A body in my backyard

It’s my first breaking news shift as an intern for the Winnipeg Free Press.

I wake up at 5:30 am, put on the coffee and have a long shower. Up next is writing a few stories for the web and then keeping my eyes and ears ready for news. My phone rings.

“Where do you live?” asks my editor.
“South side of Winnipeg, on Wilkes Avenue.”
“Are you kidding me? – there are reports of a body floating in a retention pond off Wilkes.”

The same retention pond I could see as I looked out the window.

I get in my car and drive east a few buildings down. Only one police cruiser and an ambulance are at the scene. I arrived to see the non-descript body being placed on the stretcher with a white blanket over top. More police arrive and they pay no attention to the girl who looks like an uninformed neighbourhood resident.

No one’s saying anything so I head into the building that borders on the scene where the body was found, live tweeting as the event unfolds. I poke my head around a few more corners then “how did you slip by here?”  The area was secured inside and out, so I waited in my car for someone – anyone – to leave the locked building. Finally someone does: a veteran reporter from Nova Scotia on holiday to visit her aunt. She had poked around herself and filled me in: police are canvassing the building, asking if anyone’s seen anything. And it was the care taker who called in the floating body.

For all the intensity of a body in my backyard, the last word I received was the possibility of suicide – a story to go unreported in the media.

***

I’ve always said nothing beats being there and, as I’ve discovered recently, nothing beats the rush of getting to news first.

When I started my internship at the Free Press last week, the building itself was a little daunting; cubicles galore occupied by writers whose work I’ve followed for a long time.

But things get better and first day jitters calm down quickly. I’ve done three internships before and the great thing about them is you’re going to have some “tough love” lessons on the job – if you’re lucky. Some just don’t work out, while others have surprise endings:

Technical difficulty

It was the very first day in the newsroom and it’s painfully slow – Easter Monday and city hall, the legislature and the law courts are all closed. No streeters there, Duncan McMonagle. So instead I start perusing my social media networks while keeping in touch with other sources and writing web stories.

I land on an event happening at UW: a talk-back discussion with members from Invisible Children, the organization behind KONY 2012. The editors liked the idea and after filing some short pieces I head home to prep for the night. I go to the lecture, interview many intriguing people and get to writing. My deadline is 9:00 pm, I’m done at 8:30. Only problem: I have no internet.

I make the quick drive to the college. Start the computer and transfer my file over with a stick. It’s corrupt and won’t open. I have five minutes to deadline. I try different ways of pulling my file off the computer to no avail. With ten minutes past the deadline, I submit my file without being able to open it on the computer I’m sending from. Editor couldn’t open it and things were way behind- another one for the tough luck books.

Verbal interaction

Personality is what I want editors to get from me. At the end of the internship, I’m another student floating in and out; knowing who I am, how I interact with people in the newsroom is key to figuring out if this is the place for me – and vice versa.

One day the writers were preparing pieces for a feature on the Provincial Nominee Program reorganization (so to speak). I overheard my editor and a writer talking about finding people – so I mentioned my family used the program. Before the day was out, I wrote a personal piece about my family’s use of the PNP, and why it’s an asset for immigrants in all standings: Community kept us here.

It turned out to be a great way to share a story I’m proud to tell and try a different voice. Editors saw a different side to me and many people I knew responded positively to the story. The piece ran again in print this past Monday in the Brandon Sun.

 “I wish I could say have a good day, but I cannot find the words”

You’re not a journalist until you receive a letter of discontent.

Thankfully my first letter was, in my humble opinion, not too grave. A dignitary who attended the Transcona 100 sent me words of venom (ALL IN CAPS) for not specifically mentioning his name in the article. He was one of more than 10 dignitaries at the event, and while he is no less important than other dignitaries, I only mentioned the few key people who spoke early on in the presentation.

I responded to him respectively and hope that when I encounter him in person, there will be a mutual agreement to move forward professionally. It’s an important lesson to learn, that of pride. Dealing with your own and others can be a delicate balance.

No story is ever too small

And now I leave you on a positive note.

On my second day I was sent to cover a story about grade four to six students at a Winnipeg school who created original art work to auction off for sick kids.

While the adults and kids I met were terrific, I was worried there wasn’t much of a story. So I opened myself to taking a softer writing approach to a story I personally found touching. The piece didn’t run the next day, as it wasn’t time sensitive and there was enough content.

The next day it ran I had a few emails waiting for me. A local gallery owner sent me a message saying a board member of his cooperative suggested donating an artistry book to the classes as a thank you for their community involvement. It was such a sweet gesture, it made me realize (once more) no story is ever too small.

And reminded me it’s for the community, and its betterment, that we write.

If you’d like to contact me with letters of discontent or happiness, please make my day by emailing them to daniella.ponticelli@freepress.mb.ca.

Making every fail a ‘learning lesson’

When things go wrong in journalism school, it’s actually a good thing.

I’ve been learning this lesson throughout my time in CreComm, but it finally settled in Thursday when some technical difficulties in a news cast led to great teamwork and overall, an amazing (fun) show.

It all comes down to how you deal – and no, I’m not a zen master so it’s hit and miss on how I’ll react. But the more time I spend practising my craft, I realize making mistakes is inevitable and the more you try not to, the worse it burns.

Take the autofail, where an assignment is branded with an F is one name is spelled incorrectly. Yes it’s about not making the same mistake twice, but it’s also working through what could be perceived as a disappointment. Trust me, after four of these it’s like a bee sting.

And while it’s not always the easiest way to learn, I believe it’s the best damn way. So I’ve decided to lay it out: my “five important lessons learned the hard way” in journalism school.

Spelling matters, even on Twitter

Sometimes an honest mistake can cause enough curiosity on Twitter to drive more traffic to your blog. I was still green to the micro-blogging site when I (mean to) tweet out “It’s Halloween, and the Feed has for you a scary love story: Blood Clock.”

For some reason, I was getting quite a bit of hits on this poetry post. The next day a classmate of mine  says “I was curious when I saw the title on Twitter, spelling mistakes are a bitch.” Turns out it was a scary mistake: I forgot to add the L in clock.

Remove “stalker” from your vocabulary

One challenging aspects of being a student reporter is having the time to play phone tag and e-mail snake with your contacts. Sometimes you have to put the gadgets aside and go in head first.

For one broadcast story, my shooter and I decided we would find our interview subject by quite literally stalking the halls of the University of Manitoba. We knocked on doors, we sounded official and magically we walked in to the lobby at the right time to find him. And of course, we politely asked him for an interview.

Canada 411 is a crucial resource.

Yes, that tripod is supposed to have a plate

Because I’m not a media production student, I sometimes push my intuition aside because well, it’s easier to simply place blind trust in the camera bag i.e. assuming all your equipment is there and in order.

I have so many tales of the broadcast shoot gone wrong: no tape/SD card in the camera, no white balance, no audio and one time, my shooter didn’t hit record.

But my most recent ‘encounter-with-technology’ happened on my trip to Hecla, Manitoba. Every tripod needs a plate – even if your camera is little and a veteran shooter tells you it doesn’t.  So I shot handheld for everything (my preference anyway), but when it came down to doing my stand-up (my little bit on the screen) I had to think of how to level a camera that is balancing  45 degrees between a hope and a prayer.

Turns out Manitoba is flat enough to level the camera without much hassle.

It’s all in the ask

Knowing what you’re looking for in a story is the first step – the next is asking the most clear and concise question humanly possible.

Take into account what exactly you need from this person. My favourite example of a question that was much too broad happened when I was the shooter, and the reporter was doing a story about roof repairs on an old church in Winnipeg.

To begin, we only have 2 hours to shoot, enough time for a 1 minute full story. We’re already in the third quarter and it’s time to interview the reverend. To warm him up, my reporter asks “so, can you give us a brief history on the church?” About 12 minutes later we arrive at the end of his answer and we didn’t use any of it.

All we want to know is how this repair is affecting people. Not the history of a 100 year old church. Bad ask on the reporter’s part and something I myself have done leading to 20 minutes of interview. Yuck.

How do you spell your name again?

Never  assume you know how to spell someone’s name. Not in the age where names are spelled with “unique twists” like Jaremy. I, of course, made this mistake – and failed hard – even after I interviewed the person for more than an hour and even though this person is on TV anchoring the news every night. It’s Leclerc, not LeClerc, who’d have known.

It’s embarrassing, but more importantly it’s lazy. I just thought the C needed some extra attention, boy was I wrong; albeit consistently wrong. So my favourite question is, and will always be, can you say and spell your name? Because in this day and age, you never know what you’ll get.

Can you find the name mistake on the cover below?

*

 

‘Just go for it’: Okay, Dawna Friesen

Sometimes we forget just how far we’ve come.

It was a snowy day in early December 2007 when I got on the bus to head to Red River College for my entrance exam.  At the time I remember thinking:  girl, you got nothing to lose – if it doesn’t work out, you’re still on your square.

Well I took the exam, did the interview and made it out alive. During the time between, I completed a number of university courses, met incredible people, went diving with sharks, and took a free helicopter ride with an amateur pilot just to see the view from above Table Mountain. I performed aerial dance and competed across the province and internationally – doing things I never imagined for myself.

And yet, we still have times of doubt. Saying that things aren’t good, or that some of our dreams will for sure have to wait.

This past Friday I met Dawna Friesen, Global National anchor and CreComm graduate. Her story is a remarkable one, and she has built herself an accomplished career doing what she wanted – and loved. One of my journalism friends started tearing up when Dawna told us “just go for it – go for your dreams.”

The tears? Because my friend realized that’s where we are right now. There’s never been a better time for us to reach for our most ambitious goals than right now – in our prime, with a blank canvas in front of us.  Dawna wasn’t handed a dream job, nor had she planned to live in 13 places over the course of five months.

And yet we worry about completing our broadcast journalism assignment.

What I’ve come to know about getting where you want to be (in a really brief period), is talking will only get you so far. It’s about doing. Last week, each one of us journalism majors talked about this to the first years. That a portfolio only takes shape when you’re active, willing – and in many ways, yearning. The dream job of a national anchor won’t just fall into the lap of someone who thinks it would be “a cool job.”

Another thing I’ve learned from seeing people who inspire me in the industry is their sense of humility. Dawna, who is accomplished and experienced in the way only time provides, was more than happy to speak with us, take pictures with us – be honest with us.“Take whatever comes your way, if it doesn’t work out – try again,” she said.

I strongly believe that those who think the world of themselves – and less of others – are really missing out. Being a remarkable journalist is not about being better, it’s about being skilled at sharing. Sharing stories and experiences with their community. I just don’t think you can be full of yourself and do a good job expressing sincerity and honesty.

Dawna told me about a story she did in London, about a boy who released a balloon that ended up in the Queen’s courtyard. While at first she didn’t see the real pull in it, she told me it was the story she received the most responses from viewers for, saying: “Just find the heart in your story.”

I think that’s why I love being a journalist. So much of what we do is working with what’s there – and taking risks. Turning an ordinary story into something valuable to those who hear and see it.

And we do have to be confident. We’re doing things that constantly puts us out there in public, and while you don’t want go overboard – a healthy dose of confidence is necessary. Remember: you can do it – just go for it.

So as I take time to send out my resumes and make decisions about where I’m going, I have to stop doubting myself. Dawna didn’t come out of CreComm knowing everything, and she wasn’t guaranteed anything. So to all my fellow journalism students, we can do this. After all, we survived CreComm…

(so far).

*

Welcome Back

Hello fellow writers, readers (and specialty beer drinkers),

I have been, ahem, on a hiatus for a while – after the first year of CreComm ended with a bang I went away to embark on a journalism stint with the military in Shilo, Manitoba.

And then I decided to finish my degree. The program I am currently in is a joint degree and diploma with The University of Winnipeg and Red River College – so I hit the books for two months and accumulated a total of 35 hours of sleep in the span of that whirlwind. I remember one evening in June deciding that I needed to blog… and falling asleep on my laptop.

In July, I went on the trip of my year – to Lausanne, Switzerland for the 14th World Gymnaestrada. It was 13 intense days of steep hills, hot weather, 5 am training calls and four sold out shows. It was an exhibition of dance from all over the world; our team being the representative for Canada, and showcasing an array of aerial dance as different animals. Yes I was a monkey! I blogged about my experience on the dance team website:

“On Wednesday July 6, the ladies and gentleman of Winnipeg’s Momentum Aerial and Acrobatic Troupe headed off for Lausanne Switzerland (via Toronto, Frankfurt and Geneva of course).  For some, it had been a two-year project, beginning with the road to the Canadian Gymnaestrada in Winnipeg on July long 2010. Others, like myself, began our trip six years ago before the WG in Austria – others still, before Portugal, some as far back as Sweden. Our performance in the FIG Gala has been in the making for over twelve years…”

Read the full story here.

But I made sure to get me some home-town lovin. My next trip away from home took me to rural Manitoba. I finally spent time with family in Brandon; stopped for the best deep-fried pickles in Erikson; shivered on the beach at Clear Lake; and finally went to Gimli. Yes, I have lived in Manitoba for ten years and have yet to visit the Viking. Spent one of my favourite days of this summer there.

I topped off my summer tour in the Okanagan Valley. Staying in Penticton, B.C. with friends, I went on wine tours, kayak jaunts, channel chill-outs (that is, relaxing on a floaty for three hours in the hot sun) and plenty of beach days. I wish I could write something that doesn’t sound trite, and right out of a summer tour guide, but it can’t be avoided. “The funnest place on earth!”

And to cap it all, I met a wonderful group of people – in interesting ways. Some great witty writers, drinkers, and friends through Twitter. Most notably, the ever charming @cenquist, whose blog is undergoing a wicked redesign that shall be linked at a later date.  Then the son of a Maclean’s editor and travel writer who told me all the great places his dad has been too (on the plane seat beside me). For those of you who don’t know – being a travel writer is my dream. And last – but not least – I met an ambitious and quirky journalist intern (in B.C.) who reminded me just how excited I am to be in my final year of CreComm.

I am officially a journalism major now, and I can’t wait to share the upcoming year with all of you. Of course, I will still post my creative writing pieces – don’t think I wasn’t writing poems on these trips! – And filling you in on my thoughts (for fear of academic penalty, ha!).

So here’s a toast to the new school year – oh, and Happy Birthday Cre.ature Feed!

Bon Appetit!

Aquatic Escape

I realized something absolutely scary. Not only am I a slave to the clock, but also a diagnosed zombie.

I have spent most of the week running around, skipping lunch for mac lab magazine work, driving to and from Brandon Manitoba within less than an evening, and waking up the next day to do it all again. By no means is this complaining, this is merely indicating how little time I have to write creatively. I miss it, the few cereal posts I’ve done are my only escape.

And that’s when opportunity came. My wonderful creative writing instructor Karen Press invited me to do a reading of some of my creative work, most likely a short story, along with poet, memoir writer, and international author Jonathan Garfinkel (I’m really excited to hear him read!).

The reading will be held on
Wednesday, April 6
7 pm
Aqua Books 274 Garry.

If you can’t make it to our duo reading, please consider taking in Garfinkel at noon the following day, April 7, at RRC Roblin Centre at the Exchange District Campus Room A104.

If you are interested in knowing more, and showing your attendance, there is a Facebook event here. I’ll be posting more on my creative project adventures – as soon as I remember what six hours of sleep feels like.

Social ME.dia: Strategic Practises

Part 2: Strategic Use of Social Media

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, but not under 140 characters.

The best advice I got for using social media as a business or personality: the 9 to 1 rule. For every 1 piece of self-promotion, post 9 engaging and interactive posts.

Basically, if you use social media, make sure that you are ready to have conversations. So follow people with the same interests. Don’t expect people to follow you if your account is smothered with self-promotion. A great example of interactive and engaging tweeting is Bistro 7 ¼.  Chef Alex tweets as a chef doing his day-to-day shopping and cooking and engages his audience by asking “What do you want for dinner?” while at the market.

And who wouldn’t support a business that is friendly enough to ask and take heart to your suggestions.

A great Facebook page is SANDBOX magazine. They use it actively and as the interactive hub for posting pictures and commenting personally on other’s profiles. The creator of Sandbox did almost all of the social media promotion so now I must ask:

How do you feel about corporate tweeters?
These are people who tweet on behalf of people or organizations. Let’s keep it on a local level as it is obvious why CEO’s of major corporations can’t be tweeting. But what about our mayor? He has a Twitter account but it’s not him tweeting (although this is a flawed example because there are hardly any tweets at all).

While at the Direction’s Business Conference this topic came up and some business owners felt strongly that Twitter doesn’t work if it’s not from the person, if its written by “a bunch of PR people.”

Right now we’re putting together our PR strategy proposals and I’m creating a social media campaign. From what I can suggest (in my novice opinion), is that if you’re using a website/blog, Facebook and Twitter – offer something different for each space. And make sure whoever is spearheading the communication feels positively about the organization enough to write about it as you would.

Example:

Use your blog to expand on thoughts and post

Use your Twitter as a means to interact with people with the same interests, and post short interesting thoughts/ comments/ questions. Remember, you want to keep your sheep – they’re “following” you.

Use Facebook to nurture the relationship between you and your audience. Remember, you’re friends now – they “like” you.

And finally, the most important of all – don’t use social media (or certain mediums) just for the hell of it.
During the civic election, a certain council candidate created a Twitter account, garnered followers and then didn’t send out a tweet. Not one.

So make sure you use it! Remember, you’re accountable for your online content (or lack there of). And make sure that your audience’s use of social media matches up with your objectives. Here’s what some of my friends had to say about their social media activities.

Have any thoughts? Comment here or check out the Cre.ature Feed Facebook page here.

See Part 1 here

Social ME.dia: A Cre.ature’s Buffet

Part 1: A look into my Facebook World and Twitterverse

I can’t imagine life before Facebook.

No really, it’s a blur and I vaguely remember sneaking onto MSN to chat with my friends before mom screamed down for the phone line. And at the time it was the coolest thing – the place to discuss the latest Survivor episode and who is going to the St. Paul’s dance.

I also vaguely remember creating my Facebook account over four years ago. I had no clue what it really was and then I was panicked I wouldn’t have enough friends. Now I’m connected to 857 people and the endless connections they have…

I’m so comfortable with Facebook now. Every time I go on the internet I check out my profile and now I have it linked to my phone. All day I’m connected with family in South Africa, contacts for work (yes, I’ve been hired over Facebook), I’ve also fallen in love over Facebook with people I knew through acquaintances.

But Facebook can hurt, after my last relationship status change I received messages of rude inquiring minds, people digging into matters not of their concern. So I made a few rules for myself regarding my account

1.     NO relationship status. I don’t want to be the back-up girlfriend because you “noticed” I was single.

2.     Only update my status with news – i.e. I don’t bother with “OMGGGGG 2 MIDTERMS TOMORROW FML.”

3.     Could my mom see this? Alright.

4.     Don’t use Facebook as a dating site, if it happens cool.

5.     Never add people.

The last one is confusing. Very rarely do I actively add people unless asked or necessary (i.e. school group member). As such, I’m open to accepting friendships, checking out the profile and deciding if I want this person available to view mine. I’ve never added someone because they’re hott or to spy; although, I have been in the situation where an ex created a false account to be my friend – and view my profile (well, I figured it out).

So what do I use it for now?

When I joined CreComm I panicked a little – does the job world forgive misguided uses of Facebook? When I started, I probably wrote the most random stuff so what comments did my smart ass 16-year old self make? Pictures… I have so many, are any unsuitable? Generally my social scene is one I’m comfortable with people seeing, but some are trying to bury their Facebook past.

Two days ago I received this mass message from a friend:

“Hi, so you may or may not know I am applying for the Winnipeg Police Service this year and in doing so I am deleting my Facebook to give myself the best chance.”

The person went on to give their contact information to those who are interested. The problem is, even if you delete an account the information is still online SO BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ACTIVITIES – because comments and pictures can be found on Google. To test my theory I googled “Daniella Ponticelli” images…

See anything familiar?

So even though I use Facebook as a means of maintaining relationships, it’s still an open relationship with the world-wide web.  This is important to note. Privacy settings can be changed in accordance, but as someone actively working with social media and hoping to create connections, mine are fairly relaxed.

I was so loyal to Facebook that when I was told to make a Twitter account for CreComm, it felt like cheating. But if Facebook is the best friend, Twitter is the go-to friend.

No way is it the same. I follow organizations and people I’m really interested in. I’ve never bothered joining fan pages on Facebook because of all the annoying updates – but on Twitter it’s up to you if you want to pay attention to the person’s updates. I’ve been tweeted at by people who genuinely enjoy the same interests or enjoy my opinions.

While Twitter can be abused, I use it for my quick news headlines – I recently followed the live tweets regarding Egypt.  For school, all the instructors and students have an account. It’s about linking and sharing in 140 characters. And so what if you’re dating Jo from high school.

Twitter allows for glimpses into the lives of people you find interesting. Like how Deepak Chopra feels while waiting in line at security. I’ve had friends who’ve mentioned bands they’d like to see and received tickets. It’s whatever you need it to be – as in if you need to find someone with a specific interest, you’re bound to connect with them through a hashtag.

Next Post: how to effectively communicate strategically using Social Media

Have any thoughts? Comment here or check out the Cre.ature feed Facebook page here.


Some Mayo’r for that Sandwich?

You look like journalism students.

"I love this City"

That was our quick introduction to Chuck Davidson, the coordinator for the Chamber of Commerce. My colleagues, Jennifer David  and Tristan Field Jones , and I were shown to the media table while speakers did their technical rehearsal.

“Welcome on this, February 4th 2010… I mean, uh, 2011.”

The occasion –  Mayor Sam Katz’ State of the City address. Over 1100 people attended; “a sold out crowd” said the introductory speaker. The cost was $75 as a Chamber member, and $200 non-member, proceeds going to Osborne House and the North End Hockey Program . Before we could settle into our back wall seats, complete with VIP sandwich platters, the CreComm crew took a moment to mingle outside.

I took a picture for a business woman on her BlackBerry, “I just don’t know how to work this camera.” Hmmm, the mobile CreComm is paying off.

TFJ

Tristan decided to unload his high-tech audio equipment, setting up a tripod the size of my hand and grumbled as it didn’t withstand the weight of the microphone.

Men and women formed a growing sea of grey, black and white tones in the lobby. Business suits, trench coats, and high school blazers – over 50 high school students were invited to the event, their plate sponsored by the Convention Centre.

Once inside, there was media from the Uniter, CBC, and CJOB 68, sitting beside us. Mr. Policy Frog was seen walking around the tables. Seated at a table in front of us was Coun. Thomas Steen, proving to be far more talkative than at the previous city council meeting.

 Judy Murphy, the Chamber of Commerce Chair introduced a few guest speakers and a Chamber promotional video was aired, created by Tripwire Media Group. It was a very well-produced video – you know you’re a CreComm nerd when a promo vid increases your heart rate – and all I could think was I can’t wait to start my video IPP…

Interruption while Bartley Kives serves the media table with the aforementioned sandwich platter.

But, let’s get to the State of the City.
We were provided with a news release of the address, written in past tense, and the mayor’s entire speech (also available online at www.winnipeg.ca). The mayor discussed – very optimistically! – his vision for the upcoming year, nay, decade. I will now present you with my

AWESOME top ten highlights

“Mr. Mayor, over here!”

1. The Mayor giving mad props to the city councillors, starting with those new to office.
Why do I enjoy Coun. Steen’s reactions so much?

2.The mayor saying that he believed some Winnipeggers settled into feeling that they live “in a great city, but maybe just not quite as good as others.”
As a student, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I hear others say they are going to leave this city as soon as they’re done school. Whereas I will be lucky to get a journalistic start in rural community – that is my NYC.  I agree, it’s time to give our city some credit (even though my tweets about Transit say otherwise)…

3.“Our downtown population will increase by more than 10%.”
Hope that’s not just parking lot attendants Mr. Katz.

4. A 2014 Grey Cup in the new stadium. Giddy up.

5. OH OH OH – DID YOU HEAR?
WE’RE GETTING A TARGET! (tar-jay) AND AN IKEA! (eye-key-yaaa).
Now we’re finally as hip as Fargo.

6. The first class of police cadets is graduating today. This just makes me happy; they are such a welcomed presence in the downtown area.

7.WHAT IS THAT IN THE SKY?!
“A big, shiny, crime-busting new police helicopter.”  I feel like I’m living in L.A.!
But hey, if you’re worried about gas emissions, the “largest green building ever built in Manitoba” (Canadian Museum for Human Rights) will balance it all out. Right?

8.Oh he mentioned something about a waterpark…  How about dem Jets?

9. The province wants the city to spend $350 million on removing nitrogen in the water. Sam Katz opposes with the magic reason:
BUT WE COULD BUILD A WAVERLEY UNDERPASS!

10. “And we will certainly never get it done if we ever stop believing it can happen.”

Roll it Journey

Nailing Jello to the Wall

The Good, The Bad, and The Rant: Directions 2011

Talk about being a minority.

Today I attended the Directions Business Conference held at the Victoria Inn. It’s a marvelous all day conference – complete with refreshments, speakers, and multiple offences of reverse type – aimed predominantly at Red River College business students.

So what was I doing there? Well you see, I have a penchant for signing up for things and I entered the Creative Arts draw for a free spot (normally $40.00) and got it. And despite the minority of CreComms, we certainly made an impact and while I sit here typing – half in sweats, half in formal attire – I have to say it was an interesting day.

First, my friend and I went searching the breakfast area for muffins and were subsequently ogled by a boy with a petit mustache. I call him “Blue Velvet,” for he was wearing a blazer of that nature. Blue Velvet watched us walk and nodded his head up and down while his petit mustache clung on for dear life.

Nonetheless, we sat down for our first keynote speaker – the punny man, Larry McIntosh. He’s the owner of Peak of the Market and just the man to start us off before heading into session speakers.

This would be the part where I drivel on about what was said in the sessions but I want to get to my rant so just to summarize:
 1. Asking a retired journalist questions about Twitter is like asking a child about RRSPs.
2. The most engaging speakers are those who don’t take themselves too seriously (shout out to Danielle and Alexander Svenne of Bistro 7 1/4 )
3. Bringing up heavy politics during a light-hearted discussion on blogging is digressive, Mr. Buzz Killington.
4. Us Gen Y kids don’t read EVER and we are gunning to be CEO. Watch out.

I’m sure I’ve neglected other areas, but the day went by so fast. During lunch I learned that being an outspoken CreComm can be intimidating for business admins who just want to eat lasagna in peace.  Another keynote speaker, the owner of PembCorp was deeply engaging and passionate about his business. In the round table session I spoke with people working for the Winnipeg Airports Authority, Buffalo Gals Pictures, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

What I would like to see next year is at least one female keynote speaker. With close to 600 students in the crowd, and a seeming majority of females, I was disheartened that both keynotes were business men. It’s always a fine line to bring this up because students want to hear from the best and the conference wants to bring in highly successful people; however, a female perspective is necessary to keep that large section of the audience engaged.  And does this glaring omission mean there isn’t at least one prominent female CEO in the city?

It doesn’t help that guys like Blue Velvet feel it’s appropriate to perpetuate their roles as sleazy males. My friends and I talk about this, how sometimes at the Princess Street Campus Atrium, men stand and just STARE from the railings at different levels, watching you walk up the stairs and past them.

Like hey guys, who are supposed to be all smart and stuff being in post secondary –  show some respect. Do you know what I can do? Do you know that I’m a serious student, I work two jobs and train physically over 16 hours a week? Do you know I do all my work, on time, with effort and expect only the best from myself? As Phyllis Laing from Buffalo Gals said in our roundtable discussion, there is a lot you have to get through in the industry and it can sometimes feel like “nailing jello to the wall.”

Kind of like having to perpetually remind unfocused male students that I’m not at school for a study break.

Of course I’m not going to let my one incident with Blue Velvet deter my aspirations, or the railings gang stop me from being the CEO of the company they work for one day. I even had one older journalist tell me, in contempt, that he had been turned down for internships because he wasn’t “ahem, a girl.” Yeah right, he  was turned down because being a journalist requires that you write beyond a third grade level.

Guess I’m intimidating. Yup, all five glorious feet of me. 

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Crown our Queen

Let’s talk creativity – I need your help!

For school, we’ve been assigned groups in which we will create a full print magazine on the subject of our choice –  it had to go through a rigorous approval process. Thankfully, that phase is done and our group  (Laura, Judy, and Chuka) has decided to do something new for us all …

A local Transgender lifestyle magazine.

I’m absolutely thrilled to be working on this project, especially since we’re all constantly learning new things. Tomorrow evening I’m heading out to photograph performances in action and meet some of the stars themselves. I’m ectatic, if you know me well you know I’ve been looking forward to this for a while!

The only issue is finding a name for our magazine – we have come up with a few potentials, only to find they have been used as a title elsewhere. It’s gotten so bad that in a recent brainstorm I blurted out “Xena!” simply because I had seen the name that day.

So if you have an idea – one that will no doubt trump Xena – please comment, I want to stir up some discussion and finally crown our queen.

We need help – seriously. This is the Feed, the forum for my creative shenanigans so I implore you to fire away. I really like this one transgender mag called Candy – they managed to get James Franco in drag! So us ladies in the group have made a conserted effort to get some lashes and shimmer dust on Chuka. We’ll get him! Here’s some inspiration…

Foxy Lady

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