Archive for Evelyn Hornbeck
Could we all please just respect journalism ethics?
Maybe it’s because I just finished my final paper for Ethics of Journalism class (the BEST class I have ever taken, I might add, and an important one to boot) but I feel like lately, I’ve been seeing an elevated number of sketchy ethical, journalism-related situations cropping up.
I was perusing my feed on my newly-acquired twitter when I spotted a story posted by CBC Ottawa. Apparently the Kanata Kourier Standard in Ottawa (clearly a standards-setter for journalistic and grammatical excellence) has decided to stop publishing a weekly column by a local city councilor. The column has been running for thirty years, and Councilor Mary Wilkinson is upset because, she told the CBC, “she uses the column to inform constituents and generate feedback about upcoming issues”.
OK, so maybe it was a little bit abrupt for the Kanata Kourier Standard – it hurts me every time to type in that second K – to pull the column without informing Councilor Wilkinson, but I’m more concerned about the fact that the column existed in the first place. Journalists should, as Bob Steele, journalism ethics professor for the Poynter Institute says, “Act Independantly.” They should, “Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise your integrity or damage your credibility” he tells us.
Thanks Bob. Now, as an important role of the media is to inform the public so they can make solid decisions and maintain a democratic society, I would suggest that such a close relationship with a politician is an association to avoid. I see the merit in a guest column, perhaps, in the editorial section, preferably when the need arises for a response by the politician to a specific issue. However, this relationship they’ve cultivated was a little too close for comfort. I applaud the KKS for pulling the plug.
According to CBC, publishing weekly columns by local city councilors was practiced across the city in community papers, until the Ottawa Region Media Group decided to use the space to, you know, cover more local news. What an idea.
Councilor Wilkinson, still bitter, suggested the city could consider discontinuing advertising with the Kourier Standard. Hey, editor: make amends with the rude councillor by replacing her advertisements with column inches on city hall. Give the public something real to chew on – instead of letting politicians spoon feed their messages to constituents.
Set aside your invincibility complex and protect those around you
Yesterday, I started thinking about the H1N1 vaccine. The “swine flu” is something I’d only been sort of considering and only in the abstract. It would cross my consciousness now and then when I read a news report or saw a mass-mail email from Dalhousie in my Inbox. The news would filter in one ear and out the other. It felt far away, inconsequential. All of that ended this week when I found out that the swine flu has landed at my school.
Since we’re small, we often end up feeling separated from the outside world. As I learned today in a class from another student, H1N1 showed up at Dal residence in September. “It’s not a new thing,” she told me, in that patient tone I get a lot from Dal students.
I guess it’s not. We have been hearing about this full-blown pandemic since June when the WHO declared it. We’ve become experts at sneezing into arms and pumping the Purell as we traipse down the hall. And this month, we’ve started hearing about the hows and wheres and whens of the promised vaccine.
I never get the flu shot. Instead of getting the flu shot, I make fun of my friends who do get the yearly vaccine by telling them “Congratulations! You won’t get the flu last year”. Especially for young, healthy people like me, I have real questions about the efficacy of the usual flu vaccines. I think that this led to my blase attitude over the new H1N1 vaccine.
I’m not the only one lacking much motivation. Macleans.ca tells me that as the first wave has died down, so too has vaccine excitement:
A recent poll shows that, as of the ﬁrst week of October, only one in three Canadians plan on getting the H1N1 vaccine, according to Harris/Decima. That’s down from 45 per cent in late August.
The picture the WHO painted for us seems sketchy now. A lot of people have been getting H1N1… and then recovering. People we even know. And now as cold and flu season sets in, we get… the normal cold. Where is this pandemic of appocalyptic proportions I was worried about? I don’t see it. So I stopped worrying.
When my degree of separation to H1N1 went from triple digits to single overnight, I woke up. There is more at stake then my health, or worse, my midterms. If I woke up tomorrow and realized that this head cold is actually H1N1, even if I immediately went into quarantine, I would have exposed a lot of people to my illness already: all of the people in all of my classes; all of the people I rode on the bus with; the little girl I met on the quad; the little old ladies at the church. My illness affects more people than just me.
“Sexiled?” Really? University students should grow up
While perusing GoogleReader, my daily procrastination destination, I found this Globe and Mail piece. Here’s an excerpt:
Rachel Fahlman was puzzled when she stumbled upon students camping out on a battered couch in the TV lounge of her Carleton University dorm. They had, after all, paid thousands of dollars to rent a room for the year.
It turned out they’d been sexiled: forced to find another place to spend the night while their roommates had sex in their shared room.
Oh the joys of having a roommate. Who can forget that special person you were forced to live with – oops – enjoyed sharing a room with during first year? No matter how many times you hear the whole shpiel about the rewards, the friendships, the late-night girl chats, it doesn’t change the fact that sharing a room is a tricky skill – but it’s definitely a life lesson worth learning.
At King’s, the residence matching system involves the usual lifestyle habits (Do you go to bed early or late? Do you listen to music while you study?) and a paragraph to personalize your application. When they matched my roommate and me, somehow they managed to put two people so incredibly alike together, it was ridiculous. We had similar figures of speech and mannerisms. My friends found the match remarkable.
Despite all of this, my roommate experience was far from perfect. My main issue? There was always another person in my space.
It’s awkward to suddenly have to share your space. With so many of us coming from homes where we had our own room, it’s a skill we just don’t have. It sticks us outside our comfort space – and that’s why it’s so great. I learned to communicate. I learned to compromise. I learned my own personal limits. For example: I need my space. But sometimes you don’t always get what you want, and if you do, it’s because you work for it.
Here is my disclaimer, however; I love my ex-roommate. She’s a lovely person, really fun and funny, caring and loyal, exactly the kind of person you want on your side. I only wish we’d been in the same classes and not in the same dorm room. I know for sure I wasn’t always easy to get along with.
But despite my issues, my roommate and I, from the start, negotiated what each of us needed. We were understanding when hearing requests and reasonable when making them. It is perfectly reasonable to ask a roommate for some time alone in the room – for any reason, not just sexile – but it is not reasonable to take it by force. Sorry. Also unreasonable? Sex while your roommate is IN THE ROOM. I hope everyone reading that is cringing and saying “What?” and “Who would DO that?” out loud.
Ms. Fahlman, the floor’s residence fellow, said the lucky ones had been given the heads-up by their roommates that they’d be kicked out. The less fortunate had been subjected to the moans, groans and twin-mattress squeaks while they lay in horror a few metres away.
EW. EW. Once more – EW.
Who does that? Who thinks that it is reasonable to do that? Thank you Roommate, for never doing that to me. Thank your for having respect for me and some common sense.
According to the G&M article, in the U.S. there has been actual administrative moves toward dealing with roommates and sex. Roommate contracts and residence guidelines include rules against sex while a roommate is present. Rules like this are frankly, upsetting. If my university spelled that out for me, I would feel patronised – this is a stupid kind of common sense and reason rule that we can figure out ourselves, as adults.
Make your own reasonable, respectful rules, or you’ll have them imposed on you by residence administrators. They are not your parents, and they don’t want to be. Don’t act like a child. That’s what it comes down to. You’re in university – grow up.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better, at least when it comes to the university experience
I just read this article by Margaret Wente, which got me thinking about my school. She brings up a number of good points about a shifted focus in the post-secondary education system — a focus on articles, not students. Graduates, not undergrads. Classes the size of small towns, it seems.
I, quite frankly, can’t figure out how anyone can learn in a giant lecture-style setting. Actually, I’m lying; I can’t relate to it. A situation where I read and see someone talk from 20 rows away, rinse and repeat twice a week and never discuss the material almost seems to defy the purpose of university.
Why bother leaving your room? Listen to podcasts of lectures. I could even download lectures from universities around the world and do the reading and listen to them and learn just as much. A friend of mine, before I left for university, suggested to me that if I ever had a bad prof for a common course, to check podcasts from other universities. Why even bother joining any one university when you could theoretically pick and choose among professors from universities around the world and never even see them?
This trend concerned me when I read this post by a mom of two university students about her son and daughter’s swine flu protection plan:
“They’ll be doing two of their electives by distance education and, with the exception of two labs – where their physical presence is required – their other courses could easily be done by podcast if necessary.”
Darn those pesky labs — if not for them her children could spend all year in their residence rooms mainlining caffeine and Tamiflu. I think we’re all forgetting what I think is the most important part of the learning experience. It all comes back to that same reason why King’s students return: community. A growing, learning community of academics, one that starts in first year with an intense year living, eating, and learning together, complete immersion in learning.
Imagine: professors, TAs and undergrads all living in the same place. There would be class lecture/seminar/discussion-style classes, but then those discussions would spill out of the classroom and to the dining hall. You’d challenge your professor’s position over a drink in the campus bar. You would find common ground somewhere like the dining hall, or even the chapel because in this community, everyone is learning and learning from each other.
This is exciting. This is my experience of school, every day. At the University of King’s College, the faculty don’t live on campus as they used to but they may as well, they’re around so often; I see them in meal hall, in the bar, on the quad, at club and school functions. My biggest class this year is 25 people, since I take all courses offered at King’s and none through the King’s-Dalhousie partnership. I just find this a stimulating, exciting way to learn.
So, “Big Five”, here is what I propose to you. Smaller, not bigger. Be inspired by the Oxfordian model, the one we aim for at King’s. Our education system needs work, and I believe this is a better direction.
I can’t really speak to the experience of attending a large university like Queen’s or U of T, because that isn’t my experience, but I do encourage you to avoid isolating. What is the point of being a part of a community of academics if you never access any of this? And I do include other students in the category of academics. So take small classes, introduce yourself to your professor, go to tutorials, get involved in clubs, in student government, but please, please engage in your university.
It’s hard to jump into an electoral system where you feel worthless and ignored
Fellow blogger Jeff Rybak thinks young people are being labeled apathetic when it comes to politics and don’t deserve it. He suggests that these new forms of connecting and networking, which we value more than voting, are the start of something new and big.
I hope he’s right, because I’m a big pile of disenchanted with Canadian politics, and I’m only 18 years old. Here is something I wrote back in June, when Iggy was threatening to throw a hissy over employment insurance and send Canadians to the polls. I thought I’d share it in response to Jeff’s comments:
Last time there was an election, I missed voting in it by 33 days. As someone who was raised in a government town by parents who work in government and politics, I’ve been waiting for it to be my turn to vote for a long time. I was 10 when I started watching the West Wing and even younger when I sat at my dining room table during dinner parties, listening to my parents and their friends discuss politics. I willed my brain to absorb every mysterious, exciting word of it – and gradually, it started to work. Unfortunately, I couldn’t will my birthday a month earlier.
As the election approached, I realized that a lot of my friends were planning not to vote. Mostly they were lazy, or busy; the registration centre was outside our campus bubble. A lot of people had been so swept up in first year stuff that they had no time to keep track of real world stuff. They didn’t know the issues, they told me, so why vote?
I do see the issue with uninformed voters casting ballots to whichever candidate’s name sticks best in their mind. I didn’t argue with them. At least they’re informed enough to know they don’t know, right? But that idea still didn’t feel right. Didn’t that drive them crazy? Didn’t they want to know? No matter what, I just couldn’t find a way to support someone’s excuse not to vote. I WISH I could vote, I kept lamenting. I momentarily thought about vote swapping, like Donna did on the West Wing when she accidentally voted Republican, only, in this case, I’d get someone to vote the way I would have voted because they didn’t care
This week when the news started up about a possible summer election, I started to feel excited while everyone else groaned. Sure, no one really wants an election – but when is a good time of year, exactly? For me, summer is perfect – I have more free time to stay up-to-date, I’m in my home riding, it’ll be easier to register when I have someone to drive me there. I even know where the neighbourhood polling station is.
But… who would I vote for? The more I think about it, the more I feel just as disenchanted as my peers. Sure, there are ideas that I believe in and I want to elect a government who shares my values, but the issues that are most important to me aren’t on the map. Because I’m a student. Because no one cares that I’m paying way too much money, money I don’t currently have, for my education so I can support them later. Because students don’t vote. And suddenly, I see it. There it is. It’s a vicious circle.
The U.S. presidential election pulled it out last year with record numbers of students voting and participating in campaigning. One poll last October reported a ridiculous percentage of Canadians would give up their vote in the next Canadian election in order to vote in the American election. And here we are, standing in the shadow of the threat of a summer election with zero wind in our sails. You would think that the parties would have noticed by now how good it can get when you get students – or anyone – excited.
Maybe it’s a problem with our election system; because elections tend to be more reactionary, there’s less room for setting an agenda. Maybe we students need to get off our butts and be less apathetic and set the agenda. Maybe it’s impossible, at least for now. But I don’t want to lose interest, I want to have something to get excited about. I want someone to talk to me, not down to me. I want someone to fight for my vote. I want to feel like my vote is worth something to someone.
Who knows if there will be an election this summer – right now it seems like the Liberals are backing down. Who knows… and who cares.
Dear Parents: growing up takes time. We’re changing enough without you changing from parents to BFFs gone bad. Please stay parents for just a little while?
There was an article in the Globe and Mail today that made me think that Anthony E. Wolf is bugging my house. A parenting advice columnist and author and psychologist, Wolf wrote this week about where to draw the line when it comes to unloading your stresses onto your children.
“To what extent is it okay– either when you are mad at them or, as often happens especially with single parents or if there is marital discord – to use them as a sounding board for your adult concerns?
I believe there should be a line between the real world of adult concerns and the cleaned-up, for-child-consumption version. Children have a right to have parents who will protect them from the full force of adult suffering. Too much simply overwhelms them. It can make them anxious, stressed or depressed. And it serves no useful purpose.”
At the end of last summer, my friends and I stepped out of our childhood homes to try wandering free for a little while. As is often immortalized in pop culture, the first year away from home was a fun, exciting, mostly carefree period of new experiences and self-discovery (here’s the thing with clichés like the ones I enumerated: they’re clichés for a reason). It was also a tiring period; with all the papers and reading, we were mostly ready for a break by the time summer break rolled around. We decided the further clichés of Euro trips and tree-planting could wait another year while we returned to the cozy homes we’d left behind.
Unfortunately, things had changed. When we grew up and asked to be treated like grown-ups, our parents *gasp* acquiesced to our request. But does this mean that along with financial contributions to our tuition via a summer job, we are expected to be Grown-Ups in the family? Do we need to take on the burden of the contents of Grown-Up Discussions? From family grievances to financial woes, is it time for us to shoulder part of that burden?
This summer I have heard friends groan about their parents’ financial comments or relationship problems. It strikes me as a little too much too soon. Hearing about regretted mistakes can scare more than teach. Especially crucial during the transitory years between child and self-supporting adult is a solid foundation, so that we can go out and try things, learn and experience and grow, always knowing we have a sturdy support to lean on. The last thing we want to see is cracks, now, when we’re just starting to Make Big Choices for ourselves. Think of this period as a Co-op placement: we’re giving Life a try, but we still need the occasional lesson.
I have happily enjoyed a most functional Gilmore Girls-esque mother-daughter relationship. I confide in my mother (to an extent) and she confides in me (to an extent). When I call home, we talk about my life, we talk about home life. Over the years I’ve felt our relationship shift and now I’ve stepped into my new, more mature role. But my mother (thank you, mom) does not unload on me. She never has. We discuss my problems, and lord knows, I unload onto her enough. When we talk about money, it’s to celebrate the gains we are making together toward zero on my student line of credit.
Is this unfair? Yes. But lots of things are unfair about the parent-child relationship. Before even thinking about thinking about kids, parents should forget about being best friends with their children. Friendship needs to come from peers, where there is an equal share of power. Parents, you can only hope that we pay it forward someday by giving as selflessly to your grandchildren as you did to us. Relax; concentrate on being a good parent for now. The friends part might come later, when (try not to think about it) your children don’t rely on you as a parent. In time. For now, we still need your shelter until we can build our own.
When we find a bargain, are we losing our sense of value?
I just arrived home from a family trip to IKEA. From what I can understand, this is a fairly common occurrence these days, especially for university students. Unfortunately, we all grew up watching university on TV, and as a result, we aspire to chic, colour-coordinated dorm rooms with plenty of useful and attractive storage and display units. The reality of a white-washed cube with plastic, pastel drapes just isn’t going to cut it. But what are you to do without a TV budget and set designers to brighten up the place?
IKEA promises a funky, fashionable living space with a small price tag. Their slogan is an encouraging promise: “Love your home!” Build a space you love! Or, conversely, stop being lazy and give your home some love! With prices this cheap, low cashflow is no longer an excuse for a less than designer residence.
But what are we really paying for?
In my case, no matter how much I’m spending, I get a big helping of family angst on the side. This angst is not limited to the hours spent standing on white linoleum, arguing over curtain rods and bookshelves. No, it’s the purchase that keeps on giving for hours of frustration and sweat to put together those assembly-required, particle board, “home-loving” contraptions that seemed so easy and convenient at the time (“Look, dear! flat pack boxes! It will be easy to fit in our sedan!”). My friend once told me that 12% of IKEA furniture assembly ends in divorce. She was joking, barely.
Maybe we’re buying the opportunity for reinvention. Wandering through the IKEA display rooms is like visiting a hall of opportunities of what your home could be. All you need it a little POÄNG. It worked for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer (watch the scene here).
However, with lower prices comes lower quality (no matter what the adds tell you), so that fantasy home might not last the way you want it to. According to a new book called Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Atlantic Monthly contributing editor Ellen Ruppel Shell, the IKEAs and Wal-marts of the world are destroying real value. By placing emphasis on price (according to the CBC, IKEA designs its products to price), we’re forgetting that you get what you pay for.
“Is it really furniture, or is it kind of the idea of furniture?” Ruppel Shell said in an interview on CBC’s The Current. “Is it a good bookcase or is it a good cheap bookcase? And I would argue it’s a good cheap bookcase. And that’s almost an oxymoron.”
She says that this bargain-hunting is polarizing the market so we’re left with a choice of high-end and pricey versus cheap and lower-quality. The middle ground of balanced value is disappearing.
This seems to be a generational gap. One commenter on the CBC story, a second-hand-store shopper, remarked that the quality, second-hand items she loved to find in these stores were disappearing as the older generation who bought them first hand literally dwindles. I do point out that this commenter is another example of the discount culture: she searches for the quality in bargains. It seems no one is willing to shell out for quality anymore.
It’s a hard situation for university students. Our spending ability is limited, but we are the politically active ones right? And organic/green/local comes at a cost. I guess we need to decide if we value the added cost. If we haven’t completely lost the concept of true value already.
Blogs have gone mainstream and they’ve become serious business.
No longer just for quiet nerds and vocal jerks (though there are still a fair number of both around), blogs have gone mainstream and they’ve become serious business.
Every publication and news channel worth its salt has a blog and editors are rushing to integrate blogs with news. Recently, in Ottawa, when mayor Larry O’Brien was on trial for influence peddling, CBC was denied cameras in the courtroom, but the Ottawa Citizen‘s request for Blackberries was allowed. The echo in courtroom 36 hadn’t even had a chance to reverberate, then it was up on the Internet. So began days of “live-blogging” the trial (though the inane details of court proceedings didn’t really make me feel a”live”). The “blogosphere”, however, demonstrated its most powerful weapon: speed. Forget the 24-hour news cycle; blogs are international and never rest. Welcome to the constant news cycle.
Perez Hilton, the infamous gossip hound cum punching bag celebrity-bashes in a corner of the entertainment news industry he carved out for himself with a blog. Take a look at the homepage for The Globe and Mail or Maclean’s and you’ll find blogs at the top of their online extras list. Even local newspapers realize the potential — the Ottawa Citizen has several.
What is that potential? Well, blogs are the new column. The days of picking up the newspaper and checking in on your favourite columnist are (mostly) gone, especially for millennial generation. To read a column, you have to read the newspaper every day to even know what they’re talking about and unfortunately, not enough people do that anymore.
Enter the blog. It’s easy! When the blogger discusses a news story or event, there’s a link to follow, and in seconds you’re up to speed and ready to read and carry on. No hassle, no wait, and no wasted time. We are, of course, in the age of nanoseconds.
But it can get lonely in the Age of Nanoseconds. Sometimes you have to move so fast you don’t have time for coffee with a friend, or, thanks to globalization, your friend is on the other side of the ocean and can’t come for coffee. Blogs are the answer to this as well. With everything from the ubiquitous Mommy Blog to the confessional rants to the food blogs, lonely or not-so-lonely people from all over the world can connect on whatever subject they want by participating in blogger communities.
The BlogHer convention for women bloggers typed, tweeted, and tore through Chicago last week. Billed as “the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online”, BlogHer is a community of 2,500 women that just happens to be online.
Here in Ottawa, bloggers like to get together as well. The first annual BOLO (Blog Out Loud Ottawa — blogs mean acronyms, people, try to keep up) was a rousing success last week. Writers took turns reading their best out loud and meeting one another while wearing nametags with pseudonyms and URLs.
But don’t forget the business side. In the category of food blogs, we have the Julie/Julia Project, of Julie and Julia fame. One woman name Julie Powell is bored of her life and desperate for a change. She decides to make every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1) in one year… and write a blog about it. This blog grew into a book deal, then a movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. From boring, desperate blogger to seeing herself played by a Hollywood star on screen in a few short years. The proof is in the (French) pudding: blogging is business.
This is all to say that blogging has coming a long way from being that creepy thing that self-obsessed weirdos do when they don’t have real friends to listen to them.
I’ve been blogging on various sites for seven years now, and I still feel silly every time I tell someone. Besides the long shadow cast by the creepy weirdos, “blog” is a silly word. It seems like it’s specifically designed to undermine any writing or reporting that happens there.
In the beginning, I wrote a blog to connect with relatives who were far away. Gradually, as I connected with other bloggers closer to home (gasp! a community!), my blog became the place I practised my writing, for an audience. If you want to be a writer, as I do, you have to write some things. My blog is my column, online, for you to read.
I still don’t often mention my blog to those who don’t know that I write one, but I have noticed that the name “Macleans OnCampus” has been garnering some wide-eyed, impressed looks, more than the word “blog” alone. Blogging is all grown up — I guess it’s time to come out of the blogging closet.