No fish were harmed.

No fish were harmed in the making of this video. Seriously. (But 6 people died of gastrointestinal infections while you watched it.)

attention public radio nerds

Ira Glass is everywhere in the last few days. Yesterday he was on CBC’s The Current. A quote:

“As a storyteller in my civilian life, I am at an utterly civilian level… Like, only somebody who is just at the normal level of being able to tell a story… would go to the trouble to think through what is the completely optimal way to make a story work.”

A few days ago, Ira did an “Ask A Grown Man” for Rookie. (Bonus: crash course in balloon animals.)

Via the This American Life blog.

He was also profiled in The Star last week.

And, finally, Toronto friends: Ira Glass is in your city this weekend to talk about making radio.

(If you want more Ira — who doesn’t? — this series isn’t new, but I re-visit it at least once a year and always seem to learn something new… especially from Part 3, which I think applies to life far beyond storytelling.)

How To Be A Woman

We should all be feminists. Feminism basically means that you believe both sexes to be equal, that someone’s opportunities and rights should not be determined by their gender. (Let’s not get into the debate over the meanings of the words gender and sex.)

That said, feminism has become a dirty word — or at least, if you label yourself a feminist, you risk being seen as a raging man-hater.

I think Caitlin Moran can change all that. She has a new book out. Read her interview with The Hairpin.

Choice excerpt: “This whole sassiness thing – everything’s got to be sarcastic, everything’s got to be knowing, everything’s got to be cynical. You’ve got to be on top of your shit twenty-four hours a day. THAT is exhausting. It’s just far better to go, you know what? I’m just basically a monkey in a dress, and the best I can hope for every day is just to be nice, to smile as much as possible, to be gentle, try and be a bit understanding, work really hard, go and smell some flowers, have a cup of tea, ring your mum if you get on with her, just kind of dial it down a bit. There’s a more sustainable idea of being a woman rather than feeling like you’re in a fucking movie twenty-four hours a day.”

Also I love Kate Beaton, and I especially love this comic (which is related to feminism) and this one (which isn’t).

beyond the front page

“Random portraits of the situation gleaned from twitter.”

That’s how BitchslappedByLogic begins their Reddit post on the shootings on Danzig Street in Scarborough over the weekend. To belabour the metaphor, the post is a vivid self-portrait of the community, as opposed to the rougher sketches produced by more traditional news outlets. The colours are richer, the lines are finer, and most importantly, the community is at the centre of the canvas.

The post collects tweets from members of the community, starting before the shootings took place.

the invite.

The post is well-written and riveting. Is it fact-checked, balanced reporting? Nope. But neither are a lot of the stories that pass for “journalism” in the mass media these days. Accuracy and balance should be the hallmark of any media report, but with any big story you always have to go to multiple news outlets to get the full(ish) picture. The media is the lens through which we view the world outside our immediate environment — and BitchslappedByLogic widens the scope of what we, as outsiders, can see.

Since the shooting, Mayor Rob Ford has said that Toronto is the “safest city in North America” — but some people living in Scarborough might beg to differ. This post gives voice to those who don’t have the platform to give press conferences, and actually connects the reader directly to the people who live in the neighbourhood. Everyone on Twitter knows, or should know, that social media is a public forum. But what someone says on their Twitter account can be very different from what they’d say in an interview with the news media, and interviews are almost always edited and condensed — meaning the reporter gets to frame the content that an interviewee provides. This post is a great example of how technology can put peoples’ stories into their own hands, and let them frame the narrative, too. Does it replace the traditional news story that holds up to the standards of journalistic rigour? No. Does it add to it? Absolutely.

Thanks to B. for bringing the Reddit post to my attention. You can read one journalist’s take on the Maclean’s blog. Canada.com and Toronto Life have also posted pieces.

purple ribbons in the breeze

The Tori Stafford trial in London, Ontario is entering another week. Michael Rafferty stands accused of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm (which, when you stop to think about that wording, is an absolutely sickening description of a crime), and abduction. Last week, Terri-Lynne McClintic, who has already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in this case, took the stand. It was harrowing testimony. Like the Russell Williams and Robert Pickton cases in recent memory, this trial raises that age-old question about journalism ethics: What details are too graphic to report?

For a case to be argued in court, the details have to come out, no matter how horrifying. The accused can’t be convicted or acquitted on sanitized generalities. And, as the evidence is presented, journalists are there in the courtroom. It’s their job to report the story, but what level of filter should journalists apply to their reporting? Is it their public responsibility to provide a complete picture of what is alleged to have happened in Tori’s final hours? Or is it insensitive to her memory to share every sickening detail?

I’ve been following a few reporters (@raffertyLFP, @AdrianMorrow, @cityfrancis) who are in the courthouse, and it’s interesting to see the differences between what each of them is willing to tweet. Likewise, it’s illuminating to read the reports of veteran crime/court reporters, like Christie Blatchford.

J-source took a poll on Twitter about the case so far, and reported the results. My views are included in that round-up, which can basically be boiled down to this: if we’re going to allow graphic and disturbing movies like SAW into theatres, we can’t justify sanitizing horrifying real-life events. Tori lived through something that most of us can’t imagine — the least we can do is bear witness to what she endured. That said, what we can do is make sure that someone doesn’t unintentionally come across the most disturbing details. Put a “graphic content” warning on it, and maybe even relegate the most difficult descriptions to a medium where the audience has to make the conscious choice to seek out the information, like the web. My concern here is mostly for kids who might hear a radio report before dad can flip off the stereo, or pick up a newspaper before mum can hide the A section.

Kathy English, the public editor for The Toronto Star, wrote an editorial explaining her newspaper’s philsophy during this trial. (Some other media outlets’ strategies are here and here.) In it, English quoted The Star’s Rosie DiManno, who has been covering the trial and has decades of experience reporting on gruesome crimes: “My view has always been that, if the victim had to endure the horror, the least we can do is not look away… Newspapers shouldn’t act as a buffer between readers and reality.”

Tori Stafford's grave in a Woodstock area cemetary. Glenn Lowson/The Toronto Star

Friends — thoughts?

UPDATE: Jsource has a round-up on the coverage of the trial so far, here.

all I can say is, go on and bleed

I watch this interview at least once a year. It has nothing to do with policy, partisanship, or Trudeau’s response to the October Crisis. It just gives me hope that someday we might have a prime minister who stops to debate ideas on the steps of Parliament.