A farewell letter to the Province (but not journalism)

UPDATE 05/15/17: As most of you have heard, my union did us a solid and successfully negotiated a new contract that included several jobs being saved, including mine. I’m thankful to be back at work and have been so appreciative of the support that’s poured in over the last two months, both from friends and strangers. I’ve since returned to work and am trying to leave the rough times in the past. But the sentiment behind this letter still stands.

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PREVIOUSLY 03/27/17: The following post was written on March 23 as a way to mentally prepare myself for what I knew would be a difficult day. Then I spent the weekend crying, laughing, editing and trying to cut my word count (couldn’t do it, no surprise) and it’s been incredibly therapeutic.

This isn’t an invite to a pity party, just some nice things I want to share about a newsroom I fell in love with. Enjoy. (5:00 MIN. READ)

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If you’re reading this, it means I’ve been laid off from my job – more specifically, my dream job as a reporter with The Province (and Vancouver Sun). Sigh.

For the last month, my brain’s been wracked by equal parts disbelief, uneasy hope I might survive the cuts, and just plain old sadness. My diet’s mostly consisted of consolation beers and way too much sugar.

On Friday, after almost five years of reporting on Vancouver and British Columbia for Postmedia, I was officially laid off, alongside several other respected, talented colleagues. April 7 is our last day. I guess it’s almost a rite of passage in journalism.

The tsunami wave of support that we’ve received has been incredibly overwhelming and I don’t even know how to say thank you to the countless people – many of which were total strangers – who’ve shared a kind word. But thank you.


Hey! There’s me on the left next to one of my best friends, Tyler Orton, scrumming with Marcie Moriarty of the SPCA in June 2013. (RIC ERNST/PNG)


There’s many reasons to be sad – and most of them are obvious because, duh, journalism – but there’s a large part of me that is sad because this isn’t how I imagined leaving The Province. This newsroom was it for me. I thought I’d have the chance to tell more stories and notch more bylines under the Province masthead before moving on.

The Province was and still is the scrappy little tabloid that could, which makes it the perfect home for a scrappy little reporter like me. This paper is the underdog; we punch well above our weight class. (That’s two too many clichés in one line. I’m sorry.)

We are a strange and rowdy bunch: often inappropriate, consistently hilarious. This is a fascinating, amazing collection of humans who have become my tribe, day in and day out. These are folks who happily took me under their wing and taught me to fly, even if my own wings weren’t quite strong enough yet.

Case in point: who else would let the youngest temp in the newsroom work city desk and assign about a dozen seasoned reporters? For an entire month? That’s like letting the newest patient run the asylum.

Somehow no one was fired, no one was sued, and the paper still made it to print with no empty holes or filler text. Phew. (And then they asked me to do it on a regular basis!)


In 2012, I was The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund reporter. The campaign has been running since 1918. (MARK VAN MANEN / PNG)


I was invited to sit in on news meetings and not just that, they laughed when I cracked jokes and they didn’t fire me when I sassed senior editors. They liked me! So much that they kept me for almost five years after I first stepped foot into 200 Granville St. as a summer intern.

Last year’s merger with the Vancouver Sun, which was met with trepidation on my part, also introduced me to new colleagues I now call my friends. For another two weeks, I’ll be lucky enough to work with an amazing combined team, one that will likely never again be assembled in the same newsroom, with all the same pieces.

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Thank you to every mentor I’ve ever had. When I received my layoff notice on Friday, I thought of each editor and instructor that took a chance on me, put in a good word, served as a reference, and then I felt my heart sank, as if I’d let them down somehow. I always want to make you proud.

I am eternally grateful that Shannon Miller and Ros Guggi told me, “We like you but you just don’t have enough daily experience; get some and then come back” at my first interview in 2010 when I was still a student. That lit a fire in me and it’s what earned me that second, more successful interview.

I’m grateful to every editor I’ve ever served under in the newsroom. But particularly David Carrigg who, even when I approached his desk once near tears over some trivial matter, never shied away as city editor but always offered a comforting word of advice and self-deprecating humour (which I can relate to).

I’m grateful to Wayne Moriarty, Fabian Dawson, and Paul Chapman, who have always supported, protected, and championed our rag-tag bunch of journalists. Thank you for making The Province such a wonderful name to stand behind each and every day.


Here in this photo, we see Stephanie Ip, a not-so-rich Asian girl, interviewing Chelsea from the 2014 locally filmed reality series Ultra Rich Asian Girls. (ARLEN REDEKOP / PNG)


A hearty Wayne’s World “We’re not worthy!” to talented colleagues and desk mates who became my friends and cheerleaders and who I’m convinced are some of the most interesting people in the world. Thank you for letting me into your lives and allowing me to hold your babies and attend your weddings.

Of course, a shoutout to the Province intern class of 2012. Jeff is now a Wolf of Wall Street, Justin’s the best at ranking anything and everything, and Larissa will always be the best case scenario of what happens when you tweet at a stranger.

These were people who saw potential in me and fostered it, then pushed me to pursue it myself. I was challenged by my editors, my colleagues, competing media outlets, and our loyal subscribers. I learned to stand up for myself, and in turn, stand up for our readers and the stories that matter.


Here’s sweet baby face intern Steph from 2012.


That’s the part I hope you’ll remember: JOURNALISM MATTERS. Yes, many of us lost our dream jobs last week but I know this isn’t about me. In the end, it’s our readers and journalism that suffer. I’m just lucky I had the honour of writing these stories for you – both the serious and the absurd – here at The Province and then the Vancouver Sun for as long as I did.

As for what’s next, I’ll finish out my two weeks here and then take a bit of a vacation somewhere warm to detox these unemployment beers, get some much-needed sun, and maybe stop slouching now that the weight of impending layoffs is off my shoulders.

Don’t get me wrong: this is a farewell (for now) to The Province but hopefully not journalism. My scrappy little newsie heart still loves talking to strangers, asking all sorts of questions, sharing important stories, and delivering the news of the day.

If that sounds like someone your newsroom might want to take on, send me your news tips.

You can contact Stephanie by email at info@stephanieip.ca or on Twitter at @stephanie_ip.


Here’s our Province newsroom just before the Great Merger of 2016.

VANCOUVER COLLECTIVE HOUSING DOCUMENTARY RELEASED THIS MONTH

collectivehousing_coverLast fall, I wrote a story about a locally filmed documentary called Better Together, which looks at collective living as a solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis.

As most of us are aware, housing in Vancouver is not easy to come by – unless you’ve got cash to burn, don’t mind living in less-than-ideal rentals, or have all the time in the world to spend hunting down an available apartment. And if you have a pet? Good luck.

That’s where collective living comes in. Collective living is a return to community living, where people choose to live in a family setting and commit to spending quality time together. It’s not just your average roommate situation.

The documentary was pitched by local video journalist Jen Muranetz as an introduction to collective living and how it might be a viable alternative for the many folks in Vancouver searching for a home. The documentary was entered into the Storyhive competition and ended up being one of 30 finalists selected to receive a $10,000 Storyhive grant.

The documentary was released earlier this month and you can watch it below. Congrats to Jen and everyone else attached to the project!

You can read my original story about co-housing here and learn more about Jen’s documentary here.

VIFF 2016: Introverts, conspiracy theories, and love stories

Today’s the last day of the Vancouver International Film Festival, and I can happily say I am done for the year. I’ve previously only seen up to three films in a single year, but I managed to fit in five in 2016. It felt incredibly ambitious but I’m glad I did it.

Here’s a quick run-down of the films I was able to see this year.

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The Lockpicker
Directed by Randall Okita; Starring Kelgian Umi Tang

I fall somewhere in the middle on the introvert-extrovert scale, but admittedly lean closer to the extroverted end. So it can be hard for me to understand introverts though I do put effort into accommodating the introverts in my life.

The Lockpicker paints a beautiful image of what it’s like living in one’s mind, wanting or needing to retreat internally, but also desiring to engage with the world outside. Newcomer Kelgian Umi Tang stars as Hashi, who is stunned by the suicide of a close friends and as a result, is forced against his nature to explore ways to escape – and even survive – his own circumstances, beyond what he’s usually comfortable treading.

The film is dark and can be heavy, but is also filled with glimpses of light and hope when Hashi begins to see a possible way out. The Lockpicker very much locks the audience in Hashi’s mind and doesn’t let us leave until Hashi himself finds a way out.

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Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story
Directed by Daniel Raim; Starring Harold and Lillian Michelson

Harold and Lillian is most certainly “a Hollywood love story” but in many ways, it is so much more than that. The documentary follows the relationship between storyboard artist Harold and film librarian Lillian Michelson, but also takes detours (that don’t seem like detours) into each of Harold and Lillian’s own career paths.

If anything, the documentary illustrated what it looks like when two people are truly rooting for each other and back each other up. Through animated frames of milestones in their life together and greeting cards Harold has written Lillian over the years, viewers get the sense that yes, Harold and Lillian are a team, always have been, and always will be.

And Hollywood isn’t just a backdrop for Harold and Lillian’s love story; there’s the impression that it was their love that made Hollywood a little more gentle, kind, and easy to tackle in those early years. In a way, the couple’s love for each other was only matched by their love for their work and for Hollywood.

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Gimme Danger
Directed by Jim Jarmusch; Starring Jim Osterberg

Gimme Danger is helmed by Jim Jarmusch and dives into the early days of iconic rock group Iggy and the Stooges. Knowing the space that Iggy Pop (Jim Osterberg) and the Stooges now inhabit in the annals of rock, it’s fascinating to meet them as misfit, abusive teenagers, pushing themselves and each other on stage, and to fully realize that they weren’t always the revered rock pioneers they are today.

Even more jarring is to strip away what we know of them now, and to see Osterberg, not yet aged by drug use and rock and roll, as a nearly clean-cut drummer for local high school bands. To think that this well-suited, tie-wearing drummer would later bleed and writhe on stage for no reason other than to spur on his band mates’ performance can only elicit one appropriate, seemingly obvious response: “Of course. OF COURSE.”

As far as rock documentaries go, Gimme Danger offers the exact kind of nuggets fans hope for, such as Osterberg discussing how he took a hit of Mescaline and headed off with a shovel to try and squat in an abandoned house that would later become home to the Stooges’ early days. Of course. OF COURSE.

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Operation Avalanche
Directed by Matt Johnson; Starring Matt Johnson and Owen Williams

Movies about making movies hold a strange, special place between reality and fiction. Operation Avalanche, much like Matt Johnson’s previous film The Dirties, is no exception.

In 2013’s The Dirties, Johnson and Owen Williams play a pair of high school students making a film about high-school bullies. The line between what’s part of the story and what’s part of their actual filmmaking process begins to blur, and it’s at that point where audiences stop laughing and start becoming concerned for – well, we’re not sure who to be concerned for because we’re not sure if the movie in the movie has slowly become real life (in the movie).

Operation Avalanche follows the CIA’s crack audio-visual team, which has been embedded at NASA in the 1960s and tasked with staging the moon landing when it’s discovered NASA can’t do it themselves. It’s presented in much the same way The Dirties was structured; the characters don’t break the fourth wall, but more so step in and out of it fluidly. When Johnson reveals to his CIA supervisor that he’s being filmed unknowingly through a one-way window by a member of the A/V team, the audience feels like it should wave back as well.

It’s interesting to see how Johnson and his team have matured and changed in the last three years since The Dirties was released. In Operation Avalanche, Johnson is much more assured about absorbing the audience itself into the story. The film is a hell of a good time, an intelligent conspiracy theory suspense-comedy-thriller that makes you wonder what Johnson will cook up next.

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Harry Benson: Shoot First
Directed by Justin Bare and Matthew Miele; Starring Harry Benson

They teach you in journalism school not to become part of the story, in order to avoid any semblance of bias or influence. But what a joy that noted photojournalist Harry Benson is the story.

Harry Benson: Shoot First documents Benson’s many years in photography and goes into detail sharing the story behind some of the Scotsman’s most recognizable and iconic photos. The stories of his many interactions with celebrities are a joy to listen to, such as how legendary pop star Michael Jackson would often compliment Benson’s jackets and end up adopting them for his own wardrobe. Or perhaps how Benson managed to elbow out competing photographers through wit, charm, and cheekiness. (He’d hear from a subject that they hated cursing and so he’d go around telling other photographers that the subject loved cursing.)

It’s also one of the most beautifully shot documentaries I’ve seen, with camera angles many would never think to stage for a simple sit-down interview. Slideshows of Benson’s photographs paired with scene-setting music pulls the audience deeper into each image, as if we were there too when the photo was taken.

As a journalist myself, the documentary lights a fire in me, and reiterates the importance of being there, being present, and being absorbed by a story or a subject. Benson offered his subjects something more than just a camera lens, he offered himself and it’s because of those relationships and that trust that Benson has been allowed – and even invited – to document some of the world’s most famous faces and scenes.

How to conduct an interview 101

Earlier this week, I visited with a local class of Grade 9 students at who will be working on short documentary projects this term profiling senior community members. I was asked to give a workshop on the basics of conducting interviews, asking questions, and pulling stories from subjects in a meaningful way.

As someone who, in an alternate life, had considered going into youth and social work full-time, I jumped at the chance. (Sidenote: I was about 14 when the idea of seriously pursuing journalism as a career took root in my head so who knows?)

For any of the students who heard me speak on Tuesday and might be interested in journalism, I encourage you to read as much as you can about the world and to get to know your community. Thanks for allowing me to come visit and share a little bit about my job and I hope it was helpful and interesting.

Here’s a few of my notes from Tuesday to keep in mind as you tackle your project.

  • Start with the basics (ie. who, what, when, where, why, how) and go from there.
  • Pay attention and listen to the responses. Engage with their responses.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or to veer off from your list of questions.
  • Always get their name right! Ask them to spell out both their first and last names.
  • The interview should feel like you are talking to an old friend.
  • “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”
  • The key is that your subject feels comfortable and trusts you enough to share their story, and trusts that you’ll get it right.

Good luck!

Vancouver collective housing documentary wins Storyhive grant

It’s always nice to hear updates from people I’ve written stories about and to learn that things are going well.

I Interviewed Jen Muranetz last month about collective living. She’s a video journalist and had pitched a short documentary on collective housing to the Storyhive competition. She’s hoping the documentary will explain what co-housing is and how it might be a viable solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis.

Those who are skeptical would do well to hear her out. After spending a couple of hours interviewing Jen and her housemates at their home – affectionately called the Lounge – I was starting to think maybe I’d be ready to move in too. Even if it’s not for you, it’s a very interesting lifestyle and one that was fascinating to learn about.

Anyway. I received an email from Jen today, letting me know her project, titled Better Together, was one of 30 finalists who had been selected to receive a $10,000 Storyhive grant. Congratulations and I look forward to checking out the documentary when it’s completed.

You can read my original story about co-housing here and learn more about Jen’s documentary here.

Local Pinball Wizard star of new documentary premiering in May

Since I started working full-time as a journalist in 2011, I’ve interviewed dozens of people and have shared countless stories. Some stories stick with me more than others, for various reasons.

Among those is a series that I wrote and produced in the fall of 2011 for 24 Hours. It was titled The Top 24 Under 24. We had asked our readers across Metro Vancouver to submit names of teens and young adults who were at the top of their field, who stood out from the rest, who seemed poised for success and extraordinary things. Needless to say, many of the students we profiled that first year continue to enjoy great success today.

Robert Gagno was one of the students I profiled back in 2011. At the time, Robert was the top pinball champion across Canada, and was also ranked 13th internationally after competing for only two years. He had an indescribable talent for the vintage arcade game despite his autism.

Today, I learned Robert is the subject of a new documentary titled Wizard Mode that is slated to premier at Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival this May. The documentary is produced by Salazar Film and was partly funded by a successful Indiegogo campaign last year that raised $43,500. It is Salarzar’s debut feature length documentary.

The trailer features a brief glimpse of our 24 Hours two-page spread on Robert, which was first published in 2011. (You can spot the headline at 0:43!) It gave me a small sense of pride, not because I claim any sort of credit for Robert’s accomplishments, but because we played some small role in sharing his story.

It’s one of the reasons I love journalism and it highlights the favourite part of my job: We find interesting stories about wonderful people doing great things and we share that with the world. It’s exciting to see that Robert’s story will now be shared with even more people.

Congratulations to the team at Salazar and to Robert.

(PHOTO: Robert Gagno, who has autism and is pictured in this 2011 photo, is one of the top-ranked competitive pinball players in the world. He was also one of 24 hours’ Top 24 Under 24 students. CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS.)

Keeping up with Kanye’s new shoes

I’m always fascinated by celebrities and the power with which they can command an audience. Some drive their audiences toward charities that are close to their hearts, others drive their audiences toward their own brands.

Last week, I was sent out to write a story about why people were lining up outside the downtown Vancouver Holt Renfrew. Turns out – Kanye West’s latest collaboration with Adidas was about to be re-released.

I don’t know about you but I think the most I’ve ever spent on a pair of shoes was $120 and those were well-made boots that have lasted me two years and counting. I’m not sure I could bring myself to pay $225 for a pair of shoes designed by a celebrity, no matter how much I admired them.

No one man should have all that power, right?

Getting answers about short films

What if… Just what if you could have the answer to any question that has ever crossed your mind? Would you ask?

I recently wrote about the Crazy 8s Film Festival, taking place here in Vancouver. (You can read that story here.) The assignment opened my eyes to the possibilities and challenges of short films. Similar to what I do as a tabloid reporter, short films force filmmakers to tell their story without frills, without the luxury of length and time. You’re really tasked with picking out the most important aspects of what it is you want to communicate.

Back to my introduction. While discussing the Crazy 8s Film Festival recently, I was introduced to The Answers, a short film starring Daniel Lissing and Rose McIvor, and directed by Michael Goode. It explores that idea of what we’d do and how we’d respond if we had definitive answers for all of life’s most pressing questions. What would you ask? Would you want to know? It’s interesting to note what questions get asked in the film’s eight-minute duration. I suspect it’s not too far off from what most of us would wonder.

Watch the film below.

I bless the rains down in Africa

(This is a post dedicated to sharing the good message of Toto’s “Africa.” You’ve been warned.)

It doesn’t matter what decade you were born in but if you currently have access to the Internet, a record collection, or a soft-hits radio station, you’ll know Toto’s “Africa.” It’s a great song all around and if I had any authority on music (which I won’t claim to have), I’d argue that it’s one of the best songs ever written and released. True or not, it sounds like a good argument though.

The song was released in late 1982 on Toto’s album Toto IV, which debuted earlier that same year. It hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1983, and got as high as #3 on UK charts the same month.

Most recently, actors and real-life couple Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell posted their own homemade music video tribute to the song, featuring footage from the couple’s trip to, yes, Africa. I already love the song and I love Kristen Bell even more so I’m a sucker for this video, obviously.

An online video of two guys performing in a pizza shop in South Jordan, Utah has also been dubbed “The Best Cover of ‘Africa’ by Toto You’ve Probably Ever Heard.” (h/t Michael Berry at KTRH)

The performers are Mike Masse and Jeff Hall, and the video was actually posted to Youtube back in August 2010, but the fact that the video is still being passed around just goes to show that Toto’s “Africa” is a timeless song.

So today’s lesson is: You’ll never regret hearing Toto’s “Africa” because it’s a great song that makes you feel good. That is all.

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FIRST LISTEN: Weezer’s “King of the World”

I’m just gonna say it. I like the track. But you’re right. I’ll probably always love any Weezer track. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. (I mean, I probably could but I won’t.)

Weezer’s “King of the World” comes in advance of their 10th album. It’s, of course, self-titled but is already being referred to as the White Album, in the same vein of Blue, Green, Red, etc. thanks to their dreamy Californian faded album art. The album drops on April 1, just weeks after the band’s unofficial 24th birthday on Feb. 14.

Don’t worry, I’ve already pre-ordered my copy and bought my tickets. Duh.