Monday, 24 September 2012


Journalism is more than only reporting the facts, contrary to popular belief.

It is a form of storytelling, and it takes skill to be able to decide which details are essential to the progression of the story, and which details are not. It also takes skill to be able to think on your feet when you don’t know what the story will be - which is mostly all the time, and the way it should be.

Those are only two of the many reasons I chose to major in Journalism in university/college, even though I have known since I was about nineteen years old that I want to write movies.

But I still get asked, and quite often, why I am going to Journalism school, why I interned at a newspaper this summer, and why I didn’t at least choose Media Production as my major if I want to work in film one day.

The answer is the same as what I said above: Journalism is a form of storytelling and it takes skill to be able to do it effectively.

If you think about it, Journalism is the perfect way to start out if you want to work in the movies like I do. You get to interview people every day, to start off with. By doing that, you get a sense of the way they speak, what makes them get emotional (in some cases), and the words they use to describe particular situations and events. If you are lucky and you are interviewing them face-to-face (which you should be, I am against telephone interviews for a whole bunch of reasons but I’ll save that for another time), you get to watch their mannerisms and facial expressions, too.

That material is very useful when developing characters and writing scripts.

I was thinking exactly that when this girl at the newspaper I was at got to interview this woman who had a complaint about the health care system. She was saying the craziest things, comparing health care workers to Nazis and all of that, and the best part was her photograph. She was so dramatic-looking: Liz Taylor eyebrows and beauty-queen style hair. She was wearing a huge white fur coat standing in a yard full of lawn gnomes and reindeer and pitchforks, and her brother was there, too. They might of even lived together even though they both looked well over 60. When my pal interviewed her for the second time she asked if the photographer was coming back to snap another pic.

“I will absolutely be available,” she said. “And that photographer, well he was real cute last time.”

See, that’s a perfect character for a movie. In fact, she already exists if you combine Elvira with Blanche Deveraux and add a little CC Bloom from Beaches to the mix.

Anyway, the point is that Journalism, I have found, can lead to many different things, because it is multifaceted and journalists are challenged every day to see stories from many perspectives. Those perspectives are called sources.

That may also be the reason why journalists can also, somewhat easily, transition to “the dark side,” also known as PR. Once they fine tune thier eye to seeing stories from different angles, they can easily imagine it from the perspective of the audience, which is an important skill to have when working in Public Relations.

I admire and respect journalists who are in it forever and continue to improve as journalists because they choose to stay in that career, but for me journalism is my gateway drug to crazier things, and I think I will have the skills to get there now only because I took this path.  

Monday, 17 September 2012


Today in Journalism class, students engaged in a discussion about content that is, and is not, appropriate to show in the media.

The discussion happened after anti-semitic posters were posted in downtown Winnipeg, and used to target Mayor Sam Katz among other well-known Jews in the city (and some non-Jews, apparently).

I was surprised to learn some of my classmates agreed with the Winnipeg Sun and thought it was appropriate for a clear photograph of one of the posters to be published. That left me burning fuckin’ mad. My heart was racing throughout the discussion, and it took me a while to stop thinking about it when class ended.

One comment - that a reporter’s job is to report - kept repeating itself in my mind.

And I agree with that comment, but I also think reporters, in general, are responsible to report only information that will allow people to be “free and self-governing,” said a handout given to me in first year Journalism class. I suppose I can see how publishing a photograph of one of the posters would allow people to be free to make up their own minds about the content of the poster, but it would also leave others trapped - specifically, the people whose names appeared on the “list” on the poster.

It would leave them trapped by stereotypes and by no other choice but to be portrayed in a negative and racist fashion, even if only for two days (the number of days the Sun has run the photograph so far). And while not directly, it leaves others trapped by that racism too, because publishing the photograph perpetuates the message  - even if that was not the intention of the media outlet.

I am now conflicted about Journalism and truth and boundaries. But I also gained a little bit of clarity, I guess.

For example, I am now thinking differently about the Youth Justice Act in Manitoba.

While interning at the paper (no, not the Sun) over the summer, I used to question why the names of youth who committed criminal acts were not published. Of course I thought I knew the answer, but I did not understand it as I understand it after the discussion today.

After today, I think their names are not published because it would only trap them if people at large knew their identity. They would become trapped by many of the same things the people on that list were temporarily trapped by  - stereotypes, and in some cases, publishing their names could perpetuate ideas rooted in racism that, unfortunately, seems to exist in society already.

The difference is, of course, that the people whose names appeared on the list on the posters have not, to my knowledge, committed criminal acts.

Anyway, this is all to say that I now have a little bit more insight when it comes to forming an opinion on what is appropriate to publish. I still agree with the hand out on journalism I was given last year - that information published should allow people to be free and self-governing. However, it should be non-discriminatory, so to speak: information should, to the best of the media outlets ability, let everyone be free and self-governing.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, and no I am not saying that convicted serial killers and child molesters should remain anonymous, but I am saying that all parties should  be considered when content is published, and in the particular case of the anti-semitic posters, one party was targeted, and the media only continued to target them by posting the content.

The end.

Monday, 10 September 2012


One thing I learned after working for a paper this summer: there is more room for truth in fiction than there is in writing that is supposedly fact.

I started to think that after one editor in particular began telling me the responses I should be getting from organizations in order to write any particular story, and even the quotes people should be saying. He was deciding the news, not discovering it.

Then I started thinking maybe it was just him, but as I had more hands-on experience I realized that no, it’s truly the nature of the newspaper beast.

Consider when I have to report on a knife fight - the actual knife fight happens somewhere in Winnipeg. Then someone calls the cops, or the cops see it when they are on patrol. They break it up, and people have to file police reports and whatever, so they get a combination of ‘truths‘ and people generally saying what they think will keep them out of trouble. Then police media relations has to summarize the event into something they can report to the media without compromising the image of the cops. That’s when I give them a call and get the ‘story‘ which, at this point, is really just something derived from what might have happened, but who really knows.

And the paper is a business. The bottom line is to sell papers which makes me see journalism, or at least the side of it I saw this summer, as something that defeats it’s own purpose. I was under the impression before I did this internship that the point of reporting information is to provide people with something that would allow them to be ‘self-governing,‘ to make their own choices or at least have options. I feel as though there is an element of it to that, but mostly every media outlet just wants to be the fastest and that kind of gets lost in everything.

And there are a bunch of rules surrounding what you can and cannot say and I believe they all relate to political connotations, perhaps, and things I don’t really understand. And overall they relate to having ‘taste‘ or being politically correct or whatever. Apparently, I know nothing about taste (or so I was told on the fourth time I was talked to about the dress code). Anyway, at least in fiction, because you are making up stuff that is based on maybe your own experiences or someone else's, you can show ugly details and be really honest about the whole thing because in the end it’s just fiction, right?

You can say things that are not tasteful, but that are true. And while I don’t believe in ultimate truth, at least you can tell someone’s truth in a full way than try to partially tell everyones only to tell no ones at all.

That’s why I will be writing movies one day, not articles. 

Friday, 7 September 2012


On the evening of Tuesday, September 4, members and supporters of the Green Party of Manitoba gathered at Triple B’s and ate Bruschetta while awaiting the results of the Fort Whyte byelection.

It seemed as though most people who were speaking about the byelection throughout the day knew the PC candidate, Brian Pallister, was going to win, and he did. The riding has always been conservative, with Hugh McFadyen, PC garnering 5,594 votes in the last provincial election on October 4, 2011. The NDP candidate Sunny Dhaliwal was far behind him with 2,655 votes, and Liberal candidate Chae Tsai only got 710. 

The Fort Whyte Green Party candidate, Donnie Benham, said he was not nervous, even when results were going to be in any minute. I believed that he was not afraid at all as I watched him casually walk over to the ATM to pull out some cash while some of the other people there, including party members, student journalists, and supporters waited in anticipation.

I started to think about why he would not be nervous and aside from what seemed to be the obvious near fact that he was not going to be elected, it occurred to me that being elected may never have been his goal in the first place. I suppose I started giving this more thought after James Beddome, the Leader of the Green Party of Manitoba, began speaking about awareness as the party’s central focus in the byelection.

“We want to make sure they know the Green Party is out there,” he said. 

The Green Party, I started to think, holds the convictions and values of its members and supporters, and it sounded as though Beddome, and Benham, want to see the party’s identity bloom.

The idea of identity started going around in my mind even more when I found out, minutes later, that Pauline Marois of the PQ had been elected as Premier of Quebec.

I had gotten back from Montreal two days before and each time I walked by a sign of Marois’ face, I listened to my pal Erik, who is an Anglo, talk about Marois as the would-be worst thing to ever happen to Quebec. He spoke of coexistance and expressed disapproval at the prospect of separating from the rest of Canada, saying it would leave him no choice but to leave Montreal.

But then at night I would listen to Mado, my favorite Franco (and all time) drag queen discourage spectators from voting for Charest while performing her show, and denying her status as a Canadian citizen, claiming she is “Quebecois, and Quebecois only,” or something along the lines of that.

“Who here does not speak French?” she asked in her thick and very sexy accent. “Oh, it’s okay to be retarded” she said when people raised their hands.    

And that, too, is all about identity. Because while the Green Party of Manitoba was trying to bring theirs to life, the PQ and their supporters are trying to keep theirs from dying. 

I was sad that Marois won, I guess, because even though it’s unlikely, I don’t want Montreal to leave from Canada. I love how it is now. But I guess I kind of get it because I’ve been to Israel so that gave me a sense of how it feels to really belong. When I got there, I was told a million times that I was home - simply because I’m a Jew. It was cool to see people from my ‘tribe‘ with their own land and their own language and their own way of life, and it was even more cool to know that my blood - my identity - entitles me to be a part of that. So I started thinking that, if I was a Franco, and I lived in a sweet place like Montreal, or Quebec in general, hell yeah I’d want to claim it for my own. 

Anyway, I was also sad to see the official results of the Manitoba Fort Whyte byelection, which were the following:

Brian Pallister, PC got 3,626 votes
Bob Axworthy, Lib. got 2,069 votes
Brandy Schmidt, NDP got 739 votes
Donnie Benham, Green Party got 113 votes
Darrell Ackman, Independent got 19 votes

That means that NDP has 37 seats, the PCs have 19 seats, and the Liberals have 1 seat.

I was sad to see this because I will soon be at a place where I am going to want to build my own identity and it is hard to imagine that even if you believe your values are valuable and your perspectives give perspective, not everyone else will see that in you. Not everyone sees it in the Green Party, I guess. 

“Every vote for the Green Party is a victory,” said Benham, after he saw the results. “I am really happy with the turnout; 100 votes, that’s 100 people that want a more accountable government and a greener future for Manitoba.”

Those things that he said made me understand it definitely was not about winning or losing, and that’s something I will remember about the identity of the Green Party.