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And now for the good news about the news biz

- July 29th, 2014

As an industry, journalism is in a sorry state.

I’m not the first to say it.

Print publications such as The London Free Press are slowly dying. No one knows how to make online media work as a business. Reporters and editors today have no ethics.

Sound familiar? I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already heard.

And now for the good news about the news biz.

As a group, the young journalists I know are the most promising crop of media professionals I have ever come across.

The rookie journalists I work with here at The Free Press, the ones I teach in my classes at Western University, may have more raw talent, purer ambition, higher standards, than any previous generation.

Since I graduated from Ryerson University in 1996, I’ve worked in five different newsrooms across this country. I’ve worked with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of different people of all age groups.

I realize there are burnouts. I know there is deadwood. We are no different than any other industry.

But when I look at the up-and-comers, I am heartened. I believe the profession is in good hands.

It may take time, but I’m confident the good ones among them will find steady employment. The better ones will create their own jobs. And the best ones will unlock the puzzle that is online journalism which, in its own way, is as revolutionary an opportunity as cable television, gonzo journalism and the printing press.

I’ve seen them at work. I’ve edited their copy. I’ve bounced story ideas off them. I’ve bought them coffees and even stronger drinks.

As individuals and as a group, I have a bedrock faith in today’s aspiring journalists.

My conclusion: THEY inspire ME. There’s no reason to fret..

No, it’s myself that I’m worried about.

Am I doing my part? Am I fulfilling my obligations to them? Am I doing enough to show them the way?

I hope so.

After 22 years as a journalist, I feel as though part of my mission on this planet should be to help light the path ahead. As a practising reporter/editor/columnist/blogger and journalism educator, I feel the weight of high expectations on my shoulders.

Maybe this all sounds needlessly high-minded. However, I try to take my role seriously. I do believe one individual can make a difference.

If I have had a successful career, it’s because many individuals took the time to help me along the way. I am, for lack of a better term, a believer in karma. It has worked to my advantage many times over the decades.

So it’s my responsibility to leave journalism in better shape than I found it.

I hope, rather than believe, that I am allowing the next generation to inherit a healthy industry. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. I have done my damn best and now time will tell.

They are the future. And from where I’m sitting, the future looks bright.

Thor’s gender switch simply a cash grab

- July 27th, 2014

You can read my latest graphic-novel column by clicking here.

I don’t mind Marvel making the character into a woman. But do I think an opportunity has been lost to do so in a creative way.

Let me know what you think!

The summer of my life

- July 24th, 2014

I turned 46 years old earlier this month.

I am, as Chrissie Hynde once snarled, now standing in the middle of life with my past behind me.

And you know what? I’m quite happy.

In fact, I freaking love being middle-aged.

I realize mine is the minority opinion, but if anyone has ever told you that middle age is a time to fear — don’t believe them; it’s a golden age.

It’s the time in your life when you still have plenty of youthful energy, but you also have enough experience to direct that energy in a wise way.

I didn’t always think like this. I once bought into the widespread fear of middle age.

I guess we get the impression that middle age is a bummer partly because of how it’s portrayed in pop culture.

I don’t know if many people go through a mid-life crisis in real life, but there are certainly plenty of these existential moments on the big screen, on television and in books.

Take a filmmaker like Woody Allen. Doesn’t it seem as though all of his characters are feckless men going through a crisis of confidence because they lack the willpower and vitality that once drove them?

Or look at a film like The Big Chill, which shows how a group of college friends have lost their idealism as they enter middle age.

Yes, portraying mid-life as a rough period fraught with complications and drawbacks is quite the cottage industry.

Bah. That’s not the middle age I know.

As far as I’m concerned, life has never been better.

I would never want to go back to being young, if doing so meant that I would lose the wisdom I have acquired along the way. I wouldn’t give up the perspective I have now for anything.

More than anything, middle age is a time of balance.

When you’re young, you feel young most of the time – and only occasionally feel old.

When you’re old, I imagine you feel old the majority of the time, with only sporadic flashes of youth.

But middle age is the period when you feel simultaneously young and old, but rather than feeling torn, these emotions co-exist peacefully. At least they do for me.

Besides, you can’t fight the aging process. No matter what TV commercials might say.

As Eagles drummer Don Henley famously said, age is the great leveller. It’s happening to all of us, and it’s happening at the same rate to everyone – one day at a time.

Maybe I’m loving this time in my life so much because I had enough sense at a young age to dedicate myself to enjoying what each stage of life brought my way. I promised myself I would live life to the fullest, whatever that meant at the time.

Being middle-aged is, as the kids say, awesome.

If you haven’t already, you should try it some time.

Drawn to London

- July 20th, 2014

I interviewed graphic novelist and Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley about his new book, Seconds, and his links to the Forest City.

You can read the piece from Saturday’s Free Press by clicking here.

Enjoy!

On reality TV, it’s all about the reveal

- July 10th, 2014

The reveal is a reality-show staple that has become an enduring television convention for one main reason: It reaffirms our faith that change is possible.

Even if you’re only a casual TV viewer, odds are you’ve seen many such moments.

The reveal is the scene at the end of the program when the results of all of the hard work of the previous 30 or 60 minutes are unveiled.

It is, to borrow a term from pornography that got absorbed into the mainstream lexicon long ago, the money shot.

At one time, say the mid-1990s, reveals were the preserve of makeover episodes of daily talk shows. Oprah Winfrey and her imitators did them. Then producers clued in: Audiences love them.

Now they’re everywhere.

A fixer-upper home undergoes renovations. A hoarder’s stash is removed. An unhealthy schlub loses a life-changing amount of weight. A Plain Jane is reintroduced to the world as a stone-cold fox. We watch them all, riveted.

Reveals are the reason why the word “transformation” gets thrown around a lot on TV.

You see, nothing changes a little bit anymore on the small screen. The entire basis of reality TV is manufactured drama and no drama is more manufactured than a reveal.

Typically, the participants lose their minds. Mouths gape. Gasps abound. Tears are shed. The host stands ready to catch those who might faint from sheer joy while the omnipresent cameras capture it all.

The reveal is a happy occasion.

The typical episode of a series like Property Brothers, How to Look Good Naked, or Disaster Decks works entirely toward the reveal.

The reveal seems familiar and comfortable since it harkens back to a time when we all still believed in the “Before” and “After” shots in magazine ads.

Watching reality TV, you might wonder why everyone says home renovations are such a big deal. Judging by a network such as HGTV, a renovation is a relatively straightforward process that takes at most an hour.

Oh sure, there are bumps along the way and moments of drama, but as the reveal approaches we know an undeniably happy ending is in the making.

If film is a director’s medium and television is a writer’s medium, then reality TV is an editor’s medium. Just count the number of cuts on any reality show. And look at how much they love time-lapse photography. Clouds billow. Busy streets pulse with the blurry headlights of traffic. The moon waxes and wanes. Time is passing. Change is coming.

Change in the real world is hard. However, on TV it’s a guarantee.

No state of being is permanent on reality shows. Everyone can change, evolve and grow with the right tools and encouragement.

You can be a better you.

In fact, reveals are so popular, it won’t be long until some smart producer comes up with a show that is nothing but reveal after reveal.

It sounds preposterous today, but at one time so did the notion of a series about weight loss.

Who would ever want to watch a weekly series about a bunch of fat losers exercising and eating right?