Consider This
Politics, Life and Journalism in Northumberland County, Ontario


Our first opportunity to cover a public consultation done by the Citizens’ Assembly for TVO is December 5, 2006. We assembled an excellent team of student journalists who will do the coverage. We held a meeting on Thursday November 30, 2006 to discuss our strategy.

Remembering, this is a two-track process, we must ensure solid coverage for TVO, but also the team will prepare some special materials for the e-journalism web site, Online Pioneer Plus, using our own tools.

The day’s coverage will begin with Mel Bikiuk doing an indepth series of streeters in downtown Peterborough and on Trent University campus. She will be recording digital audio responses and taking photographs in the hopes of preparing a multimedia story on the public’s response to the notion of democratic reform. We crafted questions around the idea of what to change around voting; what would people like to see done around elections; and identifying concerns around fairness. Some of these will be very short, while others are to be considered full interviews. She is to use her discretion. The idea is to give a voice to those who might not be either motivatived to participate or don’t have time or don’t feel they will be heard (unempowered). Read the rest of this entry »


Project summary
Nov 12, 2006

Things are picking up with the project. This weekend, broadcast students under the direction of Kathleen Bazurk, who instructs the remote broadcast component of the program, will be recording a presentation by Richard S. Katz, from John Hopkins University (Baltimore), an expert in democratic reform. The tapes will be sent to TVO for them to post to their site.

We are preparing for our broadcast in Peterborough at Gzwoski College on Dec. 5. Several emails were exchanged with Jeff Dunk, TVO’s point man. We need to make sure we have the technical specifications both for the room and for TVO’s requirements.

We intend to undertake several forms of coverage on the day of the event. One report is going up in advance. She will take a video camera and talk with people, seeking an answer to the question: “If you could change one thing with the current electoral system in Ontario, what would it be?” The result should be a streeter-type of response. While not terribly scientific, it provides a glimpse into the everyday person’s mind and raises awareness. We hope to have a business card size handout with the name of our website and the URL so people can see themselves and others.

We are also hoping to set up several key interviews with knowledgeable citizens, key leaders in the community who do not normally get interviewed around this type of topic, but influence community thinking. This is in tune with public journalism’s tenants to seek out voices not always sought in compiling information about a story.

Meanwhile preparations for the January 16, 2007 event in Belleville proceed. This will be organized in conjunction with the Citizen’s Assembly representative Cornelio Reyes and Loyalist faculty.

Two student research assistants are working on plans to hold a special Citizen’s Assembly Day at Loyalist College with a panel and a guest speaker. The Online Pioneer will sponsor the event and provide a number of stories in advance, as well as, full coverage on the day. The event will also be filled with online opportunities to participate. This is scheduled for February. Plans are still be finalized.

Until this point, the majority of work was focused on the development of the Online Pioneer Plus (, an e-journalism supplement to our current Online Pioneer ( Following some research and building on work done in the summer, it is important to look at how this technology works and why it is significant. Using the umbrella perspective of communications technology, considerations were given to the use of content management system software and the impact on presenting news on the Internet {Grant, 2006 #15}.

First posted: November 12, 2006


We’ve decided that since we’ve had so many problems recruiting, instead of focusing on getting large numbers of people out, we should think more in terms of a small core group of participants. We need around 6-8 people who are dedicated and can get the job done. We need people who have enough time to be generating material for website through blogging and can come to planned events.
Rob is planning to speak with other professors in the journalism department to see if we can integrate what we are trying to do with some class work. We plan on having at least one story for the Pioneer per week, using the online Pioneer position. Also possibly at least one broadcast or radio story per week.
We’ve decided that the best way to create buzz around our project is to plan a concentrated day to draw in the apathy group, a ‘blitz’ day. On this day we will create a pizza party atmosphere for our participants to make it fun. We will use a combination of methods, sending people out with key questions about democracy and the democratic process and get the raw data online. We can offer prizes and use a variety of technologies including Blackberries and cell phones.
Our ‘Democracy Day’s’ main theme will democracy and everyone getting a voice. There is a lot of potential to get large amounts of raw data/quotes. We can have online stories that link to audio quotes. We want to reach out to community and bring the fringe groups in, and onto our website.
We are aware that we have to be careful not to cross the fine line between facilitation and participation. We can sponsor, advertise, promote and cover an event. Could work with citizen’s assembly; however we need to be careful not to depend on the CA. We want to plan things independently of CA, to facilitate our journalism. Although if Reyes performs out reach to service clubs (i.e. / rotary or legion) we could cover those events.
Eve and I have discussed our best plan to recruit people for help on this project. We believe our two main roadblocks are: a lack of knowledge about the project, and a fear of being drawn in to too much of a time commitment. We thought we could solve this by creating a one page flyer explaining the project and exactly how much of a commitment it is. This flyer will be created by Eve and I and after Rob’s approval, handed out to those people in print, radio and broadcast that have not already shown an interest.

First posted: October 30, 2006


We discussed readings to be done for this week. Three articles were sent to me at this meeting: ‘2006: Year of the blog,’ ‘Blogging in campaign situation,’ and ‘Effective blogs: Blogging down the money trail.’ Summaries for articles to be in Word documents and emailed to Rob as they are done. Also need to seek out websites about online journalism and other blogs for more background information.
Meeting at 10:30 Oct. 4/06, in E-Journalism lab, to meet citizen’s assembly representative for area, Mr. Reyes.
We also discussed strategy in recruiting people for our planned democracy events. We have sixteen people who have signed up to say they are interested, however we are getting very low turnout at our meetings. Rob emailed me the list of those already interested so as to not waste time. We are looking especially for those in the broadcast and radio fields of journalism as we have some from print already. We think the main deterrent for most is the perceived large time commitment. But what we really need is groups for 3-4 planned events over both semesters.
Our first recruiting technique will involve Eve and I going out and talking to people one-on-one, pitching the idea to them individually. We want to recruit quietly and stress that not much commitment is needed, only 3 or 4 events this year.


The Mac server – Zeus – is a problem. It hosts the Vote! site and has a tendancy to crash, a problem we are currently trying to troubleshoot. The server crashed at 5 p.m., two hours before we were to begin the mayoralty debate. Thankfully, there was one secretary in the information technology centre because all the support staff had gone home.
Together, with the help of Dean Geoff Cudmore, we found the server and manually rebooted it.
I have not reviewed the crash log, but my suspicion is the server crashed because we were using the iChat features, which have not bee used since last fall.
One notable techical comment is the use of the CJLX stream. Previously, we set up our own streaming configuration, a difficult task at the best of times. Having this stream meant we were guaranteed an excellent quality stream and far less hassel.

First posted: October 30, 2006


Loyalist College worked with TVO in its efforts to enhance the Democracy Renewal efforts of the Ontario government. This tag will be given to a series of notes from my fieldbook during the events.


What happens when there is no room for a public sphere to exist and citizens are left feeling disenfranchised, alienated and unempowered? A revolution. And, the signs are beginning to show.

The recent incident involving actor-comedian Michael Richard, also known as Kramer in the hit television series Seinfeld, was devastated after he used a series of racial slurs against hecklers at the laugh Factory on Nov. 17. A video of the incident appeared on the celebrity news website and on YouTube, a public video archive used by millions of people. This forced the actor to make an impromptu appearance on the David Letterman show almost immediately following the incident to apologize. This was also posted to public video archives on the Internet. Rather than resolve the problem, it fuelled further anger and debate.

There is little new about catching celebrities off guard and publicly humiliating them. It is the fuel driving countless tabloid publications worldwide.

But, there are a growing number of incidents where people are capturing video or pictures of other types of authority figures, that is people who are viewed as being “above the rest of us”, and placing them on public video archives like YouTube.

Take for example, Professor Carole Chauncey at Ryerson University, who reaches a senior information technology management class. A two-minutes video made available on YouTube. An exchange between the class and the instructor was captured via a cell phone and then posted. This sparked a reaction from the university’s academic council and by the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Then, there is the Quebec school ban on cellphone after a YouTube video appears. A Gatineau teachers went on stress leave and the school banned personal electronic devices in the class room after a video of him shouting at a student was posted on the YouTube website. Two 13-year old girls were suspended.

But that is not all. An impromptu back rub that President George W. Bush gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel also made its way to and countless blogs. It shows Bush surprising Merkel at the G-8 summit by quickly rubbing the back of her neck and shoulders. Merkel immediately hunches her shoulders, throws her arms up and grimaces, though she appears to smile as Bush walks away.

These are just a few examples. What is striking is the way ordinary people are using this technology to embarrass authority figures or those who are held up as important in our society. Like the aristocrats of France, the plebeians are using YouTube as a guillotine, publicly beheading them to gain a false sense of justice. In a very crude way, it is a form of accountability, but also an empowering tool that leaves those in authority scrambling to prevent further embarrassment.

And, it is effective. In all cases, it has garnered attention and created massive debate about the subject and issues at stake. But, at what cost? And, is it truly justice?

The public sphere is meant to be a place where, ideally, rational-critical discourse takes place. In Jurgen Habermas’ vision, we come together to discuss issues of concern and participate in democratic life as equals. It is egalitarian and inclusive.

While YouTube, MySpace, Second Life and other technology, like blogging software, can be viewed as liberating for millions as they express themselves, we are witnessing a significant event. The people who post these items see their actions as forms of social justice, no doubt. It is a way to bring down figures cloaked in the rhetoric of challenging authority or speaking “truth”. It is easy to argue how this type of actions fails on so many levels: unbalanced, lacking context, validity of video, integrity of process, etc. But, for many, it also provides some kind of satisfaction and demonstrable results. Richard’s career is in jeopardy, if not dead. The educators are damaged, as are the institutions where they work. Bush’s video is another tool to be used by critics to tear away at his credibility and the presidency.

If this method gains wide social acceptance, we could all be looking at a form of revolution no different than any massive upheaval between the elite and the citizenry. Through these uses of technology, an uprising could take place as a means of alleviating much of the frustration felt by people who feel they cannot get justice or be heard any other way. And, if the reaction to this is to squash it or ban it or legislate against it, then other forums will be found. This is the nature of the Internet culture.

It also creates a sense of urgency for institutions, governments and those seeking to hold positions of power in our society to re-evaluate the dynamics of their legitimacy. It may not be possible any longer to continue to ignore minority voice, step over social movements or turn their backs on anyone. To ignore phenomena like this is done at their peril because the consequence, whether it is just or not, is devastating. Maybe it is a time for more pragmatic politics. Issues need to be debated and resolved through inclusive measures, educating citizens and then garnering their input to build solutions.

First posted: November 25, 2006



Dan Gilmour, author of We Media, a seminal book in citizen journalism, makes the most honest confessions about his experiment in San Francisco. As a team of researchers, we should express great empathy for what he says and his experience. I also take solace in our work, since we often meet with the same result.

Our Vote experience, while brief, peaked at 1,177 visitors. We had 130 visitors Monday night and another 135 Tuesday during our election coverage. It dropped to 22 on Wednesday.

These are not astronomical numbers, but considering our regional audience and our hyper-local focus, they are respectable.

Too often, research is publicized only when it takes huge leaps forward. The public only seems to be aware of high-profile work because it marks a giant step. What is forgotten is all the work leading up to that step and all the smaller works that contribute to the “epiphany”.

I think Gilmour’s experience confirms our own. Citizens are not ready just yet to take advantage of all the tools available to them in interactive media. But, we cannot back down. The Globe and Mail had a piece today about a study that finds the Internet is making us MORE socialized, not less. This refutes an early theory that the web would make us isolated individuals behind our computer screens.

As long as we continue to search for ways to develop our technology, techniques and theories in an effort to better facilitate the goals of e-journalism, it is time well spent.


Rob w.

First posted: 1/26/06

To students in e-journalism program


Since starting my MA, Mark Deuze represented a keystone for my work. Particularly his definition of key tools: hyperlinking, multimediality and interactivity. I am now adding immediacy to this list. The ability to create timely news for instant consumption for audiences is critical.

First posted: 12/11/06


The Internet and other digital media play an important part in the contesting of power, not merely as emerging communication tools, but also in the manner in which it impacts the political, social, economic, and psychological aspects of citizens and society, according to Bennett. His optimism for the potential of these trends is mitigated by a level of uncertainty in forecasting future results of global activism and new media, but his analysis clearly outlines the historic and current trends clearly enough for the reader to appreciate the potential.

This article goes beyond previous ones by identifying a number of new technologies beyond the Internet, such as mobile phones, streaming technology, wireless networks and information-sharing software. This represents a more sophisticated approach to the technology and a greater understanding of the subtle differences between technologies as compared to other readings where technology is lumped into an amorphous gray mass. Bennett ability to clearly outline how networks control and use information to communicate is beyond other critiques. Having read The Politics of Illusion, where he roles out a more comprehensive, detailed analysis of the use of information network to critically examine the dynamics of modern politics, Bennett is able to apply these ideas specifically to the area of global activism in this article. He notes the ability of new technology to organize information for communication to disorganize and disparate groups effectively and efficiently. What is most interesting is how social movements are able to shift identities away from traditional boundaries to create new and dynamic partnership allowing more effective forms of protest or action. He provides several excellent examples, such as the coffee issue, to make his point. Through the compression of time and space, these relationships are very fluid where local, national and transnational organizations are able to form collective resistance. Also the formation of viral communities that are able to spread without any formal organization other than the momentum naturally created by the Internet’s ability to share information quickly, easily and efficiently. While this can be very productive, it can also be harmful, as was the case for the homosexual young man. Also new forms of protest are being created, like culture jamming, which unsettle opponents and provide new ways for activists to express themselves.

Bennett’s arguments are basically the same as other critics of global activism and new technologies. What makes his work unique is the comprehensive understanding of communication and media flows over networks. He is able to shed new light on topics previously dealt with because he understanding the nature of these networks and the postmodern reality of highly fragmented, fluid culture of activists in the 21st century. And, while some have highlighted the accomplishments of these activists, he provides a slightly deeper insight into both the successes and problems this formation creates. This is not a niave technological postivist expounding the virtues of technology, but rather someone who sees how technology can be used. To this end, he is not a technological determinist, seeing a broader picture where numerous factors play towards the success and failure of global activists.

First posted: 7/16/07