Punching Bags

Journalism isn’t for suckers. Or crybabies.

The gritty side of owning a press pass is being revealed via the Mike Duffy circus, as the trial continues in tandem with a federal election campaign.

With home page/front page spreads, and news outlets naming reporters who were publicly targeted by supporters of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it’s important to point out journalism is far from glamorous.

Abuse is a daily reality. Like cops or lawyers, there are stereotypes, labels and mistrust; public perception.

You toughen up, fast, when you realize it’s normal to be called a vulture, or your tires are slashed, or someone threatens to kill you, or a person looks you in the eye and says you’re a waste of human skin. (Note: Journalism is incredibly dangerous in many parts of the world, and I applaud, support, and admire these scribes. This post refers to an urban Canadian experience).

I’m curious to know how many of those reporters on the campaign bus got together for drinks yesterday.

The incident brings to mind a 2011 Murder Monday, as I dubbed it, ending at a west Ottawa bar. Worn out from the day’s events (door knocking, being cursed out and repeatedly accused of blackmail, not having time to eat, Ottawa’s winter, wet socks,) I badly wanted to chug a gin and tonic* yet didn’t want to go home and drink alone. So I entertained two guys at the bar (one of whom I’m now connected with on social media).

He waxed lyrical about his divorce, and his son’s mad hockey skills. I countered with victims of crime and how I wasn’t trying to paint a bad picture of the person killed.

Womp, womp.

Not quite as sexy a job as you think. Hate mail, racist comments, sexist comments, sexual innuendo, social media trolls are part of the daily grind. It’s rare to see it aired on the nightly news.

Another time, I was following a tip about a charity being defrauded. Given the nature of our media outlet, in that there was really no time for investigative work, I convinced an editor to let me go look. The payoff? Being threatened by a biker, and I do mean the Hells Angels type, not a beret-baguette-basket cyclist.

Oh, how I miss the newsroom.


*Tonic water, I’ve since learned, has too much sugar (around 20 grams per can). I now sip vodka/soda. 


Sunday Funday/Run Day

Local Run with Hart
July 29 / 10:16 PM – Runner friend, M, texts a screenshot of comedian Kevin Hart’s “impromptu” 5K and urges me to commit.

Immediately tempted to decline. Since it’s the Summer of Yes, slept on it and replied the next morning.

Run with Hart 2

Ensuing panic; the last organized run I’d participated in was probably around 2004. Anyway, here’s a recap.

Run With Hart at 8:04/Sunday morning.

5:30 – alarm goes off

6:30 – M texts to see if I’ve chickened out

Run with Hart 3

6:40 – chilly breeze comes in the front door

6:42 – text M to ask if it’s best to rock a sleeveless or long-sleeved shirt? (Sleeveless…duh)

7:04 – head out

7:24 – miss the turn and end up tailing a Toronto Police cruiser. The officer stares me down as I follow him into a tiny area to pop a U-turn. I smile, indicate left, and pray he doesn’t pull me over. Victory before the run begins/registration is complete!

7:30 – parking across the street and waiting in line to pay the machine $14

7:33 – M calls to ask where to park

7:40 – registration complete. We meet M’s bestie, N, and crazy fit (and fun) running group friends

7:43 – swag: a white Run With Hart T-shirt

Coaches warm up the crowd…THEN…

Run with Hart 5

Run with Hart 4

Kevin Hart pumps up the crowd and takes photos with his back turned to us

8:20 – start running (route: Martin Goodman Trail. Mostly flat, minus the Ontario Place hill)

8:24 – want to stop. Keep going. Running partner, N, graciously offers to pause whenever I need a break (M is way up front with fellow speedster, S, and bypasses Hart (!!!), we later learn)

8:25 – seriously, want to stop but keep going

8:36 – will anyone notice if I “fall back” or “re-tie these laces…I’ll catch up?”

8:58 – tell running partner, N, it’s time to “drop the hammer” and sprint for the finish line

8:59 – high fives galore. This running community is uber supportive and happy-go-lucky

9:00 – mission complete. Immediately given more swag: Black Nike Run Club towel

9:02 – beeline for the bathroom – not to vomit – but to wipe off and rinse face

9:07 – snack time: banana, Kind bars (the dark chocolate sea salt was incredible), water, and the shirtless, bearded dude with abs-on-abs-on-abs, with whom ladies are lining up to snap photos

M photographs me with Mr. Abs, while Hart addresses the crowd and poses with them again to feed the Insta beast

The event was sponsored by Nike, and they sure as heck know how put on a clinic. Yes, it was a ‘free’ run (with no registration fees), but it was also an optimal marketing opportunity. Inspired to download the Nike+ app and train … well done, capitalism.

10 Signs You’re Still A Journalist

1. You interview everyone … even when they’re technically interviewing you. For a job. And you think it’s normal to go into said interview with four pages of questions.

2. A high-profile politician and her advisors sit next to you at a coffee shop, and you’re THIS CLOSE to pulling out your digital voice recorder and rolling.

3. When it’s election night, anywhere in the world, you get a tingling sensation and crave pizza.

4. You curse excessively when chatting with first responders, then feel the need to disclose your expired press credentials.

5. You make mental edits when reading the newspaper, while grumbling about the buried lede.

6. Slowing down, and realizing you don’t have to pull over to cover that fatal crash/protest/crime scene … but you kind of want to.

7. Meeting a journalism student fills you with joy and pain.

8. Your friends/family watch the evening news. You’re evaluating the lineup, reporter’s stand-ups, and quality of the anchor’s intros.

9. You proudly tell people you only use Facebook to look up murder victims and pedophiles alleged pedophiles.

10. You’d rather be a barista than go into PR.

Why a Reporter Isn’t Replying to Your Story Pitch & How to Get an Answer

Picture 1

You, savvy, charming PR person, connected with a journalist, casually mentioning a prime upcoming event/launch/photo opportunity.

Journo agreed to cover it, asking you to send details.

Send, you did. You haven’t heard back. You follow up. No reply.

Key point: Reporters (generally) don’t assign themselves. Editors or producers decide what they’re filing on any given day.

Following up again, your efforts are either forgotten, ignored, or blown off.

What’s up with that?

Don’t they know how hard you worked, coming up with such witty, irresistible, not-too-pushy banter?

Chances are, it’s one of three things.

1. Journo is buried in e-mail/texts/calls/lookaheads, plus assignments galore. Cameras freeze, batteries die, the competition tweets a scoop … Your pitch may have been forgotten, or ‘snoozed’ to a later date.

2. Journo pitched the story to an editor or producer, who immediately dismissed/denied/shut down the notion of covering your prime upcoming event/launch/photo opportunity. Journo may not want to acknowledge the reality of being a peon, thus burying his/her head in the sand.

3. Journo knows your prime upcoming event/launch/photo opportunity is a bust, and/or wouldn’t be covered by their media outlet, and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. It’s akin to ending a date with “I’ll call you.”

Here’s betting it’s Number Two.

As you might already know, reporters don’t run the show in a newsroom.

They’re. At. The. Bottom. Of. The. Totem. Pole.

Let’s get supremely specific. Reporters, well, report to editors and producers. All are categorized as journalists.

Now you know why, so forget about the reporter.

Here’s how you’ll follow up: Contact the assignment editor. Phone – don’t email – the newsroom’s city desk and mention the reporter’s name. “I met Journo at ________ event … by the way, thank you for coming to that. It really helped us get the message out. Anyway, I wanted to follow up and see if there’s any chance you’ll be able to cover our _________.”

(Everyone likes being appreciated. Journalists are rarely thanked).

Assignment editors are simultaneously juggling 86.5 things, so you’ll probably have an answer on the spot. It could be a hasty ‘no’, but rejection is better than being tuned out, isn’t it?

Try this, and let me know how it goes.


5 Neurotic Things Journalists Do

1. Incessantly brag about their “sources” to friends, the person in front of them at the grocery store, family, the woman on the adjacent treadmill, and naturally, other reporters.

2. Complain about being exhausted, yet refuse to decompress.

3. Include “coffee” and/or “runner” in their Twitter bio.

4. Store a year’s supply of condiments in their cars/desks.

5. Hang out with journalists to “not talk about work”

BONUS: Use police 10 codes and/or reply to texts/emails with “10-4” or “Roger”

What I Told PR Students, In 100 Words Or Less

Picture 8

A common newsroom rant often begins, “One day, when I get the chance to tell PR students…”

Kidding. There would be at least four f-bombs, interlaced with less offensive profanity, if that quote were to run.

Anyway, I was recently given the opportunity to speak to a class at Durham College*.

Talking points on winning with journalists:

1. Anticipate needs

2. Answer/acknowledge a media request, even if you have no information to relay

3. If you can’t deliver by deadline, TELL US

*Random names on the blackboard were shouting out PR all-stars, Brad Ross (Toronto Transit Commission) and Bob Nichols (Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation).

Gloucester boy ‘falling through cracks’ at school

Leland Warren has been at home, instead of school, for more than a week.

The autistic seven-year-old isn’t receiving enough support from the public board to accommodate him, his mother told the Sun.

“I’ve made it clear, they need to find a solution,” said Debra Warren of Gloucester.

“They’re not fit to deal with Leland’s needs.”

Leland functions at the level of a two or three-year-old, she said, and is enrolled at Queen Elizabeth PS, near St. Laurent Blvd. and Montreal Rd., where he’s in Grade 2.

“The sad part is, across the hall from his class is a specialized program for autistic children,” said Warren.

Leland was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, said Warren — specifically DSM-5.

He doesn’t qualify for the specialized class, because, Warren said, “he speaks very well … to them, he’s fine.”

School staff are pegging Leland’s as behavioural, said Warren, even throwing around attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a cause.

“They keep calling me to pick him up every time there is an undesirable behaviour, despite me telling them I cannot lose my job,” said Warren.

The school has proposed Leland attend for three hours each day, from 9 a.m. until noon, she said, adding Nov. 13 was Leland’s last day in class.

Olga Grigoriev, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s superintendent of learning support services, wouldn’t comment on Warren’s case, calling autism “a complex exceptionality.”

Along with medical documentation, “we absolutely rely on what the parent tells us,” said Grigoriev.

In addition, “we do need a collaborative relationship,” she said.

The Warren family moved to Ottawa from the Prescott-Russell area about two years ago in the hopes of finding resources and options for Leland.

He was initially with the Catholic board, then made the switch this school year.

“It’s a process,” said Grigoriev.

“It’s not a quick fix.”

There’s no wait list for special education programs geared to children with autism, Grigoriev confirmed.

Nonetheless, Warren is now exploring legal action.

“It’s a really outrageous story,” lawyer Kevin Butler, adding, “somehow, he’s falling through the cracks.”

“He has a right to go to school,” Butler said.

Warren said she just wants her son placed in a supportive environment where he can learn.

Special streams in the public system:

Who qualifies for specialized programs?

We follow the tiered intervention approach and when schools have been unable to successfully support the children in experiencing success in collaboration, and with the support of parents/care givers, it may be appropriate to consider admission to a specialized program.

Which schools offer such programs?

We currently have 35 specialized classes (K-12) serving 192 students.

Is there a waiting list at any school?

As a result of our move to a geographic model for autism classes, there are currently no children on the waitlist for ASD. There are no children on the waitlist for DD classes.

Source: OCDSB


Garbage truck hits, kills cyclist along Clyde Ave.

Witnesses are being asked to come forward after a cyclist was killed after colliding with a garbage truck in Nepean Thursday morning.

Emergency crews were called at 8:05 to Clyde Ave. and Lotta Ave., just north of the Merivale Ave. split. The victim, a man, was dead when paramedics arrived, spokesman J.P. Trottier said.

It appeared both the cyclist and garbage truck were southbound on Clyde when they collided, but cops are working to confirm the details, said Ottawa Police Sgt. Wally McIlquham. They are trying to determine if the man was on his bike or walking it across the intersection when he was struck.

A blue tarp covered the victim’s body, while investigators waited for the coroner to arrive.

A maroon Supercycle mountain bike was lying on the road, with a white shoe a few metres away.

Police and Ministry of Transportation inspectors were at the scene examining a blue BFI garbage truck.

The southbound lanes of Clyde and the westbound lane of Lotta Ave. were taped off.

The road was closed for most of the morning while police investigated.

It’s “way too early” to know if charges will be laid against the truck driver, said Ottawa Police spokesman Const. Marc Soucy.

“It’s going to take a while.”

The garbage truck driver was “shaken up” and being comforted by family and friends.

“It’s a horrific thing that nobody wants to be in,” McIlquham said.

A spokeswoman for BFI Canada, the company that owns the garbage truck, called it a tragic accident and expressed condolences to the victim’s family. The company and its driver were co-operating with the police investigation, she said.

“It’s a sad day for the company,” said Chaya Cooperberg, a vice-president for BFI, whose parent company Progressive Waste is headquartered in Toronto.

Cooperberg said she didn’t have any information about the experience of the driver or the route he was on Thursday morning. The truck was collecting garbage on one of its commercial routes, she said.

Martin Settle said he’s been cycling for 25 years “in four different countries,” and feels “a deep sense of loss, even though I have no idea who (the victim) is.”

Word of a fellow cyclist being killed took Settle back to his own experience in Nepean in 2012.

He said he was hit at Merivale Mall while heading south.

“A light had changed as I approached — heavy traffic, as usual, on the street,” said Settle.

“Essentially, without signalling, a large SUV just turned right into the parking lot.”

Settle said he was beside the SUV.

“I managed to pull myself onto the curb but the truck hit my shoulder, and I ended up going down, and rolling across the intersection … I’m not sure that the driver even noticed.”

Two motorists behind the SUV stopped to check on Settle, he said.

“I was kind of scraped and bruised,” he said.

Settle said he was planning to join a group of cyclists for a “critical mass” ride on Bank St. later Thursday.

Witnesses to the Clyde Ave. fatal are asked to call 613-236-1222, ext. 2481.