Guest Blogger CLOSING NEWSPAPERS and JOURNALISM

If it wasn’t hard enough getting into the field of journalism, it just got harder with the closure of 24 papers in Eastern Ontario, nine of which are in the Ottawa area. When I first started getting interested in the field of journalism two years ago, I knew it was going to be tough, I knew I was going to have to work hard and I knew there would be many struggles along the way — yet I was never worried about how I would be able to make a living in the future.

I was very fortunate to make a series of contacts last year that got me where I am today, yet I knew it’s not where I’d want to stay forever. I always thought of it as a ladder you had to climb. You would start your career in community news, then work your way up to a free daily paper like Metro, and then get your way to Mainstream Media such as the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen/Sun, etc.

Now a big chunk of that ladder is gone and a gaping hole is in your way of reaching your full potential. There are a lot of really good writers out there, yet that no longer gets you your dream job. Community news was not just a way to inform residents of what was going on in their community, yet to give young aspiring journalists a chance to practice in the field and give them the skills needed to write an article you felt proud to produce while following the rules of journalism.

When I published my first print article for the Barrhaven Independent a year ago, I knew nothing about how to write an article, yet thanks to community news, I had the chance to learn from those who are in the field. I still don’t know everything, yet with every article I write, I learn something new.

I’ve often been asked why I cover community news. For me it’s more than just a learning experience. It’s a great way to meet people in your community and it informs residents about what is going on. It also brings out the good in people. When a person’s house burns down, the community rallies together. When a fundraiser is going on, people come in droves to give what they can. I’m hoping this will not be the end to community news. Like Alex Munter did in 1982, I hope others will come forward and start new community papers. I hope more youth will come forward and start gaining an interest in news.

I was 14 turning 15 when I started my own online news network on YouTube. That was two years ago. Since then, I have received more than 72,000 views, more than 50,000 of that in this year alone. If I can do it, anyone can.

Charlie Senack is a young freelance journalist in Ottawa. His interest in journalism came at a young age after visiting the former CTV News studios in 2009. Since then, he has continued to grow his passion for storytelling. In December, he held a successful premiere of Messages from Heaven. You can follow him on twitter @Charlie_Senack or watch him on YouTube at TWIN News.

The Knives Are Out

With his pledge of keeping a tax increase at two per cent being threatened, Mayor Jim Watson is going nasty. And many of his councillors are fighting back as an ugly war of words is being waged through the media, social and otherwise.

The first volley was made by College Coun. Rick Chiarelli when the budget was tabled last month – and he immediately labelled it as fake. Chiarelli rightly pointed out that while staff and Watson like to claim spending is up in many areas of the budget this year, in fact, many of the estimates for spending are lower than what was spent last year.

If you were cynical in nature, you might think the numbers were designed to meet the 2% goal and not necessarily what staff really believe will be spent. But that’s an entirely different column!

The drama intensified over the past few days as councillors sat through a variety of committee meetings going over the details of the budget. And some of them have decided they’re not going to go along with Watson’s promise of the 2% tax increase. In fact, eight city councillors – including Chiarelli – are now standing together on a motion calling for a one-time 0.5% infrastructure levy, which as the group is selling, would be about $1 a month.

Much of the talk during discussions on the budget has focused on the bad state of the city’s roads. The one-time levy would be used to address some of those concerns. None of this of course sits well with the mayor. He’s gone on Twitter pointing out some of the eight made pledges similar to his own on keeping taxes down. Pretty sure they’ve changed their minds at this point!

But Watson has saved his harshest criticism for Chiarelli, lashing out at the College ward councillor, saying he isn’t taken seriously around the council table and hasn’t shown any leadership during the budget process over the years.

Yowser! And yikes! And surely not very becoming for the mayor of the nation’s capital. Part of the problem is Watson lets people get under his skin, he frets about winning instead of worrying about doing the right thing for the city. The high road isn’t one Watson frequently takes in these circumstances. (As an aside, you know that after reading this column, and he will, Watson will continue telling people no one is reading this blog as he says about other blogs in the city)

You can be sure Watson has fully implemented a plan to ensure the Group of Eight go down to an ugly defeat. For sure he isn’t alone with his character bashing. Many are getting into the game. Kanata Coun. Allan Hubley gave an interview this week, generally trashing his colleagues’ motives. (He did say he hated to talk like that, but frankly, he seemed just fine with it.) He also blamed Deans for a bad audit on the city’s daycare, saying she should have known about the problems.

Alerted to Hubley’s comments, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans herself fought back on Twitter.

“More of the same from the Mayor’s cronies – if you can’t win the argument on the issue at hand, you attack personally. Hubley would be better off spending his time addressing our crumbling infrastructure,” she wrote. Along with Deans and Chiarelli, the Group of Eight also includes Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Nussbaum. Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson. Rideau Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury and Capital Coun. David Chernushenko.

So what does all of this silliness mean for the taxpayer? At this point in time, doesn’t look like anything good, that’s for sure. City council meets on Wednesday to discuss the budget. For the sake of our money and for the good of the city, here’s hoping the kids get their act together.

Hits and Misses – But Mostly Misses

SAY WHAT?

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melynk makes this week’s misses with a crazy tweet telling shamed broadcaster Bill O’ReIlly that he missed him. Say what? Is there any chance Melnyk is the only one around who hasn’t heard why O’Reilly is missing action.
“Miss you Bill! When are you coming back!!!??”

O’Reilly was fired over allegations of sexual harrassment in April, forced out after a New York Times report he had paid five women a total of $13 million to settle sexual harassment claims in the past.

SAY WHAT? Part II

Some of this city’s hard-working volunteers were honoured this past week with a medal from the Senate of Canada. The list included broadcasters Rick Gibbons and Mark Sutcliffe, who’ve both volunteered their time to the community. According to the Senate, 150 medals were minted at a cost of $235,000 to honour the country’s unsung heroes, “Canadians whose generosity, dedication, volunteerism and hard work make their communities a better place to live.” The recipients were all chosen by senators.

Sadly, many of those on the receiving end of the unsung heroes medal were the senators themselves, including Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin. A request to explain how well-paid senators were unsung heroes wasn’t answered by the Senate’s communications department.

Enough said.

PICTURE THIS EGO

It’s hard to know what to make of Kanata Coun. Allan Hubley. Apparently he was so excited to chair his first audit committee he spent $35 of his own money to make up trading cards for all audit  committee members. The trading cards, according to Hubley, will be used to track success in saving the city money. Seriously? Does that make sense to anyone?

He asked his committee members to sign the two-sided cards which feature their own picture so he could frame them to mark his first meeting. Apparently Hubley plans to frame the signed trading cards. Knowing Hubley, it might be best to be on the lookout for said frame to be expensed. Just saying!

MISS, THEN SORT OF A HIT

Ottawans and Canadians were somehow shocked at the long list of don’ts for the ice rink on the front lawn of Parliament Hill. No cellphones, no food, no selfies. And a short skating season to boot! Personally, I was shocked anyone was shocked. This is the feds we’re talking  about folks. But the feds backtracked just a bit. Selfies will now be allowed and the season will go to the end of February.

THIS WEEK’S HIT: LONG MAY HE RUN

Music icon Neil Young came home this week, returning to his childhood town of Omemee, Ontario to promote the release of his new album The Visitor, but more importantly to raise money for music program for the Scott Young Public School in Omemee.
The school is named for his late father. The money raised, close to $20,000 will be shared with The Bridge School in California, a school for children with severe speech and physical impairments. While Young inside Coronation Hall, Omemee’s King Street was busy with both local residents and visitors.

Well done.