Archive for March 2011

Memories of election coverage

We’re headed to the polls in Canada for the fourth federal election in seven years, and that — combined with a discussion with a second year journalism school student yesterday about technology reporting — has me thinking about the first (and only, actually) election I covered as a reporter.

It was a good time to be in journalism school in Toronto. Toronto amalgamation was the hot topic, and I was learning to be a reporter throughout the entire ordeal, from early announcements and controversy to the election of the new mayor and council of the amalgamated City of Toronto. It was election night that I most remember, though. Several of us had volunteered to cover the election for the budding website of the school’s bi-weekly community newspaper (pretty cool, considering this was before online media had taken off).

My assignment for the evening? Cover the after-party of one of the gents who didn’t get elected to the new council. I probably learned more about reporting on events that night than I did from my entire time at Centennial College, and I remember the feeling of talking to an obviously disappointed East York councillor and his supporters.

It also made me glad I didn’t go into political reporting.

My simple business philosophy

I like to tell people that I’m the most unprofessional writer they’ll meet. Sometimes it feels true. I speak casually. I crack jokes. I engage people in discussions unrelated to the topic at hand. I try to get people to laugh. During a phone interview for an article last week, I was asked if I had any more questions, and without missing a beat, I asked, “How are you adjusting to the time change so far?” We shared a laugh. I like to have a good time, and I think it shows.

Although my demeanour is casual and friendly, I’m also very dedicated to my work. I listen to my clients. I aim to do the best job I can for them. I meet deadlines. I follow up on professional email and voicemail communications quickly. I let clients know immediately if there’s a problem. In the end, I believe I’ve developed a reputation as someone who does good work on time, so I come across as professional in that respect.

My business philosophy is simple, really. I try to follow Wheaton’s Law in all things, and I believe that if you enjoy your work, then you’ll do good work.

What’s your business philosophy?

Note-taking? What note-taking?

Note-taking seems to be changing. Or perhaps it’s disappearing altogether in favour of getting news online as quickly as possible.

In a recent news conference, I was sitting behind a fellow journalist who I noticed wasn’t actually taking notes on his laptop (seriously, who handwrites notes any more?). Instead, partway through the news conference, I noticed he had a WordPress backend opened, had his headline already written and was busily writing his news article piecemeal (there were big gaps where he no-doubtedly filled in paragraphs and quotes as information was made available).

This goes against everything I learned in journalism school, but after thinking about it for a little while, I realized this is where our world has taken us. We can’t wait for anything any more, and news outlets that are publishing too late are possibly missing out on traffic because their competitors were live-blogging from a news conference or event and then posting their story before people were being thanked for coming.

I still take copious notes during interviews and news conferences, and then I turn my stories around afterwards. Although that will likely continue for most publications, I may need to adjust my strategy for my Beer In Canada reporting. I think I could get content up a lot quicker than I am now.

Chris Talbot