Through a Rose-Tinted Looking-Glass: Christy Clark’s Tale of Two Frenamies

School started late this year for half a million of BC’s school children.

If you look at it through Premier Christy Clark’s eyes, those kids were treated to an extra-long summer break. No big deal.

It was inconvenient that negotiations between the teacher’s union and provincial government had ground to a complete and total standstill over the summer. Still, Premier Christy Clark had done her darndest to try to smooth things over. As she was famously quoted saying on a radio show last May, for those greedy teachers “[it’s] all about the money, it’s never about the quality of education.”

But as the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) tried to explain, and was reported in the Globe & Mail on May 25th, it wasn’t in fact all about the Benjamins, or in this case, the Robert Bordens. Under the spot light, the job action was designed to pressure the province to keep its contracted word. This included respecting a B.C. Supreme Court order to put control over class size and composition back in the hands of the teachers’ union.

At least the parents were getting $40 a day to put their children in day camps, the Vancouver Sun reported, hinting at a change from public to private education. But try as they might, the Liberals were not able to calm the storm, and on the other side of the fence, passions were igniting into full out fire storms.

That’s the way the school year started, not with fresh notebooks and new friends but with kids at home alone, frustrated parents, and teachers out of money, out of patience and almost out of a job.

Just as it looked like all hope was lost, the CBC reported that BC Hydro and BC Federation of Labour called in their support- in the form of interest free loans totalling $18-million dollar.

That same week, the CBC announced more good news- about a thousand parents and kids joined protests at the Vancouver Art Gallery to raise their voice in support of the teacher’s strike on September 13th, with similar events taking place across the province at the same time. The crowd was mostly civilized, and very noisy. So loud, in fact, that Ms. Clark started to hear her voter base shrinking.

Maybe it was her impending trade mission to India, or maybe she began to recognize that the reflection of the damsel in distress in her mirror wasn’t so helpless. Either way, Ms. Clark suddenly remembered a chance encounter this past August with one Hassan Yussuff, the new president of the Canadian Labour Congress. At least that’s how Justine Hunter of the Globe and Mail wrote it, in her September 20th article titled “The secret meeting that broke the B.C. teachers’ impasse”.

From there, Mr. Yussuff was able to overcome what Ms. Clark said herself was “zero trust between the two parties”, and bring the teachers together to have a discussion with the government. And for the first time, Mr. Yussuff was somehow able to phrase things in a way that 44,000 educators across the province hadn’t been able to get across. Then, at long last, the BC Liberal government gave in a little bit, admitting that yes, special education teachers were necessary and a wage that recognized the rising cost-of-living was possible, slowly.

Eight days later, a deal was signed, and this week, BC’s school teachers returned to their classrooms.

And it was all thanks to Ms. Clark and her friend Mr. Yussuff, according to Ms. Hunter and her article.

However, alternate press shows a different story. The most interesting discrepancy is that besides Ms. Hunter’s article, there is no other coverage linking Mr. Yussuff to a resolution in the BC teachers strike. He did lend his support to the BCTF in a letter to Jim Iker, president of the organization, dated May 23rd. However, that’s a far cry from taking a front-line position in negotiations. Maybe Ms. Hunter’s been borrowing a mirror from Ms. Clark.

That would explain the way she completely omitted the other reasons for the government’s move towards a resolution. Ms. Hunter give no credit to the teachers who tirelessly and for no pay pursued a better education for their students from the picket lines, as covered by Yahoo Canada, The Province and CTV. This disappeared between the words, along with the roar of public support from unions, parents and students.

Ms. Hunter reports that Mr. Iker left the initial talks “with assurance” that Ms. Clark would be open to further discussions, despite a history of avoiding meetings with the union. However, the teachers he represents did not walk away sharing his confidence. In fact, the Globe & Mail reports in another article that one teacher felt like “we were in a boxing ring and they pulled out a knife. Then we saw our opponents on TV smiling and saying everything was great”.

Finally, as the CBC points out, the dispute could have been solved much earlier and without the magic of Mr. Yussuff, if only the government had been willing to meet the teachers part of the way earlier in the process.

At least Premier Clark found in Ms. Hunter someone who sees the world through the same lens.

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Written September 22nd. Published to the web October 3rd. 

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The Benefits of J-School: Journalists in the Classroom

j-school, cost, journalism school, education, writing

What is the true value of going to journalism school? Photo credit (with permission): Lisa Violet Williams

In this age of technology, anyone with a camera phone and access to the internet can share their stories online. So this presents the question- why go to journalism school?

Well, for this J-school student, the first three weeks of my formal education has been transformative for my potential as a story-teller.

Through my classes in the Journalism-New Media program at Sheridan College, I am gaining the confidence to venture outside the limitations of my comfort zone. Evolving from a print-style online magazine contributor, I am becoming a multimedia maverick comfortable using a spectrum of tools to tell any story.

But more than that, my mind is exploding with exciting and fresh story concepts, along with entirely innovative ways to tell these narratives. As Australian journalism student Saarah Jarvinen puts it, “I have realised that I am … alive and revived. Studying here at JSchool… has awakened the once semiconscious journalist and triggered the insatiable delight of hunting for stories.”

My studies have already opened my eyes to many things, including:

  • the importance of the journalist as a monitor of power and a conduit of truth to the citizens of her country
  • the factors to include when assessing an article idea, for example impact, proximity and immediacy
  • how to make the most of an SLR camera for both photography and video
  • the effect of editing on a video’s final message
  • ways to research beyond Google
  • programming timeline and map tools to share a story
  • possible User Generated Content sources

I am becoming very aware of the changing role of the journalist in the 21st century. In the past, the news reporter delivered the story to a passive audience watching at home on a couch or listening on the radio from the car. But now, the audience participates, comments, and creates its’ own content.

Given this shift, a journalist can incorporate material from people all over the world to create content. However, this comes with the duty to verify the truth of this information, and to ensure its relevance. I believe that soon the majority of media will be created drawing from online content, and then presented in a new form, with a focused narrative, back onto the internet.

Keeping this in mind, I aspire to accurately synthesize this voice of the online public with the development of unique stories. These pieces will approach their subjects with a critical perspective aimed at igniting further discussion. To do this well, this author needs to delve deeper into understanding the way social media plays with the emergence of news stories, and how citizens are becoming their own reporters. This is one way I expect the study of interactive journalism to change the way I think about contemporary story-telling.

One of the greatest attributes of Sheridan’s Journalism-New Media program is that classes are taught by a faculty with extensive experience directly related to the field of multimedia journalism. It is my hope that these instructors will equip me with the most important skills and knowledge I will need when I’m out reporting independently from challenging overseas environments or working with a team in a high pressure newsroom.

As well, I’d like to gain an honest appraisal of the ‘corporate culture’ of the various factions of the journalism world from our instructors, including what is acceptable in the way of appearance and diversity of subject matter. I see this as my first year in a new working environment, and hope it will propel me into the next step of my career as a writer.