Friday, November 11, 2005

Watch this: Sat Nov. 12 RDI

I have just watched a haunting report on Radio-Canada on post-war reactions from veterans from the newer wars - Gulf, Iraq, Kosovo, Rwanda.

They are the perfect example that Remembrance day will not die out with aging WWII and Korean veterans.

They have been deeply scarred and they have no help, no real support. One man said: "you would have done us a service to shoot us when we came back."

They have nightmares, thoughts of suicide, and the Gulf syndrome (which the government still refuses to admit.) But when you see one woman veteran in her hospital bed shaking, crying in pain, a pain she doesn't understand, you wonder, where are our priorities?

One said that soldiers are a tool for Canada, they are no longer people.

Watch this report, it was wonderfully done and incredibly haunting. It replays Saturday November 12 on RDI at 10pm. There are no words to properly describe what you will feel when you watch it.

Interview disasters

After Sikander posted a list of tips to have a great interview, Darcy and I couldn't help but think: did he have a bad experience lately?

There's no doubt about it; we all have our off days and sometimes we are just not ready (although we should be). I still can't always think of the perfect question to nail the person, get the perfect answer or be able to probe a little deeper.

Let's face it - I've had bad interviews. OK, maybe not disasters as I said in the title, but I just thought I'd share a few. Please let me know your worst moments as a reporter. We'll share a good laugh or two.

1. I was trying to get some wild sound for radio class on Halloween night. My story was about UNICEF and how kids really make a difference with their coins. Simple way to get kids sounds...Follow them while they trick-or-treat. I called our neighbour who has two kids and said yes. But she warned me: There would be about 12 kids between the ages of 5 and 12 at the same time - it could get busy.

No problem, I thought. Right. Try to interview kids about UNICEF coins when all they are doing is running from door to door. It took an hour to get them to say anything more than "Look, I got a Mars bar!" It was fun, I admit, but not the easiest way to interview kids!

2. I interviewed Bernard Landry (just before he quit the Parti Quebecois) last year when he came to McGill. Only McGill and Concordia's press was allowed into the Dean's office with Mr. Landry and his entourage. I learned to keep my questions nice and short.

Everyone was serious, and I ask, "Mr. Landry, you will be having your party convention this summer and some have questioned your leadership. How confident are you that you will remain the leader of the liberal party." Silence. Laughing all around...

I panic - what did I do? Mr. Landry candidly tells me: "Mademoiselle, you realize I am the leader of the PARTI QUEBECOIS, not the LIBERAL party."

Oh boy...That's it I thought - he won't answer, I will be banned from seeing him again...But he just laughed, I blushed and he answered my question.

Thank you Mr. Landry - my first terrible blunder and you took it so well!

3. I interviewed a Rwandan refugee living in our area. I was trying to get him to tell me about his escape from the Rwandan genocide with his family. I hadn't got too far, didn't have all I needed yet.

I asked him "Where are your parents now?" He answered, "My parents died on the side of the road while we tried to escape." I was shocked. Then, he just retreated and was guarded. He didn't tell me much after. I was disappointed. I didn't know how to turn it around. I mean I made him tell me about his dead parents, how could I ask more?

4. Or there was the time a interviewee was telling me what to write. He was a really nice man ( a bit older) and he would constantly ask me, did you write that down? Make sure you talk about this. It wasn't a terrible interview, but it was a little unnerving that someone tries to dictate what you will write about.

I wrote the article and he asked my editor to see it before it went to print. She saw no harm in it but I got a phone call that night - He asked me to come over because he has some changes to make to my article! (?!) He even wanted to change quotes. I listen to what he had to say - made a few changes that weren't major, but kept the quotes intact.

5. Then, there are political interviews. You gotta love 'em politicians with their platforms and secrets. One particular councilor, (Sikander you know who!) would always call me with "scoops", the next "big story" or "scandal". The problem was he would give me all this information but he always wanted to be off the record.

At first, I let it slide a bit, thinking maybe he could be useful to me. But after a few times when a half hour interview was 3/4 off the record, I said enough. I think he got the message that I don’t want to deal with someone who has all this misinformation and just wants to cause trouble.

I can't think of anymore at this point, but please, I'm curious, what are some of your horror / funny stories interviewing people? Don't be shy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

LOCAL NEWS: Security not a major issue at long-term care facilities

Sikander Z. Hashmi

With files from James Enright

MONTREAL - Patient security isn’t a major concern despite the recent beating and subsequent death of an elderly woman at a local long-term care facility, according to the head of a Quebec patient protection group.

The 96-year-old victim died last Sunday after she was punched and choked by a 73-year-old male patient around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, according to Montreal police Constable Salvatore Serrao.

The attack took place on the fourth floor of CHSLD St. Georges on St. Urbain Street. CHSLD stands for centres d'hébergement et de soins de longue durée.

But the attack doesn’t signal a security problem at health facilities, according to Paul Brunet, Director-General of the Conseil pour la protection des maladies.

“Most places are in relative security,” he said in a telephone interview.

His group receives complaints, he said, but the complaints about violent patients are “marginal.” There are more complaints regarding inadequate services.

“Violent acts are quite exceptional,” Brunet said, pegging the estimated number of complaints about violent acts at five a year. Of course, there can be more cases of patient violence than the number reported, he noted.

While Sandra Gagné of the Fédération des infirmières et infirmiers du Quebec couldn’t offer statistics on staff abuse at facilities, she also doesn’t feel that security is a major issue, pointing out that attacks such as this one aren’t very common.

Generally, yes, staff are in security,” she said. “But there are exceptional circumstances that can't be foreseen.”

Staff safety is very high. There are security officials on call in facilities.”

Questions have been raised about the psychiatric state of the attacker. While Serrao said medication could have played a part in the incident, Brunet suggested the patient had special psychiatric needs.

“In terms of what we’ve seen and what we’ve heard, it seems evident that the aggressor wasn’t residing in adequate…premises,” he said, adding that while most long-term care facilities are relatively well equipped, they certainly aren’t perfect.

Dealing with psychiatric patients doesn’t mean simply putting them in isolation, Brunet said, and they deserve to have adequate care.

Gagné wouldn’t comment on the 73-year-old attacker, but said that “psychological problems play a role in violence in facilities.”

As for those concerned about the safety of loved ones at long-term care facilities, Brunet suggests action on their part.

“It’s ironic,” he said, because by paying regular visits to family and friends at such facilities, family members can “see which establishment is safe and which isn’t.”

“The best way to find out about security (is to) visit often.”

Serrao refused to disclose the identity of the victim. However, media reports have identified her as Berthe Dionne-Champagne.

Police haven’t yet ruled the death to be a homicide and are awaiting autopsy results, which were expected late last week but have been delayed.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ten deadly sins of interviewing

Things to avoid if you want to be a good, efficient, fair, and ethical interviewer, according to one of our instructors.

10. Closed-ended question

9. Complex/complicated rambling question

8. Hyperbole

7. Using a trigger word (that sours the mood and causes the subject to clam up)

6. Big presupposition (that can put the subject on the defensive)

5. Comments at the end of a question

4. Leading questions (i.e. do you think..., would you say..., etc.)

3. Overloaded question

2. Double-barrelled question

1. The non-question (i.e. just saying key words in a dramatic fashion so cameras can capture reaction of the subject)

(I'm not exactly sure that all can be avoided all the time)

Media Remembering Veterans

November 11th is upon us and the media will be saturated with stories and images of the war on Friday, to commemorate Remembrance day.

I have been working on two mini-documentaries for radio class about the Veteran's hospital in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. I am doing a two-part series on a student visit program and the people helping veterans.

The stories are so poignant, it has been hard to cut out anything. Editing has been a nightmare, as I listened to account after account of people being affected by war, of people realizing what veterans have done...

I spoke to a veteran selling poppies on the corner of Atwater and St-Catherine. He thanked me (!) and the student press from Concordia and McGill for giving the attention needed to Remembrance day. I told him, that this was the least we could do for veterans - give them the opportunity to tell us what happened and how they have been affected.

He gave me a small card with a small reminder of the significant contribution Canadian veterans have had over the last major wars.

- 628,736 Canadians served in WWI
- 66,573 Canadians died in WWI, 138,166 were injured
- 1, 031,902 Canadians served in WWII
- 44,927 died in WWII, 53,145 were injured.
- 26,791 Canadians served in Korea.
- 516 died in Korea, 1,558 were injured.
-3,837 Canadians served in the Gulf War

Why does the media only talk about Remembrance day once a year? How can we truly reflect in one minute of silence what these men and women have done for us?

Someone on the radio this morning commented that the media needs to get more personal stories about veterans so people understand. Not so easy. Many veterans are getting older and many are affected by dementia and Alzheimer's.

But then again, blame cannot be put solely on the media. Schools teach the bare necessities about history. No wonder we don't truly respect and are not thankful for the sacrifices they have done for us.

Please take a few minutes of silence outside the designated "time to remember". Read something about the history of WWI or WWII, go visit a veteran, take a few minutes to speak to the man or women selling you a poppy. They have much to say and we have much to learn.

Check your facts

It's a given - you have to check your facts, you have to get second sources. Did I ever feel lucky I did that today!

Our newspaper got a press release from the office of Lucie Charlebois in the Soulanges area. The press release announces with pomp and ceremony that $13,000 in additional money has been found to fund 3 libraries in the area. "Wow!" I thought. the government is really trying to be nice and generous.

Right. You gotta love PR people for putting a spin on the smallest things. Guess what? I called the St. Lazare library and spoke to the person in charge of purchasing books for the library (where the funding was going to). He told me - geez, what a way to not really lie about somethign but to make it sound better than it really is.

Actually, the additional money has been granted not because the government is feeling nice today, but because it is part of the yearly re-evaluation of money allocated to libraries. Any city that has a population increase automatically gets more money. More people = more money for books. Simple as that.

So, in brief, there is new money (although not significant enough to jump up with joy), but the PR people just wanted their names to be next to the words "more money". What a shame. Too bad for them I checked up my facts and didn't just rewrite their press release.