Thursday, February 23, 2012

Northern BC comes short in Ma Murray's

Well I took a gander through the Ma Murray award finalists to see if my name came up.

It didn't, by the way.

But I wanted to see who else from my neck of the woods was recognized, as I know there are some talented people in this area.

And you know what? Not many of my neighbours were named.

I know my friend the BC Reporter Reporter posted the whole list, but here's a collection of who in the north won. (It is my territory, after all.)

Grant Harris and Robert Forsyth of The Interior News are finalists in the Ad Design Award, Under 25,000.

The same paper is represented in the Feature Photo Award, Black & White, Under 25,000 category, with Jon Muldoon's photo, titled "Tubing on Tyhee."

Going further north and out of B.C., the Yukon News proved to be a worthy journalistic bastion.  They are also in the Ad Design Award category, under 25,000: Chris Nickless and Judy Wilsey are named for that prize category.

In fact the Yukon News also has two photographers as finalists — Justin Kennedy and Mike Thomas — in the black & white feature photo competition, same as Muldoon from the Smithers paper.

Yukon News, again, in the Portrait/Personality Photo Award with two photographs. Ian Stewart and Mike Thomas the photographers for that category.

Yukon News continues their reign in the Website and Online Innovation Award category, with Mike Thomas named for that spot. In the spot news photo award, Mike is there again for "Car meets motorcycle." (I haven't seen the photo but with a title like that I'd sure like to!)

Coming back to B.C., if I include the northern section of the interior, Percy Hebert (there's an accent over one of those e's but forgive me, I don't know how to put them in on Blogger) of the Quesnel Observer is in line for a Sports Photo award, and for a spot news photo as well.

So, all in all, very interesting. From Quesnel, that leaves out the Williams Lake Tribune, the Prince George Free Press, the Prince George Citizen, the Omenica Express, the Caledonia Courier, the Lakes District News, Houston Today, Terrace Standard, Kitimat Northern Sentinel, the Northern View, the Queen Charlotte Observer, Tumbler Ridge News, and the Dawson Creek daily.

Now, I don't list those papers to suggest they were snubbed. The finalists for Ma Murrays are always deserving and, really, hats off to all of you in there who made the grade.

I list those other papers who didn't make the grade to point out that there's a lot of papers across the region who, for some reason, couldn't hit the high notes like everyone else.

I just wonder what's going on. Are resources too strained to provide award winning journalism, are there a lot of rookie journalists just starting out who lack the experience to do hard hitting stuff, or did any of these papers even submit entries for judging? (Which, I have to admit, is entirely possible!)

Regardless of who is winning what, congratulations everyone. As always, I will use your examples to better my own craft.

And hey, at least I have my chocolate to comfort me for not winning anything.

The uncomfortable bearing of gifts

It has happened again.

First, as I have written before, someone brought me flowers. Then last week, there were chocolates. Separate people, by the way, gave me these gifts.

Alright, so the chocolates were addressed to me "and staff" but was in regards to a story I wrote. A woman had come in pitching a story about her son who had left our town but gone on to win a big competition in the Lower Mainland. She couldn't seem to decide if it was an ad (You ever get people ask you how much it costs to get a story in the paper?) or a story but I tell her a young person from the area going on to find success is a news story so I grabbed the guy's number and get a story done on him.

I write it up, it's nothing special as far as writing goes, just a community thing. It publishes and I move on with my life.

So I come into the office after being out and there's a package of Ferrero Rocher chocolates on my desk with the card, thanking us for the wonderful story.

As noted, it's not the first time I've been thanked in a special way for a story. I'm still not used to it. It never happened in my last job as a reporter before my current post. I guess people in this town are more thankful?

Of course it always gives me a weird feeling. I mean, it's not a politician handing over free stuff, just a private member of the community grateful for our coverage of a member of their family. It's like the opposite of car crash dad. Yet I know it's not right to receive gifts for my work. And as I've stated before, I'm not writing with an agenda, I just want to tell the story, so people who come bearing gifts is something that really puts me for a loop.

(In case you're wondering, I did share the treats with the whole office.)

So, the whole thing makes me feel strange, just not sure if there was more I could have done. Send them back? Throw them out? Eh, maybe I'm making too much out of this. They're just chocolates after all.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The end I hope

Alright, this can all be over now.

Petition arrives to get editor out of his job

I really didn't want to continue kicking at this cat but another interesting development came out of the Osoyoos Times editor debacle.

It turns out that someone has started a petition to get Keith Lacey out of his job. Not sure who Riley Joseph is, the author of this petition according to the site, but so far there have been 160 signatories to the petition.

I don't know what to say. Has this ever happened in the history of ever? I bet you his publisher's holiday is effectively ruined now.

I pondered whether the editor should keep his job in an earlier post. But this issue has been dragged out for a few days now and I think the chance to make things right has passed, especially as there won't be an apology issued for this.

There is a mighty deep hole dug around this whole issue.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Osoyoos column a lesson on professional relationships

In the comments section to the story on the Osoyoos editor who slammed the RCMP on another blog I saw a reference to 'yellow journalism' which is a phrase I hadn't heard tossed around much in the last two years.

Making sure I don't get the definition wrong, allow me to reference a definition: a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.

So, was this editor trying to sell more papers? Was he trying to impress his lady friend? Who knows what was going through his head. He's a guy who apparently has a lot of experience in the field, which makes this mystery a little more crazy.

Oh, and before I go on, allow my to throw up in my mouth a little at this line:

After a long week at work, me and my girlfriend headed to a local restaurant/pub to grab a meal with some friends and share a few stories and have a couple of laughs.

(Apologies if this quote isn't displaying properly. It isn't for me. Not sure what's going on.)

The cliches...they're killing me.... (Seriously, "grab a meal with some friends," "share a few stories," "and have a couple of laughs"? Who talks like that except people really trying hard to make them sympathetic?)

So anyway, where was I?

Oh right, so my point in bringing this back up is that, like I mentioned in my last post, this was certainly a learning experience, and I wanted to reflect on that.

Look, I've inadvertently ticked off the local constabulary myself. I didn't try to, honest mistakes and all that. (If you read my blog, you know that happens to me from time to time)

Yet this guy really decided to go after the police force, and now, that relationship with the RCMP is likely ruined for years to come.

It's happened here in the north. I don't want to go into specifics because it's not a story that involves me, therefore I'm not sure it's my place to tell it, but the RCMP and certain local papers really established themselves on opposite sides of the fence once over how the paper handled some stories.

Now of course cops and the papers shouldn't be best friends, but a good working relationship is useful. I'm seeing another paper and the RCMP at odds with each other right now over separate issues and not having sources to talk to you from law enforcement does limit and hurt the coverage you can provide.

Coming back to this issue at the Osoyoos Times, you just know that the reporting is going to be just a little more limited now because certainly the RCMP there won't return his calls. I don't blame them. Why deal with a paper that won't treat your organization fairly?

And for the record, I've been pulled over and breathalyzed on the side of a busy highway and was not apologized to by the officer in question. And I'm fine with that. (I blew a perfect zero, in case you're wondering, but I don't fault the officer for asking me to do the test anyway.)

In closing, this guy decided starting a reporter said-officer said battle was a good idea and it has come back to bite him. I've talked before about the power of the press; in that case it was the power to make a difference in people's lives. This guy decided he wanted to warp that power to sling accusations against someone he felt has slighted him. But as most reporters should know, there's two sides to every issue, including your own.



"When I later informed him I was the editor of the local newspaper and was going to write about our little episode, he finally shut up and showed me some respect. And one final time, I told him he had no right to pull me over."
"This is a free country, not a police state."
"I suggest to Cpl. McLeod you get out there and catch the bad guys. I’m not one of them."
"There was a lot of attitude shown our encounter up until that point and none of it came from me."
"When the readings registered, I could honestly tell Cpl. McLeod was disappointed as the readings were, how do I say this, pretty much close to zero."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So about that Osoyoos Times editor

Oh snap.

The kerfuffle over a certain editor`s rant against the RCMP has gotten so heated the RCMP website seems bogged down and I assume it`s over curious journalist`s need to see the letter in person.

Short story, Keith Lacey of the Osoyoos Times apparently wrote a scathing rant agains the RCMP, and the RCMP shot back with a letter of their own. (See links to each side in the words that open this entry.)

A buddy of mine in the RCMP fold e-mailed me this drama and I thought it was some bad chain letter. He does likes to light-heartedly smack-talk journalism (for it being a dying industry, I mean). But turns out it`s just bad drama.

I don`t know what to say about this at the moment. Certainly it`s poor form, and I`m not sure Keith should keep his title for this. I mean, would I let this go if this was a letter to the editorÉ Not at all. So why should the editor get to publish itÉ

At the most, this is a learning opportunity for journalists to keep it cool, like we`re supposed to. And learning opportunities is just what this blog was designed for!

I`ll update this as I form more thoughts.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Got writer's block, so enjoy some Writer's Block

I've been behind the game lately. I thought once Christmas was over it would be smooth sailing. So far, I haven't really been able to get around to crafting another memory from the newsroom.

Perhaps I'm too concerned with quality. Yes, that must be it...

Anyway, Bill Phillips posted another entry in his Writer's Block column, and it's a fun entry about editing letters to the editor. I enjoy reading his stuff and am happy when he gets around to posting a new one.

I'm guessing he won't be posting as often these days. The Prince George Free Press said goodbye to their publisher recently and Bill, along with sales manager Roy Spooner are finding themselves with some news responsibilities (you can read that entry just below the latest Writer's Block).

Oh yeah, if you want to read Phil Beaulieu's farewell, you can find it here.

Hey, as a follow-up to my questions about designs, I did find some fun resources. One of the blogs I came across was this one. It's called News Designs and is updated by a guy named Matt French, a graphic designer at 24 Hours, that commuter paper. He's based in Toronto. It's a fun blog to read.

I also liked this blog, called Design with Reason. Done by a guy named Ron Reason, his good work is a 'reason' to read. A haw!

I still haven't quite got a handle on what design choices are good for a rural community weekly. I like the design of many of the papers I've come across which have been recognized for design, but I haven't felt they do what a community newspaper should do. For one, a lot of tab designs I've seen focus on a single large photo and lots of teasers, and maybe a part of a news story. I still think a substantial amount of news copy should be on the front. Especially for a paper that is under 16-20 pages. No sense filling a front with teasers to a story that's only four pages away.

And many papers seem to have a very artistic-y profile photo of someone being featured, printed on the front. For one, I personally don't have the skill to do such photos well, and secondly, papers in my area are better off printing photos of local children on the front rather than a politician of note.

I don't even think most people know who their local representative is.

In short, a lot of the well designed papers still cater to a very large market, at least comparatively to ones in my area. A real community paper, I think, has different needs, and I haven't found any really good resources for appropriate design choices.

As for what I have figured out so far, I'm beginning to lean more towards creative uses of colour. Not all of the pages in my paper are colour, but I'm wondering if putting, for instance, pull quotes in a coloured box with a coloured font on a colour page would look good. Have to be careful to make sure the colours are good contrasts, of course.

For black and white pages, putting pull quotes in a light grey box might look good too.

Shapes are also a place I'm starting to look. Depending on the size of the news staff, there may be weeks without a lot of photos. Using shapes in the stories (a pull quote in a grey circle? Might not look so bad...) can help keep the look of a page sharp.

Something I do on occasion in my own paper is put a mugshot next to a pullquote. I've seen other papers do this and it's actually a good idea, I think. It helps keep readers focused on who's saying what. Will help them remember who their MLA or MP is as well, perhaps.

I think the one area where I'm still very unsure about things is the fonts. I still don't know what fonts are good for what. I barely know what a font is! (Like, is a nude beach an a-font to decency?*)

If I ever figure anything out on all this, I'll let you readers know.

* Sorry for that really bad pun.