On Journalism 36 results

Thoughts on the nature, ethics, practice and present state of journalism.

After a life in news, one last plea

People: Tribute to Ron Rose (1919-2015) A veteran newspaper man files a final message to readers: "Do what you can to stem the unedited and often unsourced outpourings in the flood of social media." By Rod Mickleburgh We said farewell late last month to a good man. Part of the great generation that survived the Depression, World War Two, the tinderbox of the Cold War and Liberace, Ron Rose was part of this crazy world for nearly a century, falling just four years short of the big One Zero Zero. But that’s not why so many of us gathered to pay our respects. We were there because Ron Rose, besides being the most gracious and generous of individuals, was a newspaper man. It was a gathering of the clans, a celebration of someone whose working life as a knight of the keyboard stretched back to the Depression. Ron Rose was history. When he started at the Vancouver Sun as a copy boy in 1938, he reported for work in the celebrated Sun Tower, then topped by the paper’s majestic neon ...

Falling apart at The Citizen

The Sick Days: Part 21 - Hot and Bothered Moving from The Toronto Star to The Ottawa Citizen was supposed to reduce symptom-inducing stress, but once installed in the national newsroom, Shelley Page starts feeling like a lobster By Shelley Page While I never told the editors who hired me at the Ottawa Citizen that I had a serious chronic illness, I confessed my secret to the doctor performing the employer-mandated medical exam. I had to. Otherwise, my blood would betray me. A routine white blood cell count (WBC) would reveal I suffered from neutropenia and leukopenia — chronically low numbers of white blood cells which left me highly susceptible to infection. Lupus often attacks and destroys these disease fighting, workhorses of the immune system. A normal WBC is between 4,500 and 11,000, mine hovers around 1,800. If the doctor requested more sophisticated tests, she might also have seen extremely high levels of anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies, which ...

A reporter on the run

The Sick Days: Part 20 - Into the Frying Pan When I was a young reporter, there were no “self-help” books about how to manage your workload, ask for support from your employer, or even disclose an illness. By Shelley Page I’d like to torque my personal narrative and claim that I left my ‘dream job’ because I’d had an epiphany: journalism would never be a cure for lupus. Except, I wasn’t that clever. These days, there are many books written for the chronically ill about how to scale back your dreams and still find career success: Despite Lupus, written by a former NBC producer who quit her job to control the constant flares of her illness, which eventually attacked her kidneys, arguably the most serious manifestation of lupus (a stage I didn’t yet have to worry about). The writer encouraged readers to work smart, or in bite-sized chunks, and sometimes not at all. Fabulupus (yes, that’s really the title), is filled with similar advice. When I was a ...

The joy of general assignment lost on next generation

Journal: The Sick Days, Part 19 The Death Knock is among one of the most unpleasant tasks in any newsroom, but the uncomfortable face-to-face with a grief-stricken relative has now been replaced by social media trolling and scalping Tweets By Shelley Page It’s called a “pick up” or a “death knock,” and it’s among the most unpleasant tasks a general assignment reporter on the city desk can draw. The most experienced of our breed can get a grieving mother to unchain her door, make a pot of tea, and unspool woeful stories of her lost love, usually urged on by an invitation to “set the record straight” about son Jimmy the Bank Robber or make sure Little Emily the Heroin Addict isn’t misremembered. The most tenacious of us leave the widow’s home with an entire photo album under our arm so there are no pictures left for media outlets late to the tea party. This is another one of those tasks that journalism school can’t prepare you for. So many years ago, ...

When reporters and politicians rub elbows

Tribute: Bill Bennett A labour reporter looks back on an oddball friendship with a right-wing leader, and the good old days when labour reporters still existed By Rod Mickleburgh VANCOUVER -- For some reason, Bill Bennett seemed to like me. In the few times we encountered each other, we got along. Goodness knows why, since, as a labour reporter, I had little time for the wealth of anti-labour legislation that came down the legislative pipe during Bennett’s 11 years as premier of British Columbia, topped by his outlandish, 26-bill “restraint” package in 1983. It went far beyond “austerity”. One of the bills gave his government the right to fire public sector workers without cause and lay them off without regard to seniority. Among the first to be shown the door was BC Government Employees Union vice-president Diane Woods. Nor was that all. On that single unforgettable day, the government also wiped out the Human Rights Commission (employees fired on the spot), gave ...

Dating, illness and the survival instinct 

The Sick Days: Part 17 I relished the feeling of safety... Perhaps that wasn’t enough to build a relationship on, but I was enveloped in the narcissism of illness and fearful another flare would strike at any time. By Shelley Page He’d cared for me before diagnosis, pulling me out of snow banks when I fell. Later, he rode the prednisone rollercoaster with me, as my spirits sunk then soared and I dealt with a swollen face and ripped skin, immunosuppression and insomnia. During the three years we’d worked in different cities, we saw each other every few months and vacationed together. He’d take my woeful phone calls, reminding me, “You can do it.” When he was posted to Toronto, we decided to move in together, without much thought. In marriages involving chronic illness, divorce rates are said to be more than 75 per cent. A study I found in the Journal of Oncology reported that spouses are actually lonelier than their ill partners and have lower levels of ...

Reporting behind bars

The Sick Days: Part 16 Journalism 201: Remember to bring your prednisone to prison By Shelley Page “Don’t forget to take their picture.” As I’d find out, not the best advice for a reporter sent to sneak into a third-world prison. I was heading to Trinidad to interview two imprisoned teenage drug mules who had attempted to smuggle three suitcases of marijuana back to Canada. Both 17, they’d been sentenced to eight years in an adult prison, filled with murderers on death row. The Star wanted the boys’ story. It hadn’t started out as my story. A new hire, a summer student heading to Columbia University’s journalism school in the fall, had been following the case and already called the prison warden asking to interview the boys. Although she had a hunger for foreign assignments and a passport filled with stamps, she was too green to go. Instead, I was assigned to show up at the prison, say I was a cousin, get their story and a photo: proof of life for ...

The Sick Days: Part 15

Heart burn Contemplating the 'therapeutic value of style' while struggling with serious illness By Shelley Page While dying of prostate cancer, New York Times book critic Anatole Broyard wrote about “the therapeutic value of style.” In Intoxicated By My Illness, he observed: “It seems to me that every seriously ill person needs to develop a style for his illness. I think that only by insisting on your style can you keep from falling out of love with yourself as the illness attempts to diminish or disfigure you.” I’ve long envied literary men who write boldly about their various afflictions, fatal and otherwise, knowing that their ability to do their job is never in doubt and they relish the protection that their reputations afford them. This is not the case for shift workers, dishwashers, desk jockeys that fill boxes with numbers for a modest salary, or almost anyone else. And not for girl reporters trying to figure out how to work sick. I am currently ...

The Wolf in Hiding

The Sick Days: Part 14 "I was sick of feeling like a stupid girl who didn’t know enough to manage her own illness." By Shelley Page When the pain came, I carried it on my shoulders as I waded through the polluted, dirty water of Lake Ontario. When I made it to my desk in the Toronto Star newsroom, I  wrote the final words on Vicki Keith conquest. “Five down. None to go.” I followed her in a boat across Erie, Huron and Superior, Ontario (twice), and almost Michigan, and that’s the best lede I could come up with. But at least it was brief. My knuckles were swollen, my fingers bunched into fists. They looked like boxer’s hands. I punched gingerly at the keys, wincing. It was like repeatedly hitting a block of cement. I did not go to emergency, as I had when I was in third-year university. I calmly called my rheumatologist at Mount Sinai and asked for an appointment. His office manager did not see the same urgency that I did, and so she booked me the ...

Playing with the boys

The Sick Days: Part 13 How one young reporter ended up shouting at the Queen Mother from the sidelines of a horse race while dodging the pig sty theatrics of One Yonge  By Shelley Page When I joined the Star’s downtown general assignment pool, all the reporters’ desks had been shoved into rows as they renovated the newsroom. It reminded me of a Grade 8 class at an all-boys school. Loud-talking guys in wrinkled dress shirts, loosened ties, sitting jowl-to-cheek, ego-to-ego, as they pounded out their stories on 1970s computers, in late stages of decay. I was seated, temporarily, beside a bulldog of two-way man (meaning he both wrote and took photographs), who immediately showed me the collection of girlie photos he’d amassed on the job. He’d somehow convinced numerous women to pose for photos with their shirts off, and kept a file in his desk, mixed in with pictures of his children (clothed). He showed me this collection, I guess, to see how I’d react. ...