Getting even googlier with Google+


Pardon me, am I too late to be an early adopter of Google+?

The service launched on June 28 in an invite-only “field testing” phase. Since then, roughly 20 million people have already blown past me. (Mostly geeks, let’s be honest — but ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.)

Still, maybe I can be among the first crop of journalists to tinker with this new-ish tool. (Too often we reporters play catch up, or even lapse into laggard status.)

The Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model (CC)

Why my sudden interest? Well, I’ve received a handful of invites to Google+ over email, but an old friend and reformed Twitter-phobe recently called me out publicly:

Ron Sly is a pretty reliable content curator, and I trust him despite his last name. So, today I put my reservations on hold — see: the googlization of everything — and have spent the last couple hours reading up on Google’s new brainchild.

Sure, the New York Times calls Google+ the latest ‚Äúwe wanna be Facebook‚ÄĚ project, but also notes that this time it has really got a shot. Unlike underwhelming efforts like Google Buzz, some techies say G+ may actually dethrone Facebook the way Facebook dethroned MySpace.

I’ve come across myriad reasons to get in on the action, including many lists that cater to journalists specifically. Instead of linking a whole whack of ‘um, here’s the most comprehensive (sent to me by, surprise surprise, my buddy Ron Sly):

Read: Google+ for Journalists ‚ÄĒ A Primer

Anyway, since starting this blog post I stumbled upon a red button that instantly upgraded my Google profile to a G+ account … so I guess I’m officially an early adopter among journalists! Yay me!


Dammit. Look who’s already here:¬†Oh well. At least I’m not a laggard.


Clay Shirky, Tom Hanks, and doppleganger fun

If you’ve ever made a joke about how much Clay Shirky looks like Tom Hanks, you’re not alone. It seems even he knows this much is true.

When I’m arranging to meet somewhere I can say: “I look like Tom Hanks with big ears and no hair.” -Clay Shirky, 2009.

Still, the uncanny resemblance between the actor and the journalism professor isn’t that easy to google. When I looked for a side-by-side in image search, I came up short.

So, bowing to the pressure of “pics or it didn’t happen” logic, I thought the Fab Files could do this simple service for the Internet. Voila:

“Tay Hanky” may not be as popular as Helen Hunt/Jodie Foster, or Katy Perry/Zooey Deschanel but if celebrities ever seek out their geeky academic dopplegangers, I can say my blog was part of the movement.

Also, while we’re on the topic of look-alikes, here is Clay as canine:

Clay Shirky's doggleganger

That’s right — the Internet can do anything … even match you up with a dog from New Zealand. The doggleganger app was developed by the Pedigree Adoption Drive and NEC, and its purpose is to creatively connect dogs that need homes to humans that have them.

So, how ’bout it Clay? Could you swing by Auckland for a new best friend?
Just make sure you get there before Tom Hanks does.

While you ponder that, I leave you with a topical clip:

AWAKE and answer this: Are you your brother’s keeper?

Photo from Credit: Steve Carty

“Cain!” roared the pastor, his voice thundering throughout the church.

Where is your brother?”

The audience shuffled. The pews creaked. We all knew Cain had murdered Abel — but in that moment, not even God could force a confession.

“I don’t know,” came the flippant reply. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The words ignited something in me that they never have before.¬† I’ve listened to the story of Cain and Abel many times but yesterday, in the context of a eulogy, I heard it.

This despite the fact that the whole funeral was staged. The sermon was the backbone of a play called AWAKE, which premiered at the Toronto Fringe Festival this year. The audience had gathered to mourn the loss of all of the young men who have fallen to gang violence, especially in  St. Jamestown and Rexdale.

The playwrights call it “docu-theatre” —¬† The eulogy had originally been delivered at the real funeral of 19-year-old Justin Shephard. The script was¬†made up of¬†verbatim excerpts from¬†actual interviews with community members: mourning mothers, shaken friends, hardened police officers, youth from “at-risk” communities. People like me.

The altar was a stage for gospel, dance hall, spoken word, flashing lights, and a symbolic casket.

Nadia Beckles, played by Beryl Bain, spoke of her son Amon. In 2005, the 18-year-old was gunned down at a funeral for his best friend. After the shooting, his mother ran out of the church and knelt by him, covering his wounds with her hands.

Then, in one of the most poignant moments of the play, she looks up in disbelief as police arrive and ask attendees if they know the victim.

She watches his¬†friends¬†turn away.¬† They say they don’t know Amon.

Where is your brother?

The Silence

A group of young men in the audience talked throughout the entire play, and I smiled to myself. Some people may have¬†thought they were rude — and maybe they were — but their presence made me feel like I was home in Rexdale. To understand why, you only have to ride the Finch bus after the school bell rings, try to find a quiet corner at Albion library, or watch a movie at Rainbow in Woodbine mall. The buzz is everywhere.

Peyson Rock. Credit: Steve Carty

When the silence happens, it’s deafening. Something is usually wrong.

It’s the code, says Lauren Brotman on stage.

As “Smokey,” she recalls the number of stitches she needed on her face after her ex beat her up (six, no … seven). She was furious, but didn’t snitch. There are many complicated reasons for this, too many to list here, but the code is why Amon’s friends turned away. It’s why, as a reporter, I am used to writing “no witnesses have come forward” or “police say residents¬†have been¬†uncooperative.”

On stage, the pastor looks into the light.

“We are not all evil. We are not all guilty — but we are all responsible.”

The Story

To get to the story, playwrights Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley had to crack the code. They had to tap into that small part of every witness that feels responsible.

The pair stood, a bit shy, during the Q & A after the play.¬† A man asked them why they’d been moved to write the piece.¬†They started by admitting they were not from¬†“at risk”¬†neighbourhoods as the man let out a knowing laugh.

Their answer, if I make take allowances, is that they wanted to see if that silence could be broken, like bread among family, and shared.

“It was hard to get people to start talking, but once they did, they couldn’t stop,” said Mullin.

But after so many in-depth interviews, how were they supposed¬† to make characters, and not caricatures? Which threads were they to cut? St. Jamestown, Rexdale … these neighbourhoods are the definition of diversity. How could they do them justice?

Tolley spoke of a living room blanketed in interview transcriptions, of cultures within cultures they simply could not fit in. They couldn’t include immigration stories and other important neighbourhood nuances. Because I know Rexdale, and because I know reporting, I can appreciate the difficulty of their work.

But in the end, I believe they created something worth seeing.

They managed to tell a story that outsiders could appreciate and insiders could recognize — like bridging the gap between Jane Creba and Justin Shephard for an audience that could be coming from either side.

The Sincerity

At first, I cringed at the pastor’s words. They seemed theatrical, contrived — which would have made sense if they were written for the purposes of the play.

But then I looked at my church-going mother, who sat beside me in the dark church, and noticed that her eyes were sparkling.

He was preaching to his choir.

At one point, I tuned into conversation of the young men that wouldn’t shut up. They laughed when Knowledge (played by Peyson Rock),¬†entered¬†the room with his back to the wall.¬†At all times, he explained, he needs to know exactly who is¬†behind him.

At that, one guy blurted out: “truth.”

The play, I realized, is made up of many languages¬†and no one speaks all of them¬†fluently. Each actor, like each person, performed many roles — sometimes roles as disconnected as your street name and your given name. It’s up to us to make the connections.

If you’re in Toronto, I¬†recommend you catch this play before the end of the¬†Fringe Festival — especially if you feel nothing when you hear of these deaths.

Then go home and ask yourself: Where is your brother?

AWAKE, at the Toronto Fringe Festival

July 6-10 and 12 ‚Äď 17
8:00 p.m. every night.

The Walmer Baptist Church
88 Lowther Avenue

Door: $11
Advance $10

Advance Ticket Sales: (416) 966-1062

TWITTER FEEDBACK!/FatmaYasin/status/92026775802097664

Why young journalist Kai Nagata quit his stable job

Kai Nagata in Chibougamau. Photo from his blog:

Kai Nagata was in a privileged position for a young journalist.

As CTV‚Äôs Quebec City Bureau Chief, he had a well-paying position, decision-making power, collegial ties, and even retirement options … all at the age of 24.

And then this:

After I finished reading Kai’s¬† personal essay “Why I quit my job” — an impassioned post about the state of television news in Canada — I had to do more than retweet it.

I think he’s hit a nerve. At time of writing, his original post has generated hundreds of responses and has gone viral on social networking sites. People have called him everything from radical and insane to honest and brave. Many have commented on his age, which reminded me of something Samuel G. Freedman wrote in his book, Letters to a Young Journalist (2006).

Freedman, who teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, praises such critical yet optimistic attitudes in newly minted journalists. He argues that everyone should enter journalism believing it is a moral enterprise and that “your initial idealism must be a pilot light, flickering at times, but never extinguished.”

Good news: outside pressures are now forcing such conversations in journalistic circles, and this period of reflection is an opportunity. Journalism’s public nature and vulnerability is precisely what keeps it alive and changing. Perhaps by necessity, more reporters are taking the time to think about what defines their work, and why it matters.

Kai’s post has expressed why he’s getting out of television journalism, but it has also indirectly challenged other young journalists to ask themselves why they’re getting in. Even though he’s leaving us, I thank him for (re)igniting the conversation about journalism as a public good.

The battle against ignorance, intolerance and indifference is not a new one, not even when it comes to TV news.

I leave you with an excerpt from¬†“Good Night and Good Luck,”. Here’s Edward R. Murrow (played by David Strathairn) on our journalistic duty to make television that matters:

… if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.

Read: Kai Nagata’s post “Why I quit my job”