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Skill Share: Journalism Workshop

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

 These are my very extensive notes from the skill share that was hosted by Bruce Wark and Hillary Lindsay this afternoon.

This is a very long article!  It also references the hand outs that were given during the talk.  I understand that you can obtain these handouts by emailing Bruce: bwark@accesswave.ca

I should note that although this looks like verbatim, I often summarize longer sentences, write things out of order, or paraphrase in an effort to catch up with things.  If something doesn't "read" like Bruce or Hillary would say it, it's because of a transcription error.

* * *


Introductions by Hilary – “My pleasure to introduce Bruce Wark, who has been a big supporter of the Halifax Media Co-Op since it got started, taught at King’s College, worked for the CBC, contributes to The Coast”

Bruce Wark – Introductions, asks people to introduce themselves. ~30 people

First part devoted to writing and editing, then Hillary will give a presentation on the media co-op, and then the last part will deal with how to interview. It may seem backward to start with writing and then look at research & interviewing, but I think by examining what you need, by examining the writing, you will see how to go about doing your interviewing. 

I like to use a template that helps you structure your material, helps your story and organize it in a way that makes sense and will appeal to readers, and will help you see how to go about beginning, what do you begin with, what is your theme, develop the theme, how to end the piece.  The method I teach is commonly used in journalism schools, but isn’t the only way of telling stories, but is a pretty easy and fast way to start organizing your material.  If you look at “Story Structure: A No-Fuss Formula”, it’s a piece my spouse uses at her copy-editing course at Kings.

Use this to develop the idea of that template, of how you go about structuring your material.  The lead is your beginning and you try and lead with the most interesting way you can to capture the reader’s attention. [See handout]

That’s the way of getting into this hard news story.  It tells us who, what, where, when, and how.  Those are the five Ws and the H of journalism [5W & H].  You need that information in most stories.

So, that’s paragraph 1. It’s backed up with a quote, so we get right out of the information of the 5W and H and get right to the people/characters.  [See handout para 2]

Quotes give you a way of loosening up your writing.  We hear from the people in the stories, and it makes the writing a bit less formal because it’s people speaking.  We’re translating speech into writing.  When I look at a piece of story, a news story, I want to see who is quoted in the story, who are the people quoted, and I want the quotes to tell me something about those people. In this case, we don’t learn a lot about Dr Ben Hall, but we learn that he’s a fairly articulate man, and he speaks informally, and I think that the backup quote helps to reinforce the lead paragraph.

The lead needs to be catchy, sum up what happened, and then you get right to your first quote.  [Name? Journalism teacher] says “Remember in stories good quotes high up, second paragraph if it’s possible”.  It’s desirable if you can.  You see how this flows.  We get the 5W & H, and then we’re right into someone explaining what happened, in this case an expert.

Now we get some chronology, to explain to the reader how this all went down. [Handout para 3]

And then we have another quote.  Don’t be stingy with your quotes.  [Para 4]

We get more chronology there, but it’s in the words of someone speaking.  It adds colour and moves the story along.

Then some background [Para 5]  Notice the partial quote from WHO.  It adds credibility, it backs up some official source there.  We’re learning what happened, why it happened, and then Dr Hall is explaining things to us.

[Para 6]

And then finally an end quote to tie up the story.  [Para 7]

It’s a very simple structure.  It’s simple in terms of how to organize your material.    We’re going to look at the template again in another story.

Q:  If you take the partial quote from WHO – how do you – partial quotes are sometimes out of context and then not accurate.

A:  When you’re looking at the WHO report, take special care to make sure that it’s not out of context, that it reflects what’s in the report.  You can use it as long as it really reflects what the WHO is saying.  That’s okay to do.

You can see a very simple structure here in which we’ve got information in the lead, we’ve got quote, more information, more quotes.  The quotes help to bring the story to life, they help to loosen up the writing.

Q:  If, let’s say, someone takes a position to cut funding on someone, and you’re responding to that, can you take a previous report that shows that they had the opposite opinion? 

A:  Again, you have to make sure, the reader has to trust you to be very accurate and to put things in context, and sometimes if reports conflict, you may need to refer to both.  Those are more complicated research questions.  Usually your problem is going to be too little information, not too much.

Q:  You’re still making an argument, it’s not non-partisan.

A:  There’s a myth that journalism is value-free and objective, but we know that’s not true.  Corporate journalism, Mainstream Media is not objective.  There are assumptions in the story.  The one exception I would make: If you’re reporting on a fire, car accident, bank robbery, there are certain facts everyone can agree on, but there’s always interpretation. 

[Turn page - The story referred to below is "May Ocean versus Goliath"]

Looking at this story, I followed the same structure I’m showing you today.  You want to capture the reader’s interest.  People have so much to do these days, unless you work at capturing their interest, they don’t want to read your story.  My story is complicated and long, I’m going to use this structure and show you how this story began.  Using chronological order is a good way to go.  Lead para starts with information from the accident report.  [Para 1 of Coast story]

The Coast likes long paragraphs, so it’s all in one para instead of broken up.

[Backup quote]

Does that quote tell you anything about May Ocean, who she is, who she thinks, how she talks?  She’s an artist, a designer.  She’s one of the most unique characters I’ve ever interviewed.  I interviewed her at least three times, plus extensive email correspondence, so I went back again and again to get the best quotes I could.

Now I do a background summary that tries to sum up the long story that is to come, in a nutshell, to tell the reader this is what happened, this is how she reacted.  [Para 3]

Now, that’s bad, to use clichés like that, and I struggled to find some other way of putting it, and I thought, that’s it, I have to go with ‘end of her tether’.  I wrote this again and again over a period of weeks, and I couldn’t come up with anything that conveyed it better.  I better writer would have.

[Para 4]  This is the end of the section.   Sometimes your interviewee will give you a gift like this quote.  The insurance company is questioning May’s sanity, and this is a good quote to lead into that.

You can see I’m following the same template, explaining what happened, going back to the beginning, backing it up with a quote that reveals character and more information, adding a para that sums up this story in a nutshell, and then a quote to wrap up the section.

Q: Para-length, editorial preference?

A:  Yes.  When you see it here, the paragraph looks long to me.  We like to break the paras up for the eye, but the Coast & Dominion like longer paras.  White space on the page gives the reader a break.  Allows the reader a pause, like when you’re speaking.  It looked okay in the Coast, so it’s not too long, but I like shorter paras.

Very simple template there.

Q:  I don’t know how to break things up into para.  How do you know?

A:  Here’s what I say about that:  In literary terms, the idea is this: One thought per sentence.  One main idea per paragraph.  In Journalism, we play fast & loose with that.  We often split just to introduce more white space.  The main idea in the para is “this is what happened when she stopped”.  Very important point here: I’m not just going by what May tells me.  I looked at the accident report, the police report, plus another report.  I went through hundreds of pages of court documents and reports to get this story down.  When I say that it was barreling towards her, that is in the accident report.  I’m not attributing it.  Later I will refer to that report, I have to be confident that that’s true – it’s not just what she believes.

I want to get into this story quickly.  Later I’ll talk about the accident report.  That doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility of being accurate.  If this is what I’m saying, then that’s true.

Q: If you split the lead para into 2, would you pull your backup quote up one?

A:  No, because I wrote this myself and it’s perfect.  J  You can have it in the third or fourth para.

Next Page: Storytelling Elements

News is a dramatic form. It’s a form of Drama.  Richard Erickson calls it a morality play.  Order & disorder, good & evil.  You’re writing mini-drama.

You need interesting information that includes background information that will put the story in the proper context that gives it the depth the audience needs.  Journalism is about information, but not only that. 

You need people who are vital to your story.  People who are interesting and knowledgeable and say things to the audience.  They need to reveal character.  Who is this person?  Do I like this person?  We used to say at Kings “You’re the narrator of the story.  You’re writing the story.  And you have to keep yourself out of it.”  You don’t use emotion in your writing, but you get that from the people you talk to.  The stories are about them.  You get them to bring the emotion or the informality.  The story plays off against itself you see.  You’ve got neutral voice telling you what happened, and then you’ve got the engagement of May telling you what happened, how they felt, what they learned.  The story is two parts – you the narrator writing as simply and directly as you can, telling the reader what happened, and then the people eyou interviewed telling you some emotion.

You need action.  Something new and interesting has happened.  These are dramatic elements.  You can’t have a play without conflict or drama. Your news story is in the dramatic literary genre.

You need people feeling things.

You need description.  It’s hard to describe things.  You don’t want a long description, you want to get the essence of what it was like to be here in just a few words, and that’s very difficult to do.  I have real trouble with that aspect of journalism.  I find description very difficult. It’s almost better to have no description than to overdo it.  Find that just that right touch that conveys the sense of what it was like, what it looked like, what it smelled like, or what it was like to hear something.  Visualization is the main thing in journalism – what things looked like. 

You’ll notice the opening of my May story, I didn’t attempt to describe her.  I don’t feel I have that skill, but we did have a photo of her, but the photo can fill in.  The Photo tells a lot to the reader, but I didn’t want to attempt to describe her.

Q:  Did you take the photo?  Do you often?

A:  My spouse; you can, and we encourage it for the media co-op.

I was last weekend covering a rally, and I was taking the photo.  I’m a terrible photographer.

Anecdotes or examples of things.  Suspense or irony.  I was trying to get suspense into the May Ocean thing, “fateful decision”.  Humour when it’s appropriate.  Humour is a very powerful storytelling technique. 

That’s what you’re looking for to get into your story.

The next thing I want you to do is look at that long piece.  “Living in pain and isolation”  (Considers a minor masterpiece) [LINK TO PIECE can be found courtesy of the Advocacy Gateway for Environmental Sensitivities, thanks to Chris Brown.  You can also view his response to the initial article.  I'm sorry for being a jerk about this, Chris, and thank you for providing the PDF and context.]

The new editor of the Globe & Mail wanted to have a story every day on the front page that you wouldn’t find on any other paper.

[Your transcriber interupted here to complain about the ableist nature of this article - woe, the life of people with disabilities is nothing but pain and agony, a living hell, woe.]

What I want to do with this story is show how the template works.  This story, on the positive side, I would call a piece of advocacy journalism, in the sense that the reporter had a long and prominent career, what he’s trying to do here and it’s pretty blantant for the Globe, is take up the case of Marilyn McCleary and tell it to us in a way that puts pressure on the government to help her.  That’s the positive side.  But I understand you’re coming from another point of view and I accept that and respect it.  This is the hazard of journalism and I find out when I write editors for the coast and look at the comments.  The illusion is that the audience is out there and they’re monolithic, and then you realize that we live in a pluralistic society where no two people necessarily think the same way and this is a huge hazard in your journalism.  Rod never says “I” in the story, and he hides behind that format in reporting.

[para 1]  If you write something like that, you have to be sure that “living hell” isn’t going over the top.  It doesn’t have to prove right away, but you have to show it later on. 

[para 2] Quotes.  What do you think Rod asked her to get that quote?  “What do you miss the most?”  Short, direct, right to the point.  What did you learn about Marilyn from this quote?  Good things, simple things, how you would hate to lose them, and that she’s lost a lot.  Rod doesn’t have to say it, she says it.

Newspaper is the most powerful medium, because of what’s left out of it.  It doesn’t fill in everything for you the way television does.    You have to fill it in, picture her, hear her.  That makes print a very powerful medium, because you (the reader) have to contribute 50%  of the work.

Journalism that invites the audience to get involved, not sit passively on the couch and watch it go by.

[para 3]  Filling in the background, but he’s not going to be stingy with his quotes.

[para 5] Quotes.  How could you not do a good story on this woman?  She’s what we call in journalism a “good talker”.  She’s very giving interviewee, but you have to ask her the right questions or you won’t get the quotes.  “What’s it like to have this disease?”  Very simple question.  We’re learning here a crucial thing: simple questions, just what occurs to you.  What does she miss most, what is it like?  Tells us that she’s creative.

Look at some of the people in the story and what they contribute to it.  In Para 9, we learn that she can’t go to Texas because Ontario Health won’t pay.  Quotes the Government.  Very hard quote to get because gov’t officials will not talk about invidiaul cases, but I would argue that this quote is very important, but it takes a long time to get it – worth the effort.  It reinforces the idea that not just report or mcleary, but government.

Para 10: So far two characters here.  McCleary is the main character, but is also about others who might be suffering from MCS, but also the gov’t official.

Para 11:  It doesn’t go over the top, those descriptive touches.  He’s telling us what he sees, gives us a mental picture. 

He introduces her mother – notice we give ages of people.

14: A little anecdote that tells us about an incident.  He doesn’t want to get involved in the story by inserting himself in it.  There is a branch of journalism where journalists [Hunter Thompson] do insert themselves into the story and it works for them, so it’s not absolute that you can’t, but in a story like this it’s better not to.

17:  Mother quote.  In this story seven different people are quoted.  The next to last thing I want to show you is how the story deals with her Doctor.

18&19: Doctor talking.  He’s talking like from a textbook.  When you’ve got interviewees talking to you, you want to break that down a bit, so the audience understands.

Look at 20:   What did Rod ask?  “On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is she?”  And that backs up the information in the earlier quote and breaks it down for the reader.

24-27:  That’s Dr Arthur in Toronto.  He is going to play the ‘other side’ in this story.  He’s against Marilyn.  He thinks that she’s “not all there”, no physical basis for this.  We’ve got to have him in the story because it’s an important part of the story.  He’s qualified, he angrily dismisses things.  “Angrily?” is it fair to say that?  You can tell that Rod was pressing him to get him to react.  In a case like that, if you’re a journalist they start attacking you.  The best thing to do is stop and repeat back to them: “If I understand you, you are making the point that….”  Shows the anger in this doctor that this is being treated as a legitimate illness.  Rod breaks him down until he’s practically frothing at the mouth.

The last thing I’ll point out, generally the story has many people who are experts in their field.  Doctors, advocacy people, and so-on, but the story begins with the victim herself.  It focuses on her.  She’s a non-expert in credential terms, but she’s the real expert because she lives it, and she’s the person who the readers are going to relate to.  In general, the bias in journalism is sorted towards “real people”.  We don’t have a string of degrees, but who know things.  This is especially for people who are part of the media co-op focusing on people.

Look at the end of the story, summed up by the mother.  Perfect ending to this story. 

A bad reporter would, when you go out to cover a story, you might be interviewing someone in an office, so you have to go through the secretary, or you’re going to someone’s house, and the person you’re going to interviewee’s brother is at the door.  That person might be a character in your story, someone you can get information from.  Every person you go through may contribute something to this story.  Rod respects Mrs Giddy [mother].

The template is :

Catchy lead,

Backed up by quotes

As you go through the experts, getting them to speak English the reader will understand

Getting some emotion

Summing up with Mrs Giddy who puts things in perspective from her POV.

In terms of the format and formula which is what we’re teaching, this story is almost perfect.  It’s a very long story that I think covers something important and does so in an engaging way.  It doesn’t feel long, and yet it’s 43 paras long.

Q:  The structure of the points from 1 to 7 have been expanded out and kind of re-repeated throughout.  He keeps recycling that with different characters he pulls in.

A:  The quotes make the story a little less dense, because of the way people talk.  You write dense tight prose, then allow your interviewees to give some emotion.

Look at “Not on the backs of Famers” [Turns to Kayleigh McSwain]

If you could sum up the story in one sentence, how would you sum it up?

K:  Food security, I guess, and people being able to make a living. [Note: I had trouble hearing Kayleigh.]

Why did you include the welfare recipient?

K:  I thought it was, through talking with them, a good example of someone who wouldn’t be able to get the kind of food they’d need – out of price range.

It seems to me there are two things in this story.  One is that local farmers – there’s a surge in popularity of local food, but farmers can barely make a living; two – people can’t afford local food.  The story’s about how farmers can’t make a living and people can’t afford their food.  This is a story about people who are having a hard time making ends meet.

EXERCISE:  Think about the theme of this story, and how best to develop that theme.  Is the lead here the best lead, and if not, what would it be?  What’s the article about?  Who are the people quoted?  How do each of these people contribute to the themes of the piece?

Lead: Is it a catchy lead?

Article: What’s it about.

People quoted

How they contribute to the theme.

And then try and think “Is this the best way of organizing this piece?”  Keep in mind the template I’ve been trying to teach here.

There is bias in this article, just like in every article, because it focuses on what Kayleigh thinks is wrong.  The strength in the article is establishing that for the reader, and allows them to follow along.

Look at this story, number the paragraphs.  Imagine that Kayleigh has brought this story to you, you’re editing it, and you’re going to suggest edits.  This story is about something important, lots of good quotes, tons of good information, everything is here.  But, could it be better?  And, as the editor, you’re talking with K about it.  How do you go about editing this story to make it even better?

[This is where we broke up into groups and discussed the article.  I found this an interesting way of seeing how articles can be strengthened through editing.]

[Returned to full group, and reported back on their ideas]

You can tell no two editors are the same, but what I would have tried to do is move Johnston higher up.   [Recites how he would have reworked the article.]  I’m opening with Kathy Johnston and her plight, although the lead mentions the struggling farmers, too.  There are other ways of opening it as well – the idea of free food is very interesting, for example.

The problem with my approach is that focusing on Kathy is on only the poor urbanites [this is my term - I was having some trouble keeping up with the typing at this point so used "urban poor" or variations of it.  No one actually used this term.], not the farmers.  See para 3, this allows the transition.  Then move on to Stahlbrand.

Transition “How can we create a sustainable regional food system?” para 4

Move to Jill Ratcliff who brings the two sides together.

In all of your interviews, you need to ask everyone about both sides – farmers & urban poor.  Figure out before your story what you want to do, then think about what you want to ask your interviewees in order to have lots of quotes to pick from to have both sides of the story.  It’s quite a complex story, so you need to get the two angles in every interview.

It was a struggle because the article tended to go in two different directions.

Q:  It was too polarized – there are more people feeling this than the ones focused on.

A:  In journalism school, they’d say there are two stories here, do two stories.  One on welfare recipients, one on farmers.  I personally think that’s too narrow, it’s possible to tell these stories together – they relate very closely.  This is huge, and I learned a lot from this story.  I would just restructure it.

Q:  Our group felt it was an issue underreported and overwhelming.  There was so much that needed to be said, and that was challenging.

A:  In spite of the fact that the story could have been told with a more interesting lead, there is so much here that’s so valuable – it’s an excellent story, the elements just need to be re-arranged.

Q:  To me, having those two threads creates more interest because it creates more tension in the story.  How are you going to solve both of those problems.  The information about CSA needs to be integrated into the story.

A:  Where the integration happens is the information Ratcliff is saying – pricing food differently according to income.

Q: One of the things we talked about SunGroup Farmer, Law, who made this radical suggestion about making farmers public servants, what would you think about taking the story and flipping it from a different perspective?

A:  You could do that, and it would be the same story but told in a different structure.  What you’re doing is trying to think about how to start the story – more radical – and work with the elements.  Sometimes you have to send the reporter out to get more in order to make it work.  I would be interested to see how that would work.  It would capture attention quickly.  Again, there’s so much here to work with.

Q:  We all agreed on the story being strong.  We have the farmers, and we have the people who can’t afford food.  We have a problem.  It’s not just poor people, but society in general.  I kept waiting to hear where this problem came from.  Problem summarized, solutions provided.  Would it complicated things to point out without the corporate media and government and free trade and Big Farms – would it be better to put that stuff in, or would it complicated things?

A:  You could put a sidebar that addressed that, or put in a separate story.  I would say that’s a separate story, not try and integrate it in this one, but you can do a two-parter.  “In part two we look at the corporate influence”.  I used to say to my students in the 90s, the big issue in the next century is going to be the basics – food and water – and that’s coming true. 

Editors come from different places.  There’s a really good story to tell, but there’s no reason you can’t do it in a sidebar or in a part 2.  We have to work at simplifying this story.  In my version, I cut Greenburg out altogether and just dealt with the other characters in the story.  My ending, I tried to come back to Kathy Johnson.  Para 15.  It’s got poor person, farmers, local people, California.

It’s a great story, it just needs to be edited more.

Q:  The way the story is often dealt with is very dualistic.  You need that for the tension, and sometimes if you don’t place it in a large framework, then by proposing one solution you come up with a snake oil that will “solve the whole problem”.  If you don’t have the third element – the corporate effect – then you’ve effected the solution of the story.

A: Although you never tell everything in one story.   You have to be quite ruthless, but you can always say I want to do another story, a part 2.

I like the fact that we got tension in the story, but really farmers and poor people are in the same boat.  There’s so much here.


Hillary: I’m going to take you through the Media Co-Op.  One of the purposes of this workshop is the hope that more people will start contributing to the co-op.  The more contributors, the better.

This is the website: Halifax.mediacoop.ca  You can go there to find out what’s happening, what sort of news we’re reporting on.  Bruce has already gone over this a bit.  We really want to focus on grass roots news.  Going to people directly affected by a policy or an event, rather than taking the mic to people who are in power or already having their voices amplified in the mainstream media.  We want what people are doing on the ground in response to what’s happening in their lives.  People trying to figure out how to deal with this tension between farmers not being able to make a living and people not being able to afford the food they’re growing.

Go to the media co-op site and sign up.  That allows you to post articles, blogs, events, comments, etc.  It’s very easy to do.  All you’re going to do is type in a user name, password, it takes literally two minutes.  If there’s any areas you’re interested in doing more stuff, there are working groups you can join.  In the future that’s a big part of how we imagine the media co-op working.

You can become a member of the co-op, vote in the AGM, be involved in the direction.  There’s information about that – about how to become a regular member, or a subscribing member of the Dominion Newspaper.  Or you can become a sustaining member and donate every month.  It really supports grass-roots journalism.

Once you log in, all sorts of things will appear on the side-bar, which shows you how you can publish stuff in the co-op.  So, if you want to publish a blog post – and what a blog is is different from a news story.  Usually a blog post comes more from the “I”, personal experience.  If you read an article in the Chronical Herald that you want to comment on, you could put a link to the article and comment about why you think this is an important issue.


Olympic Spirit and the Coca-Cola Torch Relay: (His personal experience with it.)

In order to post a blog, like many other things, it’s very easy.  It’s pretty self-explanatory.  Title, include an image, what question is it answering? (a way to direct people to your post).  Then you just put in the body of your text right there.  You’ll be sending it to the Halifax Media Co-Op.  Then press save, and there you go.  Blog!

Q: Can you tell how many people read your blog?

A:  Not right now on HMC.  It’s available on the Dominion website, though.  That is something other people have asked for, so I imagine that could happen in the future.

Another thing you can do is publish a photo essay.  This is a great thing to do if you’re new and getting into this but want to get involved.  A photo essay is a simple way to do it.  Unfortunately, right now, we’re having problems with the photos on the website, but we can’t do photo essays, so I can’t show you an example of a photo essay. But it’s an easy way of introducing someone to a story.  If you go to a protest or something, you can just take a series of photos of speakers etc, and just give a title etc.  [For an example off-site: Here's my photo essay of the first Take Back The Night March I went to.]

Q:  I took a lot of photos from an earlier protest, and I didn’t have anything to do with those pictures.  If I had a series of photos, how much text is required, explanatory text?

A:  That’s a great question, and I really wish I could show you an example, because it would be easier.  But basically you’ll upload, and once you upload it, it gives you a space to write a little summary.  A caption for the photo.  And then, as you have more photos, just add another item.  But it’s really important to have a body, a couple of paragraphs, where you’re just explaining, generally, what the protest was about.  Why they were protesting, what was happening.  For each photo you would have more specific details.

Q:  Only from last little while?

A:  Probably for the best, yes.

Q:  I just got a call from a friend in Kanehsatake, and if there’s something happening here in response to that, it’s a local story, but do you know if there’s a Montreal Co-Op?

A:  It’s forming, but I can show you how to post things that aren’t local. 

Photos are a great way to tell your story, and it’s a good way to get started.

But you want to make sure if you’re doing a photo essay that it’s a visually appealing event or place that you’re at.  For example, if you’re at a conference or something, it’s not a good place to do an essay. 

From Audience [Was it Heather?  I think this is the photo essay she is referring to, but because photos are not working on the site at the moment, I'm unsure.]:  The photos I posted were taken over five months.  They were heavily edited, maybe a couple thousand in total.  There were some really nice single human images, like rather than groups of people, concentrating on the spirit of what was happening in each one.  There were 12 in total.   The project I was working on, in the Graystone Community, a housing project.  About three years ago the urban farm started this garden.  A lot of the children in the neighbourhood end up there.  You spend the whole day with them.  We’re only funded to do a tiny bit of the work.  We ended up spending a lot of time with them building a shed and a play house.  Natural shed with straw bale, cob, etc.  Going through all the steps so the kids could do this themselves, if they wanted to.  There was a lot of harvesting they did themselves.  They were always making their own snacks from what they picked in the garden.  Visually it’s a lovely scene.

H:  The photos were beautiful, and also was a great HMC story because it’s an area that’s not in the news, organizing themselves.  Ideas of social justice and environmental justice as well.

The HMC isn’t just for print.  Also, you can upload audio & video.  I’ve never uploaded audio & video before.  In terms of creating video, it’s very similar to what you do for other things.  Title, author.  Tag is where you would write in key words for people trying to find something.  In this case, “agriculture” or “spryfield”.  Then there are more general topics.  IE: Food.  Maybe Poverty as well, since it’s an area that tends to have less money than other areas in Halifax.

For video, you can link directly to a YouTube video.  You can’t upload videos directly, but you can upload it to YouTube and put in the link. 

Again, you want to have one or two paragraphs explaining what the video or audio is going to be about.  Much like the kind of intro paras that Bruce was talking about, 5W.  Then leave the rest to video.

This is a video of an anti-Nato Protest that happened in November.  An interview with an Afghan member of Parliament.  As you can see here, Glenn outlined what the video is about in the body section of the website.  This is an example of an audio file that someone has uploaded in an oil spill in the Lower Sackville River.  That’s just an example of the kind of stuff that’s up there.

One thing, not in terms of journalism, is posting events to the HMC website.  So, if you know that something’s happening, your organization is holding an event, you’ve heard about something people should know about.  You can post an event.  It’s pretty straight forward. [Used example of this skill share, but I couldn't find it.  Check out this event for an example instead.]

Title, subhead, all the details, Venue, Price, etc.

Just showing people how easy it is, so they are not intimidated.

You can also post news release/press release to the HMC site.  You can do that under News Release.  [Here's an example of a news release from December.]

Then, of course, there’s posting stories, which is what we’re learning about today.  That is pretty similar in terms of the information you’re going to need to put in there.  When you post something what happens is it goes directly under “other recent posts”.  Then, if your story falls under what the mandate is in terms of being grass roots, etc, then it will be featured, and will go more to the top of the website. It’s important to know that no matter what you post, it’s immediately up there.  If you want to post something that just happened at a protest and you want to get it up there right away, you can write it up quickly and publish it, and then you can send that link to all of your friends.  It’s immediately up on the website, even if it’s not featured.

If you’re new to writing articles, you may want to send your article to me first.  I can give you some feedback on your article, and maybe some direction.  That’s certainly a good way to start.  If you’ve never written an article before you may not want to submit one right away, but you can send it to me.

The HMC is also paying for pieces. Once a month, if you’ve given me your email address, I will send out a call for pitches if you think you have a story that should be published on the HMC, you can pitch your idea.  One pitch each month gets chosen as something that will be featured, and you get paid $100.  It’s more likely your pitch will be accepted if you’ve contributed to the HMC before and if you’ve got some experience.  That said, we’ve had people who have done it without experience as long as they’re willing to do the work.

Q:  If you submit a story, published right away.  If it grabs the editor’s eye, it get shunted to featured?  During that jump, is there a possibility of editing?

A:  There’s a possibility of editing.  If I, for example, saw a story that wasn’t quite in line with HMC, but it looked good, I might email the author and suggest some edits.

Q: Once you’ve posted your own story, you can also edit it again if you see a mistake.  You can go back in and change it, re-edit, and post it again.

Q: I find a lot of the independent media I read, the comments are great – you can get story ideas from reading reactions to it.

A:  You can see here a lot of discussions going on, a lot are about articles.  The discussions will be featured under “Current Discussions” if there are more than 2 comments.

Q:  You need an account on the site?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Does it get acknowledged when there’s edits?

A:  It’s not noted on the website, but only the author can change the article.  (Or Hillary.)

Q:  I contribute to a news letter for my union.  Can I contribute the same articles?

A:  You can republish the article, but note where it originally appeared.

Q:  Can you generalize about what the submission guidelines are?

A:  It’s basically what I mentioned already.  Somehow focused on Halifax or NS, but also a grass-roots story.  A story written from the bottom up.  In terms of a news article.  If you’re following, in terms of structure, the kind of examples that Bruce has been talking about, then that’s great in terms of  a news article.  Generally news articles won’t get posted directly to the site.  That’s whttp://halifax.mediacoop.ca/sites/all/libraries/fckeditor/editor/skins/d...); background-position: 0px -528px; " class="TB_Button_Image" alt="" src="http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/sites/all/libraries/fckeditor/editor/images/spacer.gif" />hy I’d recommend you send it to me first.  There are some people who post articles directly to the site.  These people generally have experience writing news articles.  In terms of blogs & photo essays, the same thing.  So, not a big Labbat’s concert, but an interesting blog post would be on tax reform, but not politician’s opinions.

Q:  Do you encourage other publications to use your stories?

A:  We publish under Creative Commons, which means other publications can reprint our stories with permission of the author, and note where the story came from.

Q:  It happens very quickly, when an article goes up, if there are any changes.  So far, the stories aren't inundated with comments, but that’s really something to think about, changing your article after a comment.

A:  The responsible things that the author would do would be respond to the comment.

Q: Or you can put a comment with changes.

Q:  How many members do you have?  How many writers?

A:  The network is quite a bit larger than Halifax.    Not sure number in Halifax.

Q:  I noticed on many pages, “What question is this post answering?”

A:  You see this question right here: What are radio stations doing to become more accessible for PWD?  That’s the question Gianna wrote about. It’s another way to point people to an article or a feature article.  When you type that question in, it will appear on the website.  It might pique people’s interest.

HMC is part of a broader network of local co-ops.  I’m going to start at the bottom and work my way up to the top.  Halifax was the first local media co-op that the Dominion established in Canada.  That sounds kind of weird to say that way!  The ideas of the locals it that they feature raw coverage of what’s happening in the local area, but also features and investigative features.  We’re looking to establish more locals across Canada that are doing the same thing that are covering grass roots stories.  HMC started in February.  Vancouver started a few months later.  You can find out what’s happening in Vancouver.  It’s featuring a lot of stuff on the Olympics right now, and what’s happening in resistance to the Olympics.

At the top, there’s a link to various networks.  There’s not a link to Toronto Media Co-Op because it’s not been officially launched. There’s a lot of great work happening in Toronto as well.  There’s people doing a month in review in Toronto

All of these locals feed into the larger National Media Co-Op website.  Whenever we publish something to a local it gets fed into this website: Media Co-Op. Ideally you’ll be able to go to this website and see what’s happening across the country.  We want to establish in more communities.

A lot of people are posting on Haiti and Canada’s role in Haiti, and what it did in the past in connection to the coup in 2004.  If you have something you’d like to post to the Media Co-op site but not specific to Halifax, you can go to general site and post the information there.  For example, in Kanesatake, that could be posted to this site.  If you have information or you know people who might want to post to the local site but there isn’t a start up yet, get it posted on main site.

All this stuff all then gets fed up to The Dominion, which is where it all began in 2003.  A group of us started it, a grass roots newspaper, we print almost every month.  The Dominion’s different than the local sites in that you don’t find the raw unedited coverage in the dominion.  Everything up on the Dominion has been through a more rigorous editorial process.  Focusing on Canada & Canada’s role in the world, and First Nations issues.  As you can see, Giana’s piece is also on the Dominion’s website.  It has a national angle to it as well.  It has gotten featured on the Dominion website.  It does special issues.  We’ve done four.  Special issues get printed 15000 copies and get launched across the country.

The network allows us to spread out through the locals, creates a larger audience, creates more content, broadens network of contributors and readers.  Since we’ve started launching the locals, we’ve started getting a lot more local content and have much better connections on what’s happening on the ground in various areas of Canada.  This way everyone can feed into what the media is publishing.

Q:  When you go to the HMC website, what does the beta mean?

A:  That’s more tech-speak. It means that it’s in development.  It’s a new website and we’re working with new features.

Q:  What’s involved with registering?  Do you have to get reviewed?

A:  No, anyone can do it.  You just sign up.

Q:  Are you also signed up for the others?

A:  Yes.

It doesn’t give you a subscription to the Dominion, because that’s a print subscription.

Q:  Is there an archives?

A:  Yes.  You can search by section, author, theme.  Special issues are on the website as well.

Q:  Are you open to sending it to you first in an email, asking where it belongs?  I’d feel better with guidance.

A:  I’d be happy to do that.

Q:  Are we in any way in competition with the corporate media system?

A:  I think the grass-roots media in general is creating a challenge to the corporate media in that it’s kind of catching a lot of the areas the corporate media left out.  For example, Canada’s role in the coup in Haiti is something that’s only kinda slipping its way into the mainstream media [MSM] right now, but Dominion was publishing in 2004.  Certainly stories do get picked up by MSM.  The MSM is watching, and we have nothing close to the funding the MSM has, but in some ways the fact that we’re funded in a grass-roots way gives us an advantage that we’re not losing advertising dollars.  Our business plan is based on building up a base of sustainers supporting independent media in their community.  That base is growing every week.  If you’re in a position to support in that way, and by definition you’re supporting the whole network, then I would encourage you to do that.  As we build up a base of sustainers in Halifax, we’ll be able to pay much more than one author a month.  When you sign up as a HMC sustainer, more money is funneled.

I was hoping we’d have time to brainstorm some ideas for the HMC.  If you’re interested in following up on this workshop and starting to submit articles, what stories do you think need telling in Halifax.  You can talk to us about it.  I’d really love coming out of this workshop to have more people contributing.


A very short course on interviewing.  Interviewing is a way of getting material, quotes, information, or even your blog posts if you want to quote people.  Today, again, I’m going to give you a handy guide to get you going.  A way to avoid the mistakes that people make in interviewing.

The first thing is, decide what your story is and make sure that you ask the questions that are needed to illicit the information or quotes you’ll need to write the story.  Your idea of the story will change all along, but you need to anticipate what you’ll need.

You can always phone your interviewees up later to ask additional questions.  You can phone and follow-up on it.  People are usually very happy to talk to you again.

I’m going to play an interview, and we’re going to discuss what kinds of questions were asked, were they effective in eliciting the needed quotes.

[There was an interview - Bruce had a transcript.  It was a story about a woman whose car was swept off the road during a Hurricane, and survived by clinging onto a log between two trees.]

What do you think of that interview?

-        From the audience:  * I think he’s trying to show off his local knowledge a bit more.

-         * Excludes people not from the area.

-         * You’re asking specific questions trying to get specific information, vs trying to let the interviewee tell her story.  She told the story pretty well.  I got a pretty good sense of what happened to her.  He could have gotten more background detail, maybe specific stuff.

-         * It seemed we spent a lot of time hearing about the details of the log. 

* They seemed quite excited about it, but it wasn’t very excited to listen to.


If you don’t have a transcript, you end up stop listening.  It’s an amazing story, but all we get is an amazing story.  No “What were you thinking during those two hours?” It’s life and death struggle with no drama in it.  We’re going to go over why that is.

-         If you know the area, you could ask her “have you ever seen anything like this?”

 I really wanted to get inside her head.  What’s in her head?  That’s one of the questions that would have given us.  If you examine her answers there are very few good quotes in them.

What do you make of this: “It must have been a great relief and get home and get a cup of tea!”  It’s condescending, and it doesn’t take her or her story as being of value.  “It was only three feet three deep where they were, so you can imagine how strong the current was, and two men actually got injured trying to rescue me.”  He’s not listening to what she says.  The first rule is: Listening, and listening is really hard work.  Picking up on what the person says and then getting more from them by asking good follow-up questions.

-         From audience: I just wanted to say, I agree with what you’re saying in terms of some of those questions remained unanswered, but what I liked overall was its folksy nature.  There’s something important about allowing people to relate to the characters involved.  I liked a bit of information on the geography.

But he’s eaten up time that could have been spent on her story.  We wanted a story of conflict and emotion and none of that’s in here.

From the transcript, you can see: There’s something that’s not a question but a statement.

FIRST RULE: Ask questions, don’t make statements.  Statements are a sign of weak interviewing.  There’s no sense of – not requiring anything of her, not interactive.  Connoly is fortunate that she wants to tell her story, and she picks up on it.  Again and again, he makes statements that show he’s not really listening.  This is a good example of an interview in which statements are made, people are not listening, and essential questions are not asked.

What this interview should have been about was what happened, how she felt, the aftermath.  It’s very condescending and patronizing.

Q:  Can you talk a bit about how to draw out the information without being exploitative?

You’re touching on a very sensitive point.  This is where the rubber meets the road in journalism.  Members of the audience will react against you if you push the person too hard and invade their privacy.  In this case, she wants to tell her story, and she’s trying to get that out, and he is not listening and he doesn’t want to hear it.  I know Don Connolly and part of his problem is that he can’t really handle a situation like this.  He’s very uncomfortable here.

Q:  I’m not sure that all Nova Scotians will know where Keltic Lodge is – it’s in Cape Breton.  It’s not far from West Bay.

He spends a lot of time on that but he doesn’t even get to the bottom of that.  There’s very little here that couldn’t have been told in 30 seconds.

What I want to do next is look at the Sawatsky Method of Interviewing. [I don't have the handout here, but there's some discussion about his methods that you can find on NPR.]

If you can train yourself to do what I’m about to tell you, you will be a much better interviewer than 99% of the journalists out there. It’s simple, but hard to implement.  Every question must start with 5W or H.  Open questions.  “What happened, how did you feel, what went through your mind, why did it take so long for them to rescue you.”  The first word in the question, the Operator, must be 5W or H.  When we use the operator “when”, we’re searching for an anecdote or example.  “When did you first notice that you might be suffering from Cancer?  When did you especially feel that your disability was interfering with your normal life?”  “Why” digs & asks for reasons.  “What” is more open and allows people to say things.

And open question has to be answered with more than one word.

Closed Question: Did you have problems with that? Yes.  Answered in one word.  “Could you tell me how long it took?” Yes.  Closed questions are only used very rarely in interviewing – when you *want* a one-word answer.  So you say: “You’re 36, right?” “Do you spell your name with an ‘e’ at the end?” “Did you kill your wife?”  You want an open question.  Start every question with 5W or H.  You will be a fantastic interviewer.  You will get much better quotes and information that Don was getting because so many of his questions were either statements or closed questions.  “What an adventure you had!” Statement.  “Were you having to hang on for that period of time with just your arms.” “Yes.” Closed Questions.

He says that an interview is a conversation, but he’s wrong.  An interview is a very – it’s very unusual in that one person asks questions, and the other person does all the talking.  The shorter the questions, the more pointed they are, the better.  We want to hear from her.  We hear from Don every morning, but we want to hear from her this once.

Q: Is this more a radio interview, more dynamic.

A:  Sawatsky teaches that it’s all the same thing, but in print interviewing you can go back and ask the question again.  A radio interview needs to flow in a logical story, but the questions you need to ask are all the same.  He teaches Sports, Network Journalists, how to ask questions.  He says the tougher sounding the question, the less information you get.  “What did you promise in the campaign” “Why are you doing this?”  Much tougher questions.  The toughest questions are the off-the-shelf questions.  Half of the interview will be these standard questions.

Favourite is “What happened?”

Q: Is Don’s question a good start?

A:  It’s too narrow.  In radio terms you do repeat so the listener will get it.  The intro sets it up and then you get the info again.  “How did it start” isn’t too bad.

Q: Is there a special significance to the first question you ask?

It sets the tone.  The tone is always important.  You don’t want a hostile interview.  Let me give you an example:

A journalist in California.  A lawyer was trying to take an afternoon nap.  Kids were playing basketball.  Lawyer sprayed them with water.  Neighbours sued.  Lawyer counter-sued.  Journalist started to attack the lawyer.  [This is all paraphrased!] “Weren’t you mean?”

Set a friendly tone, get information and quotes.  “What was your relationship with your neighbours before this happened?”  Gets the lawyer talking and doesn’t put him on the defensive right off the bat.  He’ll put things on the table.  You start to get elements of the story that no one else has.  Last question – “How can a professional resort to spraying those kids.”  Important question there could be: “What were your alternatives?”  Those are very tough questions.  Rather than going in and trying to beat the guy up and getting him to admit that he’s a jerk, ask him questions and get him to talk about his experience and what he went through and why he did what he did.  The tone must always be non-hostile.  You can ask tough questions, but you shouldn’t be there to prove a point.  It will come out if you ask the proper questions.  You’re not trying to win an argument, you’re trying to solicit information and quotes.

Q: Reminds me of the Jay Leno’s Famous Question: What were you thinking?

It invites a response.  You want the interviewee to be creative for you. “What was a major turning period on your life?” “What was a turning point that turned out to be nothing?”  If you prep them before hand, it gives them ideas.  Get them talking and reviewing things.  Warning them allows them time to get an answer together.

So, someone is driving a small car across the bridge.  He sees bearing down on him a big mac truck going the wrong way.  He can’t get out of it.  He realizes there’s going to be a collision.  Where do you want to start?  Do you want to tell the story of this guy’s whole day?  Or do you want start right there.  “When you saw that truck bearing down on you, what went through your mind?” “I’m dead. L”  The collision happens, he’s trapped in his car, they’re bringing the jaws of life.  “What did the firefighter’s say?” “Well we’ve got a dead guy in here!”  “What did you say?” “I’m NOT DEAD!!!”

That’s how you get into the person’s head in order to get the storytelling elements out of this experience.  How he felt? What went through mind? What he said?  What did they say?  Good questions.

Let’s look at these off-the shelf questions.  When someone says something that you need more, more – when I was at CBC, “Could you expand on that?”  We wanted more.  The person thinks “I’ve said the answer!”  When you want more ‘What do you mean?” “When you say that this was a terrifying experience, what do you mean?”  “Have you ever been in the right lane with the mac truck bearing down on you? It’s terrifying!” “What other ways would you describe it?”

Bad: “It must have been a terrifying experience.” “Yes, it was.”  You’re putting yourself first.

Sometimes if the person is giving you a very technical answer – how would you place that on a scale of 1 to 10. Or what do you mean when you say “this is paradigm shift?”  And the person then translates it for you.  “What makes you say that?” It’s a very powerful question.  It’s a bit hostile but doesn’t sound like it.  “How do you feel about that?”

Sawatsky is very shy, and doesn’t seem to be aggressive.  He gets good stuff because he gets people to trust them and then he asks them these probing questions.

Q:  Something people say is “Talk about that.”  I feel that it’s too vague.

If you have a professional journalist you’re interviewing and she says “Talk about that.” Or “Explain”.  The person needs to pick that out and it’s complicated.  It doesn’t work.  There’s no muscle in the question, no operator.  Statements, not questions.  Even when you’re interviewing professionals, you need to direct them. “What do you mean when you say that?”  [Amy Goodman?  I didn't catch this reference at all.]

Your interviewee will help you out.  They will actually give you the arguments for the other side if you ask “What are the arguments for the other side?”  It would mean taxes would go up a lot and the other people wouldn’t like that, for example.  Information about the other side of the story.  Put the arguments to each, to you get a response.  Ask similar questions.  If I say “I think we should double taxes to help the poor.”  And you’re interviewing a right-wing economist who wants to cut them in half.  “What about Bruce’s argument about doubling taxes?”  Then you get both sides responding and you can work with those quotes as you need to.

"When did you first realize that?"  This question very rarely goes wrong. It’s a good ending question:  "What did you learn from this?"  It might be the lead to your story – “I learned that life is short” “Bridge is not very safe.” “I loved his wife after all.”

Q: These are questions you’d ask someone after you’ve been through something.  If you’re intervewing someone on a specific topic, or making an argument, or come out with a book.

Well, look at Kayleigh’s story.  What if we asked the interviewees there what they learned from – what has Kathy Johnson learned from her experience of trying to balance her budget?  You can adapt those questions to any kind of interview situation.

Interview tips were written about 15 years ago.  [This is another handout that Bruce provided.]  I’d be more open now – they’re too prescriptive.  There are ways of approaching people.  An interview can be a win-win situation.  We have things we’re interested in, and your family doesn’t want to hear you talk about it again, but if a journalist comes – you want to talk about it.  They want to talk to you because you’re listening to them.  It’s very rare that you get to talk to someone who is listening, treating what you say as important.  The interview can be a win-win for everyone.  It’s a win for you, because you’re getting material you can use to construct a story, and that person gets to talk about something they care about.  “Interviewing is the modest art of gaining trust and then gaining information.”

Q: Do you have any advice for interviewer – after someone has answered a question, or something who talks a lot – what are things you can say beyond “on to the next question”, should there be filler?

All questions with operators – rather than giving a statement of your own.  Your time is limited.  I advocate telling them in advance how long it will be.  Don’t waste time while you’re in there.  Get what you need in a non-hostile way.  It may be helpful to ask “Let me sum up what you’re saying”.  Reassures people – she knows what I’m trying to say.

Do your research; know what you want.  No one wants to talk to someone who is going to misquote, or out of touch.  Be as knowledgeable as you can be about the subject.  The more knowledgeable you are, the more the person will open up and give you more.

Q:  If I’m interviewing someone one and one, and you give me a piece of information that I know is wrong or erroneous.  Is it appropriate to confront in the interview with that fact?  Or should you respond in the article?

Depends on how important the point is.  As a general rule, I’d say “I have this article here that quotes you as saying this.  How do you respond?” If it’s important in your story, then you have to, or otherwise you’ll leave it hanging.

Nearly all of your questions begin with 5W and H.  We all have bad habits and we’re used to talking and using “did” and “could”.  If you get used to Operators, you’ll give better interviews.  But don’t forget to ask follow-up questions. Listen!  I did interviews.  Never went out and did a recorded interview where I didn’t hear something on the tape that I had not heard in the interview.  There is always stuff there that you didn’t hear.  Sometimes it’s crucial, and sometimes it is not.  I often ask “Where will you be tonight, is there a number I can reach you at?” In case you need to phone to clarify something.  It’s amazing sometimes when you need to clarify really urgently.

Q:  How do direct your interviewee if they’re rambling and avoiding your questions?

It’s a hard problem.  As a general rule you shouldn’t interrupt people.  On the other hand, you can’t let the time go by if you have 30 minutes.  You could say “I’m actually not interested in that aspect of things.”  You may have to politely say “I’m sorry, I don’t have time to include that in my article.  I’d rather ask you in the time we have about This This This, is that okay?” It’s a closed question.

- END - 


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Living in Pain and Isolation

Your critique of Mickelburgh's story on Marilyn McLeary is misses the important concerns by a country mile. Did you read the accompanying attachment at the above mentioned URL, written in response to this article?

Calling the article a "masterpiece" of any kind is laughable, outrageous!

Mickelburgh eclipses the long mainstream history of persons with sensitivities behind controversy about the recent theories of so-called "doctors of environmental medicine," simultaneously using and promoting attitudes that have been officially identified as problematic. As former Secretary General of the CMA, Dr. Carole Guzman, wrote on precisely this topic when she was approached about this often repeated mistake of Canadian journalists, "I am sure that you agree that confusing individuals with health problems with therapies used to address them is counter-productive and leads neither to a better understanding of complex problems nor of better care for individuals."

Sensitivities have long been known to medicine. It is not McCleary's health complaint that is question in responsible circles, it is the flaky ideas of doctors of environmental medicine, the goofy notion that one disease entity explains sensitivities. As is shown in hundreds of years of literature, and as Health and Welfare pointed out in the 1980's, sensitivities are caused by a compendium of disorders. While Mickelburgh was writing his abusive article, Health and Welfare Canada and the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Commissions were addressing precisely the bigotry he includes as credible opinion.

Instead of finding out what was going on, or even just including the opinion of people who knew what was going on, journalists have put forward a polarized debate that highlights the most irresponsible extremes. While Canadian journalists confuse debate about an arbitrarily defined subgroup, sensitivities, including chemical sensitivities, have long been known to medicine. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story!

Mickelburgh ignores the fact that a provincially appointed blue ribbon panel of physicians and a judge identified a legally obligating, publicly insured method of diagnosis for sensitivities, regardless of the specific disease entity involved, in a report six years earlier. This method is encouraged in teaching modules offered by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

But far more important than the long medical history, Mickelburgh aids and abets the violation of McCleary's human rights by subjecting her to a reverse onus about her experience of repeatable controllable circumstances, and by forwarding as credible the invalid opinion of others who do likewise. The practice of subjecting persons to a reverse onus is unethical in medicine, avoided in society and proscribed by legal principals starting as early as Section 39 of the Magna Carta. It is a form of "arbitrary interference."

Journalists still make the same mistakes made by Mickelburgh. They help to invisibilize the actual history and the legal rights of persons with sensitivities. They still eclipse it behind debate about the more flaky of the ideas of doctors of environmental medicine.

Meanwhile, by mapping prevalence against adverse drug event deaths reported in Terence Young's book "Death by Prescription, we see that more than a dozen persons with sensitivities are unnecessarily killed in health care every day. Children with consequent learning and behavioural disabilities are being horrifically abused in schools across Canada. Psych patients whose problems are caused or exacerbated by sensitivities are being ploughed under by hateful attitudes in health care, contributing to at least one Canadian suicide per day. Women trapped in the mono-culture around eating disorders are not properly assessed for sensitivities.

The next time you do a workshop involving the portrayal of persons with sensitivities, I suggest you transcend the debate about environmental medicine, reach a bit deeper than enjoyment of life concerns, and deal with what is actually happening. If you have the guts, tell Canadians how journalists have, for the past three decades, encouraged hateful attitudes that have resulted in more than 80,000 Canadians with sensitivities being unnecessarily killed in health care since Mickelburgh's abusive article was published.

Canadian journalists have contributed to and help sustain (by promulgating misconceptions, by invisibilizing) what is, in duration, numbers affected and extent of injury, one of the top five human rights abuses in Canadian history.

Look a little deeper....

Your critique of Rod Mickelburgh's "Living in Fear and Isolation" discusses superficial concerns while invisibilizing life and death issues.

In the article, Mickelburgh ignores the actual history of person with sensitivities, replacing it with the self-aggrandizing revisionist version provided by so-called "doctors of environmental medicine." He unethically subjects his subject to a reverse onus concerning her experience of repeatable, controllable circumstances, encouraging and helping others to do the same. He ignores the fact that a 1985 Ontario report identified an existing, legally obligating, publicly insured method of diagnosis. He ignores the work being done at the time by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Health and Welfare Canada, CMHC and several other departments to address precisely the unethical positions he puts forward as credible.

Since this article was written, more than 80,000 Canadians with sensitivities have been unnecessarily killed in health care because of attitudes encouraged by the confusions Mickelburgh and others put forward. For the source of this statistic, see http://ages.ca/content/unnecessary-adr-deaths-canadians-undiagnosed-sens...

This isn't the appropriate

This isn't the appropriate place for your google-alert comment.


My comment was not made as a result of a google alert.  It was made after seeing several people download the document from my web site, the publication of the pdf url without credit or thanks and, most of all, concern about the invisibilization of the exclusion, injury and unnecessary killing of persons with sensitivities in health care, something that is missing in Canadian journalism.

Yes, Mr Brown, there is a

Yes, Mr Brown, there is a *very* lengthy conversation to be had about the way disability is treated in the Canadian media.  If you'd like to have it via email, please contact me, and I'd be happy to have it with you.  *Here* is not the place for that.

However, you are right about linking to your website without attribution.  I'm sorry.  I'm going to take that down as soon as I'm done posting this comment. 


you are welcome to leave the url intact, rather than to once again invisibilize the issue. 


Bruce Wark and I are discussing the article, and the issue.  I am heartened by your dislike for the article, and hope you can understand that the invisibilization of the unnecessary killing of persons with sensitivities in health care should not happen in a workshop any more than it should happen in journalism.

Yes, I do.  I hope your

Yes, I do.  I hope your conversation with Bruce Wark goes well, and thank you for letting me continue to link to your site, despite my being a defensive jerk about this. 

Thanks all around

Thank you for taking and posting such comprehensive notes, and thanks to Bruce Wark for such an insightful and expertly-delivered workshop.


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