You can google it, therefore it’s real!

I’m referring to my first byline in the actual, tangible Nov. 16th, 2010 edition of the Globe and Mail!

Yep, if you go to the Globe British Columbia section (S) and flip to S2 you’ll see my name blazing out in BIG BLACK ALL CAPS for all the nation to see! (Well, if you still read PAPER-papers, that is.)

I wrote the story on my first day of a two week work/study practicum at the Globe and Mail’s B.C. bureau.

Interestingly, not everything we write for newspapers also ends up online, which may ding our “web cred.” See, if you tell your friends you got a byline in the Globe and they google it, you’re quickly relegated to liar-liar-pants-on-fire status if nothing comes up. (Or teased if all they see is that quick wind warning story you wrote in your first five minutes.)

So, courtesy of my iPhone and my shamelessness, here is my Google-friendly proof of publication:

Fabiola Carletti spotted in the Globe and Mail! My grandmother is proud of me at this very moment.

Sure, it’s blurry and illegible but the point is: It’s here. It’s (semi) clear. Accept it!

(I should re-name this blog post “More proof that I’m a dweeb.”)

Wait for it. Wait for it… GUILT.

There’s the guilt.

Okay, I shouldn’t be gloating so much without acknowledging that this is actually one of those grisly crime stories that we shouldn’t be desensitized to. My conscience (a.k.a. Debby Downer) says I’m a jerk.

Someone was found dead, and that’s no joke.

I’ll be following up on the story when  the autopsy results are out. No gloating then. I promise.

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UPDATE: I was right to feel guilty. The follow-up story is very sad. It was a difficult one to write. The victim was identified as 34-year-old Tara Lynn Westgarde, a mother of four.

Writing a cover letter with Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson by 1f2frfbf on Flickr

I’m sitting on a hard wooden chair, drinking cold coffee, and struggling to write an impassioned yet professional cover letter.

The thing is, the specter of Hunter S. Thompson keeps blowing cigarette smoke in my face.

“So that’s how you’re starting, is it?” says Hunter, looking over my shoulder at my opening paragraph.

“Well, I guess that’s what they want you to say.”

He darts away to examine something happening outside my window.

“Get f–cked, Hunter.” I grumble, and continue to tweak the same godforsaken sentence that a bunch of other chumps are simultaneously tweaking.

“It really IS with great enthusiasm that I apply for this summer reporting position…” I say, defensively.

But Hunter is gone, and all I have left is the letter than he wrote to the Vancouver Sun, back in 1958.

I re-read it, and laugh, wishing that I had even half his chutzpah. In case you’ve never seen this classic, here are some excerpts from his letter:

——————–

Sir,

I got a hell of a kick reading the piece Time magazine did this week on The Sun. In addition to wishing you the best of luck, I’d also like to offer my services.

Since I haven’t seen a copy of the “new” Sun yet, I’ll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn’t know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I’m not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley. By the time you get this letter, I’ll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I’ll let my offer stand.

And don’t think that my arrogance is unintentional: it’s just that I’d rather offend you now than after I started working for you. I didn’t make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he’d tell you that I’m “not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person.” (That’s a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.) Nothing beats having good references.

My favourite part:

… [I’ve] developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to work for you.”

Read the full letter on the Vancouver Sun’s website.

—–

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Words that should exist

Empty speech bubbles float above our heads. Photo by looking4poetry on Flickr.

My roommate and I both deal in words — but I am a journalist and she is a creative writer. While she embarks on flights of fancy, I fumble around fact-checking. Sometimes, though, I get to live vicariously through her.

Lately, Sigal has been asking around for words that don’t exist — but should! Inspired by the suggestions of my peers, I’m chiming in with my own short list.

(Qualifier: For some reason, my non-words are mostly feelings one experiences in thorny situations. Please attribute this to my cranky mood today and not my early-onset curmudgeonry.)

There should be a word for…

  • The knowledge that an exchange between you and another person is strained, but you can’t figure out which one of you is making it awkward.
  • The discomfort you feel when an older person gets on a bus, but you’re not quite sure if they qualify as a senior. You consider offering them your seat, but you don’t want to offend them or trigger their fear of mortality.
  • Covering up when you’re standing with someone whose name you really should know, but you can’t introduce them to a third party who approaches the two of you. (Similar to addressing that unnameable person in a friendly manner without ever using their name).
  • The darting glance you throw around a room when plotting ways to get out of a boring conversation — specifically at a party.
  • The residue anger you feel after you’ve resolved some argument but still want to continue on with your insolence.
  • The non-committal nod and slight eye squint you make when you have no clue what another person is talking about. (Add  a special affix for when they begin their sentence with “you know how…”)
  • When writing email: the impulse to hit ‘send’ without checking your spelling or grammar, followed by the impulse to immediately re-read your sent message even though it’s too late to change it.
  • The special relief you experience when you think you’re running late to meet someone, but you actually show up before them and have exactly enough time to compose yourself. (Often coupled with the subtle joy of being “so understanding” when they apologize.)

That’s all for now! Although I’m sure I’ll think of more words in the middle of the night when I feel too lazy to get up and write them down. (The next morning, this shall be followed by the frustration of trying to remember “some good idea I think I had last night.”)

Please feel free to add your own word wish list in the comment thread! Maybe my creative roommate will string together some letters for you, and they will become the talk of the town.

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Powerful profiles of two Canadian women

I have to admit that I still read the Globe and Mail like a newspaper, even when I’m online.
This is unfortunate because I often miss good stuff in other formats.

Weeks after the Globe and Mail’s series on women in power, I’m just starting to check out the videos that complement the articles.

Two profile pieces really stood out for me. Not only are they beautifully shot, they feature inspirational women at very different times in their lives.

The veteran, Phyllis Yaffe, is thoughtful, well-spoken, and unbelievably accomplished. She asks young women not to take progress for granted, and to keep pushing because we’re not quite there.

Her video can be viewed here.

Phyllis Yaffe at her desk. Screen capture from the Globe and Mail.

Phyllis Yaffe at her desk. Screen capture from the Globe and Mail.

The neophyte, Manjit Minhas, seems approachable and humble, although she is incredibly ambitious. She’s still in her twenties, and actually started her successful beer brewing company at the age of 19. She’s also the mother of a toddler.

Her video can be viewed here.

Screen capture from the Globe and Mail's website

Manjit Minhas in action. Screen capture from the Globe and Mail's website.

AGH! Shame on me. I almost ended this post without giving props to a third incredible woman, Tory Zimmerman, who brings the eye of an artist to her work. She shot and edited both these pieces, and did a fantastic job of it.

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power.  You just take it.  ~Roseanne Barr

There’s still some bite in journalism

By theilr on Flickr

“Journalists are society’s watchdogs.” The phrase seems so clichéd … and yet powerful investigative journalism is so important (and maybe even on the up and up!).

Given that it’s so expensive, time-consuming, and — frankly — quite risky, I am always happy to see in-depth and critical reporting.

In case you haven’t heard, the Star is currently publishing a series that is taking a closer look at  a rather sacred cow: the Special Investigations Unit. The SIU is a law enforcement agency, independent of the police, that investigates instances of serious injury, sexual assault, and/or death that involve police and civilians.

Michele Henry and David Bruser have highlighted some troubling cases (see list below) in which allegations against police have not been satisfactorily investigated. Predictably, this critical series has raised the ire of the Toronto Police Association and that of many readers.

But, aren’t we supposed to be holding power to account and asking these uncomfortable questions? Isn’t the opposing idiom (journalists as lapdogs) much more disconcerting?

I think so, despite my many pleasant encounters with both police officers and representatives from the SIU. Kathy English, the Star’s Public Editor, also thinks so.

English makes a compelling argument for exploring this inflammatory issue.
Her reflection is an absolute must-read for those interested in public service journalism, and all the turbulence it entails.

The Star’s watchdog mandate

By Kathy English, Public Editor

Excerpt:

…Is the Toronto Star “anti-police”? Is this hard-hitting investigative series “a cop-bashing vendetta” and “junk journalism” as the Toronto Police Association charged in a press release responding to the Star’s investigation?

As I told readers this week, the Star has long been “pro-justice,” not “anti-police.” In reporting such strong evidence of a lack of results and little accountability from the SIU, the Star’s series exposes and holds to further account some officers who were investigated by the SIU. It is not an indictment of all police…

As one of the most powerful institutions in our midst, police should face scrutiny by the media acting as surrogates for citizens. Probing the SIU, which was created in 1990 after a series of police shootings of black civilians, is well in line with the media’s watchdog mandate.

“A review after 20 years of an organization like the SIU is completely appropriate and exactly the sort of thing newspapers need to do, should do and in the case of the Star, do all the time,” Kevin Donovan the Star’s Investigations editor said. “Sadly, many police have taken the position that we do not have the right to review their actions or the actions of the SIU.

Continue reading…

More from the series: