An ode to freelance.

Some journalists give their lives to trying to share other people’s stories.

To give your life to try and change the lives of others, or even just document the changing face of the world, is a great price to pay.

James Foley is one of many freelance journalists who travel the world, heading straight for the action. They look for conflict, and delve into the heart of it to search for a deeper truth. They find the human nature within the most barbaric of situations, and share these stories of the world, reminding us that in war and peace we are all still the same.

Freelance journalists are brave, and courageous. They do something that most people could never do. While most people turn and run from war, freelance journalists are drawn to it and thrive in the middle of chaos. It’s an uncertain world, not knowing where the next major conflict will occur or whether or not your next article will get published. But there is always a need. The world wants to know what’s going on in the darkest of places, and freelance journalists are some of the only people that can enter these situations and share them with the world.

“Anybody who is in freelance work, especially artistically, knows that it comes with all the insecurity and the ups and downs. It’s a really frightening life.”- Alessandro Nivola

Two years ago James Foley went missing. The 40-year old freelance journalist fell of the map while on assignment in Syria, something that many who follow in his particular line of work face. Whether taken hostage, going into hiding, or just losing contact with the world, it’s not uncommon for freelance journalists to go M.I.A for an uncertain amount of time. The unfortunate truth is that reporting the missing status of war correspondents and other journalists in conflict zones isn’t common practice. The white noise could come as a result of a number of situations, and in hostage cases or other precarious situations reporting the event can make it more dangerous for the individual.

Today he is presumed dead after a video was posted by ISIS showing an individual being beheaded. Though unconfirmed, the world is mourning, and the event has gripped the media.

People don’t always consider journalism to be a dangerous career. Certainly there are kinds of journalism that are safer than most; sitting in a cozy radio recording booth, interviewing Hollywood’s whos-who, or working in a sleepy town on the coast. But when it comes to freelance journalism, travel journalism, being a war correspondent or working for an international bureau it’s pretty hard to compete with most other communications job danger-wise.

They say it’s for thrill-seekers, for adrenaline-junkies.

I think it’s for people that dare to tell the stories no one else can. In the words of his mother Diane; “He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”

Foley’s death marks a significant reminder  for North Americans. A reminder that civilians can suffer at the hands of militants around the world, that you don’t have to work in the military to feel the repurcussions of an international-conflict. The conflict may be seperated from the rest of us by borders, but the suffering and impact is felt worldwide.

As for myself? I doubt I will ever have the strength to be a freelance journalist. To explore as they do, to seek out and find the stories in the midst of chaos is something that I don’t know if I could do. My first instinct is still to duck and run when fists or bullets start flying.

But I stand with other journalists in reflecting and remembering James Foley, and the sacrifice other freelance journalists and war correspondents have made for their craft. It’s an uncertain world. The only thing I’m truly certain of is the incredible strength of these individuals and the strength of their families and friends in hard times. I’m certain that freelance journalists will continue to face uncertainty and danger despite the loss of great writers like James Foley. They will continue to bring to us visions and glimpses of what we hope we never have to face at home.

But the struggle goes on.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“More than 30 reporters—about half of them Westerners—have disappeared in Syria and are believed to be held by extremist forces. Westerners working for aid groups also have gone missing in Syria. More than 50 journalists have been killed since Syria’s civil war began in early 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.”


Monica Lewinsky’d all over the news.

Here’s the problem with Monica Lewinsky.


 Yes, I’ve said it. I have no problem with her. Granted, I was not of a ‘mature’ age when the scandal in question occurred -being only 4 years old- nor was I particularly involved in feminism or women’s rights until I finally took a class in it in the second semester of my second year of university.

So I’m not an expert. Let’s just rip that label off right now.

I AM –on the other hand- a woman. A woman in the business workplace. Really I’m a young lady, but we’ll just call me a woman in this context. And as a modern woman, in a corporate workplace, I have one thing to say… 

It is not okay that Bill Clinton is left alone while Monica Lewinsky is the butt of all jokes, especially today.



The girl made a mistake. So did the President of the United States. And who do you think was more apt to making poor decisions, an intern or the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful nation?

Let’s put it this way, which one is more likely to be caught doing too many tequila shots in public, the 21 year-old intern or the 42nd president of the United States of America?

My votes on Monica (sorry girl).

Feminism has come a long way since 1998. This was, as aptly put by Emily Shire of The Daily Beast, “well over a decade before the first SlutWalks began”.

We are now against the act of ‘slut-shaming’, so much so that the term has become commonplace. Third-wave feminism has given women the right to empowerment, in physical, mental, spiritual, and –most significantly- sexual situations. Women have a right to express themselves in ways they so desire, and make choices based on their desires, dreams, wants and needs. Women now have earned the right to respect concerning their decisions, and this is great. It’s one more step towards substantive equality.

And yet in the case of Monica Lewinsky society and mass media still go to protect the man, leaving no room for the woman to defend her actions, even years later?

Shire points out, that of course, “the whole mess happened because Lewinsky dressed and flirted a certain way. The most powerful man in the free world, who was nearly three decades her senior, played no active role.”

I trust you catch the sarcasm.

In an article by Jezebel, entitled “Vanity Fair Gives Monica Lewinsky 15 More Minutes”, Kate Dries admonishes Lewinsky for trying to take back her narrative. Although Dries –despite Jezebel’s feminist position and reputation- even refused to acknowledge Bill Clinton’s rolw in a way. She writes, “Lewinsky is still sorry about having sexual relations with that man”.

Okay, so we can introduce Lewinsky right away, but the household name that has a 50/50 role in the story gets spared? Not exactly equality.

Yes, she goes on to mention Clinton’s actual name, but it’s the reference to him as ‘that man’ that strikes me as so regressive.

My position is simple; Lewinsky has a right to reclaim her name. Or at least try to. But denying a 40-year old woman the right to “stick [her] head above the parapet so that [she] can take back [her] narrative and give a purpose to [her] past,” as Lewinsky declares in her Vanity Fair essay, isn’t cool. Especially not when it’s based off of a mistake she made more than a decade ago. And it’s also not cool to ignore the man, her senior, who had his chance to reclaim his name even after impeachment.

Sure, it might be a ploy for money; but it HAS been 10 years of relative silence for Lewinsky. Maybe she just legitimately wants a second chance?

While we’re judging, I wore some pretty heinous outfits a decade ago, and had a bowl cut (before you think too much, I was 9).

Is it fair to say I still look like a boy? No. I’m very much a classic, feminine cis-sexual female now thank you very much.

And that’s the point, people change over the course of 10 years. In fact, they can change a lot. So before we go wagging our fingers, perhaps we should listen to what Lewinsky has to say. After all, doesn’t she deserve the chance to re-brand herself in the new millennia? A chance to re-introduce herself to the next generation?

 Retro fashions may be coming back, but as far as slut-shaming, I think that’s something we can leave in the past. New millennium, new Monica.

And I for one want to hear what she has to say.


Frats are friends, not (just) fools.

I just finished reading a recent article by Julia Ryan in The Atlantic.

“How Colleges Could Get Rid of Fraternities” looks at the various ways academic institutions can and can’t get rid of male Greek life on campuses across North America, and as Ryan says, “It’s not that easy to banish the Greeks.”

Ryan brings up concern about fraternity’s seemingly innate ability to “create environments that seem to breed hazing, binge drinking, and sexual assault.”

While this may be very true, this also sounds like almost any group of college age guys. As a girl who had the (un)fortunate experience to live on a self-titled ‘Party Floor’ in my first year of University, I have to say that the more minor of these activities -and I do include light hazing in that, as anyone who has been involved in a prank war will understand- can be applied to the guys (and girls) from my floor.

College is the primary opportunity for young guys -and girls- to get together and find themselves without the guidance and parental discretion that many of us feel at home. Despite drinking ages that are certainly higher than the age of many freshmen, namely 21 in the U.S. and 19 in Canada, alcohol is commonplace. Almost everyone has at least one night of their university or college career that they can barely recall. Or, if they can, they can barely recall it without grimacing at the though of too much tequila/whiskey/pick your poison.

This environment breeds foolish mistakes and indulgent behaviour, and the lack of parents and family ties means that students look for a natural way to connect with each other. In many cases this results in connections as ‘floor families’ or finding friendship in clubs, but for some it lies in the Greek community.

This connection is essential to anyone moving away from home, or to anyone entering the post-secondary community. It can seem big and strange, but to find oneself in a group you feel comfortable can make or break the experience.

The issue with the activities of fraternities lies not in the evil-nature of the guys who join these exclusive groups, but the sheer number of guys in a single ‘frat’. By bringing together that many guys who are all doing what everyone else is at that age -drinking way too much and looking for a good time- mob mentality takes over and incidents occur. The chance of incidents in a group is increased every time you bring someone else into it, and having that many guys in one house with alcohol is a breeding ground for poor decisions.

I am not in any way saying that this makes sexual assault, bullying, hazing or any other negative activity associated with fraternities okay. Stupidity in groups is not justification for stupidity as an act. There is no excuse for carrying out these activities in any form.

That being said, these events do happen and are especially prevalent on campuses. They occur more often in groups, and fraternities seem to be the major culprit. The problem is that people find it easier to point fingers to people that are officially grouped and designated as such, when such crimes and acts are done by many groups outside that aren’t recognized by an academic institution.

Fraternities, being subject to rules and provisions that govern all university-associated clubs and bodies, are a group that can be singled out and used as examples. Pointing instead at a group of guys that wander around campus and do the same doesn’t have the same effect. We can thank movies and TV shows for the gravity that comes with saying a fraternity broke the rules, they have a negative connotation. Other random groups of male students aren’t as widely recognized, and don’t have ‘rules’ to break.

Take for example the recent charges laid against members of the University of Ottawa’s varsity men’s hockey team. The entire team was suspended and a group of players were believed to be involved in a sexual assault. Ashley Bowen, staff at the Draft Pub at Lakehead University said the young men were “like a family.”

Like… brothers?

The team is a body governed by the university, and it is much easier to say the university’s hockey team, than ‘a group of Ottawa students’. The shock that comes with attributing a crime to a school-associated group is hard to beat, but in reality these are just groups of guys doing stupid things together.

Greek life is not the problem. I know many people that are involved in the Pan-Hellenic community here at Carleton University, and they are all fantastic people. Fraternities and sororities offer opportunities for individuals to establish a family away from home, and to get involved with charities and activities in school and out.

Any group of people is capable of committing harm against one another, and the diffusion of responsibility only makes it easier in larger numbers.

The argument should not be how colleges should get rid of fraternities, but how they should be regulated and how the activities that are deemed problematic should be stopped. All it takes is one bad egg to spoil the dozen, and in the case of a fraternity, all too often is the exceptionable individual taken to be the rule. Ryan looks at this too in the article, and brings up some ideas of how fraternities can be ‘taken care of’.

Some are a bit extreme, but many of which would be great ways to ensure that the power of fraternities and the so-called ‘brotherhood’ is used for good and not bad.

I’m not saying I have an answer or that there is a definitive answer, I’m just saying that there’s much more to brotherhood that booze and boobs.

Maybe we should instead try to combat the problems of binge-drinking and sexual assault on campuses as a whole. Manage the environment, not the groups produced by the environment, could actually make campuses safer and better places for students and faculty alike. Who knows, the Greeks may even help.

You gotta love books.

John Wyatt spends his days surrounded by thousands of books in the organized chaos of his second-hand bookshop, Book Bazaar.

The Book Bazaar is an Ottawa landmark. Started in 1974 by Beryl McLeod, the shop on the corner of Bank and Frank streets is filled with wall-to-wall bookshelves carrying everything from used best sellers to rare books.

“It’s changed a lot over time,” said Wyatt, “we get readers, and we get collectors. You get a real cross-section. You can sell a six dollar book or a $600 book in the same day. The $600 book is obviously a collectible and a six dollar book is just a reading, hobby book.”

Born in Montreal, Wyatt attended Queen’s University in Kingston. He worked as a lawyer for almost 30 years, settling in Ottawa in 1971. Wyatt made the switch from law to second-hand books in 1994, taking over the then 20 year old Book Bazaar.

“I’ve been involved with books since I was eight,” said Wyatt, “reading them, collecting them. I’ve been involved in the business for a long time.”

His interest in different kinds of books is reflected in the eclectic mix found on the Bazaar’s shelves, including an extensive sheet music collection.

“You’re either a reader or a writer generally, because if you’re a writer you’ve got to spend all your time writing, and as a reader I’ve spent most of my time reading and collecting,” said Wyatt.

Wyatt picks up his books from a range of places.

“University sales, church sales, all over the place. I do what’s called book calls, where I go to people’s houses to buy their books. Often it’s because they’re moving, or downsizing or it’s an estate. People come into the store also, quite often. On a typical Saturday I’ll get eight to 10 people coming in and trying to sell me books.”

With so many sources for his books, Wyatt has a refined selection process.

“I know what I can use. They’ll come in with three boxes and I might only take six books, cause I know which six I need. It’s 50 years of experience,” said Wyatt, “and knowing what people are asking for. I know what’s in demand and what’s not, so I know what we can sell and what we can’t sell.”

Wyatt has used the Internet since 1998 to sell his books to an international audience. He now has an online database with over 50,000 books.

As an early adopter of the Internet the Book Bazaar has seen changes in competition over the years, says Wyatt. “When we first went on the Internet in 1998 there weren’t many other sellers on, so we were averaging about 2,000 orders a year.” The number of online orders has gone down since then, but the value of books sold online has increased.

The Book Bazaar’s clientele is international, Wyatt says. “There’s not a country I haven’t probably shipped a book to. It’s absolutely international. There are 200 million people on the Internet. If you’re sitting in Turkey and you want a book, and you go online and there’s the book in Ottawa you go ahead and order it.”

A current client in Japan has ordered a 1965 edition of Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, a three-volume edition by Kenneth Peacock.

Many international clients are not just collectors, said Wyatt, “Libraries buy from us quite a lot too.” Many Libraries turn to the Book Bazaar to complete collections and diversify their inventory.

In a business driven by collectors, prices for rare books or first editions can be steep.

“I don’t sell them, but some of the most expensive books range from a $50,000 to $250,000,” said Wyatt. “It’s an interesting business, and there’s serious collectors.”

Looking at some of the thick, older volumes in the store, it’s not all that hard to believe.

As for the highest price Wyatt’s ever sold a book for, he simply laughs, “It’s a lot.”

Pepperoni Pizza and Equality.

As a young person –and also a major fan of pizza- this piece by Matt Gurney for the National Post certainly jumped out at me. I can easily remember days when greasy pizza was delivered hot to the school, and a dollar or two would buy you a slice of cheesy goodness. A welcome change from the ham-and-cheese sandwiches in a brown paper bag, pizza days were a memorable part of elementary school. So for me, the idea of ending “Pizza days” at school because of gluten allergies seemed ridiculous. Had these allergies not been present before? Where would lunch come from? I had a lot of questions before I even began to read.

The article itself provides a light-hearted view at what is obviously not a pressing issue. It’s clear that the piece speaks more to the human interest or emotional side of news value measures. Who doesn’t remember pizza days as a kid? Moreover, who would be sad if these days were to end? It must also be noted that the paper – The National Post– is based in Toronto, and therefore the proximity holds news value as well as it is regarding schools in the GTA.  Overall, the piece is well written, clear, concise and thorough. It’s easy to understand the issue as well as how Gurney is writing about it. Again, lighthearted, and almost wholly said tongue-in-cheek; as the title states, “Ban bureaucratic stupidity. Save pizza day.” This tone makes it more effective than a traditional news story, considering that no one would believe a serious, hard-hitting news story about pizza. The tone used is effective for the subject matter, and adds to the piece. It also includes many references to other events and articles, backing up the facts of these fundraisers being ‘cash cows’ for the schools. I might include more interviews or quotes from people involved or official documents. Some more sources would add to the story and increase its value, giving more perspectives and rounding out the coverage of the issue. Perhaps even some kids explaining their ties to pizza day, playing more into the emotional attraction of the piece. Either way, it would be nice to get someone else’s voice into the piece to make it seem less individual to the writer, and more relatable to the general public. It’s just a shame that pepperoni doesn’t have a voice. That would certainly make for some ‘flavorful’ journalism.