Monday, September 26, 2011

Front Page News

The documentary Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times is a must-see movie. You can take my word for it, I saw it twice in less than 24 hours and I’d go see it again.
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There’s a lot going on in the movie and tons to digest once the lights come up. It poses big questions about where journalism is going and how transformations of the media industry are going to affect it.

The more I think about this doc directed by Andrew Rossi, the more questions I have. But I think that’s partly the point, to get people talking. The newspaper is something that many take for granted and asking what would happen if it disappeared is a topic worth discussing.

And that’s just what happened after opening night of the movie at Cinematheque on Sept. 22. The Winnipeg Free Press News Café hosted a panel discussion about journalism in the age of new media. It was an interesting night and reinforced that there are no hard and fast answers when it comes to this topic.

One man in the audience said that he was concerned that his kids don’t trust the newspaper as much as he did when he was young.

I actually thought that was a good thing. Critical thinking is vital. I know what he meant, though. You’d like to think there’s at least one place to go for news that’s “true” and “right.” But that just isn’t a reality.

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Obviously one hopes all reporting is truthful, fair and balanced. But not all of it is.

Get your news from a few sources and it doesn’t take long to realize that each paper or network is going to tell the same story a little differently. And that can be a great thing.

But absolute blind trust is dangerous. Whether it’s an intentional skewing of the facts or human error (we’re all fallible after all) you need to think about what you’re reading, make your own judgments and consider the source.

But back to the film.

I’m fairly certain anyone who’s seen Page One will agree that David Carr, the film’s “star”, is a fascinating guy to watch and listen to. I’m sure that’s in part due to his having lived a textured life, as he said.

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One of my favourite moments from the film is when he’s straight talking with the executives of Vice (a magazine and media conglomerate founded in Montreal, eh). You know which scene I’m talking about. Or the one where Carr’s driving to a conference in Minnesota: “We must be OK, we're wearing badges.”

(If you don't know which scenes I'm referring to you (a) haven't seen the film or (b) didn't watch it carefully enough. My advice in both cases is to go see it).

I was inspired by Carr’s honesty, candidness, humour and love for the paper. And oh yeah, the man can write. Everybody was so on the ball, but I guess that’s just a given for anyone working at the New York Times.

I was also very interested in the media reporter and multi-tasker extraordinaire Brian Stelter. I’m certainly not jealous of the fact he’s insanely bright, works for the New York Times and is two years younger than I am. Doesn’t faze me in the least.

The Media Desk editor Bruce Headlam (who’s from Ontario, by the way) was also a favorite of mine to watch. In general, I’m thoroughly captivated by the whole process of putting together a daily paper.

Both times I saw the film I don’t think I blinked for the first half of it. I sat up straight, eyes wide-open, heart racing. I feel like I’ve been bitten by the journalism bug and there’s no going back. Whether or not this means I become a journalist, I don’t know.

After all, just last week I decided to I wanted to be a writer, but I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

The second time I saw Page One, I noticed the lack of women in the film. I’m saying this partly because I’m a woman but mostly because it would have been interesting to see a different dynamic on screen. This isn’t, by the way, a comment about there being a lack of women working for the paper.

In fact, I recently learned that Jill Abramson has since taken the helm of the paper, replacing former editor Bill Keller. She’s the first female executive editor of the New York Times. According to Forbes, she places 12th on the list of the world’s 100 most powerful woman (yes, she beat out Oprah Winfrey by two spots). Abramson came in one spot below Lady Gaga and one above Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services in the US.

Maybe they’ll make a sequel, call it Page Two and focus on Abramson. I’d go see that.

One thing’s for sure, we haven’t see the last of Page One. It sounds like a Hollywood remake is in the works with names being tossed around like Jeff Bridges as executive editor Bill Keller, Robert Downey Jr. as David Carr and Tilda Swinton as Julian Assange.
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I found the editing of the movie to be a bit off at times (as some of my classmates said, it felt like the movie was going to end a bunch of times but it kept on going—much to our delight) but maybe that’s more of a reflection of the subject matter rather than the film itself.

In terms of papers going out of business, I’m new to this, but there seems to something off with the whole idea of “news for profit”.

I agree with paying for content and think it’s inevitable. As Stelter said in the film, nothing in life is free. If a paywall helps to keep journalists doing what they’re doing, then I’m more than happy to support that.
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I also think aggregators should be footing some of the bill but I’m still thinking these details through (the scene with Michael Wolff from Newser and Carr holding up the paper full of holes is burned into my brain). Mainstream media and aggregators are linked and it seems one is getting more of the financial glory.

Imagine if newspapers didn’t have to rely on advertising. How would that change things? What affect do you think that would have on content?

Part of being bitten by the journalism bug is being genuinely excited by what is going on around me and wishing that I had time to read all about it. My desire for a 28-hour day shouldn’t be taken as a complaint that I have too much to do. On the contrary, I want to do it all and more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Inspiration Out of Thin Air

This week I decided I want to be a writer.

Or, at the very least, that I’d like to be a writer.

On Sept. 20 I had the privilege of hearing Canadian author Lynn Coady speak at Thin Air, the Winnipeg International Writers Festival. She read from her new book The Antagonist and I not only fell in love with it and Coady, but also the idea of becoming a writer.

Writing a novel is something that everyone says they want to do at one point or another. 
Kind of like getting a tattoo. Or backpacking across Europe.

Maybe some people end up getting inked while others get around to buying a plane ticket, but it’s my guess few ever take the plunge and add author to their list of accomplishments.

I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about seeing and hearing Coady read from her book that made me wonder: could I write one, too?

I haven’t read The Antagonist (yet) but I’m glad I got the chance to hear some of it. Here’s a short synopsis from

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"Against his will and his nature, the hulking Gordon Rankin ('Rank') is cast as an enforcer, a goon -- by his classmates, his hockey coaches, and especially his own 'tiny, angry' father, Gordon Senior. Rank gamely lives up to his role -- until tragedy strikes, using Rank as its blunt instrument. Escaping the only way he can, Rank disappears. But almost twenty years later he discovers that an old, trusted friend -- the only person to whom he has ever confessed his sins -- has published a novel mirroring Rank's life. The betrayal cuts to the deepest heart of him, and Rank will finally have to confront the tragic true story from which he's spent his whole life running away."

Coady’s writing is inspiring. Much of what she read from The Antagonist made an impression on me and I managed to scribble a few lines down during the reading. One of them went something like:

“The smirk spread across his face like syrup over pancakes.”


Another was, “The word ‘punk’ leapt like a salmon from the stream of words…”


In class we talked about the appeal of a book reading and how it’s the closest you can get to meeting the “real” characters, that is, hearing from or about them in the way they exist in their creator’s head.

Part of the fun of reading a book is adding your own spin on the characters but getting this “behind the scenes” look was exciting. For example, take another sentence from Coady’s book: “I was only 15 f*@king years old, Adam”.

If you had read that sentence to yourself, maybe Rank would have said it in a fit of rage. Or perhaps with a hint of sadness or self-pity. But the way Coady said the words charged them, adding an almost frustrated emphasis on “only” and “Adam”. It changed the entire meaning of the sentence and I suppose it could have even changed who Rank is for the reader after hearing how Coady delivered that line.

I recently gave a presentation about whether or not you should write what you know. Even though I came to the conclusion that writing from a truthful place is definitely the way to go, it is advice that can be surprisingly easy to forget. Coady reminded me to go with my instincts. To go with my gut.

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I was inspired at the reading. Perhaps even to the point of writing a novella for my IPP (year-end project) next year. It’s something I didn’t think was possible, but now, who knows…. I’m tattoo-free and have never lugged a backpack around Europe, so maybe writing a book is in the cards for me after all.

I’ve thought a lot about what the festival’s director, Charlene Diehl, said at the CreComm seminar last week. First she asked if our parents read to us as kids. Many of us nodded. Then she added something along the lines of, “And didn’t that feel great?” Everyone nodded again.

There’s something about being read to that puts me in a trance. It’s along the same line as what a cat must feel when you pet it behind its ears. I feel that same “ahhhhhhhhh” feeling, the only difference being that I don’t purr. At least not that I’m aware of.

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I’ve read to my daughter since she was itty bitty, but I’ve noticed that recently I’m much more aware that when I read to her I’m forming her memories and developing her love for books with every turn of the page.
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Cheers to Thin Air and all the authors who inspire us wannabes… you never know, maybe some day it’ll be me up there doing the reading.

So, in keeping with the theme of my blog, if I had four extra hours/day this week, they'd be devoted to writing up a storm.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From Twit to Tweeter

My first impression of Twitter was not good, and I blame it all on Facebook.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Actually, that’s not true. It’s more of a dislike/hate relationship.

Facebook can be too much like a virtual high school for my taste. At times it feels so incredibly phony and pretentious that I can’t even stand to log in.

It’s amazing the number of people I’ve talked to who feel downright depressed after scrolling through their friends’ profiles because so-and-so has such a perfect life, marriage, job, house, etc.

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It’s easy to forget that people’s lives on Facebook are airbrushed, nipped and tucked. Understandably, people only show you what they want you to see rather than the dysfunctional, loose and wobbly bits.

The result? Facebook voyeurs feel like crap about their own lives.

I’ve never felt completely comfortable with posting a status on Facebook because do people really need/want to know that I’m eating a sandwich or have an itchy foot? (*hint* No, no they don’t.)

So when it came to Twitter, let’s just say I wasn’t overly thrilled with the idea of joining a social networking site that was exclusively devoted to status updates. Yech. I feel awkward enough in real life and don’t need the added pressure of coming up with something clever and funny every three seconds.

But today I learned that there’s no reason to twinge, as tweets need not be twaddle. Twas but I who needed to twiddle on Twitter to tweak the twang and make it twinkle. ‘Twill work out ‘twixt Twitter and Alana, me thinks.

(My thanks to The Concise Oxford Dictionary for making those last few lines possible).

Yes, today I learned that Twitter is not an endless stream of uselessness. Far from it. It’s actually a very valuable tool, both professionally and personally.

One of the only things that made going on Facebook bearable was when I came across a link to a really fascinating website or video that someone had posted, such as DocumentaryHeaven.

Turns out Twitter’s just like that… but on steroids.

I am genuinely excited to become a regular tweeter. It’s a great way to network with people who *gasp* actually interest you in one way or another (none of this ‘friend’ business). It's also so gosh darn informative.
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I’m mostly following media outlets on Twitter right now (which keeps me up-to-date with the news) but I’ll slowly branch out to include more people and organizations that I'm interested in and that I can learn something from.

In terms of Twitter’s usefulness for communicators… it’s nothing short of game changing (or rather it was already a game changer-- I realize I’m a little late getting aboard the tweet train).

Twitter opens up communication, creates communities and spreads messages and ideas to all (who have Twitter accounts). I know the more I use it, the more I’ll discover just how useful Twitter is for communicators.

So, in keeping with the theme of my blog, my extra four hours today would be spent tweeting because now that I’ve started, I don’t think I can stop.

Follow me! @amodegard

Monday, September 12, 2011

Up the creek without a paddle: phrase or dependent clause?

If I had my 28-hour day today, there's no doubt in my mind that I'd spend the extra four hours studying for the grammar test I'm taking tomorrow. But four hours wouldn't even cut it. Four months and four hours would probably suffice.

You'd think that because I speak English, I would have English grammar nailed, but no.  My head is swimming with exceptions to the rules. Every time I think I've got it, a preposition in disguise jumps out and ruins everything.

But enough with the procrastination. I'm going to go uncross my eyes and get back to the books.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

24 hours is plenty tonight...

Hi all,

So I've got to admit, I'm not too sure how my blog is going to evolve in terms of writing about what I would do with an extra four hours a day (a 28-hour day). But I guess in order for it to evolve, I've got to start somewhere and just write...

But at this moment, the last thing on my mind is what I would do with a 28-hour day.

Today was a busy day. I got up early to finish a project due tomorrow morning, I did my best to catch up on the news and plan out the week ahead, all while trying to spend as much time as possible with my daughter because during the week I'm at school (there will be a post about mommy guilt eventually, mark my words).

After putting my little girl down to sleep this evening, I walked past the TV. A documentary entitled 9/11 was just beginning and for the next hour, I could not take my eyes off the screen.

The film is about two French filmmakers (brothers) who were in NYC in 2001 shooting a documentary about firefighters. Their cameras were rolling on September 11 as they captured all of the horrific events that occurred that day, including footage taken inside the World Trade Center (they were with the firefighters who were first on the scene).

At one point one of the brothers is trying to make his way back to the scene and a police officer tells him to put the camera down because "this isn't Disney World." It must have seemed so trivial to see a man so preoccupied with filming when all hell was breaking loose, but I'm glad he did keep filming, glad that other people documented that day, too.

Ten years. So hard to believe. Earlier this week my eyes welled up with tears while listening to a documentary on CBC radio about a girl who was 12 years old on September 11, 2001. Her school was two blocks from the World Trade Center. Hearing her talk (now ten years later) about what she and so many other children experienced was.... I can't describe it. Shocking, heartbreaking...

All of this while bombs continue to explode in other parts of the world every day and while millions are starving in Africa.

So, as I said, tonight I'm not going to give myself a hard time about not finishing everything I wanted to get done today. I'm not going to wish for four more hours.

Tonight I'm thankful for being here, thankful my family is here.

Tonight, 24 hours are more than enough.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A girl can dream...about a 28-hour day

Got too much to do, and too little time?
Wish there were more hours in the day?

Yeah, you're not alone.
In the blink of an eye, the day is gone....
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After hours of painstaking research and many highly scientific calculations, I’ve come to the conclusion that four more hours a day are all I need to get everything done.

In short, I need a 28-hour day.

I’ve got a lot on my plate these days: I’m a full-time Creative Communications student, a mom, a daughter, a sister ---24 hours a day just isn’t cutting it anymore.

But I know I’m not alone. At one time or another I’m sure everyone has said the following:

“I only needed five more minutes to make it to class on time.”
“If I had half an hour more to study I would have aced the test.”
“Gimme one more hour to sleep!”

But just because I can't get it all done in the 24 hours I have doesn't mean a girl can't dream. And that's exactly what this blog is all about: if I had them, what would I do during those four extra hours?

It could be anything from checking out a new movie (oh, how I miss the days of going to the movie theatre), watching the latest episode of Breaking Bad or the The Daily Show or catching up on some CreComm assignments.

So, dear readers, it’s my plan to live vicariously through my blog. I welcome you to come check it out and live through it too.

And for the CreComm-ers out there, what do you miss doing the most? (And yes, I’m just going to assume we're all in the same boat: the day we walked through the doors of Red River College, we kissed our free time goodbye).

I hope you’ll leave a comment because I’d love to hear from you.