Tag Archives: j-school

This Time Last Year

It’s funny how you can look back on things  and decide they were even better than you previously gave them credit for. Like when you were younger and you couldn’t wait to drive a car, make money, or pick your own clothes.

I’m just getting into the groove of 2011, but I still find myself looking back. Looking back at Facebook photos, archived emails and blog posts that remind me of where I was and what I was doing exactly 12 months ago.

My first picture as a Pinellas News Intern

Not only was I still a journalism student last January, but I was also an intern at the Pinellas News in St. Petersburg, Florida. Who would have guessed it would have been such an exciting and such an eye-opening learning experience. Not me.

It all started with a trip down to the Sunshine State. Funny enough I’m back down here right now and I wish I could be spending my days again reporting for the community paper. But my internship is long over and whats more is that little paper no longer exists.

As I took a drive downtown yesterday to visit my old stomping grounds as an intern reporter, the nostalgia really set in. This little community that I had known as my vacation hideaway since I was three years old became a place full of lively stories and interesting people that I was so eager to meet and write about. In the beginning I was quite intimidated at the thought of having to report in a city where I hardly knew anyone or anything, but that all wore off quicker than I expected just by talking to the natives and doing as much research and exploring as I could.

The view of downtown St. Petersburg

Not only did the internship give me a ton of great reporting experience that I have been able to build upon in my career, it gave me many memories and a newfound appreciation of the city of St. Petersburg that I will keep with me and think about every time I come back to visit.

Reporting from President Obama's town hall meeting in Tampa

Looking for a dose of the past? You can check out the stories from week one, two, three and four of my internship.

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2010 Photo Diary

Uploading the last of my 2010 pictures onto iPhoto today, I couldn’t help but browse through all my albums from the last year. The groups of photos sparked so many good times, so many happy memories, and new experiences that made it a year to remember. So I decided it would be fun to put together a little photo diary of my year in review. Here is to a wonderful year and to the start of another great one.

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Good Advice to Give and Take

Some of you may know I have been a member of the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada (PWAC) for a little over a year now. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a newbie freelancer, and I’ve really enjoyed meeting members from across Canada and hearing how they got their start.

Well, a little while ago I was asked to share my experiences as an intern at Pinellas News for the London chapter’s newsletter. I was a bit surprised to be asked to give advice to other members, especially since I am one of the youngest and least experienced of the bunch. Still it was great to get my experience down in writing, and as I wrote the piece I was reminded all over again what an incredible learning opportunity the entire internship was.

As I prepare to embark on my fourth stint as an intern (more on that soon) I’ll be making sure to read over this piece and make some mental notes to bring with me to the next publication.

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An Ode to J-School

We are the future!

You can thank my nostalgia and my excessive free time for this post. In what I hope is not the last tribute to J-school, here are the top five things I learned as a journalism student this year:

1. If your mother tells you she loves you what do you do? You check it out!

I know this probably sounds pretty weird to most people, but essentially it means that as a journalist you must be skeptical of everything. I’m not saying you should never believe a word you hear, but you should always be curious and the information you are told and the source it came from, and check, check and double check all the facts! We’ve been taught that as reporters, our first obligation is to provide the public with the truth. It’s not enough to publish information and check it later, we must make every effort to ensure the information we have received is valid before we share it with the public.

Think of the Balloon Boy fiasco last year: Did anyone in the media question if there REALLY was a little boy floating around in that balloon? Maybe if someone stopped to think about it for a few minutes before they quickly posted the story online and broke the news all over the TV, the hoax would have been discovered sooner.

So next time your moms tells you she loves you, make sure you have at least two other valid sources to confirm this statement before you go tell everyone. Accuracy is key.

2. Don’t use a $10.00 word when a $5.00 word will suffice.

This one came from my time as a co-op student at the London Free Press. Having the opportunity to sit down with the editors and go over my work was a great learning experience, and I will be sure to use their tips and advice every time I approach a new story. A problem facing most writers, including myself, is learning how to be as concise as possible. When you are writing for a newspaper especially, space for each story is limited and sometimes you will be given only 500 words for a story that you think you need 700 words to tell. This is why it is important to write clear and concise.

Remember all those long and fancy words you would use to fill up those academic essays in undergrad? You need to throw them out the window and stick to simple sentences. This was quite a struggle for me to get used to after all those years of writing 4,000 word papers, but the best thing to remember is just to tell the story as you would explain it to a friend or family member.

3. Canadian Press Style Guide is the Bible.

First, I must say I owe everything I know about grammar, spelling and editing to my professor Mary Doyle (thanks Mary!!). I may not practice it perfectly all the time, but the rules have definitely been implanted in my head. You can’t be a good journalist if your work is riddled with spelling and grammar errors, and editors will be much more happy if they don’t have to spend all their time making your stories comprehensible. This is why you need the latest edition of the CP Style Guide as well as Caps and Spelling to get the job done right.

All semester if anyone would ask, does this word have a hyphen? do I need to capitalize this? what’s the abbreviation for that? we would all say CP STYLE! It’s hard to even explain how valuable this book is for a writer, and it was definielty the best purchase I made all school year.

4. If it bleeds is leads.

Sounds pretty gruesome and sensational but it’s true (and if you start paying close attention to news coverage it will become more apparent). After writing countless practice news stories about house fires, shootings, dead bodies and car accidents you find there is a hierarchy when it comes to reporting events. It goes a little something like this:

  1. People
  2. Money
  3. Stuff

If a person (or an animal) dies or is hurt it must be the first thing you report on in the story. If a large sum of money is stolen or lost that goes next. And finally, if anything is destroyed or badly damaged (house, car, building etc.) that would go after you report on the other two. Not exactly the best types of stories to cover, but somebody’s gotta do it.

5. Good things come to those who work really, really hard.

Sure I had to pull my weight in undergrad, but grad school I tell you was a whole other story! When we first began the year I remember being told, “you will get as much out of this program as you put into it” and boy did I take that to heart. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day to work on all those assignments, sit through hours of class and be involved in extra-curricular opportunities but I tried my best. When things weren’t going my way I wondered why I ever decided journalism school was a good idea, but when things turned out great all those worries melted right away.

Whether it was searching for story ideas, interviewing sources, editing a podcast or putting the final touches on a video clip I can honestly say I have never worked harder at anything in my life than I have in the last 12 months. But all those long nights and wasted weekends spent in the North Campus Building computer labs to get everything done just right was well worth all the stress, tears, hissy fits and bad hair days. It made me stronger, it made me wiser and most importantly it made me realize that with enough dedication and persistence anything is possible.

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Hand me my Green Jacket

The end is not near, it is HERE.

After five years of post-secondary education at The University of Western Ontario, I am finally entering that place everyone keeps talking about: the “REAL WORLD.”

What's it like?

No more staying up all hours of the night writing essays, eating greasy pizza while doing group projects on the weekends, studying for exams with my “Zen Calming” iPod playlist, or showing up for class hungover. Damn I’m going to miss that last one.

I am officially a Master. A Master of Arts in Journalism to be exact. If this was the PGA tour, I’d be getting a beautifully tailored green jacket that I could wear with my fave strappy heels and bauble necklace.

I'm still trying to master photoshop

Instead this is the “REAL WORLD,” and now –gasp– I’m back living in the suburbs with my parents, waiting for a sign from the Divine, or more like a call from one of the countless places i’ve applied for employment telling me my dream job is waiting.

My feelings about this transition are mixed to say the least.

Sure, I’m proud of all my hard work over the last five years and the fact i’m finally graduating. I don’t really want to spend the rest of my life in school (at some point I will no longer be able to pass for 21). And I really want  to start my career so I can make some money and establish myself as an adult in a fabulous Toronto condo overlooking the Lakeshore (or at least pay for my own cell phone bill).

But when you’ve been a student all your life and you’re used to all the privileges and excuses that come with being in school full-time, how the hell are you supposed to know how to function when you no longer have the word STUDENT following the comma after your name? And how do you decide your next move when you want to do about a million different things at the same time? It is the ultimate identity crisis if you ask me.

For now I’m just trying to put all these thoughts on hold for a few weeks and do something you hardly ever get to do…NOTHING. But it’s harder then one would think spending your days with your hair in a bun, organizing the clothes in your closet by colour and sleeve length. I just have to keep telling myself to be patient and use my time to read, relax, think about my next move and spend time with some great people.

Hopefully, when the day arrives for me to don my last cap and gown at Alumni Hall (June 14th), I’ll have a better idea of where I’m headed– even if it’s just for the next couple of months.

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You can never have enough shoes: This weekend at the London Free Press

Photo By: Morris Lamont/London Free Press

After a relatively unproductive weekend, I took a day shift Sunday at the London Free Press. As I rode the bus downtown I went over the list of potential story ideas in my head that I could pitch. I arrived in the newsroom prepared for one of the city editors to okay one of my ideas and to spend the afternoon looking for sources and making phone calls. Instead I was greeted by one of the photographers, Morris Lamot, who told me I would be going along with him to cover Slush Cup at Boler Mountain.
As the day panned out I realized many things, one of them being that I seemed to be the only person I knew who had never heard about a Slush Cup before. (If you don’t either the best you can do is watch this video).
Check out the story from the London Free Press here.
Here’s my two cents from this weekend:
1. Always be Prepared: So I may have ripped this motto from the Boy Scouts, but I think journalists should start adopting this practice too. As a reporter you never know where the day might take you, and where you might end up to cover a story. You may need a raincoat and some wellies, or you may need some heels and a blazer. Case in point: On a fairly warm Sunday (about 6 degrees) I found myself going to a ski hill. When I got dressed that morning the last thing I was thinking as I starred into my closet was, “I should wear something warm incase I spend the whole day outside.” Not going to lie I was more concerned about coordinating my cardigan with my bracelets. But luckily at the last minute I wore my boots instead of my converse, and my wool pea coat instead of my short leather jacket. After the first hour at the hill my feet were already numb (these boots are nice but not designed for trekking through snow all day long), and I was wishing  my outfit plan included a scarf. The photographer on the other had pulled out a pair of Sorel winter boots from his trunk along with a hat and an insulated jacket. “You never know where they are going to send you, and if you aren’t prepared you can’t do your job the way you need to,” he said. Now the next time I take a shift at the paper I don’t plan on bringing a small duffel bag with different outfit options, (not that I wouldn’t enjoy that) but I will for sure think about versatility when I access my choice in the mirror.
2. Multi-tasking is an Art: My job for the day was simply to interview some spectators, contestants, and a representative from Boler so I could write a colourful story about the event. The photographer on the other hand had to shoot video for the web and take photos that would appear in the paper, as well as in an online photo gallery. I watched him as he shot some clips with the mini-cam and then quickly turned to his digital SLR to snap some stills as all the action was going on and people were moving all around him (don’t forget he was standing on an uneven snowy hill!). On top of that he even made it a point to run over to every contestant after they came down the hill to get their names for the photo captions. I was having trouble just conducting interviews while keeping track at how many people had come down the hill. Luckily we worked together back in the newsroom, sharing names and going over the facts for the story, but I realized that’s not always going to be the case. The realities of the job today are that I might be sent out somewhere without another reporter/ videographer/photographer to share the work with. This means I will be expected to step up my game and make sure I cover all the major points of the multimedia story––  even if it’s just covering some crazy teens skiing into a pond of freezing water.
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The Intern Diaries Week Four: The Grand Finale

Some wise words

For some reason I have the lyrics of this old Sinatra song in my head as I write this post.  The end of my four week stint as an editorial intern at Pinellas News in St. Petersburg, Florida has arrived. Four weeks, 21 stories, and dozens of Twitter updates later its time to go back to Canada for my last semester of J-school (more on that in a future post).

It seems like only yesterday I arrived down here, got my official press pass and started learning about this city by the bay. Four issues of the paper later, I have learned so much. There have been many high and low points, many great accomplishments and frustrating moments, exciting encounters, long hard days, and leisure time to explore.

I’m very grateful for all of the opportunities I was given at the paper (even if I was a little reluctant to learn Quark and Photoshop and get out there with that big Nikon camera). I can now say i’ve dabbled in almost every area of the newspaper business, and I’m sure if I stayed a little longer I would have been learning about the ads and circulation too. Although I’m looking forward to going home to see all my loved ones and get back to more learning at school, I’m sad to be leaving the internship, and, lets be honest, the subtropical weather.

Click here to read my articles in Pinellas News for January 29th.

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The 2009 Clissold Lecture in Journalism: Tony Burman

Tony Burman visited The University of Western Ontario in November to deliver this year’s Clissold Lecture in Journalism. His talk was entitled, Hiding from the World: The Media’s Retreat from Global News Coverage. Burman spent more than 35 years at the CBC as editor in chief before moving to Doha, Qatar to be managing director of Al Jazeera English. A few days after he visited Western, Al Jazeera English was approved for Canadian distribution. A portion of his speech is featured in the latest Western in Five podcast.

You can subscribe to the weekly podcast on iTunes U for free.

Click here to listen to Western in Five for the week of November 16th.

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Penn Kemp: UWO’s Writer in Residence

This month I interviewed London poet and UWO alumi Penn Kemp for the Western in 5 podcast. Kemp is the James A. and Marjorie Spenceley/Canada Council Writer-in-Residence for 2009-10 in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. She has travelled the world and collaborated with various writers, artists, dancers and musicians. I talked to Kemp about what she hopes to accomplish as the writer in residence for this year.

You can subscribe to the weekly podcast on iTunes U for free.

Listen to Western in Five for the week of November 2, 2009.

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Radio GaGa


In my first semester of Journalism school I had the opportunity to be part of the radio news team for CHRW News, the local campus station. It was exciting to be able to produce local, nation, and international stories for the newscast on a tight deadline and it was exhilarating to be live on the air for all to hear. I especially enjoyed reporting for the A&E and Sports segments of the newscasts as I had the opportunity to choose my own stories and produce segments that were not only current but fun and interesting as well.

Radio broadcasting has really grown on me and I can’t wait to do it all again next semester.

Listen to my radio debut here:

Reporting the A&E News

Co-anchor for the Newscast

Sports News Reporting

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