Saturday, February 25, 2012

social media meets surgery

I read this story today and found it truly fascinating.

The story is about how a doctor in Houston performed open heart surgery while his colleague tweeted updates throughout the entire procedure.

The doctor had a camera attached to his head and snapped pictures while he operated, and his colleague stood beside him and answered questions posted by @houstonhospital’s followers and used a #surgery hashtag. Quite amazing.

It’s common knowledge that social media is huge for promotion, but I’ve never thought about its educational purposes before reading this story. Just one other opportunity that social media gives us. Using social media as a tool (to show a successful surgery, I might add) is also great PR in action for the hospital.

It’s interesting how you don’t have to want to be a doctor to be interested in surgery, but it’s cool to know that your curiosity and questions about how any surgery goes can be answered with a simple tweet.

I linked the story above, please have a read!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

clearing the air

I've had a few people talk to me in person about my last blog post. In my last post, I was discussing which major I would be taking for school next year. It was a tight race between public relations and journalism. I chose public relations.

I had said that I felt the way in which journalism was being done is dying (i.e. no one is waiting until 6 o'clock to hear the news or weather anymore- we can look this up on the internet and our phones within two seconds if we want an answer).

Now, let me be clear on what I think: Journalism is NOT dead. There will always be a need to tell and hear stories, and absolutely always a need for news. I respect journalists and the journalism field completely. But, I'm not sure the way in which stories are told (lead, quote, summary, quote, summary, quote, etc.) is going to be around for much longer either. There is so much news happening in the day that when we hear/see/read a story we want the gist of it and we want it fast.

Just wanted to clear the air regarding how I feel about journalism. It was very hard for me to acknowledge that I wouldn't be majoring in it next year because I love it so.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Switching to the "Dark Side"

When I first applied to Creative Communications (the college program I'm studying), it was because I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. No questions asked, this is what I want to do and what I've wanted to do for the last 5 years of my life. Now, I'm not so sure anymore.

I still respect journalists and professional journalism itself and had I gone to a school and studied journalism only, I'd probably be very content with the idea of being a broadcast journalist for the rest of my life. But now my eyes have seen the worlds of public relations, advertising and media production. I've learned how to design, write and produce ads, prepare an event and even shoot footage using a professional-standard ENG camera. It's a lot to take in and I sound like a child when I say "it's not fair" when I have to choose which path I want to take.

First semester of school flew by. And when I think back to it, I'm reminded of all the fun things I've gotten to do, opportunities I probably never would have tried to get involved in had it not been a requirement to attend. I've gotten to interview politicians for Manitoba's provincial election (the first election that I have ever paid attention too), listen to a meeting at City Hall, go to a Bombers football game, go see Romeo and Juliet at MTC (a play I've always loved) and be given the chance, and the reason, to interview Hollywood cast and crew. In short, when I think of all the fun I had first was in journalism.

Sure, I grumbled a bit at the beginning all of these assignments - I'd get nervous and then stressed out as I anticipated the interviewing process of approaching a stranger, convincing them to care that what I'm writing is important and that they're an important subject whether they think it or not. I was almost always nerve-wracked to begin with, but ended up loving the whole experience after: the rush of finding someone to talk to, actually asking them questions and being surprised by some answers, to submitting my story before a short deadline. 

Aside from discovering that I really do love journalism, I have to acknowledge that it's a dying profession. Newspapers are on their way out and their websites won't last much longer. It's something we keep hearing over and over and we know social media and the public's attention span are to blame. Consider this: when we want to know the weather, we're not going to wait for the evening news to tell us; we're going to look it up on our "weather eye" iPhone app and by the time the evening news hits us with the story of the day, we've already read it on the Winnipeg Free Press Twitter feed. Admit it, you do this.

I still believe that everyone has a story to tell and that those stories are important for people to hear. Some people think it's inhumane to ask "how do you feel?" to a mother who's child has just been killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. But if that mother's words of anguish can convince just one person listening to the news on TV that night to not drink and drive anymore, asking that question and broadcasting it is worth it. A journalist has used their skills to help communicate an important message to anyone listening.

I love talking to and meeting new people. I always have. I love public speaking, but I assure you it's not because I love the sound of my own voice. I've enjoyed presenting - and have been good at it - for as long as I can remember. I love communicating messages to people and spreading good by informing a crowd. This is how I think public relations relates to journalism: you're still telling a story about your cause, just in a different way. And just because it's not on the 6 o'clock news doesn't make it any less important (the bonus is the 6 o'clock news might just cover it anyway).

We want information too fast - and it's all at our fingertips now. Waiting until 6 o'clock or for tomorrow's newspaper just doesn't cut it anymore. Neither does the traditional frame of a story - lead, quote, summary, quote, summary, quote, etc. People want information faster and want the jist of it quickly. Don't get confused, they still want the story, just in a different way.

I admit it's been hard for me to acknowledge this, I've always loved writing and I always will, and when it's for a meaningful story - the better. 

I'm fairly sure I'll be going a different route - to the "dark side" as journalists sometimes call it - and doing public relations for a living. Despite what people actually believe, public relations practitioners follow a code of ethics where "spinning" the truth (i.e. not lying) is frowned upon. I argue that even though print and broadcast journalists tell both sides to a story and approach it objectively, they act as gatekeepers in that they tell the story through a newspaper or through my television screen and it's a one-way flow of communication. We can't ask questions after a newscast and only get the answers they give us.

Public relations is meant to be a two-way flow of communication where the public is allowed to question an organization's choices or actions. We're meant to interact with our "publics" because not everyone is the same and not everyone interprets things in the same way. Public relations is a profession where I'll be able to talk to and respond to publics while being productive and compassionate at the same time. And that's exactly what I intend to do.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A night with the cast and crew

Thank you for your patience! As promised, here is the story I wrote after my interview with the cast and crew of The Divide at the Hotel Fort Garry. I'm pretty sure the movie is still playing at The Globe so I seriously recommend you go see it!


The cast and crew of The Divide are exchanging big hugs and loud greetings in the foyer of the Hotel Fort Garry. It’s been months since they’ve seen each other. They sit down at a secluded table near the back of the dimly lit restaurant to enjoy a late dinner. Wine glasses clinking in celebration accompany their laughter and jokes.

A waiter keeps interrupting to take meal orders, but the group is eager to talk each another and politely asks for 10 more minutes. There’s a feeling of anticipation among the people at this table. The Divide, the movie they’ve spent the past two years working on, is premiering in Winnipeg at Silver City Polo Park in less than 24 hours.

Sitting at the table are two executive producers, three producers, one writer and one actor. Some are experiencing Winnipeg’s deep freeze for the first time but for others, it’s just like home. Michael Eklund, one of the main actors of The Divide, doesn’t mind being back in Winnipeg.

“I like it. I come from Saskatoon so Winnipeg reminds me a lot of where I grew up. I feel really comfortable here,” says Eklund.

Eklund is sitting beside the movie’s writer, Eron Sheean. Darryn Welch, a producer of the movie, sits across from them. The Divide was the first movie they’ve all worked together on. After a nuclear attack on New York City happens in the movie, eight people are forced to live together in the basement of their apartment building. Food rationing, dwindling supplies and panic wear on their minds and set the foundation for director Xavier Gens’ psychological thriller, making the people who died in the blast the lucky ones.

Eklund says filming in Winnipeg has its advantages over other popular movie-making Canadian cities like Vancouver and Toronto because it can easily substitute for other cities and there’s less movie-making going on. He says crews here are just as good, if not better.

“There’s an overall excitement in Winnipeg. When a project comes here, I think everybody is really keen, excited and passionate to work. There’s a passion level in Winnipeg that may be lacking in Vancouver and Toronto” he says.

The Divide was shot entirely in Winnipeg in the basement of the Millenium Centre. Because the movie took place in one location, it was shot in chronological order. Eklund explains how not having to jump from city to city made it easier for the actors to stay in the right mind frame for their characters.

“The movie is eight people thrown in one room together and that’s basically what it was in real life: eight actors thrown into one room and having to deal with each other,” says Eklund.

Filming only in the basement also gave the actors freedom to improvise. Sheean explains how the blueprint of his script was fairly solid before shooting, but shooting in chronological order gave the actors freedom to develop their characters and dialogue more.

“Instead of the script being a bible, it became more like cave drawings,” says Sheean.

It took 48 days to shoot The Divide. The overwhelming amount of collaboration between the cast and crew has made the movie “harmonic” in Sheean’s opinion. Eklund and Sheean became close friends after working together on the movie and are already working on their next one, Errors of the Human Body.

“The Divide, for me, is beyond happy. I’m so proud of this movie from beginning to end. It’s surpassed all my expectations,” says Eklund.

The table is a buzz of chatter now, glasses have been refilled and the waiter has interrupted to take meal orders twice. When asked if he’s sitting through the entire movie at the premiere tomorrow night, Eklund looks around the table and gives an excited answer.

“I’ve had the most amazing time with these people who’ve now become my friends. The Divide’s been the best experience I’ve had as an actor in 14 years. I’ve seen the movie probably eight times, but I’ll sit through it every time with these guys. Every time” he says.