Buzzing after #KaiNagata Talk at SFU

Is TV News Journalism Salvageable?
Photo credit: SFU Woodward’s

Why do we continue to watch TV news when the end product is superficial and designed to either placate viewers or play to our fears?

Is TV journalism salvageable?

That was the starting point for Kai Nagata’s talk at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts earlier this week.

Rebuttals were made by long-time broadcaster George Orr, CBC Radio’s Kathryn Gretsinger, Openmedia.ca‘s Steve Anderson, and SFU communications instructor Bob Hackett who is also the co-founder of Media Democracy Day. Veteran journalist and UBC instructor Deborah Campbell moderated the discussion.

Since Nagata left his position as CTV’s Quebec Bureau Chief this summer and published Why I Quit, the blog post has generated 500,000 hits and 1,450 comments.

So I was excited to hear from him in person. Nagata didn’t disappoint. He’s passionate about the institution, and hopeful for the future and the potential to empower citizens to become “volunteer journalists” (a la volunteer firefighters) using open-source, online training that doesn’t leave students in debt like traditional j-schools.

By his own admission, it’s a working idea that’s still baking and will likely change and evolve over the course of three years—a self-imposed time limit.

But, of course, it’s his commitment to his craft that I find most compelling and magnetic.

Plus, I admire his willingness to show a clip of his own work and critique its shortcomings in front of peers, mentors and strangers.

I also enjoyed hearing from George Orr who made it clear that the idea of a “golden age” of Canadian reporting is a myth, idealizing a past that never existed. He also succinctly revealed the pitfalls of modern reporting, but didn’t just glibly mouth tired excuses about deadlines and diminishing resources. For example, Orr outlined the desk’s overwhelming desire for conformity that punishes reporters who stray too far from what their competitors produce. And how Google has helped dumb down media, lulling reporters into doing a simple browser search instead of doing their own research over the phone or in person.

It was an excellent discussion and I walked away buzzing with all that’s possible when professional journalists and citizen media start collaborating together.

Julie Ovenell-Carter live tweeted the evening so I’ve pulled together a transcript below of her tweets if you’re interested in a post-by-post replay of the evening.

Vancouver’s hungry for open dialogue on media and ethncity

Me in Media: The Team
Photo credit: Jeremy Lim

Last Tuesday, the United Nations Association in Canada and Schema Magazine co-hosted Me in Media, a public town hall to explore how we can make Vancouver a more inclusive city through media.

CoopCulture helped sponsor the event and, as its Director of Online Media, I put together the social media strategy to promote this free event.

As always, it’s gratifying to see an event come together after months of patient planning over coffee, Skype calls, phone calls and Google Docs.

But most importantly, it’s invigorating to be in a room filled with likeminded people who are passionate about the same thing that drives us to volunteer our time: how we can use media to make positive change.

Over the course of two hours, people sent out 352 tweets that included the event’s hashtag, #meinmedia, and we became a trending topic in Vancouver.

Screenshot of Trendsmap showing trending topics in Vancouver

Five days after the event, the number of total tweets has risen to 661. In fact, the most recent 50 tweets have reached 20, 453 people and produced 47,707 impressions according to TweetReach.

Screenshot of Tweetreach, showing reach of most recent 50 tweets for #meinmedia

 

The numbers show how hungry we are for more events like #NetCulture and Me in Media where we can come together, be candid and brainstorm new ideas.

Check out our live blog below for a tweet-by-tweet transcript of the evening.

What do you think our next town hall should tackle?

‘Too Asian’?: UBC’s School of Journalism Takes on MacLean’s

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been following the heated debate sparked by Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Köhler’s article ‘Too Asian’? published in Maclean’s on Nov. 10, 2010. To read the unsanitized version, you can find it here on tooasian.ca.

The authors’ ham-fisted approach was clearly intended to trigger sales/clicks by sensationalizing what could have been a legitimate discussion on diversity and admissions at Canadian universities. Instead, the article reached back to tap old prejudices and fears against Asians.

The Asian stereotypes at work in the article hit a tender spot. A week or so earlier, I watched the “Chinese professor” ad spot sponsored by the Citizens Against Government Waste during the U.S. mid-term elections which pandered to the same ugly, xenophobia across the border.

Like many who read the article, I was forced to ask myself how many others harboured the same feelings and resentments as the unnamed party girls from the article.

Judging from personal experience, more than I was ready to acknowledge. After all, I had recently attended a local event where someone living on campus informed me that UBC was “too Chinese.” While I brushed off that incident as an anomaly, the article was harder to ignore.

But it didn’t take long before MacLean’s attracted detractors and defenders. Here’s just a small sample of what’s out there:

Last Thursday, UBC’s School of Journalism hosted a free forum to discuss the article, featuring:

  • Dr. Kerry Jang, Professor, UBC Psychiatry and Vancouver City Councillor
  • Dr. Henry Yu, Associate Professor, Dept. of History, UBC and Principal pro tem, St. John’s College, UBC)
  • Dr. Candis Callison, Assistant Professor, UBC School of Journalism
  • Elysa Hogg, Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Arts
  • William Tao, Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Arts

Despite a snowy day in Vancouver, the room was packed. I snagged a seat at the front by pure chance. I can’t adequately summarize every panelist’s comments here due to space so I’ll touch on key points:

  • The article addresses a subject that we as Canadians should be open to discuss: race, diversity and university admissions.
  • How the authors choose to frame the discussion, however, was sensational and false.
  • MacLean’s does not represent “The Media.”
  • MacLean’s newsroom lacks diversity and, therefore, a balanced perspective.  
  • We should be able to debate the issue but also question the data and how it’s collected.

The 1.5-hour forum was terrific—but lacked enough time for the audience to participate. Only three students were able to pose questions and two expressed surprise at the panelists’ use of humour. I think the panelists’ measured, thoughtful responses failed to jive with students who were outraged by the article and seeking a space to express themselves.

Surely, creating that space will be on Alden Habacon’s to-do list when CBC’s former Manager of Diversity Initiatives for the English TV network joins UBC on Dec. 1 as the new Director of Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development.

To check out the audio, visit tooasian.ca, a website set up by “Asian Canadians who are tired of negative stereotypes published by the media.” Also, Samantha Jung has posted her live blog of the forum on her website, Inward / Onward.