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Gord Downie, 53 → 

October 18 2017 |

“Fireworks exploding the distance

Temporary towers soar

Fireworks emulating heaven

Til there are no stars anymore.”

Damn.

The Best of the Tragically Hip Mixtape.

Filed under:




Precision in language (and identity)

October 5 2017 |

You’re writing a story about people living in Toronto. Do you refer to them as

a. Torontonians

b. Ontarians

c. Canadians

d. North Americans

Every answer is technically right. However, there are different levels of accuracy within each term.

If people in Toronto are voting for a new mayor you’d probably say “Torontonians are going to the polls” rather than “North Americans are going to the polls”, because it more precisely communicates the identity of the people you’re talking about.

I bring this up in the context of a column written by Melanie Lefebvre and Alicia Elliott for the Walrus titled ‘We Didn’t Choose to Be Called Indigenous.’1 It’s a meditation on the way in which Indigenous/Aboriginal/Native/Indian people have been given generic monikers over the years, rather than being referred to by their specific nation.

“The continual refusal of Canada to acknowledge our names for ourselves, insisting instead on “Indian,” or later “Aboriginal,” or now “Indigenous,” has ideological roots in the same idea. We name you. We grant you your identity—or not. You are ours to name as we choose. “

By the end, they suggest some steps Canadians can take to take part in reconciliation, including, “Learn the treaty history of the lands that you live on. Learn how to say the names of the Indigenous nations who traditionally cared for those lands—in their language.”

In my read, it’s an ask to learn and think about Indigenous people not as a generic, catch-all category but in more specific ways: Dakelh are not Haida are not Annishnawbe any more than Albertans are Manitobans are Newfoundlanders or Canadians and Mexicans are Americans despite being part of North America. There is a certain amount of shared experience, but there are also unique historic and cultural characteristics that make more precise terms helpful.

However, in a somewhat less charitable reading, former Walrus editor Jon Kay summarized the piece this way:

In his subsequent replies, Kay makes clear it’s his belief Elliott and Lefebvre are arguing the word “Indigenous” is no longer an OK to use and are embarking in language policing:

“Ive read a LOT of pieces like this over last year. Lots of focus on labels. This one seems like a rhetorical ante-raise over the others.”

“In six months, there will be another preferred label. I’ll wait for that one.”

“the smallness is the problem. college students & social-justice activists think they’re saving the world by policing language on FB threads”

The thing is, I don’t understand where Kay’s reading of this piece comes from (I’ve asked him, he’s yet to reply).

One reason I don’t think Lefebvre and Elliott are attempting to prevent anyone from using the term “Indigenous” is because they use it themselves, multiple times in the piece.

They also specifically acknowledge the impracticality of referring to specific nations at all times, writing, “We could not be “The Hopitu-Oceti-Sakowin-Kanien’kehá:ka-Powhatan-Chahta-Annishnawbe-Beothuk,” and acknowledge there is some use in catch-all terms such as “Indigenous” to acknowledge shared/similar experience across groups as a result of the last 200 years or so.

The suggestion, as I read it, is simply to strive for the most accurate terminology possible when referring to Indigenous people: “Indigenous” works when referring to people from different nations, but if you’re speaking about an individual, find out which nation they belong to– how they self-identify– and use that.

It’s precision in language and it’s something I personally think is worth striving for.

 


  1. Elliott has said she doesn’t feel the title accurately reflects the purpose of the piece

Filed under: writing




250News shutting down → 

September 15 2017 |

This is shame. 250News.com has been an important force in the world of media and politics in Prince George and beyond.
 
I remember when I had a short internship working in a government office there were some key websites political operatives monitored — the Vancouver Sun, The Victoria Times-Colonist, and 250News as a sole representative from the north. Over the past decade it’s probably the news site I’ve visited the most, and I’ve learned a lot as both a citizen and a journalist from reading it.
 
The dedication the Meisners showed to covering city hall is especially commendable, and the legacy is the number of of other organizations that now dedicate resources to council meetings and others– and one I hope carries on, because without 250 there everyone else is going to have to step up their game.
 
As Tyler Sabourin points out, they also were pioneers in digital news, from publishing news as it happens to fostering an online community of people engaged in local goings-ons.
 
Elaine Macdonald-Meisner apologizes to those who will miss the organization, but no apology is needed– she’s making the decision that’s best for her, and I’m glad of it.
 
Hats off to her, and to the late Ben Meisner, and to everyone who made a go of independent local news in the north.

Filed under: media, Prince George




I really like having a second Facebook profile for just work…

September 10 2017 |

…and I recommend it but also I’ve realized Facebook is kind of terrible.

Backstory:

Just over four months ago I decided to make a second Facebook profile to use on a professional level. You can read more about why here, but a quick summary is:

I also promised that I would follow-up with some thoughts and my first one is I cannot believe it took me this long to do it.

 

It is really nice to have work separated from home

The first thing I did after creating the professional profile was go to my personal profile and leave every group, unfollow every page and unfriend everyone that I was only connected with for work-related reasons.

And, oh man, is it great. There are a lot of ways you could solve the issues I was having like uninstalling Facebook from your phone or adjusting notifications or whatever but this worked for me. Also I feel WAAAAAAY better when I join a community group and start asking questions with the intention of using that information for reporting purposes — I still clarify it, but it just feels way more explicit now that my name is “Andrew Kurjata – Journalist” everywhere I post.

Also, the weekend comes and it is just like my work email — out of sight, out of mind. No more work related messages popping up while I’m supposed to be not working (for the most part, I am still working on work/life balance but this has definitely helped).

 

It also made it clear to me how awful some aspects of Facebook really are

The other thing that doing this has clarified for me is seeing just how bad Facebook is in some ways. For literally years I thought the reason I was constantly getting brand-related posts and missing updates from my sister was because the way I was using Facebook was wrong– all the pages and groups and stuff I liked was the reason my notifications and newsfeed felt so… stressful.

Turns out this isn’t true– Facebook is actually just kind of terrible.

After carefully culling my friends list and then making an even smaller group of family and close friends who I wanted to see turn up in my newsfeed, I *still* get a bunch of advertising and posts far disconnected from what I want, which is updates from friends and family.

Instead of notifications about random groups I now get them about so-and-so liking such-and-such a page and constant pestering to add new people to my friends list– people I’ve never met but they are a friend of a friend or whatever.

I had a vision that once I made my personal Facebook more ~personal~ that it would also feel more personal because it would just be nice notes and not a bunch of ads. If anything, the advertising is even *more* apparent now.

The result is I’m using Facebook on a personal level much less, because it has become very clear that the problems I have with it are not because I’m doing something wrong, but because Facebook is designed in a way that does not appeal to me.1

 

The downside

I should mention a couple of things that aren’t great. One is you can’t really be logged into messenger from two accounts at once except on separate devices. I often will get messages to my personal account during the day that are somewhat pertinent while I’m logged into my professional one. The solution, I guess, is to try and get people to chat with me elsewhere, but I’d also like it if less people were on Facebook, so.

Also some things I’m not super sure about where to post– like this write-up, for example. I’ll probably wind up putting it on both my accounts which sucks for people who are friends with both but idk whatcha gonna do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Also I fear that one day Facebook will find my account and tell me it is a *brand* and I will have to convert it to a page and I will feel stupid about it, but until then here we are.

Conclusion

I mean I dunno it’s just me but I love it and I suspect if you’ve *considered* making a separate Facebook account for reasons at all similar to why I have you will probably love it, too.


  1. The thing that’s especially frustrating about this is some things Facebook does are actually really great. Events, for one. Messaging is pretty good, although I would like a better way to search. And their ‘memories’ feature is beautiful and surfaces stuff I do like to see- human connections. Unfortunately the day-to-day just feels broken. 

Filed under: social media




Saskatoon Berry Appreciation Thread

September 10 2017 |

Note: I keep reminding myself that although Twitter and Facebook are great I should remember to put stuff on here. It’s a heck of a lot easier to go back through a blog and find some old post or idea you were playing with. Anyways, here’s one from Twitter, July 23.

Filed under: misc




bridget moran

August 20 2017 |

So there’s been some talk about statues recently and I took a look at the ones we have in Prince George. The first is of Terry Fox, because before he did his famous cross-country trek he ran in a marathon here.

The other is of Bridget Moran, a social worker and author whose Wikipedia entry includes the following:

“In 1964 the provincial government suspended her, along with four other social workers, for their public criticisms of child welfare services, including an open letter to Premier W.A.C. Bennett (Social Credit party).”

And one of her books is described thusly on Amazon:

“An engrossing look at the investigation into the hit-and-run death of Coreen Thomas, a young Native woman in her ninth month of pregnancy, at the wheels of a car driven by a young white man in central BC. The resulting inquest into what might have been just another small-town tragedy turned into an inquiry of racial tensions, both implicit and explicit, that surfaced not only on country backroads but in the courtroom as well, revealing a dual system of justice that treated whites and aboriginals differently. First published in 1990, Judgement at Stoney Creek has been hailed for its moving and deeply personal depiction of a controversial subject that continues to make news today?how the justice system has failed Canada’s aboriginal people.”

Prince George has its problems but I’m pretty cool with the fact our statue honours a woman fired for standing up for children’s rights and then in retirement worked to expose racism in the justice system and society at large.

Filed under: Prince George




Downtown Prince George needs a viewing platform → 

August 9 2017 |

Last year I was interviewed by a really cool project called The Tale of A Town which consists of a small group of people dropping into a Canadian community, talking to a ton of people and then putting together a story about that community through a short-run interactive show (which I really wish could be replicated on a permanent basis) and a series of short audio clips on their website.

My clip has gone live, and they chose me talking about something I still feel is true: downtown Prince George needs a publicy-accessible building that gives people fifth-storey-or-higher views of the city, something that I realized when I visited someone’s office on the fifth floor of the Royal Bank building. As I said:

“You look out and you see this beautiful view of the Nechako River and the cutbanks, you see the downtown, you see the Crescents, you see how the city fits together… and that’s the first time in my life that I ever saw that view from downtown Prince George.

“And the thing that I realized is unless you are staying in one of these hotels, or happen to work beyond the second floor in one of these buildings, that is a view of the city you don’t have access to. So the vast majority of the people who live in Prince George don’t have this perspective.”

In just about any major city you visit, taking a trip up some sort of tower or another is on the list of quintessential tourist experiences. It gives us perspective on where we are and lets us see the character of the place in a way that you can’t quite capture on the ground.

I really do believe it would help alter people’s views on Prince George.

Filed under: Prince George




Canada

July 1 2017 |

This is the Canada I grew up in:

Across the street from my house there was a forest that I could (although wasn’t supposed to) walk through to get to my school, where I had kind teachers who looked out for my well being.

I had friends of different backgrounds and origins and we bonded over shared interests and video games.

I was taught police were a source of safety and in my few personal interactions with them, have never had reason to believe otherwise.

I was taught everyone is equal and deserves to be treated with respect.

I was loved.

* * *

Over the past decade or so, I’ve learned that my Canada is not everyone’s Canada.

Or worse, that my Canada is at the expense of other people’s Canada.

That the park where I go to celebrate Canada Day was home to the Lheidli T’enneh, whose homes were burned to make way for the railway that led to the creation of the city I call home, the city where I’ve been able to lead such a blessed life. A city where, looking back, my diverse group of friends didn’t include a single Indigenous person despite having a higher-than-average proportion living here.

A city where it wasn’t until university that I learned anything more than a cursory knowledge of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people and until after that that I learned the original name of the land I grew up on.

* * *

I feel no guilt for this, but I don’t take pride in it, either. If I don’t deserve blame for residential schools or forced relocations why should I take credit for Suez or the 1972 Summit Series? I had nothing to do with any of it.

What I do have are my values and the ability to choose how I move forward with the knowledge I gain from my every day on earth. I am grateful I was born here, but I’ve come to realize that the mere act of being born here does not afford you all the blessings I’ve been given.

A great many other factors beyond my nationality have shaped who I am and what I’ve been given. And some of the factors that produce good outcomes for me create bad outcomes for others no less deserving.

“Canada” is not some magical entity that is automatically virtuous and good; indeed, there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. Like any country, the extent to which Canada deserves praise rests at the feet of individuals who fought and struggled for something better than what was already in existence, often with the consequence of being accused of being ungrateful for what they already have.

* * *

The other day I had a group of elementary school kids visit my workplace. On my wall I have a poster with the image of the park I go to celebrate Canada Day and the words “Lheidli T’enneh” on it. The kids recognized the words and what they meant– something I had no knowledge of when I was their age.

That knowledge was achieved by people asking for the original name to be restored, asking the rest of us to confront some truths about this city’s past. For their efforts, they endured racism, accusations of asking for handouts, accusations of being stuck in the past, accusations of not being grateful for what they have.

It wasn’t comfortable.

Now these kids are growing up in a different version of Canada than I did. Unfortunately, we already know their version is not universal, either. Across the country there are still stark gaps in the way the Canadian story plays out depending on where you’re born and who you’re born to.

 

* * *

I wish the Canada I grew up in were the same Canada everyone grew up in. It’s tough to imagine a better life and I am extremely grateful to have it. But I won’t mistake my good fortune for the good fortune of everyone. I won’t let my own personal happiness cause me to demand everyone else shut up and be happy, too.

If you believe something is perfect or even good enough, you have no incentive to make it better. Being dissatisfied with the status quo is a necessary component for improvement.

The challenge is whether we can live up to the ideals we set ourselves up for. The real challenge is whether we have the strength to admit when we aren’t, and are ready to take the steps to change that even- or especially- when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

* * *

Today, I plan to canoe down a river to the park where we go to celebrate Canada Day. I’m going to eat some food prepared by the multiculturalism society and get some bannock and then watch a band that combines bhangra, hip-hop and Celtic music. I’m going to be grateful for the Canada I have, and to the people who struggle to make some version of my childhood and my life something accessible to everyone. I’ll reflect on what part I play in that struggle, as a help or hindrance, on my values and whether I live up to them, and what I can do better – even if it’s uncomfortable.

* * *

I know this isn’t especially revolutionary or original thinking but it’s where I’m at in my understanding of the country. As I’ve gotten older I’ve treated birthdays as times for reflection as much as for celebration and I feel Canada Day can be the same. Canada doesn’t have feelings. Canada doesn’t care if you celebrate it or not. Canada is another trick of the human imagination, conceived of and sustained by stories- “this is who we are, this is what we stand for.” It’s about a community of people coming together and saying they belong to something bigger. So let’s think about how we can live together better.

Have a good day.

Filed under: Best Of, Canada




The urban/rural divide and a more inclusive Canada → 

June 11 2017 |

I think about the urban-rural divide in Canada a lot. I think there are big implications to the fact that, as pointed out in the Globe and Mail:

“There are more people in Greater Vancouver than in the rest of British Columbia. Half of Quebec’s population lives in Greater Montreal; more than half of Albertans live in Edmonton or Calgary. The Greater Toronto Area has as many people as the three Prairies provinces combined.”

For all the talk of Canada as a northern country it is actually a country primarily of people in large cities, the rest of us are outliers. And we are declining. From Sean Speer and Jamil Jivani in Policy Options:

Their piece also points out that this divide is actually more pointed than the United States, whose population is more evenly distributed and whose recent electoral politics have very much centred around urban-rural divides.

The real question, I suspect, is whether or not Canadians outside urban areas wind up feeling resentful of cities in a way that translates to the way they vote– and if that even matters, given the electoral clout urban areas have over the rest of the country.

Filed under: Canada, cities




Why aren’t scientists verified on Twitter?

June 10 2017 |

A few weeks ago, I noticed a hashtag floating across my Twitter feed: #BillMeetScienceTwitter. Here’s what it looked like:

Hi @BillNye I'm Sarah and I studied the ecology of the tick-borne Lyme disease emergence in Canada. :) #BillMeetScienceTwitter

— Sarah Leo, PhD 🦋🍁 (@sstleo_87) May 19, 2017

Hi @BillNye I watched u as a kid & now I'm getting a PhD studying crows. Specifically how/why they respond to 💀crows #BillMeetScienceTwitter pic.twitter.com/7uSOeXYK32

— Kaeli Swift (@corvidresearch) May 19, 2017

Hi @BillNye , I'm Carl, and I study how binary black holes form and create gravitational waves in star clusters #BillMeetScienceTwitter pic.twitter.com/rY40a9UKhL

— Carl Rodriguez (@aCarlRodriguez) May 19, 2017

Hi @BillNye! I'm Robyn, a historic archaeologist in NFLD! Using stats & arch, I'm looking for lost 1600s graves #BillMeetScienceTwitter pic.twitter.com/YdK3us4BsK

— Robyn S Lacy (@robyn_la) May 19, 2017

Super cool, right!?

I followed about a dozen people doing research I thought looked interesting and it has been great seeing their work in changing how we understand the world pop up in my feed alongside the latest political news and hot takes.

I also noticed something almost all of these accounts have in common: none are verified.

It's interesting that people like me get blue checkmarks but working scientists and researchers do not#BIllMeetScienceTwitter

— Andrew Kurjata 📻 (@akurjata) May 20, 2017

If you don’t live on Twitter you may not know what I mean. If you look at my profile, you’ll see a blue checkmark beside my name. This is something Twitter gives certain users to verify they are real.

Here’s what Twitter has to say about who gets verified:

“The blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.”

“An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest. Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.”

Notice who isn’t on there?

Scientists and, more broadly, academics.

I find this curious. Surely if fashion, acting, music and l’il ol’ me are considered “an account of public interest” people researching climate change and the nature of time and space are, as well?

Twitter backs away from the idea that “authenticity” = “authority” but it definitely drives audience. In the weeks after I received my checkmark, I received dozens of new followers. And I do think it’s fair to say that checkmark does signal some level of “this is an account worth following.”

I think it’s a message about Twitter’s priorities- and ours as a society, more generally- that someone who got famous off of trafficking in conspiracy theories gets a blue checkmark while people who specialize in constitutional law or Arctic ice shelf research do not.

I’m verified because I was on a batch-list of people working for an established media organization. Surely Twitter could offer the same to academic institutions or peer-reviewed journals?

Twitter: meet science twitter.

Filed under: social media




Dear fellow journalists, please stop sharing that ‘scientific study’ about us having low-functioning brains and drinking too much

May 22 2017 |

Over the last few days, I have seen a lot of journalists sharing stories reporting on a study purporting to have found that journalist’s drink too much, are bad at managing emotions, and have lower-than-average brain function:

Mostly it’s self-deprecating, with people adding little comments like “explains a lot” or “I didn’t know they were studying me!” But just because it rings true and makes you laugh, doesn’t mean it should be reported on as science. And that’s exactly what’s happening when a bunch of journalists with blue checkmarks start sharing the study uncritically and adding words like “science” and “can’t argue with facts!”

The study is published on a personal website

So let’s take a look at where this study came from. Is it a peer-reviewed journal? A well-respected academic institution?

No, it’s a joint release from the London Press Club and “Tara Stewart: Neuroscience. Leadership.” The actual study is in on her personal website.

It is based on a tiny sample size, virtually no control group and old wive’s tales

When you get into the study, you find it was originally going to be on 90 members of the press club. But:

“Ultimately, failure to complete all the elements in the required time limit meant that a total of 21 participants completed every element, and a further 10 completed some elements of the study.”

I’m no neuroscientist, but 21 self-selected individuals does not seem like a great sample size to be drawing wide-ranging conclusion on journalists around the world who have different work environments, cultural norms and backgrounds that can also affect your resiliency, sleeping patterns and “CEO part of the brain” (a phrase that comes up in this study a few times).

A little further on, we learn journalists are dehydrated because in this self-reporting study, most didn’t drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Never mind that there have been numerous scientific studies indicating that benchmark is an old wive’s tale.

As for the control group placing journalists “below average”? Turns out it’s bankers, telecom groups and sales teams that the author has run as part of the paid services she offers to corporate groups hoping to “to achieve a competitive edge by understanding and improving the physical condition of their brains.”.

There is no indication of the study’s weaknesses- standard for actual science publications

I looked for the section indicating the weaknesses in the methodology, areas for further review and comments about how we shouldn’t take this as gospel– standard fare for any actual scientific piece. There was none. No warnings, no cautions, just a nicely packaged piece ready for distribution to media.

What’s being sold?

A standard question I’ve been taught to ask whenever presented with a study, survey or research is who stands to gain from this? So let’s ask a few questions about this one.

The study came from the personal website of it’s author. What’s on offer there?

And what does the press release about the study say about her?

If I were to be cynical, I’d point out that by putting out a study on the minds of journalists, Swart has managed to get her name in numerous media organizations with a story that is being shared onto the personal Facebook and Twitter pages of countless journalists around the world.

Why does this matter?

Again, haha, I get it, we drink too much coffee and alcohol and are stressed out! And now science proves it!

Except it doesn’t.

Journalism is the primary way most scientific information gets disseminated to the general population, be it through quick news articles recounting study highlights or more in-depth areas like Popular Science or Quirks and Quarks.

Even when it’s for something ~fun~ and ~silly~ we should turn on our skeptical minds and try to educate both ourselves and the general public about how to tell the difference between good and bad science and studies, their shortcomings, and ways to properly evaluate information. That includes asking questions about where information is coming from, whether it was peer-reviewed, sample size and whether something is being sold.

As journalists, we need to avoid confirmation bias- even if it’s about ourselves.

 

Filed under: journalism




representation and free labour

May 19 2017 |

For a while now, but especially over this past week, I’ve been thinking about the free labour I and others in the media ask of people in what can broadly but inelegantly be defined as “diverse communities”: Indigenous, LGBTQ+, Muslim — basically members of traditionally underrepresented and/or marginalized populations.

Here’s what happens: something affecting or involving that community occurs and journalists across the country start flipping through our memory banks of smart people with an informed perspective to talk about it. Often this isn’t to promote a passion project. This is to defend their own humanity.

In arenas of politics or business or the arts there are often people who are paid to think about these things and occasionally talk to media on behalf of articulating their perspectives.

Broadly speaking, that’s not the case when it comes to groups like those I mentioned above, and that’s the result of a whole host of systemic issues that stretches beyond just the media, but definitely includes the media. And so the people who are representing those groups in the media might pop up again and again, but still have to have another job to actually put food on the table.

When I or anyone else reaches out to them to talk, we’re asking for free time and free labour. This is, of course, what I do for anyone I want to interview, but when it’s someone that gets turned to again and again and again simply because they are willing to speak on behalf of who they are — as opposed to the company they represent or the political party they are trying to get elected — it feels like more of an imposition.

Of course, the tradeoff is if we *don’t* call, those sorts of voices don’t get heard when they should because, factually speaking, they are underrepresented in traditional positions of power and visibility.

So there’s some thoughts I’m having. If you are a person in media or one who is frequently contacted by media, I’d be interested in hearing yours.

Filed under: journalism, personal




‘For those who don’t know…’

May 1 2017 |

In some writing spaces, there’s an actual physical list of clichéd words and terms on a wall- phrases that have been overused to the point of being meaningless. It’s a good practice to remove crutches and help sharpen writing.

One of my personal crutches that I’ve been thinking about lately, which is “for those who don’t know.” I use it when we have an expert guest on and I want the host to prompt them to give a basic explainer on the topic at hand. For example:

“For those who don’t know, what is the first-past-the-post voting system?”

“For those who don’t know, why does the U.S. think Canada is unfairly subsidizing softwood lumber?”

“For those who don’t know, what is geoengineering?”

It’s a way of making the topic accessible while demonstrating that we, the journalists, already know all this stuff. This is for the benefit of the listener, not us.

I’m wondering if that’s necessary. If a host were to start a conversation with “What is first-past-the-post voting?” would listeners at home throw their hands in the air in frustration at their ignorance?

Or would it be pretty clear that this is being done for the benefit of establishing the basics before moving on to the more nuanced portions of the conversation?

Interested in your thoughts.

Filed under: radio, writing




The second Facebook profile experiment

April 29 2017 |

TL;DR: I’ve made a new Facebook profile designed from the ground-up to be an effective tool for me to use as a journalist. 

There are two reasons you might want to connect with it:

  1. You use your own Facebook to do things you would like I, as a journalist, to know about (ie you are a community organizer, business owner, musician, politician in northern British Columbia). 
  2. You use Facebook to follow news and get information about Prince George/northern British Columbia.

My current Facebook is useless, personally or professionally

I’ve had an ambivalent relationship to Facebook for a long time now but over the past six months or so it really feels like things have come to a head.

The problem is this: I joined the network back when you need an @university email address to do so, and there were no such things as groups, pages and all the other bells and whistles that currently exist there. The friends you connected with were actual friends and the entire social graph was pretty much limited to people roughly the same demographic as me.

Since then, of course, it’s grown up to be the most dominant media company int he world and I have moved through several jobs to my current iteration as a journalist.

As a journalist, Facebook is a great tool. I can join community and interest groups pertaining to my beat, follow pages and politicians and use it to connect with strangers who have interesting ideas and information.

As a personal network, Facebook is also a great tool. I can see pictures of new family members, keep up with old friends and organize activities.

Trying to use Facebook as a personal and professional network is completely useless.

This became obvious to me on a recent vacation. I turned off my work email, put an “out of office” message on my phone and then… tried to figure out what to do with Facebook.

I still wanted the personal part of the app. I wanted to post some photos. I also still wanted to see what was going on in the life of my family member’s. But for a little while, at least, I didn’t really want to keep up with all the community boards and groups that I was following for work. There was no clean break.

I’ve tried various ‘notification’ settings to adjust what I see in my newsfeed, but it just doesn’t work. The problem is, I need at least two distinct newsfeeds: one for work hours, and one for personal. I don’t want to never see posts from community groups, I just don’t want to see them when I’m not working. I’ve tried lists, and they don’t work that well, either, especially since you can’t put groups in them.

Similarly, people connect with me for at least two distinct reasons. Some are because we have a shared past or we currently see each other socially. Others are because we’ve connected on a professional level- me using them as a source, or them following my reporting on a story they’re interested in. Those groups are not necessarily interested in seeing the same sort of posts and as a result I don’t really want to post anything.

Further, I’m increasingly using Facebook as a way to reach out to contacts I want to speak to professionally. I always identify myself as a journalist in those instances, but sometimes it still feels a bit weird, like using an @hotmail address to reach out for an interview request. I think I’d feel better making these approaches using an account that is clearly demarcated as a professional, journalistic account. Incidentally, this is also why I’m not just making a “Andrew Kurjata: journalist” page- I want to be able to chat with people from the account, and that is not a current feature pages have (unless someone messages them, first).

So that’s why I’m starting a new Facebook profile, one designed from the ground-up to work as a professional, public networking tool. I’ll still post some personalish stuff there- like photos from around town and that sort of thing. I imagine it will be something like my Twitter account, although slightly less frequent.

Meanwhile, I’m going to try paring down my initial account, starting by leaving groups and unfollowing pages. I don’t have any real plans for how I will use it because I think step one is seeing what it looks like once I’ve turned it back into a personal network.

As for the new account, feel free to friend or follow, I do plan on keeping it pretty open to see how it works operating fully publicly although I will continue to enforce my rules for commenting. However, you are under no obligation to connect with me here, or anywhere- no hard feelings, at all, I am doing this because I don’t want people to see things they aren’t interested in.

 

Filed under: journalism, social media | Discussion





“I’m a citizen of a place that was laid right on top of another.” → 

March 26 2017 |

I first read this piece by Denise Balkisoon on what it means to be Canadian when it came out over a month ago, and I’ve come back to it multiple times.

There are many, many great parts of this, starting with a rumination on how countries are places, not just ideas:

“The closest I got to considering the physicality of countries was thinking about borders, which are ideas about how imaginary lines should be imposed onto a real space, followed by vigorous attempts to police them. It’s weird that invisible borders breed cultures, but they do, and one thing that I’ve always known is that Canada is not the only way a country can be.”

And this, on ‘Canada the good’:

“My Canada has always been a place where the idea of white Anglophone superiority is driven home with consistent ferocity. Though I have a Canadian passport accepted around the world, that doesn’t mean I am accepted as Canadian. I used to internalize that rejection, fuelling my travel with a desperate longing for a new home. That phase is over now. I know that I belong to this place, and I’ve become used to asserting that.

“Between my global views and my local wounds, I consider my citizenship a lucky penny with a tarnished side. Canada was, without a doubt, a good place to be born. I have had a safe and comfortable life here. But I refuse to be endlessly grateful to anyone other than my parents. The comfort I live in is no more than I deserve, since housing, health care and education are basic human rights, and hardly guaranteed to every person born in this country.”

And on the division between ‘mainstream’ Canada and the lived experience of many Indigenous people:

“A bit out from the road, in the middle of some tall grass, I noticed a sign featuring what I saw as “Indigenous art” and advertising a helpline for native women coping with violence. I had driven by at least five times before, but this was the first time I registered that sign. And I felt, physically, the intense individuality of my lived experience of space, and how the same small bit of Earth could be utterly different for different people. In the language of The City and The City, I had experienced a breach. And, as in Besźel and UI Qoma, unseeing is almost impossible. It’s not an idea, but a truth: I’m a citizen of a place that was laid right on top of another.”

Highly recommended.

Filed under: Canada




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