Final story for INK Online

Well, now that Sid the Kid is back on the ice (and in unreal form, I might add), I wanted to find out what his injury has done to change the way we look at concussions – to see if he advanced the discussion.
I talked with a researcher at the U of R who was really interesting. I probably could have written over 600 words with just him – and that’s not because my other interview wasn’t fantastic. The team Dr. Neary is working with is looking into the physiological impacts of concussion on the brain. So they look at what kind of effect increases in blood pressure and heart rate have on the blood flow and oxygen flow to the brain. Hopefully, they’ll be able to figure out what happens physiologically and then be able to translate that understanding into better treatment.
Anyways, I can’t believe how quickly this semester has flown by – this is the last story I’ll write for INK. I was lucky enough to be able to sneak in a little sports reporting into my health beat here, which is fantastic. Here’s my final story!


Covering women in politics: The real problem with Christy Clark’s cleavage

B.C. premier Christy Clark is seen during Question Period on Oct. 5, 2011. Photo credit: Hansard.

On Oct. 5, 2011, B.C. premier Christy Clark stood in the House to answer questions about group home closures during question period. But no one remembers that.

No, what’s memorable about that day in the B.C. Legislature isn’t the issue that Clark was trying to address. Nor is it the way she addressed the issue, or the way the opposition members challenged her government’s practices.

What is memorable about that day is a tweet. One 85-character message that set off a media and social media storm.

Sent by former NDP MLA and current political pundit David Schreck, the tweet in question read: “Is Premier Clark’s cleavage revealing attire appropriate for the legislature? #bcpoli.”

Read More…

INK Online – Election edition

Monday, November 7 was the big day – the provincial election in Saskatchewan. The election has been consuming our lives for the past four weeks. Monday was a busy day for all of us – and the beginning of the week in our schedule that we’ve been referring to as ‘hell week’ for most of the semester – but it was also a lot of fun. 
Our class spread out across the province for this coverage. We had students in Moose Jaw, Swift Current, North Battleford, and all around Regina to cover the big stories.
Tory, Josee, Natasha and I all ended up at the NDP’s headquarters for the evening. They were stationed at the Ramada hotel, in what they insisted on calling a “Victory Room”. Ouch. It was pretty interesting to watch the results come in from that vantage point, and to watch Mr. Lingenfelter’s apology and official resgination afterwards. As far as news goes, that’s exactly the kind of election I like to see. What an upset.
One thing I do take away from this election is that our province has just become a veritable case study for electoral reform. The NDP had about 30% of the popular vote – a record low – and ended up with only 9 of 58 seats. The Greens and Liberals didn’t get a single seat. The Sask Party, who were chosen by the majority of voters (or the majority of the 55 or so per cent of people who bothered to mark their X), ended up with so many seats, they really can’t be challenged effectively by the opposition. This system just doesn’t work. It doesn’t make people want to vote, because it doesn’t make them feel like their vote counts.
Interestingly, electoral reform also came up in a lot of the interviews I did for my magazine feature on media coverage of female politicians. But you’ll have to wait for that one. In the meantime, here’s the link to my latest INK story on student candidates.

INK Online – Second story

Wednesday, Oct. 19. was our second ‘newsroom day’ for INK Online. After both major political parties made big-money promises to provide incentives for nurses and doctors who stay in the province, I wanted to find out what students thought of these promises. It sounds really good to promise to give students up to $120,000 worth of tuition back, but in practical terms, what would that mean for graduates?

I had some very interesting interviews for this one. When I caught up with Christine Orr, a U of S med student, she had just left a mentoring session in which her classmates talked about the merits of the Sask. Party plan. Christine mentioned that while doctors usually graduate with a lot of debt, they have high starting salaries and don’t have trouble paying their student loans back. She suggested the government would be better off investing that kind of money in new technology to make their jobs easier.

No one I talked to was overly excited about the announcements. It will be interesting to see if these plans are implemented post-election, and if so, how successful they are.

You can find my story here.

As promised, the experimental radio piece…

A Sound of Thunder                                                                                                                Here’s the experimental radio piece Trelle and I did for our intermediate broadcast class. It’s an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder (which, more popularly, is the subject of a Simpson’s episode – ya know, when Homer goes back in time, steps on a butterfly and makes it rain donuts?). It was a lot of fun to edit this one. We used a lot of sound from YouTube (dinosaurs being in short supply), and enlisted the help of a couple of actors. Hope you enjoy!

INK Online – First story

Here goes, my first article of the semester for INK online. You can find the rest of my classmates’ work at our site:

Keep checking in, I’ll be posting my experimental radio piece sometime next week…

‘Chew’ labels unchanged 

Shocking, graphic images will appear on cigarette and cigarillo packages across Canada starting in June. But tins of chewing tobacco – popular in Saskatchewan – will remain the same for now.

Health Canada plans to work on a second phase of this project, including new warning labels for smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, and big cigars. Until then, warning labels on smokeless tobacco, or chewing tobacco, will remain small.

According to Health Canada, usage rates of chewing tobacco are highest among young males. Although Canadian law bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18, most users start at the tender age of nine or 10.

Josh Bruha was not far off that mark when he started. At 19 years old, he’s been chewing for nearly half his life.

He said he knew the health risks he faced when he started.

“It’s (part of) certain lifestyles, like farming and hockey,” Bruha explained.

A member of the SJHL’s Notre Dame Hounds, Bruha was raised on a farm in northern B.C. He falls into two of the groups who use chewing tobacco the most, according to Health Canada. Health Canada’s research shows usage is most prevalent among athletes, Aboriginals, and rural males.

Overall, smokeless tobacco users make up a small percentage of the Canadian population. The issue has been largely overlooked in public education campaigns.

“Kids maybe have the idea that it’s a safer product,” said Will Cooke, tobacco advocacy coordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society.

It’s not. Chewing tobacco contains 28 known carcinogens, and is highly addictive.

A ban on flavoured tobacco, which is geared toward youth, could go a long way to deter people from starting young.

“Flavours make it more attractive. We’ve banned flavours of cigarettes and cigarillos, so a ban would make sense,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“I think that’s the part that’s geared more to the younger kids,” Bruha said, adding that he started chewing peach-flavoured tobacco.

Tyson Gilchrist started chewing at age 14. He said he picked up the habit while playing hockey. Once his playing days were over, Gilchrist quit.

“It’s disgusting,” he said. “It just doesn’t fit into my lifestyle anymore.”

But quitting isn’t easy for everyone. Bruha estimates he spends $100 a week to feed his habit, and he has no plans to quit.

“What has to happen, is there has to be greater prominence in mass media campaigns and school curriculums to talk about the serious health consequences,” said Cooke.

“It would be great if they had image-based warnings on chew as well. That’s something that has proven to be effective.”