned I can write about different things too, and (in most cases) I won’t have to worry about being the target of a violent attack over it. At least not when I am in Canada.

So I think that covering the upcoming U.S. election is important because people are interested in it. It is also important because the election over there will probably have an influence over the way things are done here. But most of all, it is important because as Canadian media outlets and journalists, we are taking advantage of a right that, unfortunately, is not recognized in all regions of the world. We are taking advantage of a right to know whatever we want.

If this seems simple it's because it is, but overall I am glad I live in a place where I can call information my own for the taking (and distributing). I am glad I grew up in a place where, as a one time aspiring journalist, I knew I could write about things that matter to me and matter to the Canadian population and my life would not be threatened, as was the sad case with the young girl in India recently. 

Now back to creating things that I would not be allowed to show in other countries. Bye!

Monday, 15 October 2012


In A Thousand Farewells, author and journalist Nahlah Ayed describes what it was like to leave Winnipeg, Manitoba and return to a refugee camp plagued by conflict and violence in Amman, Jordan. 

She was thirteen years old when her and her family returned to Canada, but the things she saw when her family initially moved back to the camp inspired her to cover what the book describes as one of the world’s “most volatile regions” as a journalist.

Ayed’s knack for describing things comprehensively worked beautifully in the book. This is likely the result of her observant nature (a trait common among journalists who produce thorough work) and strong memory. For example, at the beginning of chapter two, Refugees by Design, Ayed states that she “clearly” remembers what it was like to enter the camp, even though it was the middle of the night and Ayed was a young girl at the time. The small details, like her parents “taking turns sighing” or that the metal door her father knocked on was “dotted with rusted bullet holes” paints a vivid and frightening image in the reader’s mind. 

Her talent for selecting detail that will evoke particular emotions and tell a specific story runs through the entire book, and makes the read memorable, while creating obvious contrast with the stories concerning the Middle East that one sees on the 6 o’clock news. In chapter seven, Ghosts, Ayed describes the role Arabic poetry played in her own life growing up, and the role it continued to play for the Arabs at large. “Arab poetry was owned by all the people,” Ayed writes on page 135. One would not think such a detail would appear in a book that seems, prior to reading it, to be about Middle Eastern conflict, refugee camps, and the Arab Spring. It gently humanizes a region that is often characterized by violence, while details like the fact that a group of surgeons performed free cosmetic surgery for people disfigured by Saddam’s torture supported those gentle details by suggesting in an urgent way that the goings-on in the Middle East leaves humans, like you and me, disfigured and despaired every single day.

The one critique I have when it comes to what did not work in the book is that, at times, Ayed was writing for an audience who is at least somewhat familiar with Muslim culture. I felt mildly frustrated when I had to look up certain words or references in order to thoroughly understand the book. The first time this happened was as early as page 10, when Ayed states that “Eid was a memorable occasion, but so were Christmas and Easter.” I expected Eid was some kind of Muslim holiday, but I checked it out on the internet just to be sure (for the record, Eid comes at the end of Ramadan, which is a month of fasting for Muslims). Therefore, maybe some explanations are missing here and there in A Thousand Farewells, but then again the book is not supposed to be a guide to Arab culture. 

The thing I, as a journalist, learned most from this book is to remember to observe: to speak less and listen more. Ayed would never have gotten the stories she has in this insightful book had she not constantly been in tune with her surroundings. 

If I compare the book to another non-fiction book I studied in journalism class last year, Journey for Justice: How Project Angel Cracked the Candace Derksen Case by Mike McIntyre, the one obvious difference is that Ayed ascends simply being a reporter and becomes a storyteller, while McIntyre got caught up in stating the facts. A Thousand Farewells moves fluidly as a story, and the reader remains interested. Journey for Justice became repetitive and laden with reports from killer Mark Grant’s psychiatrist, and at times became boring to me as the reader.

The book affected me in a simple yet profound way: I found it inspiring. It made me think about the role of autobiography in journalism and art, and I was happy to read a clear, coherent story written by someone who evidently had been carrying it around in their heart for nearly all their life. Ayed had something to say for a long, long time and after investing time in getting it out on paper, she said it. That is something all journalists and writers can aspire to. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


During the summer, I had the opportunity to interview students participating in the National Summer Science Camp for First Nations and Inuit youth at the University of Manitoba.

The students were from various Aboriginal communities across Canada and the camp, an annual event, takes place in a different province every year. The purpose is to inspire an interest in science among Aboriginal youth.

I remember thinking the initiative was cool because it gives Aboriginal youth the opportunity to compare and contrast, through real experience, traditional and non-traditional medicine, thus presenting Aboriginal ways of healing and non-Aboriginal ways of healing as equally important.

“I want to study Aboriginal medicines,” Haylee Garson, a 14-year-old from Fisher River First Nation told me when I talked to her in August.

That alone made the program seem amazing to me since if nothing else, it had one Aboriginal youth not only talking about going to university (according to the provincial government website, Aboriginal high school graduates are more likely to attend community college or other forms of non-university post secondary education), but also about studying an integral element of her own Aboriginal culture - a tiny step towards re-awakening a culture left destroyed by the cultural genocide that took place within the walls of residential schools.

Another sweet thing about the camp was that it aimed to provide the youth with a chance to experience post-secondary education as realistically as possible. This includes staying in a dorm (or, as manager of integrated programs at the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre Rudy Subedar pointed out to me, a hotel). I didn’t realize it at the time but dorm life is a huge barrier to Aboriginal people who want to pursue post-secondary education.

A challenge that may not be entirely unique to Aboriginal people, but undoubtedly affects their shot at a post-secondary education in a university setting, is the financial burden brought upon by living in rez. More than that, however, if someone is coming from a remote community and leaving behind the lifestyle and people they’ve always known, it becomes very difficult to succeed academically. The issue lies in the fact that Aboriginal people who come from remote communities lose the support they’ve relied on their entire lives.

Brenda Small, Dean of the Negahneewin College at Confederation College in Thunder Bay gives perspective on the challenges faced by Aboriginal Canadians when attempting to pursue post-secondary education in a university setting in the following video, (at 9:15):

(By the way, check out 5:45 where Mimi Gellman talks about Jewish Aboriginals in Canada and the United States... I’ve never met someone of this mix but it’s cool to know they exist). 

With this knowledge, when I look back to my interview with students who were participating in the National Summer Science Camp for First Nations and Inuit youth, I am pleased to see these challenges were obviously considered when the program was designed. I remember Hunter Francis, a 14-year-old from Eel Ground First Nation in New Brunswick. He told me all about the wicked food he and the other students got to eat, and how much fun he was having with all the new friends he was making.

“Man, like, this camp is something else,” he said to me.

I am happy to see things like this program happening in my own province and around Canada, especially after visiting the Robert Houle exhibit last week and getting a glimpse into the dark and horrible things that have happened to Aboriginal people throughout Canadian history.

Not that the sexual abuse, torture, smothering of a culture, and all the other things that I will never understand or even pretend to can be reversed, but at least programs like this create hope for an educated and positive life for Aboriginal youth and the chance for Aboriginals and Non-Aboriginals to have an equal shot at an education in the future.

Monday, 1 October 2012


Today the Journalism class I am in had a meeting with the editor of the community papers that are distributed around Winnipeg. 

Each student got to choose what paper they want to write for (my friends Kirah and Cindy are writing for the Times with me - we all grew up/live in the North End of town and that is where that paper is distributed). I am pretty excited, actually. We have to contribute three stories by the end of the semester.

I am excited for this assignment because it got me thinking about community papers, and why they exist. The most obvious reason is that they are a way to keep people informed about what’s happening specifically in their neck of the woods, and to me it’s comforting to know that people would actually care to know about that.

It’s comforting because that means people want to stay informed about their surroundings, so in the bigger picture they must care about the state of affairs around the place that they live. You might be saying something like “well duh, Kristy. Obviously people care about stuff like that what’s the big deal,” (or maybe no one is saying that - it’s never safe to assume anything in journalism) but if someone did say that I would say back “the big deal is that people want to know what’s going on and if they know what’s going on they can change some stuff.”

Or they can get involved in something that is already working towards seeing change in the community, which is why I am happy to be writing for the North End paper. I want to contribute interesting stories about cool and positive things that are happenong in the North End of town - like youth centers that I know of operating around there and other initiatives that are taking place to see the neighbourhood improve and become safe and enjoyable for the whole community.

I see a lot of terrible stuff about the North End in the paper all the time so it’s cool to have the chance to seek out something positive and write about it in a space where people might actually read it and care. 


No, the title is not referring to (what I heard was) a cool gay bar in Winnipeg. 

It is referring to what I've been up to recently. Specifically, what I've been writing about. Here is a list of links to some of my recent online work:

Thank you for reading.