Monday, June 28, 2010

Freedom of the press? Not in Toronto.

(photo from The Globe and Mail)

Rights and freedoms in Canada

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Fundamental Freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? Apparently not. At least not when it comes to gatherings of international leaders in Canada like the G20.

Now I'm not all normally, "Fuck the police," but this is out of control.

Check out this video by journalist Brandon Jourdan. According to the description on youtube, his arrest begins at 1:08. Unfortunately, it's not embedding properly on my blog right now, so live with the link please.

The Toronto Star reported on what 20 people identified as protesters, bystanders, walkers-by and yes, reporters, experienced. And it wasn't pretty.

Said Amy Miller: "'I was throttled at the neck and held down. Next thing you know I was being cuffed and put in one of the wagons.' She says she was threatened and harassed by police at the Eastern Ave. detention centre. 'I was told I was going to be raped, I was told I was going to be gangbanged, I was told that they were going to make sure that I was never going to want to act as a journalist again.'”

Adam MacIsaac - Alternative Media Centre, Independent Journalist from Darren Puscas on Vimeo.

She was there with Adam MacIssac (seen in the above video), also described as an independent journalist, who The Star reported: "Police began kicking him in the ribs and stunning him with a stun gun. 'I have a pacemaker!' he screamed repeatedly, but says they didn’t listen." He was later told by the police that they had no idea where his $6,000 worth of camera equipment was and that he should file a complaint.

Now I'm not sure if there's a difference between an independent and freelance journalist. I've worked on staff and I've worked freelance. And I'm not going to debate whether one is a 'real' journalist over the other - I'm sure many already are. But once we start doing that, it's a slippery slope.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter because a Globe and Mail staffer, Lisan Jutras was caught in one melee. Though she didn't have credentials to cover the G20, her tweets were used by the Globe as she first attempted to get out of the crowd and was eventually arrested.

So I guess we're free to report. We just have to be aware we may be arrested, beaten, threatened and have our gear stolen in the process. Duly noted.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ode to corporate communications

Special thanks to my friend Tana - the creative mind behind she of many projects - for posting this on Facebook. It speaks to me. Courtesy of Smashing Magazine.

It's okay not to work sometimes

So I'm at home this afternoon because my kid was up late last night with a fever, then puked this morning. I booked it to work after taking said kid to see the doctor. He magically perked up as he walked into the examination room, leaving hubby and I looking like morons who bring their offspring in for every cough and sneeze. Seriously, he felt like a piece of hot coal just 30 minutes before that. Oh well.

Anyway, I'm lucky enough to work for an employer who doesn't get all, "Hey, when will you be making up that time?" Rather, the partners are generally, "Please go home and make sure he's okay. And keep the familial germs there while you're at it, thank you very much!"

That said, I have remote access to my work email, desktop and such, so just tried logging in with all three passwords I've invented for my current work purposes. Nada. Access denied. And I feel shitty for it. Why the hell can't I remember it? Never mind that I told my coworkers to call if they need me. What if the sky falls at 3:51 p.m. and I'm not available to fix it? What if someone needs some last-minute proofing and a client's livelihood absolutely depends on it? What if?

Then I think about it. On my walk home, I called and chatted with my Dad. It was his first day of vacation. Or rather, it was supposed to me until he got an email that he had to be at an 11:30 a.m. meeting. Then he was on his crackberry for much of the day in further talks, some spawned by that meeting, some not.

You know what? My kid's sick. It's 2:34 on a Friday afternoon. The clients will live if they can't reach me for the next 2:26 hours.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Guess what? Writing is a specialized skill!

Why is it that so many non-creatives think creative jobs involve no special skill-set whatsoever? I've experienced it and just about every writer, graphic designer and photographer I've known has dealt with it.

It's that condescending attitude of, "Oh sheesh, how hard can it be? And why should you be paid a living wage to do it?" And my favourite: "I can do that much better than you."

You know what? Chances are, you can't. I don't just have a fancy piece of paper and years of experience to back me up; I have happy clients, editors, interview subjects and clients alike. And they drastically outweigh the number of people I've encountered who assume I'm just some hack who got lucky.

But for some reason - likely that I take everything so bloody personally - I let the non-believers get under my skin.

Cheapskates in Freelance-Land:
As a freelancer, it generally happens when someone you hope is a potential client finds out your rates.

If you're lucky: the conversation will end and you'll never hear from them again. One day, you may stumble across a poorly-written, cliche-ridden web page or brochure they put together. Initially, you'll feel anger. Then you'll laugh at them.

If you're not so lucky: you'll get the big lecture on how the service you offer isn't really all that special. "Oh, my Uncle Fred just bought a new camera. He'll shoot my wedding, thanks. You're much too expensive." Or maybe, "I'll look at getting someone on staff to do it. My personal assistant writes great letters!"

If you work on staff, it may happen in three cases:

1. With clients. It may come in the form of a micromanager who just doesn't quite want to give up the power. It could be someone who works in the creative field, but the job was farmed out for whatever reason by their superior - in other words, they're bitter and will do all they can to undermine you. Or maybe it's simply someone who recently discovered clip art and wants to wow you with their newfound design prowess.

2. With colleagues. Writers in particular may discover colleagues who work in more technical areas think you're just some hippie-dippy artsy fart who throws shit together at the last possible minute. Generally speaking, they resent you for having an arts-related degree and daring to be in the same room as them. They usually have limited interpersonal skills.

3. With superiors. If your manager or art director started out in the same profession you now work in, you will likely never live up to the incredibly high standards they set in the industry. They will nitpick your work and may even at times, do the work themselves from beginning to end without involving you in the process. In short, they'll constantly remind you who's boss. This is my favourite - it always makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

My point is, if you're a creative out there who's going through any of the above scenarios, you're not alone. If anyone has any tips for dealing with this sort of insanity constructively, I'm all ears.