Tag Archives: CBC

Helping journalists cover mental illness

DownloadedThe morning that the booklet on which she and Cliff Lonsdale been been working was to be unveiled, Jane Hawkes allowed herself just a little satisfaction.

“After operating in a bubble for months, we really didn’t know if it would finally resonate — and [we’re] grateful that it seems to be,” she wrote in an email. “Interestingly, [there’s] just as much buzz outside Canada — [we’re] hearing from journos and mental health groups in Australia, Thailand, Israel, England, Ireland, U.S., Vietnam, Spain, Mexico, Kenya.”

The “buzz” is regarding Mindset: Reporting on Mental Health, a new resource by journalists for journalists, intended to improve the reporting of stories that touch on mental health issues. The slim 42-page field guide is available in booklet form or as a free download, in English or French, from the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma.

At a reception ahead of Thursday night’s launch at the Glenn Gould Studio inside the CBC Broadcasting Centre in Toronto, Lonsdale credited CBC ombudsman Esther Enkin with an unrelenting drive to keep the guide short and practical.

That, it is. Through seven short chapters and a quick reference compendium that includes a best-practice checklist, interviewing dos and don’ts, and guidance on language in cases of suicide and addictions, Mindset should take its place alongside a reporter’s dictionaries, stylebooks and legal guides on desktops and in backpacks, rather than on the shelves of newsroom libraries or inside yellowing manila folders.

Mindset: Reporting on Mental Health is published by the Forum in association with CBC News, with partial funding from the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It’s a valuable resource for reporters who, in today’s newsrooms, are generalists far more often than they are specialists. And the dynamic website promises the guide will remain useful for years to come.

Below is the video, featuring Linden MacIntyre,  that led off the panel discussion at the booklet’s launch. The discussion, chaired by World Report host David Common, included Enkin, neuropsychiatrist Anthony Feinstein and André Picard, public health reporter at The Globe and Mail.

 

 

CBC Online leaves impression on Conestoga students

When I asked my new media students in class today about the things that were most memorable or surprising about last week’s field trip to CBC Online in Toronto, they responded nearly unanimously: It was the buzz, the electricity and enthusiasm they felt among the staff working on the fourth floor of the CBC Broadcasting Centre. Amid the rapid changes that have seized the journalistic enterprise over the past three years, here was a group of eager and committed professionals who avidly embraced the changes that have left so many experienced journalists dour and shell-shocked. For the visiting students, the palpable sense of energy among CBC journalists was at once refreshing and reassuring.

Credit where credit is due: The visit was largely arranged by Waterloo Region Record reporter Jeff Outhit, who teaches computer-assisted reporting in Conestoga’s postgraduate New Media: Convergence program. Outhit contacted one of his former Record colleagues, Lianne Elliott (@cbclianne on Twitter), now a producer at CBC.ca; she met our group and arranged a discussion on the future of online media with Kim Fox (@kimfox), CBC News’s senior producer for community and social media.

Amber Hildebrandt

Following that session, online reporter and producer Amber Hildebrandt (@cbcamber) spent some time describing her use of new media in various reporting assignments, including the trial of serial murder Russell Williams last year. (Read Hildebrandt’s reflections on that experience here.) The morning wrapped up with demonstrations by Elliott of the software and other tools CBC.ca uses in its online reporting, as live coverage of the final landing of the space shuttle Discovery was underway. It included an interview with former Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar, who had flown on Discovery, on a set nearby.

Along the way, there was also a quick introduction to CBC Radio weekend news anchor Martina Fitzgerald, another of Outhit’s former reporting colleagues, this time at the Kingston Whig-Standard.

Hats off to CBC Online’s staff, who went above and beyond the call of duty in challenging and inspiring our students. The trip was a stimulating and potent reminder of the power of a well-organized field trip to leave an indelible impression.

The undoing of White House correspondent Helen Thomas

Former White House correspondent Helen Thomas

She was the matriarch of White House correspondents — until a few ill-considered sentences from the side of the camera lens to which she is less accustomed landed her in hot water late last month and forced her abrupt resignation from a career she loved and through which she’d done yeoman service.

Helen Thomas left her front-row seat in the White House briefing room under a cloud. Would that she’d had a more honorable exit, given the body of work she’d amassed in questioning 10 American presidents, most recently for Hearst News Service.

Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC Radio’s Q, got it right in his opening monologue to yesterday’s program: “There are so many rich angles and ironies to this story. A political observer and witness to scandals and lies from multiple administrations undone by her own scandal. A reporter who sought the truth and balance undone by personal opinion. And perhaps most of all, one of the great symbols of old media being undone by the new. After her thousands of meticulously crafted reports and columns over the years, she was tripped up by a cheap camcorder, a couple of off-the-cuff questions and the power of viral video.”

Thomas issued an apology this week through her former employer: “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

Her resignation marked the unfortunate end of a long and distinguished career. Thomas will turn 90 on Aug. 4.

Ontario Morning visits London

Ontario Morning host Wei Chen interviews a guest during the show's visit to London.

Ontario Morning host Wei Chen interviews a guest during the show's visit to London.

CBC Radio’s regional morning show Ontario Morning made a rare field trip to London this morning, escaping the confines of the studios at the CBC Broadcast Centre in Toronto to get out among its listeners. The occasion: this year’s Doors Open London, a weekend of opportunity for those interested in seeing behind the doors and walls of some of the city’s most interesting edifices.

I’ve been a stalwart Ontario Morning listener for many years, because I believe the program does what more media organizations should be doing: journalling the distinctive cultural and political landscape that is Ontario, beyond the shortsighted vistas of Greater Toronto.

I had this discussion several times (to no avail) with editor-in-chief Ed Greenspon when I was a page editor on the night news desk at The Globe and Mail. The Globe, which possesses the capacity to produce up to 10 distinct editions across the country each day, is content to distribute its GTA edition, printed in Mississauga and containing the early Toronto pages, to subscribers from Guelph to Kitchener-Waterloo, through to London and on to Windsor. As a result, readers in those cities get basically the same content, usually consisting of two pages midway through the paper’s A section, as do readers in the GTA — columns and stories derived from the (mostly) Toronto police, politics, education and urban culture beats. With minimal effort, I told Greenspon, those pages — in the Ontario region beyond the GTA — could be converted to “Ontario” pages that would gather in the most important developments of the day from the great rural-urban mix from Windsor to Guelph. It’s home to more people than live in all of Atlantic Canada, billions of dollars in annual research budgets, and a key piston in the country’s economic engine. Alas, I never did manage to sell him on the idea.

Unfortunately, the CBC gives residents of Southwestern Ontario similar treatment in the late afternoon, when it sends the signal of its Toronto-centric Here And Now, hosted by Matt Galloway, to transmitters through the region. Some of the discussion on that program is all but irrelevent to anyone beyond the sightlines from the CN Tower’s observation deck.

All of which makes Ontario Morning, with its strong provincial emphasis and regional correspondents, a unique and valuable pleasure.

Covering the plight of Suaad Hagi Mohamud

Suaad Haji Mohamud (CBC) photo)

Suaad Haji Mohamud (CBC photo)

Kudos to the Toronto Star for going the extra 7,500 miles (about 12,000 kilometres) to cover firsthand the extraordinary plight of Suaad Hagi Mohamud, the Canadian citizen and Toronto resident detained in Kenya for three months after she was falsely accused of passport fraud. The Star’s national security reporter, Michelle Shephard, was in the courtroom in Nairobi today to file a story minutes after Judge Stella Muketi dismissed all charges against Mohamud.

The Globe and Mail, by comparison, hired freelancer Zoe Alsop to cover the story from the Kenyan capital, splicing her prose with Canadian Press wire copy. The National Post assigned a domestic staffer to assemble the story. Canadian Press, likewise, cobbled together their reports using its staff, member news organizations and other wires as sources. Both CBC and CTV used wire services and other news sources to put together their early stories.

The Nairobi assignment must have been a mixed blessing for Shephard, who has been staying on top of the Omar Khadr story for years and has authored a book on him, titled Guantanamo’s Child. In dropping into Nairobi from another assignment in Europe, Shephard was forced to miss this morning’s ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal, which affirmed an earlier court decision compelling the Harper government to press for Khadr’s release. In an age of instant communication, however, she may well weigh in on it and share a byline before tomorrow’s editions.

Three other things to note about this story of bungling by Canada’s foreign affairs department:

• It was originally broken by The Star’s John Goddard last month, based on information fed to him by sources.
• Today’s events demonstrate how agile and multidimensional some large newsrooms have become. In what may be a Canadian first, a broadcaster today aired video on a breaking foreign news story shot by a newspaper. This morning, the CBC aired video of Mohamud’s release, shot by The Star’s Lucas Oleniuk, who accompanied Shephard to Kenya.
• It takes the reach and pocket depth of major news organizations to do some stories. With apologies to diehard fans of social media who claim that a paradigm shift has rendered big legacy media mute, impotent or irrelevant, no amount of Twittering, Facebooking or crowdsourcing would have permitted this story to be told with urgency, context and depth it needed. Some stories require trained journalists in agile boots on far-away ground.

Update: Turns out Shephard was, in fact, on assignment to Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, when the call came to make the side trip to Nairobi. She was working on her amazing visit with Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner famous for having been a driver for Osama bin Laden. Shephard’s feature, accompanied by Oleniuk’s photography, appears today (Aug. 17).

Update 2 (Aug. 21): Mohamud has filed a civil suit against the federal government for $2.5 million in damages and is demanding an inquiry be held (see the Toronto Star story). Can you say Maher Arar?