Monthly Archives: July 2009

Right track?

Looks like Stu Cowan, Sports Editor at the Montreal Gazette, shares the same thoughts as I do (see below) on the Habs. Funny, I posted mine four days before him…hmmm.


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Bixi TV long report

This was our final project for Intro to Broadcasting and probably the hardest thing we did all term. Team PishPoosh/Fiddlers (Steph, Morgan, Ro and moi) decided to focus on the Bixi controversy over the usage of helmets. We chose this for a number of reasons: it’s interesting, it could be done on any day (we had one week) and we worried about the crazy weather, and it was an outdoor, summer activity that was getting extremely popular. The rest of the team met with Dr. Razek for an AMAZING interview, props to him and them (I was off in Ottawa). Rotem went out on Sunday and interviewed Yannick and shot some B roll (wooo Ro). We met again on Monday after school for the rest of the shooting. I brought out my own camera for some “behind the scenes” stuff for some added fun.

Editing was done by me and Morgan….and holy shit, did it take a long freaking time! We watched over our tapes while time coding (writing down what video was shot at what time) to see what was usable and what was not. Then we wrote a tentative time line. With about 50 minutes of tape shot for a 4-6 minute piece, this was hard work. I was moody and sat quietly letting the others figure it out, haha. We wrote a makeshift script and the next day, Morgan and I got to work.

Cut this, move that sequence over, add B roll, how the f*ck do we add text, narrate over that, yell at the person we didn’t include for his complete lack of full sentences…and it went on for more than four hours. We stepped away and came back the next day. We completed what the narration would be and added it in, included more B roll, and did some last minute edits. We then burned what we thought would be the final product. But then I went home and popped it into my DVD player and had my parents, Eugenia, and Irvine (and Theo…hehe) watch with a critical eye. Watching it again, I was unhappy with a few minor spots. The assignment is due at 1:15 pm and I went in at 11:00 am to fix it. I was in a good mood (it being the last day of the summer semester) and so I added the “behind the scenes.” What fun!


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Lamenting those we lost


With almost all of the Montreal Canadiens unrestricted free-agents gone to different franchises, some are questioning the decisions made by the team’s general manager. Bob Gainey shook things up on July 1 free-agent frenzy when he failed to re-sign captain Saku Koivu and fan favourite Alexei Kovalev—among many other staple Canadiens—and opened the floodgates to new players. Many are wondering whether this huge change in the line-up will make the difference or if the Canadiens will have another less-than-stellar season.

Looking back over the past 15 years, it isn’t hard to find players that prospered once traded from the Canadiens. This may reflect upon Montreal’s lack of faith in their players.

Everybody remembers goalie Patrick Roy’s temper tantrums and conniption fits on and off the ice, but when he was unceremoniously traded to the Colorado Avalanche for the 1996-97 season, he only got better. The Canadiens dumped him and he hit his career high in 2001-02 with an amazing GAA of 1.94 and a SV% of .925. He was awarded with the William M. Jennings Trophy that season for “the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against.” Sure he may have had a bit of a temper but it obviously didn’t affect his game-playing, something the Canadiens management overlooked when they got rid of him.

The management started a long list of regretful trades with Roy. They lost faith quickly in a young Mark Recchi and traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1998-99 season. It turned out to be a bad move. Recchi actually doubled his statistics from his last season with the team, scoring 28 goals and 91 points.

That was then and this is now you say? Well, think again. Michael Ryder was a solid right-winger for the Canadiens for five years. He hit a bit of a snag in the 2007-08 season scoring only 14 goals and 31 points. The team dropped him faster than you can say‘ dry spell’ and didn’t re-sign his contract. He went to rivals the Boston Bruins and this past season scored 27 goals and 53 points, and was the key player in eliminating the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Bad move.

Those are only three names that immediately come to mind. Don’t forget about Vincent Damphousse, Craig Rivet or Mike Ribeiro who all shined in the years proceeding their time in Montreal.

So will history repeat itself? Will Christopher Higgins, Alexei Kovalev, or Mike Komisarek post their best numbers next season with their new teams? I guess time will tell.


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Email Interview with children’s author Lee Wardlaw

Lee-Wardlaw-FileFor Computer-Assisted Reporting, we were given an assignment to “cold call/e-mail” somebody outside of our area code. It didn’t necessarily have to be somebody we didn’t know, but it couldn’t be somebody we knew well. I thought of a very helpful person who I contacted last year as a source for a feature being written in The Fulcrum. Lee Wardlaw is a children’s author and has written a number of great books. I e-mailed her and she was kind enough to reply with some great answers. Here is the final product.

Tales of a children’s author
by Sarah Leavitt

Lee Wardlaw says that the best part of being a children’s author is her ability to create characters—characters that she thinks would be fun to meet in real life. Wardlaw has been writing books for children for as long as she can remember.

Her first foray into writing began as a result of a second grade end-of-year art festival. While the other children in her class created some type of artwork that could be put on display, Wardlaw sat down and wrote her first story.

“The main character was a girl just like me—skinny, brownish hair, crooked smile—only shorter…She was one-inch tall,” Wardlaw told me. “I modelled her after Tinkerbell (from Peter Pan) and Thumbelina (from the story by Hans Christian Anderson).”

While Wardlaw admits that it wasn’t her best work, she attributes the project as the founding force of her life as an author. After that moment, she could be always be found with a notebook and pen in hand.

Her quirkiness and love for stories has become a staple of her personality. When asked where she was born, Wardlaw refused to give a plain answer.

“[I was born at the] Smoky Hill Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas—smack dab in the middle of the U.S.A. (And no, I did not know Dorothy, Toto or Auntie Em,)” she answered. “We moved to Erie, Pennsylvania before my first birthday (travelling by car, not tornado!)”

That answer epitomizes Wardlaw’s personality and her love for all things imagined.

A lot of the time, she turns to her own life for inspiration.

“Most ideas for my books come from my own life,” she said. “Corey’s Fire is based on my family’s experiences after our house burned down in a wild fire…The idea for Dinosaur Pizza came from my elementary school days, when at lunch no one wanted to share my BMPCs (bologna-and-mustard-and-potato-chip sandwiches.”

She admits, however, that she does get some of her ideas in an unconventional way—by eavesdropping on her 13-year-old son, Patterson, and his friends. Patterson also serves as Wardlaw’s multifaceted assistant.

“I read my novels to him aloud, as I finish writing each chapter,” she said. “If he laughs or cringes in the right spots, I know I’m on the right track. If he rolls his eyes or starts wandering out of the room, I know I need to do some revisions.”

While writing for children is her ultimate passion, she also loves to teach them. She graduated from the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California with a degree in education. After graduating, she was an elementary school teacher for five years before devoting herself to writing full-time. Now, she also spends some of her time travelling to conferences and workshops to speak to parents, librarians, teachers, and writers.

This fall, Wardlaw has decided to return to university to get her master’s degree in education. She will specialize in the Montessori method. That won’t stop her from writing though. She has three books coming out within the next year: Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, 101 Ways to Bug Your Friends, and Red,White & Boom!

Clearly, writing is Wardlaw’s calling.


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Computer-assisted Reporting

I thought I’d write a bit about my third class which involves using the computer to do research for an assignment or to find a source. While not the most exciting of classes, it is really important to learn a few things that could make or break your article. We first learned the basics of the Internet, how it started, what a URL is…etc. Good to know a few of the technical aspects that tell you a lot of information (ie. where an e-mail was written and when, how to recognize spam, is that guy from Nigeria really going to give you a trillion dollars?!). Right now, we are looking into database research. Whether it involves creating our own database (as we did for an assignment involving the six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon…fun!) or looking over available databases from companies or institutes.

I have to admit that numbers scare me. I barely passed Math 436 (a requisite for graduating from high school) and dropped math as soon as I could. I did take two statistics courses in my undergraduate so I guess I am a step up from high school math (maybe). Still, I get nervous around numbers…which is bad when it comes to determining whether or not statistics given to me or read in an article are accurate. Luckily, if I were to write a story on something that involved numbers, I would have time to sit down and analyse it carefully. My stats courses in uni and this class specifically related to analysing stats in journalism will help me. Stats are tricky things and can be represented in a way that plays to the reader’s ignorance in math. Our prof, Laurie Nyveen, suggested some reading. Here is a book by Philip Meyer (earlier version available online) called The New Precision Journalism.

I just finished an assignment that involved combining two databases and looking at information on airplanes that are registered in Canada or owned by Canadians (Laurie likes planes…haha). Although I don’t have the slightest clue what year the authentic Spitfire was manufactured (I looked it up), it was interesting to learn how to search a database and make life a lot easier instead of counting or looking for things manually. This could save me a lot of time later.

While I might gripe and complain a bit during class (it is the morning one), in the end what I learned will be very valuable in my time as a journalist. Too many errors are made and too many statistics are displayed the wrong way. As journalists, we are meant to provide conscise and clear reading for people who are not professionals in that particular field. We are supposed to represent the truth…something hard to due if we don’t understand the numbers. This is something I have to work a bit harder on.

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TV shoot

On Friday, my group and I (Rotem, Morgan and Steph) went out on Loyola campus to get footage for a TV report. We decided to focus on transportation to and from the campus. We spent about two and a half hours interviewing, shooting B-Roll (scenery footage), getting the stand up right (I was nervous in front of the camera…hehe), and doing all this extra stuff. We were given a two-hour tutorial on how to use the camera and that was the hardest part of the shoot. There were so many things to focus on all at the same time. A nice young man was patient and a good interview for us! We took about four hours editing in on Final Cut Express Pro. It’s definitely hard and frustrating working four girls who have limited knowledge on the program but we got through it with junk food galore! I was in the editing seat and taking instructions and doing this and that but it was fun in the end. We were proud of our finished product. At the end of the 1.5 minute report, the other three girls did their stand-up to show the prof. This was fun stuff!


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Jazz Fest Piece

So the Montreal International Jazz Festival is over and the weather is cold and miserable…sigh. But things are busier than ever on my end. We are in our last two weeks of the summer semester and into television broadcasting. We just put together our first TV piece which I’ll post later.

For my Jazz Fest piece, I took a different angle. I was always intrigued by the buskers who perform just outside the festival grounds. One unique individual was playing music off some interesting instruments and it worked really well. On his off time, I got a chance to speak to him. Here is the piece:

Eking out a living with a touch of jazz
by Sarah Leavitt

As the crowds swarm the St. Catherine Street sidewalks on their way to the famed Montreal Jazz Festival, many pause for a moment outside the refurbished St. James United Church courtyard. There, a dark-skinned man with long dreadlocks and a bright orange jumpsuit bangs on a plastic bucket and a tin can. But the music that comes from these recycled instruments has the whole audience moving.

Paul Audet has been busking in Montreal for over 20 years. He’s endured the worst of Quebec’s harsh winters and its hottest of summers. He’s busked in almost every neighbourhood and has a reserved sleeping spot under an awning at St. George’s Anglican Church downtown. Sometimes, the church warden gives him odd jobs to do for a few bucks.

Every year though, Audet looks forward to those two weeks in July when all of Montreal congregates between de Bleury Street and St. Laurent Street for the love of jazz. At this time, Audet pulls out all stops and performs his best for the crowd.

“I know the people are looking for good music to listen to and want to have a good time,” he says with his happy, toothless grin. “So I come out with my old ‘instruments’ and play with my heart. I also want to make some good money!”

Audet says that during the Montreal Jazz Festival, people are the most generous and he can make upwards of $200 an hour at peak times. His enthusiasm and bright attire attract people to him.

“It’s amazing what he can do with those two little cans,” said one watcher, who gave Audet $20. “He really knows where to hit to make many distinct sounds. He is smiling the whole time, you can tell he really enjoys performing.”

Audet confesses that he sometimes wishes he had stayed sober all those years ago so that he could be a professional musician today.

“I was a teenager and my family wasn’t so nice so I dropped out of school, ran away from home, and took to the bottle for medicine,” he says mournfully. “I can’t quit it, it’s been too long. But music always helps.”

While some of the money that Audet earns from his busking goes to his daily Jack Daniels’, he uses the rest to clean up a bit and get a bed at the YMCA downtown.

“Music has always been a part of my life and even though I messed it up pretty badly, at least I can still create some good sound,” he says, smiling sheepishly. “I think the crowd really enjoys my noise.”

While most get out to the Jazz site to hear the professional musicians hard at work, some are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Audet doing his thing. His staple spot outside St. James is always crowded, all looking eagerly at a man bang out his dreams.


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