From the breaking news desk: Aug 22 & 29

Photo by Alice Swanson

This is it. This is the final list of stories that I worked on in the Toronto Star radio room.

I trained some new interns on the 30th and 31st — forcing them to do real stories instead of practice stories — and it went really well. I’m especially proud of Manny and Noel who dealt with the Orangeville missing woman’s case, working well under pressure and calling neighbours and out-of-town police on the very first day. They ended up sharing a byline with Peter Edwards (Read the story here:  Missing woman may be linked to bloody crime scene) and were featured as top story on the website just hours into their first shift.

Training new interns reminds me of what it felt like to sit in the hot seat for the first time, wondering if some administrative error had led to my position. I’ve come a long way since then, and I’m so grateful to the Star for the opportunity. I’m going to do a “final thought” in a separate blog post, but for now I’ll note the biggest change in me.

I’m no longer compelled to qualify the word “reporter” by adding “student” or  “aspiring” before it.

This was the real deal.

Heat alert issued for Toronto
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health has issued a heat alert as temperatures are expected to reach about 31°C on Sunday.

Officer injured while responding to false call
A police officer was injured while responding to a false 911 call in Wasaga Beach Saturday at around 2:15 a.m.

Firefighter in hospital after Burlington fire
Firefighters battled against a blaze that forced them out of a Burlington home early Sunday morning.

Mississauga cyclist clings to life after crash
A Mississauga man is in hospital with life-threatening injuries following a Sunday morning collision in Burlington.

Two women sexually assaulted hours apart
Police are investigating after two women were sexually assaulted in separate incidents on the weekend

Man shot dead by police
Fatal shooting in east end follows reports about a man with a knife (with files from me)

Dispute ends with man being shot
A young man was taken to hospital after suffering a gunshot wound to the buttocks early Sunday morning.


Doing journalism the June Callwood way

Naming of June Callwood Way. June pulls the cord to unveil the sign. CREDIT: Ron Bull Toronto Star

Janet Malcolm was wrong.

In a famously cynical quotation, she decries journalists as people who prey on the vanity, loneliness or ignorance of others, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Every journalist knows this, she asserted, provided they aren’t too stupid or full of themselves to notice what is going on.

And although Malcolm is herself a reporter, she calls the profession ” morally indefensible” in her 1990 book The Journalist and the Murder.

Enter June Callwood: a decidedly empathetic and socially active journalist who lived her philosophy of kindness until her last days.

This was a woman who actually did all the things that sometimes sound contrived and trite in ethics classes: writing to change the world, speaking up for the vulnerable, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.

She was interesting and humble, refusing performance makeup in her CBC television days, learning how to fly a plane as a side project, founding charitable and change-oriented organizations, bringing compassion to her work.

She was a professional human being.

I’m not saying Malcolm isn’t talented and insightful. I devoured her book with great interest last summer and often felt convinced by her severe depiction of journalism.

Neither am I saying Callwood is the only exception.

The point, I think, is that there comes a time when a young journalist must ask herself what she really wants to achieve in this often amorphous profession and what kind of an agent she imagines herself to be.

Personally, I think it’s far more rewarding to follow the June Callwood way.

Instead of the negative navel-gazing, why not focus on how to practice solutions-focused journalism? Malcolm’s book is about the damage a writer can do … but what about the difference a writer can make?

I leave you with a more positive quotation that Callwood spoke while receiving the Writers’ Trust Award for Distinguished Contribution in the last year of her life:

If any of you happens to see an injustice, you are no longer a spectator. You are a participant. And you have an obligation to do something.

June in her own words
The last interview of her life

If summer had a soundtrack

In summer, the song sings itself.

~William Carlos Williams

The occasional chilly breeze, the back-to-school commercials, and the opening of Exhibition Place all remind me of one inevitable truth: this summer, too, shall pass.

This has me wondering: If summer had a soundtrack, which songs would it include?

I don’t just mean summer 2010, I mean all the songs that have ever made people appreciate the season in which there’s something almost transcendental about having a nap in a swaying hammock during the day.

And after night cloaks you in starlight, which songs make you want to get up and move your body in ways that would make pale winter blush?

In short: picture yourself with your feet dangling in the cool waters of a pool, with something refreshing in hand, and surrounded by stringed patio lights. You feel relaxed. You feel like you can anything could happen during this midsummer night’s dream.

What song would you want… no, need to hear? Please, comment below or email me at

Amazing little human beings

Whenever I get romantic and unrealistic about the future prospect of having a child (woah, it’s weird to even admit to any maternal longing. Sorry, I digress) I imagine raising an amazing little human being like this poetry reciting three-year-old. Or, if recantation does not impress you, perhaps an imaginative tale told in an eloquent language will.

I know, I know. But a girl can dream, right? Here’s the full text of the poem recited by the mini minstrel.

Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
Continue reading

You’ll never forget your first BFF

Image from

I can still picture my dear Raleigh. She was beautiful: forest green and gleaming–a bike that could brave the bumpiest hills in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

I didn’t know it would be over after a one-night kickstand.

Long story short: I brought her out for the very first time and, in a lapse of judgment, took my 12-year-old eyes off her for exactly 2 minutes. When I turned around, she was no longer leaning by that old oak tree.

Naturally, I ran home and called the police, tearfully beginning with “I have an emergency.” The woman on the phone said she’d be sure to have her officers look all over the city … but not to call 911 for such things again.

I’ve been a pedestrian ever since.

The thing is, I still envy people whisking by me on bicycles–dapper guys and gals who sometimes flash things as classic as a slimer bike horn or a sturdy straw basket.

I imagine many in this bike-unfriendly city have their own anecdotes and would appreciate a space in which someone would hand over a tissue after a bike theft story. (Hey–it really was an emergency.)

T.O. kids: ride on over to the Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) this weekend if you’re keen on a tale told on two wheels.

All three of my roommates and their partners bike the city. It kind of makes me feel like a penguin who lives with toucans.

One of them, my roomie Aubrey, has this short list of why this film fest is a must see:

  • Cycling policy is a hot topic in TO, but this is the soft side, a celebration of bikes.
  • It’s the 10th anniversary and it’s one of the largest film festivals in the world – in more than 30 cities globally.
  • The trailer is awesome.
  • You’ll get to see things like the short film below, which screened in 2008 and is directed and produced by Toronto’s own Benny Zenga

Side note: Benny almost moved into the house where I now live, which makes me feel kind of cool by near-association.

SKI BOYS from Benny Zenga on Vimeo.

From the breaking news desk: Aug 13 – 17

Image by Markus Rödder on Flickr

My latest list of news stories from the Toronto Star radio room.

Boy, 4, in hospital after fall from window

A 4-year-old boy is suffering from life-threatening injuries after falling from the second floor of a Brampton home.

Police officer shot during training exercise

A police officer is in hospital after he was accidentally shot in the leg at Toronto Police College in Etobicoke.

Whitby man and boy killed in Iowa crash

A Whitby man and his young passenger are among six people killed in a three-vehicle crash near Colfax, Iowa.

Man, 51, drowns in Lake Simcoe near Innisfil

Police divers pulled the body of a 51-year-old man from Lake Simcoe on Monday night after hours of searching.

Woman killed in crash on Highway 427

Police are investigating after a 22-year-old woman was killed in a rollover on Highway 427 near Dundas St. W.

Tornado, severe thunderstorm warnings roll through Ontario

Residents of several towns were nervously eyeing the skies Sunday for the deadly funnel clouds.

Police identify homicide victims

Police have identified the two Toronto men killed in a pair of unrelated homicides Saturday.

Security scare at prime minister’s house

Man sets liquid aflame outside 24 Sussex Dr. and is arrested.

Severe thunderstorm warnings cleared for Toronto and many GTA neighbours

Severe thunderstorm warnings for Toronto now have been cleared, but remain for parts of Durham and areas to the east.

Hilary Duff weds NHL player Mike Comrie

Actress Hilary Duff tied the knot on Saturday with Mike Comrie, a free agent hockey player who last played for the Edmonton Oilers.

CAW and Union Station staff reach new deal

Union Station railway workers, who had been on the brink of striking on Monday, have ratified a new three-year deal that includes higher wages and improved benefits.

Teens target delivery drivers in series of robberies

Five teens have been charged in connection with a series of robberies targeting fast food delivery drivers.

GTA salmonella cases spike, men in 20s hardest hit

The provincial health ministry is investigating a spike in salmonella cases; most appear to be clustered in the GTA and affecting young men.

Cyclist dies a month after fall

A 40-year-old cyclist has died of his injuries after falling from his bicycle July 15.

Taxi driver robbed, locked in trunk

Police are looking for a suspect who threatened a taxi driver with a knife and locked him in the vehicle’s trunk on Wednesday night.

Man wanted for currency exchange scam

Police are looking for a suspect who may be targeting the Chinese community in an online currency exchange scam.

Police in bumper cars chase on Hwy. 401

A pickup driver is expected to face numerous charges after leading police in a pursuit that stretched from the Oxford county area to Toronto on Friday.