It’s been a year that continues to see firsts, and today it was having my first freelanced story published.
From the story pitch, to the research and interviews, to the writing and editing (and taking the latter two and repeating them a dozen times over) – I carried this baby start to finish, and am proud to see it in Business in Vancouver this week.
In May, Kwantlen Polytechnic University announced that the owner and chairman of Boston Pizza International would assume the role of chancellor this fall.
I got to speak with George Melville twice, and on both occasions I had the opportunity to gain a little more insight into what he thinks about community, education and business.
Check out George Melville: Making the grade – the product of my first few steps in freelance journalism.
You can learn a lot in 36 hours.
It’s the act of being fully immersed in something new that pushes you cleanly right out of your comfort zone, and lands you – rather messily – into a form of survival mode that is in constant conflict with the wanderlust of the traveler, and the curiosity of the journalist. For all three of these reasons, my eyes are wide open, and have taken in a lot on my weekend trip to Shoreditch, London.
Yesterday morning, I caught the 6 a.m. train from Preston to London Euston, a station I was warned would be completely overwhelming.
It was. But I am adamant that people at any sort of information booth, whether they want to or not, are going to help me find where I need to go. (It helps having a foreign accent, too.) The girl who helped me was lovely, and after studying and re-studying my tube map, I’ve finally understood the difference between the rails, the underground, and the overground.
So, after taking the underground, I found myself in what I would describe as London’s “gastown” (although really, Gastown should be called Vancouver’s Shoreditch). The area’s crumbling buildings have been revived with artistic graffiti that beautifies the hip, trendy shops.
I was headed to the Rich Mix cinema for a two-day documentary film fest. With my “superpass,” I was allowed to see any of the films I wanted, attend any of the panels, and watch any of the private screenings in what was dubbed the Delegates Lounge.
I soon learned that as badly as I wanted to take in as many features as I could, I have a low threshold for how long I’m able to sit in dark rooms.
Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark, Pink Saris, and The Yes Men Fix the World were the ones I watched yesterday. The first being my favourite, the third being incredibly quirky but overall a good laugh. I attended one of the two-hour sessions that boldly asked what the differences, or lack thereof, are between documentarians and journalists to a brilliant roster of panelists, including the director of Pink Saris; the commissioning editor for major series, specials, and discussions at Al Jazeera English; the managing editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism; a talented journalist whose documentary on Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields was nominated for the 2012 Noble Peace Prize.
Between the Lines, so far, has proven to be worth the daunting trip. It’s inspiring and, as its tagline of “breaking boundaries in documenting the world” suggests, norm-challenging.
After my first day, I asked the woman at the reception desk if she could give me directions to the cheap hotel I’d (proudly) found and reserved online. She kind of politely refused, explaining that walking through the Roman Road ghetto is probably not something a wide-eyed chatty white girl like me (she didn’t say this, but I swore her eyes did) should be doing in the dark.
So I’m writing this long-overdue post from the comfort of a Premier Inn with a view of the city.
Needless to say, it hasn’t been a cheap weekend. But you live, and you learn. And the two biggest things I’m taking away from this quick jaunt are that 1) while I may not make the best decisions right out of the ghetto, I’m very capable of finding solutions (or finding someone who can find solutions) and being resourceful; 2) I’m enormously excited at the prospect of working in film and television.
Day two, here we go.
PS – Hi Grandma.
Over a year ago, I borrowed Hitch-22 from the library. Christopher Hitchens was an iconoclast, writer, and contrarian, and this is his autobiography.
I find reading about others’ lives fascinating, and I tried desperately to like the book. It was something I wanted to like, something I felt like I should read. I’m still less than halfway through it, but I maintain that there remains hope.
Hope renewed by the discovery of this quote:
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”
Words worth thinking about; good advice to live by.
If you’re looking for the post about Vegas, it’s the one below. This one is dedicated to something a little less frivilous.
I wasn’t sure how I would cross off #62. Be recognized for a journalism-related achievement from my list. I had even thought about leaving it on there until the bitter end as motivation to go out and achieve something worth recognizing. But winning a Jack Webster Student Journalism Award fit this goal best for several reasons.
First, it’s something that I’m proud of because second, it’s an honour. Third, I originally created my list as a list of eclectic, adventurous, and significant celebrations for all kinds of achievements: This definitely is one of those. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, the award was journalism-related, and not for actual journalism.
So what did I write about?
My essay was short and to-the-point, like most of my essays are when I’m up against a pushy deadline, and constrained to a tight word count. In 500 words, I wrote about my view on the place of journalism in the world, my aspirations, and my reasons for getting into journalism in the first place. In my opinion, the reasons behind why anyone chooses any career – or any path for that matter – is very telling. Being allowed to know why anyone does anything is fascinating to me.
When I re-read my reasons, it all seems to make sense. I can trace back how I got to where am I by selecting certain “significant” events, by pointing to people who have encouraged me, events that influenced me.
But at the end of the day, I’m not so sure those are the case. What I mean, is that looking back I can choose to include what I think got me into journalism in the first place. In reality, if some small, seemingly irrelevant, non-journalism-related, circumstantial detail was changed, I may not be in my final year, studying journalism, and in love with the idea of telling stories and embarking on a career path that allows me to learn for a job.
There are, however, a few “milestones” (for lack of a better term), that definitely had an impact.
One of them was my discovery of Christiane Amanpour.
When I share this story with people, 80 per cent of the time I get a response that has to do with how she and I have similar hairstyles. If success in journalism was based on hair, I must be on the right track.
We share at least one other thing in common though, and that is a positive belief in the potential of journalism.
I won’t post my essay: When I went searching for past award recipients’ essays online in an attempt to dissuade myself from entering a competition that sees a number of high-caliber entries by more qualified entrants than I, I couldn’t find a single thing. I won’t break the tradition of secrecy by making it easier for next year’s essayists. They will just have to be original. I will give you the first three lines.
Christiane Amanpour once stated that: “Good journalism, good television, can make the world a better place.” And I believe that to be true.
The key, however, is that journalism itself should not set out to make the world a better place. Rather, journalism that discusses ideas, explains concepts, and provides accountability for actions, has the great potential to make our world a better place by informing populations and educating minds.
Thank you to the Jack Webster Foundation for seeing something true in my writing, and for a fantastic evening; Thank you to one of my instructors for flat-out telling me to apply.
Yesterday, I got a call from Washington, DC.
He – the voice on the other end of the phone – offered me some advice, a little guidance on how I might go about pursuing a career in foreign correspondence and conflict zone reporting.
We’ve never met. In fact, the circumstances leading to the call were a series of happy coincidences, married with a little persistence.
Several weeks ago I went to my weekly Monday-night meeting, where timing and location meant I happened to meet one of my colleague and mentors’ longtime friends. I shared my experiences living on a military base in Wainwright, and my ambitions of coupling travel with journalism on issues that I find matter. He himself had studied journalism in Paris, but ended up furthering his education in international politics and economics.
One of his best friends, however, continued on with journalism, traveled to conflict zones, war zones, and areas of devastation. He now works for the IMF.
After a virtual introduction, a couples of emails, and a emailed resume spell-checked half a dozen times, he agreed to speak with me. And by agreeing to speak with me, I mean he just decided to call. Which takes me to yesterday morning, half-way through a rushed breakfast before heading off to work, staring at my phone trying to figure out whether this call from DC, USA was an automated credit card spam call.
I answered. And about 10 minutes later, I went back to getting ready for work, having possibly made the contact of a lifetime: A professional, talented, and experienced potential sounding board who has lived the career I hope to pursue.
The capitol called yesterday, and along with it, a glimpse of what my future could be.
I am on my phone constantly.
And if it’s not the phone, it’s the laptop, where I simultaneously run my Twitter and Facebook feeds, while listening to a TED Talk and reading a lengthy New York Times article. That, or some other combination of over-stimulation and attention deficit disorder.
I’m always plugged in. And on the occasion that I decide to check out – or my mental breaker goes – I am in one way or another connecting with another person. When I’m physically alone, I’m connected to others through books or music, in a literary or melodic transcendence of time and place.
That’s the ultimate goal, whether it be in one’s personal life, social life, or professional life: To connect with others, and to feel connected. Psychologically, it boils down to our need for acceptance; Journalistically, it’s the ability to tell powerful stories that open eyes, warm and break hearts, and cause people to feel. And it’s this ability that can make or break a career. It is the difference between a story having a dramatic political impact, and it’s physical form being re-used as fried fish wrapping paper.
I attended a Kwantlen University GDMA event in Vancouver recently. It featured Terry O’Reilly, who spoke to the power of storytelling. In a nutshell, he iterated that in communication, it simply isn’t enough to make people understand: You have to make them feel. Feeling, he said, calls people to action more than facts and figures. (Which explains the impact the #Kony2012 movement was able to have in such a short period of time, before the world decided to check the facts: A classic case of action based on emotion, which is then followed by rational, critical, logical thinking. This, I’ve argued, is why the creators of the 30-minute video were successful: They achieved exactly what they wanted to achieve, by telling a powerful story that opened eyes and broke hearts, albeit temporarily.)
When you tell a story, you add value. Value, in turn, creates margin, and margin means profit. While O’Reilly was talking specifically about communication in advertising, the same principles are applicable not only to journalism, but to how we communicate in our day-to-day, hour-to-hour, text-to-text lives. At the end of the day, we relate to other people through a series of stories, through feeling, through making a connection.
So today, as I sat at the beach in front of a million-dollar ocean view with my eyes glued to my iPhone, I had a bit of a long-awaited epiphany: That through apps and social media sites and digital devices, I am able to instantly connect with any other human being on the planet. I can follow the successes of an old high school peer as they actively construct the timeline of their life, and I can let someone living thousands of miles away know that they are missed, and have them instantaneously share my feelings in that same moment. I can see the trends of what is being talked about globally, and know when anyone I’ve ever met, living in my area, has checked-in nearby.
What an incredible time it is to be making connections, and communicating ideas. So here I am, connecting with you.