Friday, December 9, 2011

Ho, ho, ho

Three rocks to which I flee for refuge from the annual orgy of hypocrisy and greed that threatens to drown us, even as our leaders espouse law and order except as it applies to them: yes, in a word, Christmas:

Hollywood is making a few movies for grown-ups, and one of the finest is The Descendants. A real story without special effects or car chases but with plenty of explosions, the psychological kind. Also, best portrayal of a woman a coma since Million Dollar Baby.

The Secret Mask by Rick Chafe, which premiered in November at Winnipeg’s Prairie Theatre Exchange. Wonderful acting and terrific writing that refuses sentimentality.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt: Call it cowboy noir, revisionist western or “aching celebration of miscreantism,” it’s a ride just as insane as anything by my favourite crazy, Jim Thompson. And it’s great to see book publishers paying to create arresting cover art.

On the horizon, a couple more potential rocks: The Antagonist by Lynn Coady, Oliver’s Twist by Craig Oliver, Margin Call.

If those rocks crumble, I plan to crank up Satan is Real by the Louvin Brothers.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The News is dead. Long live the news

“I saw it on The News.”

“Which news?”

“Umm … I don’t remember.”

“CNN? Fox? CBC? CTV? The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Best F#@king News Team Ever?”

”Umm …”

(In an Instructor Voice) “There is no The News. Maybe there was, once, somewhere. Now there is just news.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bringing the wars home

Reading the Creative Communications Remembrance Day assignments is a highlight of my year as an instructor.

Students write short stories about a Remembrance Day ceremony. Many of these include interesting and touching details, such as an elderly woman fainting at one Winnipeg service.

Each student also writes about a person who has been affected by conflict. These stories are often memorable.

Instructors encourage students to interview members of their families. Often it’s the first time a grandparent – or aunt or uncle, even a brother – has spoken about the most tumultuous periods of their lives.

Together, the student and his or her family member or friend, or perhaps someone they had not met before this assignment, build new memories.

It’s up to the students to maintain these memories because often, the people they interview are in the last years of life.

Several of the students have made these experiences public by blogging.

Here is a sample: Good work by Allison Bench, Jackie Doming, Monique Pantel and Corinne Rikkelman.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

For frustrated editors

Reached your politeness limit as an editor?

Wish you had a tool to express your frustration with the flabby and the mundane?

Here you go.

Courtesy of Armin Wiebe, who has polished a few nuggets in his time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ambassador Gary Doer, streaming Nov. 1

Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, will speak to Red River College Creative Communications students at 10 a.m. Central Time tomorrow.

Join us by viewing the live stream of this event.

Please note that this is a Flash-based stream and is not viewable on Apple portable devices such as iPod, iPad or iPhone.

Thanks to John Pura for setting up the streaming.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lindsey Wiebe, the future of journalism

Following up on last week’s refreshingly retro journalism ideas from a couple of veterans, here are a handful of future-oriented suggestions from a younger member of the tribe.

Lindsey Wiebe, the energetic and readable social media reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press – “the least defined job I’ve ever had” – offered them to Creative Communications students on Oct. 20.

Wiebe, who graduated from CreComm in 2004, backed up her recommendations with her experiences in the unpredictable but rewarding field of journalism.

Do things that don’t seem like what you are supposed to do.

In 2009, a year of layoffs at most news media and closings at some, Wiebe wrangled a nine-month leave of absence from the Free Press, and moved to France.

Smart move: the newspaper saved her salary for almost a year, and then was able to take her back.

Get a wide skill set; learn anything you can.

Next week Wiebe is scheduled to manage the Free Press apps.

Pitch stories your employer isn’t doing.

Wiebe created a niche covering the environmental issues the Free Press hadn’t found a way to handle. She even got to eat local Manitoba food for a month and write about it. In November. Hmm … perhaps not her best choice.

But all this self-invention brings another benefit: confidence about the future.

Wiebe says she doesn’t know if her job will exist two years from now. But, she says, “I’m OK with that.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Refreshingly retro journalism ideas

Creative Communications students at Red River College received great advice this week from two prominent Winnipeg journalists.

On Oct. 13 Margo Goodhand, editor of the Winnipeg Free Press – “We’re not a newspaper; we’re a news company” – told the students that journalism is “a calling.”

Sometimes that calling means publishing “boring stories that we think are worthwhile,” she smiled.

An example is the Free Press Democracy Project that aimed to involve citizens in the recent civic, federal and Manitoba elections.

She jokingly took credit for a one-percentage-point increase in voter turnout in the provincial election, while turnout has declined in other provinces.

On the other hand, some tales are “talkers:” stories that people feel compelled to talk about, Goodhand said.

This week the Free Press broke a good example of a talker: Nick Martin’s story of the Roman Catholic school that gave its students community service credits for participating in anti-abortion vigils.

On Oct. 14 Alex Freedman, the CBC’s I-Team reporter in Winnipeg, conducted a spirited exchange with students about his career and the CBC’s journalistic standards.

Freedman moved to Winnipeg from Montreal so he could work on the CBC’s investigative team.

He showed several of his stories, including one about the city of Winnipeg wasting thousands of dollars on unused sandbags during the spring flooding.

Don’t think you’re smarter than the people you interview, he warned. Learn everything you can about your topic before conducting interviews.

Freedman’s bottom line, especially for broadcast journalists: Don’t be a diva.

Let the story be the star.

Monday, September 26, 2011

‘As true as I could make it’

The star of the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times is the newspaper, or perhaps its gleaming, heavily mortgaged building, which appears in nearly every shot.

But a strong supporting player is David Carr, the newspaper’s unorthodox media columnist.

The film details Carr’s work on a long feature about the culture of sexual harassment and general machismo that new owners of the Chicago Tribune forced on the storied but debt-laden company. Heads rolled in Chicago after the story appeared.

For a longer, more intimate and even more disturbing read, check out The Night of the Gun, Carr’s 2008 memoir of three decades of sex, drugs and more drugs.

Carr’s friend wanted him to go to rehab and he said “Yes, yes, yes” – four times, in fact.

Then, for some reason that even he is not clear on, he went straight.

Always a hard-working journalist, at least when he wasn’t out of his mind, Carr began working on his biggest story – his own life.

Because he couldn’t remember much, “I decided to fact-check my life using the prosaic tools of journalism.”

He interviewed old lovers, friends and enemies, and he searched court documents and medical records.

The result is a book “as true as I could make it.”

Not a bad mission statement for journalists.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The college students are all right

“Inside the entitlement generation,” blares the headline on Margaret Wente’s column in The Globe and Mail.

It’s an old song: Post-secondary students think they know it all. They are lazy and dumb because they have never had to work for anything.

The sky is falling!

Wente bases her familiar complaint on comments by Ken C. Coates, co-author with Bill Morrison of Campus Confidential: 100 Startling Things You Didn’t Know About Canadian Universities. Coates is a history professor at the University of Waterloo.

Full disclosure: I have not read the book.

I have, though, listened to an interview with Coates on the University of Waterloo website. Employers complain that university grads are “overly coddled and protected,” he says.

The problem is that “Our students are trained to do what they want to do, not what they have to do.”

I often hear similar complaints about other post-secondary institutions: Students want high grades but won’t show up for class. They demand the right to hand in assignment when they feel like it rather that at the deadline.

But nil desperandum.

It certainly ain’t so in the Creative Communications program at Red River College, where I teach journalism.

Students must show up on time for every class. They must turn in assignments on time, not a minute late, or receive a failing grade. They must spell all names right or receive a failing grade.

Those are the standards that employers demand that instructors uphold. We agree with them, and students do, too.

Then, because they meet those and many other standards, in two years they are entitled to serious consideration for a decent job.

That’s real entitlement.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sympathy for the mogul

In the spirit of Thin Air, the Winnipeg International Writers Festival that runs next week, please allow me to introduce a wonderful author. He’s a man of former wealth and current fame.

Or reintroduce: A Matter of Principle is Conrad Black’s fifth book, the second instalment of his autobiography. Black has published over 3,500 pages between hard covers, and many more in essays, letters and legal writs.

He's Canadian, too – or he was, until he renounced his citizenship to sit in the British House of Lords.

Twenty years ago Black was the boss of Hollinger, one of the world’s largest newspaper groups. Today he’s in a Florida prison, convicted of defrauding investors.

Reading his latest opus to review it for the Winnipeg Free Press, I find myself again loving the writing but not the writer.

One of the most seductive elements of Black’s writing is its vitriol.

“Raising children is a good formation for dealing with editors and journalists. They are fiendishly clever at promising compliance with the wishes of the owner, appearing to give superficial adherence while in fact continuing in their exceptionable practices.”

When shareholder groups began to sniff around the corporate payments that have sent him to jail, Black sought support from associates who, he claims to believe, had approved them.

“I encountered a pandemic of amnesia.”

Come for the schadenfreude, stay for the literature.

A Matter of Principle: It’s a helluva book.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Living and dying for journalism

For their first blogging assignment, the Journalism majors in Creative Communications are asking: What is journalism?

To take only two examples of their thoughtful answers:

“Journalism isn’t chained to a format.  It will always be helping people make sense of their world,” says Erica Johnson.

“Journalism is getting your hands dirty. Journalism is accuracy, accountability and a desire to share information,” is part of Dani Finch’s inclusive definition.

But this topic is important not only to students doing an assignment.

Jeff Jarvis in his blog BuzzMachine asks the same question, with some not-so-different answers, but interesting new examples.

Meanwhile, two journalists have been found slain in Mexico City. Their deaths follow a pattern of violence by organized criminals, The Guardian reports.

And in Russia, a former police colonel has finally been charged in the notorious 2006 murder of the investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya.

So, while we debate “What is journalism?” let’s remember the journalists Ana Marcela Yarce Viveros, Rocio Gonz├ílez Trapaga and Anna Politkovskaya.

These three women answered the question with their lives.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Licensing journalists? Non, merci

The Quebec government’s proposal to regulate journalists is a bad idea.

Christine St. Pierre, the province’s communications minister, is inviting comments on a proposal, based on the Rapport Payette, that would discriminate between journalists whom she and her fellow Liberals deem legitimate and others, such as mere bloggers.

No, thank you.

There are already laws to control damage caused by any news medium, principally the law of defamation. Penalties are quite stiff in Canada – as I hope some irresponsible bloggers will discover.

A defining strength of journalism is that it does not kowtow to governments or special interests. Journalists are responsible to their audiences, which are not shy about criticizing any online, published, or broadcast work.

Just look at user-generated content such as the comment sections of any news medium.

Governments do not shrink from making such criticisms, either. That’s fine.

But they should not control who writes what.

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication …
What could be clearer than that?

“Everyone” includes bloggers, tweeters and users of other media.

Of course, Section 33 of the Charter allows governments to override these rights for five years at a time.
Quebec has employed this “notwithstanding clause” to justify controlling commercial communication, with the province’s French-language sign law. 

Fortunately, controlling online publication is much more difficult than controlling physical signs on buildings.

One of the wonderful aspects of social media and other “new media” is that they are difficult for anyone to control.

Dictators in the Arab world are learning this lesson the hard way.

Quebec should not emulate them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shiny new students and instructors

I’m looking forward to the new Creative Communications semester, which begins on Aug. 29 with a bunch of shiny new instructors.

Joanne Kelly will be my new colleague in the Journalism part of the program. One of our innovations will be an e-textbook for first-year students, consisting of five chapters of The New Journalist: Roles, Skills and Critical Thinking from Edmond Montgomery Publications. Yes, it’s Canadian.

The projected price is under $30, less than half the price of the entire dead-tree text – which we would not use completely, anyway.

In late September students will watch Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, at Cinematheque.

I’ve seen it, and it’s well worth watching.

A bit of journalistic history, a bit of social media, and the beautiful new Times building, all seen though the eyes of a former crack addict, now a Times reporter.

Afterward, students will be able to discuss how Watergate and the Pentagon Papers relate to WikiLeaks and Twitter.

Also this year, the Manitoba election on Oct. 4 will generate a couple of assignments and will give me an opportunity to rail against the lack of civics lessons in Manitoba’s public schools and universities.

No worries, though: the CreComm curriculum will make up for it.

Other highlights include the city council and Remembrance Day assignments, back by popular demand.

And that’s just Journalism, one of seven required courses.

In co-operation with Advertising, Public Relations and Creative Writing instructors, some of them shiny and some slightly shopworn (but we’re all good friends; really!), the J instructors will work with the first-year students on their weekly blogs.

Students and instructors will also use Twitter and LinkedIn social media.

It will be a busy year – two years actually, for the whole program.

Abandon your lives, all ye who enter here!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Unpaid 'internships' = exploitation

Here’s hoping you can tear yourself away from the efforts of Rebekah Brooks and her enablers, Rupert and James Murdoch, to destroy the reputations of all journalists.

Let’s discuss another disgraceful topic: unpaid internships at profit-making companies for graduates of journalism schools and other professional programs. They’re very popular these days. There’s even one in Winnipeg journalism.

As my colleague Melanie Lee Lockhart explains, there are good reasons to volunteer for organizations that you support, where you can make a difference.

And many post-secondary educational programs include brief unpaid work placements or internships. These are actually courses for which students receive credit.

Creative Communications, the Red River College program where I teach journalism (damn the Murdochs!), includes two three-week work placements. Instructors match students with employers and survey both sides after each placement to ensure that everyone involved receives value from the experience.

Then the students graduate and look for paying jobs. Paying jobs, just like the ones held by their employers.

Unfortunately, there is a growing trend in Canada toward unpaid internships for students who have graduated.

We pay ’em in experience and networking, these companies say.

Well, pay ’em in money, I say. The experience and networking already are important elements of these traditionally low-paying jobs.

Have the bosses of these students renounced their pay cheques? Are they giving away their entire product at no charge?

Didn’t think so.

Companies engaging in this abusive practice are extremely short-sighted. In a rapidly changing world where workers already exhibit little loyalty to employers and where skills are easily transferable, why would they want to alienate the smart young people on whom their success depends?

The only answer I can see is, “Because we can.”

So that’s why I don’t recommend that a student take an unpaid job on graduation, or even for the summer between school years.

It’s exploitation.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Good reporting kills bad reporting

The fully justified death of the News of the World because of its bad journalism is due in large part to the good journalism of The Guardian, one of its British competitors.

For two years Guardian hack (to reclaim a proud old term) Nick Davies has been uncovering the illegal and immoral phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid.

Before today, NOTW journos and bosses issued the usual semi-apologies. A few low-level heads rolled.

Now that we know the hackers also attacked the voice mail of 13-year-old slain Milly Dowler, Murdoch has killed the paper, effective Sunday.

Before then, he also needs to fire News International CEO Rebekah Brooks.

In the least believable statement by a corporate executive since … oh, maybe something by former Enron chair Kenneth Lay, Brooks told NOTW staff:

We were all appalled and shocked when we heard about these allegations yesterday.

I have to tell you that I am sickened that these events are alleged to have happened.

Not just because I was Editor of the News of the World at the time, but if the accusations are true, the devastating effect on Milly Dowler's family is unforgivable.

“Appalled and shocked.” Yeah, right.

Good on Nick Davies and the Guardian.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why blog? A lament

My colleague Kenton Larsen, a loquacious, sagacious and occasionally salacious, not to mention ubiquitous (but not mendacious. Never mendacious!) blogger, laments the cessation or at least the pausing of blogging by Creative Communications students now that their semester is finished, and I concur with his argument about the value of blogging as practice writing – in fact, it’s all practice until somebody gets a job or gets paid for writing; as Samuel Johnson is quoted, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

Define money broadly as professional experience and I think Dr. J is in agreement with Kenton, who writes:
What makes the blog assignment a “professional” endeavor is that it gives potential employers a sense of how well a person can write, how often, “voice,” style, interests, sense of humor, anxieties, etc.
As for the returning CreComm students who are still blogging weekly, 10 of those are fulfilling a requirement of my Intersession editing course. Last blog entry is due tomorrow, folks!

Perhaps the non-bloggers don’t need money.

Or could it be a simple case of scolionophobia?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Editing Shakespeare

Who’s afraid of William Shakespeare? Not the adventurous Winnipeg thespians Shakespeare in the Ruins.

The 18-year-old theatre company has done a serious edit on a pair of the bard’s historical plays, condensing them into two hours of swashbuckling, punning fun.

Judging from Saturday night’s performance of Henry IV Parts I and II, I think Will would have endorsed their cuts and thrusts.

The company’s Sarah Constible trimmed the 53 characters of Part II (plus a handful more from Part I) and approximately six-hour running time to multiple roles for nine actors including herself.

The resulting performance maintains the high energy for which the company is renowned.

Constible’s edit deserves a lot of the credit for keeping the action coming while retaining space for the guts of Shakespeare: his rich language, especially that of poet-buffoon Sir John Falstaff.

This staging certainly fulfils the company’s ideal: “Our ongoing commitment to making the works of Shakespeare accessible and enjoyable for everyone (through clarity of text and unusual environmental staging).”

In the last couple of years SIR has withdrawn from the promenade-style performances that originated in the ruins of the St. Norbert monastery.

Now they stand and deliver under a tent on a parking lot in Assiniboine Park. It’s less adventurous than their earlier settings, granted, but I was pleased to see a dozen or so preschoolers clinging to the outside of the fence, giggling and shouting during the battle scene.

A 400-year-old adult play that grabs kids? Now that’s good editing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Editing carrots and parsnips

Inspired by my students' growing definitions of editing, here is a garden-variety blog post.

I have been editing parsnips and carrots in our Back 40 (square metres, not sections).

The seeds of these root vegetables are too small to plant individually, so you sprinkle them in a row, then stand back and watch 'em explode.

The result is a row of  tiny plants, competing for room to grow.

Unless they are thinned out, you'll get a mass of roots too skinny for human consumption.

Because we want crunchy, delicious carrots and shapely, tasty turnips for roasting, I thinned out those delicate growths, leaving fewer than half to compete for nutrition and sunlight. The losers go into the compost, of course.

This summer I will thin them several more times: ruthless, Old Testament style editing.

As Lyle Lovett says, Joshua Judges Ruth.

Ad, Journalism instructors wanted

Red River College in Winnipeg, Canada is hiring two instructors in the Creative Arts department, one for Advertising and one for Journalism.

Application deadline is June 21.

Monday, May 30, 2011

In the mood for a little libel?

That will be $650,000, please.

That’s what a civil jury has awarded Robert Astley, a director of the Bank of Montreal, for defamatory comments by shareholder activist and former journalist Robert Verdun, the legal website Law Times reports.

Verdun is unrepentant, judging by his “censored” blog.

There are lots of angles here to debate, from the role of blogs to the brand-new defence of responsible communication, which the jury rejected.

And debate it we shall, in my Editing Print and Online Media class Tuesday.

Note to the legal profession: No need to attend. This class will be defamation-free.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The New Yorker screws up, too

For 90 years The New Yorker has been North America’s epitome of stylish journalism.

As an intriguing weekly package of writing and drawing, one of the few remaining general-interest magazines to publish fiction and poetry in every issue, it has no competition.

There’s a dandy website, too, with intriguing blogs and daily news updates, as well as an iPad edition.

The magazine charges for much of its content, and most Tuesdays I eagerly pay $7 for the paper copy. The eclectic mix of topics and exemplary fact checking and editing create a rewarding read.

But reader, I have found a mistake in The New Yorker.

In the May 9 issue the fourth letter to the editor discusses political campaign spending. It contains this sentence: “The other two largest sources, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, spent approximately $140 million dollars.”

Which should it be? $ or dollars?

The answer is $, judging by the previous sentence and by other articles in that issue.

That’s the thing about copy editing: Do it well and hardly anyone notices. Screw up and any schmuck can catch you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Canada’s best multimedia journalism

One of my enjoyable responsibilities – honours, actually – is judging journalism awards.

This year my favourite was the multimedia feature category of the National Newspaper Awards, which were presented last weekend in Ottawa.

Yes, these awards are for newspapers, not broadcasters.

Other than, no Canadian broadcaster is creating consistently strong journalism that exploits multiple media including text stories, video, still photos and blogs, and creating communities of intelligent online commenters.

But several newspapers are committing the resources of money, time and professional staff to do just that. So is the news agency The Canadian Press.

Judges Colette Brin of Laval University, Ingrid Bejerman of McGill University and I read, watched and listened to the best multimedia journalism created in Canada in 2010.

For the top award we selected The Globe and Mail's Project Jacmel: The Disaster, the Rebuild, the Future. It’s a comprehensive and moving report on how Haitians are coping with the aftermath of the most recent earthquake.

We were impressed that the newspaper stayed with the story, keeping its staff in Haiti after most other international journalists had moved on to the next disaster.

In the multimedia world, Twitter is informative, instant and fun. It propagates breaking news as no other medium can. Sometimes that news is even true.

But to fully realize the possibilities of multimedia journalism you need a much longer attention span.

Congratulations to The Globe and Mail and other forward-looking organizations that are in multimedia journalism for the long haul.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hey, Whipple, edit this

On Tuesday morning eight adventurous students will start my Red River College Intersession course, Editing Print and Online Media.

For seven weeks, two mornings a week, we will practise editing – making print and online materials make sense for audiences.

There will be some spelling and grammar and a bit of numbers.

We will spot screwups in written work from books to billboards to building walls, and in online material from everywhere.

But, more importantly, we will look at how editing and organizing can improve all sorts of writing and other activities.

You can follow the students’ weekly blogs on the list on the right side of this screen.

The last time I taught this course, in the fall of 2010, I was impressed by how broadly students were able to define editing. Check out some of their blogs:

Neil Babaluk wrote about editing video, a time-consuming but rewarding task.

Shelley Cook discussed editing political priorities (are you listening, newly elected MPs?).

Stacia Franz edited Europe (Napoleon and others tried but failed).

Sandy Klowak considered the editing that should go into novels but often doesn’t.

Kimberlee Lawson edited time (I wish I could).

Keep spotting those screwups!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

'Make the language sing'

Photo by John Pura, Red River College

Armin Wiebe includes plautdietsch, Low German, in the dialogue of much of his work, including his play The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz.

Today he explained his motivation to Creative Communications students at Red River College.

"I like the way that I think I can make the language sing."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Meet The Arminator

This week Creative Communications first-year students will attend a play with the funkiest name of the year – The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz.

They will talk with the actors and the author, Armin Wiebe, and next week they will blog about the experience. And then their semester will be over.

So what and who are Blatz and Wiebe?

“Mennonites in lust! But not talking about it,” is CBC reviewer Joff Schmidt’s capsule take on the play.

Armin Wiebe (The Arminator, to some of his friends) is a Manitoban who has written four novels.

The setting for three of them, and for this play, is the imaginary Mennonite community of Gutenthal, one mile from the U.S. border, a million miles from reality and one inch from truth.

Wiebe writes in his own blend of, mostly, plautdietsch – Low German – and what he calls “buggered-up English.”

The result is funny on the page, hilarious and touching when spoken. That is the strength of the play.

The genesis of Blatz lies in the story And Besides God Made Poison Ivy, published in Due West (Turnstone Press, 1996).

In Spring 2005 Prairie Fire published a revised version called The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz.

Now Scirocco Drama has released the play as a book.

Kevin Prokosh of the Winnipeg Free Press recently interviewed the playwright. He also reviewed Blatz very positively, writing in the spirit of the play.

But hold a minute on!

Blatz also features sex, transgressive and otherwise, cross-dressing, and a brummtopp.

A brummtopp? You have to hear it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

O joy! O delight! An election assignment!

With a federal election set for May 2, can the elections assignments be far behind?

Of course not.

This week my Creative Communications journalism students will choose one of a dozen or so topics, then do some research and present their findings to their class.

Here’s a preview:

Who are the leaders of the federal parties? What are their personal and political histories? Tell us something we didn’t know about each of them. Tell us about a couple of past leaders: the good, the bad (always more interesting) and the otherwise. Finding fun facts is encouraged.

Funny, eh? Show us current and historical examples of interesting cartoons, satire or other humorous takes on Canadian politics.

Wild card: Show us at least 10 interesting things that we did not know about Canadian politics and elections.

Research early and research often!