Canada’s beef-is-safe campaign, circa 2003

Canada’s beef-is-safe campaign, circa 2003

The main purpose of this post is to put up a neat graph from my Masters thesis project seven years ago, mostly because I want to refer to it elsewhere. Please read on for the backstory, or if you are interested in political rhetoric about science (or to see a pic of Jean Chretien gnawing on beef). My thesis was on risk communication, using mad cow disease as a case study. I looked at the language and sources used in news articles to discuss the safety of Canadian beef after Canada’s first mad cow was found in May 2003. I remember that day vividly. It was my first summer at CBC, and I was interning at Quirks & Quarks in Toronto. As soon as the news broke across the wires, producers from The Current in the next room were buzzing about what to put on tomorrow’s show. Quirks, a weekly show, was deciding what people would want to know by Saturday about it. As It Happens was also chasing experts on the topic. The name on everyone’s lips was Dr. Neil Cashman, a Canadian neuroscientist who specializes in prion diseases, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease. As the summer progressed, BSE remained a major national story, mostly because the U.S. had banned Canadian beef, leaving cattle producers without a major source of income. There was a huge SARS benefit concert in Toronto that summer, but I remember dubbing it “Beef-stock” because of the amount of Canadian beef promotion, including a city block-long aisle of BBQ. I wrote about it at the time: Veteran comedians...
How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media

How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media

This weekend at the Northern Voice conference, Kirk LaPointe from The Vancouver Sun and I spoke on a panel called “How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media.” The visuals I used, created using a new-to-me online tool called Prezi, are posted online here. I won’t recount the whole thing, but here’s a couple of key ideas I talked about. Social media makes my city smaller Smaller, more interesting, perhaps even more friendly. In my talk, I told a story about my first job at CBC: a short-term stint as CBC Radio’s Nelson bureau reporter. There, it was a lot easier for the public to reach me, if they wanted to. No security desk, no switchboard in Toronto, just a one-room office and the phone number was in the book. In a big city newsroom like CBC Vancouver, it’s very different. It would be easy (though not smart) to avoid “the audience” almost completely. In my opinion, good journalists don’t — with or without social media. I use tools like Twitter to reach out beyond the people I would otherwise know, to get to know my city better. My networks are bigger, and that makes my city smaller. Social media as “social scanner” So, if you see something on Twitter, do you go report it on air? No, of course not. It’s like a police scanner to me. People who work in news sometimes listen to chatter on the police scanner to find out what’s happening. A fire in Coquitlam. A fatal MVA in Abbotsford. Just because you hear it, doesn’t mean you immediately go on air with it. You need...
New and improved! Feed has arrived.

New and improved! Feed has arrived.

Well, mostly just improved. I had been getting pretty frustrated with some pieces of this site that weren’t working. There had never been an RSS feed, the comment form was broken, and so on. So, I hit up the very friendly people at the WordPress help desk at Northern Voice this weekend. Not only was the help free, but it was nice. No judging when I introduced the problem to each subsequent person as: Sorry, I built the site myself, so it’s probably not done right, and I probably can’t tell you how I did it…. Miss604 gave the first crack at it, with some tips on plugins that might work better for me. Then Digital Entomologist Lloyd Budd took it on for hours, looking for where I hid a wee bit of code that he figured was messing things up. He eventually did, with a little help from Scott Leslie, and now the feed works. Thanks all! I also learned a lesson: plopping code somewhere to make the site look prettier just might be breaking...