On Journalism 33 results

Thoughts on the nature, ethics, practice and present state of journalism.

Right to Left: Watching the Political Pendulum Swing

Politics: Looking back at the first BC NDP victory in 1972 Rod Mickleburgh remembers the day the "socialist hordes" stormed the gates of Government House and Dave Barrett took the oath of office. There was no ceremony, no dancers, no tweets, but British Columbia would never be the same. By Rod Mickleburgh Watching the joyous, almost giddy swearing-in of the province’s new premier and his gender-balanced cabinet, I couldn’t help thinking of BC’s very first transition of power to the NDP, so long ago the Vancouver Sun had two full-time labour reporters. That historic ground-breaker took place way back in 1972, or five years before David Eby, the province’s new Attorney General, was born. July 18 was only the third such right-to-left tilt in BC history. Of course, that’s three more than the zero Stanley Cups won by the hapless Canucks, and just enough to keep politics interesting and a semblance of two-party democracy alive in BC’s polarized environment. No wonder John ...

Cohen, Prince, Bowie and now… Comparelli

Tribute: R.I.P. Peter Comparelli A fellow scribe remembers the good old days when journalists spoke truth to power, a per diem could get you drunk and a guy named Peter Comparelli backstopped the labour beat By Rod Mickleburgh It has been a terrible year. Bowie and Prince taken far too early. Leonard Cohen leaving us to mourn and light candles against the dark. Long-time friends battling serious health issues. Fake news, the decline of newspapers and the mainstream media, more necessary than ever to hold governments and politicians to account. An antiquated electoral system, an FBI “announcement coup” against Hillary Clinton and Russian hackers delivering a sniveling, bullying, thin-skinned, shallow-thinking prima-donna with the attention span of a child to the White House, while the most adult of U.S. presidents takes his dignified leave. Terrorism in Europe. Aleppo. And now, to cap off this annus horribilis came news of the passing of Peter Comparelli, as lovely a person as ...

Remembering a massacre: A tough pill to swallow

The Sick Days: Part 18 Covering the events of December 6 at L'École Polytechnique was a formative experience, and one a seasoned reporter now thinks she got all wrong. By Shelley Page (Published Dec. 2, 2015) The moment my editor told me to get to the airport, my stomach fell as though I was on the down slope of a rollercoaster. I stood in the middle of the newsroom, as a few deskers and reporters stared at me expectantly, wondering if I could possibly decline. I think reporters often dread the unknown of a story and the difficulties that lay ahead to nail it down, but I feared I just wasn’t up to the task.I’d been feeling tired, lupus tired, for days and I was walking like an elderly woman whose joints lacked lubricant.But the killing in Montreal had begun around 5 p.m., and within 20 minutes, 27 people were shot or stabbed. All the dead were young women; fourteen of them.How could I not go?In the Beaches areas apartment I shared with my absentee boyfriend, who ...

Penetrating Helen Gurley Brown

Books: Not Pretty Enough - The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown New biography of the woman who recreated Cosmopolitan as a vehicle of sexual empowerment reveals lifelong insecurities and a penchant for moisturizing with baking lard

Typewriters, newspapers now retro cool

Column: Mickleburgh An old scribe ventures back to the future on a recent trip to Seattle where old-fashioned print media and analog typing contraptions still have a place and a meaningful, if sentimental, sense of purpose By Rod Mickleburgh Hey, kids! Montreal Expos caps and vinyl aren’t the only hip retro around. Be the first in your group to read a print newspaper. Take time out from your busy online life, relax and turn the pages. Impress your friends. You never know what unexpected treasures of information and features might lurk deep within.As the late, great David Carr (sigh) did during all his visits outside New York, I still peruse the local newspapers whenever I venture beyond Van, man. Here are some print gleanings from a recent weekend baseball venture to Seattle. You, too, can be a newspaper explorer.1. Let’s start with a joke. You’re probably one of those who think Boise, Idaho is no laughing matter. Well, you’d be wrong. The lede of an enticing ...

Feeling all pains and needles

The Sick Days: Part 22 After toughing out the chronic pain of inflamed joints and fever flashes, a young reporter hits the wall and lands in the hospital where hiding the truth about her illness is no longer an option By Shelley Page An ‘X’ was drawn on my back to mark the spot where the biopsy needle was to be plunged. That’s when the nephrologist executed the bait and switch.“Ok, how about you do it?”“The biopsy? Me?”Hovering over me — face down, backside up— the attending nephrologist discussed the procedure with the resident, who’d been at his side since I met them the previous afternoon. (It was a teaching hospital).“Yes, you’ve watched enough of these. You’re ready.”“It’s a straight shot?”“More or less.”One of them touched my shoulder. “How are you feeling?”Uh.I lifted my head, twisted my neck to look them both in the eyes. I’d read somewhere that you’re supposed to make eye contact with ...

After a life in news, one last plea

People: Tribute to Ron Rose (1919-2015) A veteran newspaper man files a final message to readers: "Do what you can to stem the unedited and often unsourced outpourings in the flood of social media." By Rod Mickleburgh We said farewell late last month to a good man. Part of the great generation that survived the Depression, World War Two, the tinderbox of the Cold War and Liberace, Ron Rose was part of this crazy world for nearly a century, falling just four years short of the big One Zero Zero. But that’s not why so many of us gathered to pay our respects. We were there because Ron Rose, besides being the most gracious and generous of individuals, was a newspaper man. It was a gathering of the clans, a celebration of someone whose working life as a knight of the keyboard stretched back to the Depression. Ron Rose was history. When he started at the Vancouver Sun as a copy boy in 1938, he reported for work in the celebrated Sun Tower, then topped by the paper’s majestic neon ...

Falling apart at The Citizen

The Sick Days: Part 21 - Hot and Bothered Moving from The Toronto Star to The Ottawa Citizen was supposed to reduce symptom-inducing stress, but once installed in the national newsroom, Shelley Page starts feeling like a lobster By Shelley PageWhile I never told the editors who hired me at the Ottawa Citizen that I had a serious chronic illness, I confessed my secret to the doctor performing the employer-mandated medical exam.I had to. Otherwise, my blood would betray me.A routine white blood cell count (WBC) would reveal I suffered from neutropenia and leukopenia — chronically low numbers of white blood cells which left me highly susceptible to infection. Lupus often attacks and destroys these disease fighting, workhorses of the immune system. A normal WBC is between 4,500 and 11,000, mine hovers around 1,800.If the doctor requested more sophisticated tests, she might also have seen extremely high levels of anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies, which ...

A reporter on the run

The Sick Days: Part 20 - Into the Frying Pan When I was a young reporter, there were no “self-help” books about how to manage your workload, ask for support from your employer, or even disclose an illness. By Shelley PageI’d like to torque my personal narrative and claim that I left my ‘dream job’ because I’d had an epiphany: journalism would never be a cure for lupus.Except, I wasn’t that clever.These days, there are many books written for the chronically ill about how to scale back your dreams and still find career success: Despite Lupus, written by a former NBC producer who quit her job to control the constant flares of her illness, which eventually attacked her kidneys, arguably the most serious manifestation of lupus (a stage I didn’t yet have to worry about). The writer encouraged readers to work smart, or in bite-sized chunks, and sometimes not at all. Fabulupus (yes, that’s really the title), is filled with similar advice.When I was a ...

The joy of general assignment lost on next generation

Journal: The Sick Days, Part 19 The Death Knock is among one of the most unpleasant tasks in any newsroom, but the uncomfortable face-to-face with a grief-stricken relative has now been replaced by social media trolling and scalping Tweets By Shelley Page It’s called a “pick up” or a “death knock,” and it’s among the most unpleasant tasks a general assignment reporter on the city desk can draw.The most experienced of our breed can get a grieving mother to unchain her door, make a pot of tea, and unspool woeful stories of her lost love, usually urged on by an invitation to “set the record straight” about son Jimmy the Bank Robber or make sure Little Emily the Heroin Addict isn’t misremembered. The most tenacious of us leave the widow’s home with an entire photo album under our arm so there are no pictures left for media outlets late to the tea party.This is another one of those tasks that journalism school can’t prepare you for.So many years ago, ...