Tag Archives: journalism

You win some, you lose some

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to blog more often – I hoped to blog at least once a week. Well, we can clearly see that was a fail. What I should have added to my resolution was that I wanted to be more active on other people’s blogs as well, and reach out to bloggers who I really admire, such as my favourite finance bloggers. I also wanted to try to read some good health blogs. Maybe if I do any one of those things once a week, I can give myself a pass.

But if I didn’t make any progress on my blog, at least I’ve kept up with my other resolutions. I’ve been pitching myself regularly to other newspapers and magazines, working out a few times a week and progressing in my sewing class! Last week, I made a drawstring bag. I feel very proud of my accomplishment so far, even if it was just a small project. You gotta start somewhere!

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My 2012 New Year’s Resolutions

Although I often make goals for myself, I have never really made a list of New Year’s Resolutions. I guess once it’s written down, it creates more pressure for you to actually follow through – and makes you feel guilty when you don’t! This year, I want to be as pro-active as possible, so I have been thinking a lot about the most important things I wish to accomplish.

Instead of just calling them resolutions, I prefer to call them goals. There’s a stigma attached to the word resolutions, as if it’s just something we make in the new year hype and never follow through. The word “goal” is more concrete and will hopefully help me stick to them for the entire year.

2012 Goals 

1. Learn how to sew: I have wanted to do this for a while but have always said I don’t have the time or energy to try. I’m starting 2012 off to a good start by signing up for an introductory sewing class at The Sewing Studio in Toronto. It starts next week!

2. Read at least 2 books a week: As a student, I was often reading long essays, papers or textbooks daily. Now that I’m a graduate, it’s easy to work all day and spend your evenings with friends and family or watching TV. One of my goals this year is to use some of that free time to read books (and pursue more freelance writing opportunities). I’m trying to go to the Library at least once a week to take out a few books and especially 7-day rental ones to encourage me to read them in a timely manner.

3. Pitch at least one story a week to a newspaper or magazine: This was something I started at the end of last year and I want to continue doing this year. In particular, I want to have at least one story accepted by a publication I have never written for before.

4. Blog once a week: I initially started blogging as a way to keep track of my writing and create an online portfolio, but it is also a great way to meet interesting people and share your thoughts with the online community.

5. Take another writing course: This summer, I took a news and feature writing course at Concordia University and I want to take another one in Toronto. Unfortunately, they are more than double the price here! The skills you learn are really valuable though, so I’ll probably fork over the cash.

6. Work out at least 3 times a week. This summer, I was really good at working out – it was much easier when I lived a two minute walk to the McGill Gym and was able to go on my way to work. Luckily, I have a treadmill in my house so I have been trying to work out at home at least 3 times a week and attend one fitness class once a week (my favourite is Zumba!).

Those are my top 6 goals so far, and I’m glad that I’m already making progress on half of them. In a few months, I hope to add to the list!

Perspectives: A Response to the Critics

In my last column, I expressed some of my thoughts on the Egyptian revolution. I was initially surprised by the comments and letters which seemed primarily to be personal attacks on me, my religion, and my political beliefs. But as I read through them, I also found many that were respectfully written and constructively critical.

I did not intend to offend anyone and am sorry if anyone was hurt. I have taken many of the criticisms seriously, but a lot of people took my words out of context, and the message I intended to get across was not accurately received.

I did make an error in a particular sentence, which I would like to correct: I said the “only” thing driving the revolution was food, but I should have said “one of the many things” driving the revolution was food. The use of the word “food” was not meant to downplay other causes of Egyptian unrest, but to emphasize the high level of poverty experienced by approximately 40 per cent of the population, and the low percentage of GDP growth—0.21 per cent, compared to 187 per cent in Jordan and 132 per cent in Algeria. Many people felt I had misunderstood the Egyptians’ demands by mentioning poverty as the central cause of the revolution. I fully acknowledge that Egyptians were demanding democratic and human rights as well as an increase in their poor living conditions; however, it would be naive to claim that food was not a primary motivating factor for many Egyptians. Abdel-Wanis, an Egyptian father of six, when asked what his reasons for supporting the revolution were was quoted in the National Post as saying, “For five years I have been looking for my day’s food, and finally I found people to stand with.”

Yes, I am Jewish, as some people kindly pointed out, but when I mentioned the region’s volatility I was not only referring to Israel. As protests have spread to more parts of the Middle East we have seen countries that have not be able to protest as Egyptians did.

I did not intend to suggest that Egyptians do not deserve democracy. I do not see Egyptians as different from me or anyone else. The point I was trying to make is that democracy is a very expensive and time-consuming process. The costs of implementing a democratic system in a poverty-ridden country must be considered.

What was most misinterpreted was why I believe Egyptians do not necessarily want a democracy. While I was watching the news, I often saw Egyptians saying they wanted liberal rights, namely freedom of speech, press, and religion. I support liberal rights and certainly believe we should stand up for them, but democracy does not guarantee anybody those rights. Moreover, having multiple parties, free elections, and voting rights does not necessarily mean that liberal rights will develop in Egypt, or any other country.

I stated, quite controversially, that I do not believe democracy is a human right. I stand by that statement, though I don’t have the space to defend the idea here. However, I do believe democracy is something a society may strive for. I think that, for now, Egyptians should focus on obtaining liberal rights and better living conditions for everyone.

In my first column of the year, I said that I hope to have open dialogue with readers and to discuss new perspectives on issues we care about. I want to thank the readers who took time to write me thoughtful, respectful responses. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to hear different opinions and I hope we can continue this constructive dialogue and help bridge the gaps in our community.

 

My love of criticism

It is always surprises me when readers actually take the time to read articles thoroughly, digest them, and disagree (or agree) so much that they are motivated to write a response.

In a recent article in the McGill Daily, Ted Sprague discussed a few of his critiques on the articles in the recent McGill Daily and Tribune. Of all these articles to choose from, he critiqued my most recent article in my column, Learning to Network. Although I can definitely agree with his point of view, that a new generation of youth has sprung up believing they must network with important people to gain any importance whatsoever, his belief that this is “selling your soul” is unwarranted. Whatever career path you choose, you will inevitably be required to meet people who have more expertise than you and have higher positions than you. Learning from then and putting your name out there is an important prerequisite for success. The way we should not do this, like Sprague argues, is attempt to change who we are, or become a “commodity” as he put it. Networking can be done by being yourself – and is most likely to guarantee success when you present an authentic self – someone worth getting to know.

I don’t want to focus on the actual disagreement between our views, but instead I want to focus on the fact that there is disagreement. As a writer and a columnist, my biggest hope is that readers take in what I am saying and are intrigued enough to formulate their own point of view, no matter if it diverges from mine or not. My column did that and motivated Sprague to critique it.

When you have deadlines to meet, and edits to complete (sometimes the sixth or seventh edit of one 500 word article), journalism can seem like a stressful industry. It is in times like these that I realize how lucky I am to be doing what I do and how important this industry is. It allows us to create new opinions and beliefs and share these thoughts with those around us. It is a circle of knowledge flowing, that will never be broken as long as people are free to speak their own opinions.

I became a journalist because I was intrigued by the power of words and today I was reminded that words – including mine – can make a difference.