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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 Page While 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 Page I’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of the most unpleasant tasks in any newsroom, but the uncomfortable face-to-face with a grief-stricken relative has now been replaced by social media trolling and scalping Tweets By Shelley Page It’s called a “pick up” or a “death knock,” and it’s among the most unpleasant tasks a general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, ...