education

Sharing universal challenges and successes in journalism

As a digital reporter in a daily newsroom, time is often a luxury. Gone are the days of writing for a print deadline – readers today want their news on tablets, on smartphones, on computers and they want it now.

But because our news cycles move so quickly, it’s that much more important to invest time in professional development and to continually fine-tune our craft when the opportunity arises. I’m grateful to the Jack Webster Foundation for awarding me a 2019 Poynter Fellowship, which allowed me to visit the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. in April 2019 for the Summit for Reporters and Editors in Multi-platform Newsrooms.

Since my daily duties and priorities are focused on the digital aspects of our news coverage, my main goal in attending Poynter was to learn new strategies and digital tools for engaging with audiences and building loyal online readers. What I experienced was so much more.

A large focus of the six-day summit was to revisit the process of storytelling: from crafting a story pitch to editing. Jacqui Banaszynski led several workshops that reminded me just how much of journalism happens long before a reporter sits down to write. She detailed how beat maps can help a reporter understand and establish a beat, and how reader wheels and stakeholder wheels can help us look at a story from new angles. Jacqui also took us through the step-by-step process of breaking down large concepts into manageable stories and how single events can be blown up into big ideas.

Ren LaForme introduced us to a number of digital tools for both increasing productivity in the workplace and for use in telling stories digitally. It was encouraging to hear how much digital tools do matter and propel other newsrooms, and to see very clear examples of how my role as a digital reporter can support and impact the wider newsroom and its goals. I am currently testing a number of tools Ren suggested and plan to propose trial implementation for several in the coming months.

Editing and publishing my own reporting is a daily occurrence on the digital desk. Maria Carrillo’s workshop about editing on deadline was a great reminder of how important it is to make time to edit, even when there seems to be no time. She took us through a practical checklist of things to watch for while editing and reminded me of how important it is to “just let go” when editing a story. “Be passionate in pursuit of the story but be dispassionate as you edit” is something I will carry with me into all my future editing.

Beyond the workshops each day, my time at Poynter introduced me to journalists from across a range of backgrounds and newsrooms. It was encouraging to see that our challenges are universal but that our successes can be shared. I was both impressed and inspired by each person’s motivation to report, their eagerness to improve and the desire to better their newsrooms.

The experience I had at Poynter is something I would encourage every journalist I know to pursue. It was a humbling experience that pushed me to examine my weaknesses but also allowed me to see how those weaknesses could be improved. Even as I returned to work, the encouragement I found at Poynter has continued to influence the way I approach my role in the newsroom and I believe has changed my reporting for years to come.

Arvin Joaquin is the associate editor at Daily Xtra in Toronto but is originally from Vancouver. Yay for finding B.C. friends all the way in Florida!

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A lesson in appreciating life

On Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT and opened fire on innocent teachers and children.

Like everyone else, I watched with horror as details about the shooting began surfacing. I felt like I was going to throw up just trying to imagine what these families’ lives would be like. Then offshoot conversations began stemming from the main story.

Spiralling conversations

Journalism ethics were called into question as some media outlets began interviewing surviving children on air. Commentators called on politicians to re-examine the American “right to bear arms” and on President Barack Obama to take action. Health advocates criticized the ease of access with which an individual can purchase a firearm but not receive mental health care.

There were a lot of thoughts and emotions flying around online, in newspapers, and on television – but all I could think of was something I had seen tweeted by Chris Jones, a writer for Esquire and a columnist for ESPN.

Chris Jones, writer for Esquire and columnist for ESPN tweeted this on Friday, following the shooting in Newtown, CT.

Chris Jones, writer for Esquire and columnist for ESPN tweeted this on Friday, following the shooting in Newtown, CT.

I couldn’t figure out why this stuck with me. As a journalist, you’d think I’d be more concerned with finding out confirmed details and what the story really was.

But the story isn’t about what happened – the story is about what won’t happen.

From the perspective of children

I had considered social work and teaching before I pursued journalism full-time. When you’re around children, your perspective on everything changes. You stop looking at the world from your own eyes and you begin to understand how it looks from the perspective of someone who still believes in, well… everything.

Children have a curious way of looking at the world, at embracing the magic that still surrounds us everyday. Some people don’t give kids enough credit – they’re much wiser than their years would have you believe, and more creative than you might think possible. To kids, the entire world truly is a playground and everything is still a possibility.

Yesterday’s story isn’t about what happened in Newtown. The story is about what won’t happen.

Non-existent futures

The 20 children who had their lives traumatically cut short won’t even finish elementary school. They won’t conduct any awkward fundraisers where their parents do majority of the fundraising. No field trips, no bake sales.

No mini-graduation as they make the transition to high school. No AP Calculus, no detention after school, no prom and no graduation gown. No university applications, no scholarships, no first apartment in residence.

No first love, no meeting the parents. They won’t get down on one knee to ask their high-school sweetheart to marry them. They won’t say yes ecstatically. They won’t spend forever trying to figure out the seating plans at their wedding.

They won’t feel the knot in their stomach on the first day of a new job – their first real job after graduating from university. No promotion, no first big assignment at work. No performance reviews at work.

These kids won’t even make it to Christmas this year. Their parents are now going home to clear out their Christmas-present hiding spot. The children whose names are written on the gift tags are no longer around.

Sympathy

It pains my heart to think of everything that is happening to these families right now – but even more so to think of all the things that won’t be happening to them. It is an unimaginable pain and grief these parents will feel for a long time, if not forever, knowing they won’t see their child graduate, work, get married, become parents themselves.

I’m not yet a parent but as a human being, I still hurt. My heart aches when I think about all the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to see in my young life, things that these 20 kids will never understand. Then when I think of all the times I’ve complained about anything, any major challenge I’ve come across – fuck, even the small challenges I’ve come across – that pain turns to guilt.

Learning to live with appreciation

While gun laws and health care access might take some time to change, there are a few things we can do now to make sure these 20 children aren’t forgotten. We can’t bring them back but at the very least, we desperately need to learn from this horrific incident and treat it as a wake-up call.

Let this be a lesson in being better people, in taking better care of each other. Make sure we hug our parents a little tighter every time we do get to see them. Walk a little slower and breathe a little deeper. Drive more carefully along the scenic route. Pay more attention to the ones we love. Let this be the last time you ever feel ungrateful for anything. Stop complaining about the petty shit and start living our lives with appreciation.

Above all, keep playing, keep believing, keep loving, and keep trusting – the way that kids do.

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NEWTOWN SHOOTING | THE VICTIMS

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29; Teacher
Dawn Hochsprung, 47; School principal
Nancy Lanza, 52; Mother of gunman
Anne Marie Murphy, 52; Teacher
Lauren Rousseau, 30; Teacher
Mary Sherlach, 56; School psychologist
Victoria Soto, 27; Teacher

(Victims’ names sourced from The New York Times, www.nytimes.com.)

Featured photo courtesy of Getty Commons.

HBO’s Girls: The Voice of My Generation

“I’m like Tinkerbell, Finn. I need applause to live.”

That’s from an early episode of Glee wherein scene-stealer Rachel Berry explains her love affair with fame. While I’m nowhere near deserving of the attention that Lea Michele’s character receives – mostly because I’m not that talented of a singer – I can partially relate.

Pay Attention

I love attention. I crave it. I thrive on it. Who doesn’t? I’ll be honest in admitting I love talking about myself. But like any love-hate chase, I only want attention when it’s not there. When it’s being freely awarded to me, I get weirdly uncomfortable with being in the spotlight. So maybe that’s why I’ve become so attached to the new HBO series Girls. The first season’s finale aired Sunday and let me tell you… it’s a gooder.

Girls Just Want…

Before the NYC-based series premiered, I’d been really excited, having read some of the praise Lena Dunham had received for her previous work. Of course, the idea of a show that focuses on my demographic – 20-something not-quite-grown women trying to deal with post-collegiate life – appealed to my narcissistic side. It’s nice though, y’know, being scrutinized and yet, not having to really deal with any criticism.

Deal With It

Here’s a show that puts me and my friends in the spotlight but without forcing me to own up to my own stupid decisions and mistakes of being in my 20s. Dunham’s show draws from the personal experience of her own life and those around her and yes, while she lives in New York and that is drastically different from my life here in Vancouver, the human experience is still very much the same.

I face paralysing self-doubt whenever my work or writing is put on display. I struggle with my body image, embracing my ‘real’ curves but also wondering what it would take to lose a few pounds. The idea of allowing ourselves the love we think we deserve is also a constant theme. While I’m busy yelling at Hannah for allowing Adam to treat her as horribly as he does, I’m ignoring my own advice by continually being hung up on my own past relationships.


Taking A Cue

The show isn’t about me but I can relate to Dunham’s quirky quartet of heroines. I understand how it might not be attractive to admit that and no, not everyone can connect with the show’s seemingly far-fetched storylines but there’s an element of reality that rings true.

Sure, it might just be the selfish, self-involved side of me that loves Girls, but maybe watching the show religiously – and reading Vulture’s commentary on it – will finally make me realize how many unresolved issues I’ve avoided in my own life. Maybe when Hannah finally sorts out her life, I’ll take my cue and be inspired enough to deal with mine.

I Can Relate

In honour of my obsession with Girls, here are some of my favourite moments from the show’s first season. Be prepared to get to know me a little bit better. (I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good or bad either either…)

1. “I invented him.”
Let me tell you, Hannah. I know what you mean. I have definitely been there. I am probably still there.

2. “You are just naturally interesting.”
I have to remind myself all the time that I’m probably not as boring as I think I am.

3. “I just had this crazy realization…”
I won’t elaborate but… Shosh, I feel you, girl.

4. “You’re wearing a white dress.”
While I’ve never been sent home to change, I have been told that I am very bad at dressing appropriately for work. Sigh.

5. “Are you punking me?”
I never really know how to deal with attention either – see above post, obviously.

Photo Credit: Google Images.