Making news unfake

David Carr, photo Chester Higgins Jr., New York Times website.

When 911 happened, he was working at a magazine in New York. He called it a party magazine. Not particularly substantial. And he was a recognized media critic covering the arts. Suddenly, one morning in September, long-time newspaper reporter David Carr got a call from his editor just after 9 o’clock. The editor told him what had just happened at the World Trade Center and he was assigned to the story.

“Some of the staff are going uptown, some downtown,” the editor told him. “Carr, you go cover the firemen.”

Trump’s ban, Canada’s boon

Refugees from the Baltic at Pier 21 immigration hall in 1848. Photo Halifax Chronicle Herald.

A number of weeks ago, neighbours and friends gathered in the basement of the United Church in my town. The church auxiliary served sandwiches, cakes, cookies, coffee and tea. A Syrian family had finally arrived in this community and the gathering at the church allowed townspeople to greet and meet them. They kept thanking the town for its generosity and initiatives to help. One thing the couple said that first day we met has stuck with me.

“Thank you for this welcome,” they said.

All the news that’s fit to fake

Very much alive, but nobody bothered to check. Courtesy

As I recall, it was an afternoon in February a few years ago. One of my journalism students came to me with a cell phone in his hands – you know the pose, with head bowed, eyes mesmerized, phone illuminating his face – and a look of incredulity. He looked up at me and announced the news.

“It says here Gordon Lightfoot is dead,” he said.

“What?” I said, then added with a tone of say it ain’t so in my voice “No.” Then, I asked him where he was reading such news.

Getting the message through

This week, we have witnessed two sides of the coming Donald Trump administration and its method of information distribution.

On Monday, the president-elect invited former opponents, friends seeking roles in his transition team and even TV executives to his New York White House, the Trump Tower in Manhattan. Nobody was allowed to report on the meetings. Everything, by agreement with Trump, was off the record.

The next day, Tuesday, the president-elect travelled across town to the offices of the New York Times, tweeting, “I have great respect for the New York Times. I have tremendous respect…”

Keys to a problem

Upright pianos, such as this one, often get relegated to back walls, basements or worse...
Upright pianos, such as this one, often get relegated to back walls, basements or worse…

First, we got some experts to separate into manageable pieces. Next, we sought advice about how to move its heaviest parts. Then, I rented a cube van to move all the pieces. But we left the toughest challenge to the last – how we were going to move its huge sounding board down a set of stairs, across a floor, onto the front porch of our rental apartment and into the back of the cube van.

We actually found a set of heavy ropes and pillows to try to ease the heart of our upright piano – its the massive interior sounding board – down the stairs gently. Problem was, none of us could keep the hundreds of pounds of Baldwin piano sounding board from rumbling down the stairs. And when it got away on us, it slid down the stairs out of control, until it hit the wall at the base of the staircase with a thundering crash.

“Baaaannnng!” rattled the sounding board. And it resonated in that wall for a good minute after the collision.

Of guns and goodness

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a line of American travellers moving through an airport security area. We were all rushing to get to a flight bound for New York City. We had all removed our coats, belts and shoes, and were waiting to be cleared to the gate. That’s when a fellow passenger struck up a conversation with me.

“Going home?” a guy asked.

“No,” I said. “Home’s in Canada.”

“Kind of the same,” he smiled. “Except you Canadians all say, ‘aboot.’”

I buttoned my lip, preferring to leave well enough alone. Fortunately, I didn’t end up sitting next to him on the plane, so I didn’t have to endure any more of his mistaken perceptions about the similarities between Americans and Canadians.

Shoe leather and storytelling

CBC News reporter Terry Milewski
CBC News reporter Terry Milewski

The first he knew of the story, came from a phone call early one Sunday morning in 1985. His producers at CBC told him to get on a passenger jet bound for Shannon Airport in Ireland and then to travel south along the Irish coast to where families from India were assembling.

Actually, they were scrambling to the coastline where they hoped they might find their relatives from Canada. CBC reporter Terry Milewski had been assigned to find these families and report on them.

“It was just a bizarre and horrifying situation,” Milewski wrote. “Most of the bodies (of their loved-ones) were never found. Most of the bodies went to the bottom of the sea still strapped in their seats.”

Ever the Old World

There used to be a story shared among some of my Greek family members. They were recalling a time 50 years ago, when the Greek Army generals ruled the country. The story goes that a Greek civilian stood on a sidewalk and asked the man standing next to him if he was in the military. The man shook his head.

“Do you have family in the military?” the Greek civilian asked.

“No,” the stranger answered.

“What about friends or acquaintances? Any of them in the military?”


“Well then, would mind getting off my foot?” entreats the first man.

No honour in silence

When I attended public school in the village of Agincourt (now part of Scarborough) because it was nearly a rural school the playground was sizable. Still, during recess, the boys in my class had to find the tallest maple tree – just off school grounds – to climb. The principal realized if one of us were hurt, he’d be liable. So he declared the tree “off limits.” That didn’t stop us. One day, we were blithely enjoying the tree, when out strode Principal Kilpatrick in a rage. Everybody ran for cover… except me.

“Were you playing in that tree?” Kilpatrick asked me directly.

“Yes,” I said, because I couldn’t hide the fact.

Not online, but on the line

In the 1933 version of the classic film, King Kong was played by Carmen Nigro, an actor hired specially for his skill mimicking apes.
I tracked down the actor who played King Kong in the 1933 classic film, with the help of a directory assistance operator in Chicago.

I opened my email on Sunday morning. I was greeted by the usual prompt for my “username.” I keyed that in. Then I got the prompt for the “password.” I entered that. But then something odd happened. The Hotmail account I’ve used for at least six or seven years, disallowed my entry.

“You’re account has been blocked,” was all it said.