Amy Goodman, the Dakota Access Pipeline and Freedom of the Press

The Challenge: “Write a reasoned and professional 275-word argumentative analysis, taking a side on the following question: “Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! should or should not have been arrested for covering the Dakota Pipeline story?”

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“The trampling of our rights as activists, or as journalists, isn’t just a problem in North Dakota.” Photograph: Mike McCleary / AP

Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, was given an arrest warrant after covering the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in September (although charges have since been revoked).

Amy Goodman’s coverage shows protestors being ambushed by security guards with pepper spray and attack dogs. Lizzy Ratner of The Nation writes, “Not one of the major American broadcast networks had sent a reporter to cover the protests, despite the fact that they had already grown into the largest Native American mobilization in more than 40 years.” It wasn’t until Goodman’s footage went viral that mainstream media outlets began reporting on the event. With that traction came Goodman’s arrest warrant, but was it justifiable?

Goodman should not have been arrested for covering the protests because, simply put, it is her job to do so.

According to The Guardian, authorities argued Goodman didn’t deserve press protection because “her opinions made her an ‘activist’ instead of a journalist.” Goodman covered a story that went against the corporate interests of a state, so she was punished without prosecutors recognizing the importance of her job and obligation to report the facts. Her arrest warrant, ultimately, was a breach on the First Amendment (which allocates freedom to the press). We need to recognize the vital role journalists play in social change. Although objectivity is required most of the time, I believe more reporters should do their jobs with heart and share the voices/experiences of the marginalized.

Journalism is not a crime, and we need more reporters with the same passion for social justice Goodman has. Her fearlessness is admirable.

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Recommendations for Communications Friends

The Challenge: “Recommend a blog or Twitter account your CreComm classmates might find helpful as they pursue the program. Providing specific examples, explain why and how you feel this resource might help CreComms be successful.”

1. Hemingway Editor: I was introduced to this site by omeone in my section and I’m so grateful. I’ve used it many times now to keep track of my writing and make sure I’m following some of the general rules we’ve been discussing in class. Simply copy and paste any piece of writing and you’ll be given a colour coded review of the ways it can be improved. Your work will be given a mark out of 10 on its readability, which sentences have simpler alternatives, as well as where adverbs and the passive voice are used. This handy editor has helped me many times in catching mistakes I missed when just editing in Word.

2. LinkedIn Pulse: I have the CBC app on my phone and a subscription to the Winnipeg Free Press (yay for print) but I have found Pulse to be particularly helpful. The app is basically a one-stop place for all news. All you have to do is subscribe to your favourite outlets and you’ll find all their stories on your home screen. I don’t know about you, but I hate clogging up my phone storage with a million different applications, so this allievates all those headaches. Pulse is free and downloadable for both Apple and Android.

3. “Lens,” The New York Times: I love photojournalism and am fascinated by the work of those in the field. Luckily for me (and you), The New York Times has a blog dedicated to the photography of their staff. As someone interested in doing further studies in photojournalism, seeing the multimedia work of those in the field is helpful. There are some incredible shots showcased and I highly recommend it if you’re into that sort of thing.

4. @jsource: If you’re interested in majoring in Journalism the way I am, you’ve got to follow this account on Twitter. There are so many great journalism related links shared, and they vary in topics. It’s a super helpful resource and I highly recommend it. They’re based in Canada so lots of the stories covered are super relevant. They even include different jobs opportunities and internships in different cities. They also do a lot of coverage on the jobs available in the field.

5. This is probably fairly obvious but for the love of God, follow ALL news outlets and media personalities on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Make sure it’s not only Manitoba or Canada-based sources either. Google alerts are awesome too. Same goes for libraries and online search databases.

Also: write and read constantly. I feel like that’s really the only way we can hone our craft.

For the Love of Poetry

The Challenge: Free week (AKA: I get to write about anything I want!)


If there’s one thing you should know about my reading habits, it is this: I am obsessed with poetry.

I have less time for personal reading during the school year, so I never want to delve into a 1000 page novel (Infinite Jest is still patiently waiting on my bookshelf), which is why I think poetry is perfect. It accomplishes so much in such a small space, but doesn’t require the same amount of time it does to read a longer work.

So for this week’s post I decided to compile a list of a few of my more recent favourite books of poetry:

1. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur.

“and here you are living
despite it all”
— Rupi Kaur

I’m sure you’ve heard of Rupi Kaur. Her first book of poetry, Milk and Honey, was released in 2015 and has since sold half a million copies. According to a CBC article, Kaur dubs her writing as “design poetry,” which is a mix of words and minimalist drawings.

As Kaur is quoted as saying in the same CBC article: “So much of it is in how it looks visually to the reader, so I use only lower case … I want to basically get rid of as many distractions as I can so that the reader can just pour themselves into the word.”

Milk and Honey focuses on themes such as love, abuse, addiction, and the experience of being an immigrant to Canada. Not to generalize, but I truly believe everyone should read this book. It sheds light on issues I had previously not thought about too much, and the feminist angle Kaur writes from is particularly striking. Milk and Honey has become hyped about over the past little while, but its popularity is entirely justifiable.

2. Mouthful of Forevers, by Clementine von Radics.

“We can’t just be the wife of the artist, we have to be the artist.”
— Clementine von Radics, interviewed by Erin Taylor for Maudlin House

Clementine von Radics began her poetry career on Tumblr and has since released three books. Mouthful of Forevers is her first collection, and touches on themes of love, loss, and the difficulties of young adulthood.

She is based in Portland, Oregeon and is the founder of “Where Are You Press,” a publishing house “committed to publishing accessible, innovative poetry by a diversity of voices.”

She is an incredible poet and I highly recommend her, as well as any of the other writers her publishing house supports.

3. The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.

I have been told it’s odd one of my favourite poets is from the 13th-century, but I’ve adored Rumi’s writing for the past six years.

Lots of his work is religious, which threw me off at first, but replacing his definition of “God” with my own beliefs made me appreciate the writing more. I don’t consider myself religious, but reading Rumi is somewhat of a meditative experience that led me to a new way of thinking.

4. We Will Be Shelter: Poems for Survival, an anthology edited by Andrea Gibson.

I finished this book in two days and I cried through the majority of it. I usually don’t read works featuring multiple writers (unless it’s a literary magazine) but after finding this one on a shelf of a Calgary bookstore I had to read it.

The anthology is a collection of “social justice poetry” and covers a wide range of topics. Each piece begins by describing an organization the writer supports, and follows it with concrete ways social and political issues can be addressed and changed. Reading this book got me thinking about a few things: Can poetry be used as a tool for social activism? How can words actually make a difference? (I still do not have the answer to these questions, but it’s an interesting topic).

In terms of work strictly by Andrea Gibson, read The Madness Vase. You can thank me later.

5. What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire, Charles Bukowski.

I know, Charles Bukowski is so cliche. He is a total misogynist but I still cannot help but love his writing. I have been told he’s overrated and has become too popular, which is true, but I still believe there’s merit to his words. His style is simple, yet also beautiful, and there were quite a few gems within this collection that stood out to me. I still often return to this book to read my favourite pieces.

But if you’re not into blunt and depressing writing, I would shy away from Bukowski.

***

And because I’m annoying, here are more of my favourite poets: Ian S. Thomas, Warsan Shire, Tyler Knott Gregson, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath (well, duh), Adrienne Rich, Nayyirah Waheed, Louise Gluck, Margaret Atwood, Pablo Neruda, Shinji Moon, e. e. cummings, Rainer Maria Rilke, Maya Angelou and Anaïs Nin.

I have also been trying to expand my repertoire to Can lit, so here are some Canadian writers as well (a few even from Winnipeg): Katherena Vermette, Rosanna Deerchild, Evelyn Lau, Micheline Maylor, Sheri-D Wilson, Chandra Mayor, and Jennifer Still.

So if you adore poetry the way I do, check these out. Then make sure to come find me so we can discuss them.

Take One Daily

The challenge: “Rewrite one important moment of your life and theorize where you might be today based on the change you make.”

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Here’s a fact many people don’t know about me: I am part of the 1-2.5 per cent of Canadians with bipolar disorder. This upcoming October marks another anniversary of my diagnosis, and I always consider it a time for reflection. Am I where I want to be in my recovery? Will I continue to be successful in managing my disorder? What would my life be like if I didn’t have a mental illness?

***

I remember the first time I held the small, pink pill in the palm of my hand. I counted to ten and tossed the medication into my mouth, following it with a gulp of water to wash away its gritty texture.

This daily routine followed me into my adult life. I have been greeting each morning with medication since I was fifteen years-old, but it wasn’t until I was eighteen that I began to speak openly and unapologetically about my life with mental illness.

I resisted medication for three years out of fear it would stifle my creativity. I dropped out of high school, was hospitalized twice and tried half a dozen pill combinations before finding one that worked. I finally began to get better just as I was reaching twenty years-old, which led me to university and then CreComm.

Where would I be if I didn’t put my faith into recovery? What would have happened if I continued to refuse medication? Would I be a college student? I don’t want to think about it, even if that’s what this assignment is technically supposed to be, because I’m sure my life would be the opposite of what it is. I don’t think I would be following my dream of studying communications, nor would I have the same long-term goals I currently have set for myself. Overall, I would be a completely different person.

My mental illness may not be my entire identity, but it did play an enormous role in the person I have become. It created a love for the written word and desire to be a writer I’m not sure I would have otherwise. I read of women turning pain into art and decided I wanted to do the same. I now aspire for a job in the media because I want a platform where I can publicly address the misconceptions of mental illness.

I don’t think this would be my life if the struggles of my teenage years ceased to exist, and I am so incredibly grateful they did.

***

Sidenote: I felt a lot of trepidation prior to writing this post, but my history with mental illness continues to be one of the most important events in my life. Besides, I feel like part of being a writer is consistently exposing oneself and being uncomfortable. I figured this Blog Challenge gave me an opportunity to test this theory out on a public forum.

Mental Health Q&A with Chantelle Partyka

The Challenge: “Do a 10-question Q&A with someone you admire. Record it, transcribe it exactly, and take their photo.”

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Chantelle Partyka has always wanted to help people, it just wasn’t until she came across Brandon University’s psychiatric nursing program did she decide how.

I have known Chantelle for approximately seven years. She is one of the most talented, hard-working, and empathetic people I have ever met. She has a passion for mental health that reaches far beyond her simply making a career choice. Not only does she genuinely want to support the community, she also strives to use her education to spread awareness and debunk misconceptions of mental illness. Her dedication to making a difference in the lives of Winnipeggers (and wherever else she may end up) is admirable and I cannot wait to see the impact she has on the community.

Kelsey James: “Why did you decide to study psychiatric nursing?”

Chantelle Partyka: “Ever since I was in junior high I was always really interested in our perceptions of things and peoples behaviours. So when I found out what psychology was I was really interested.  I always really wanted to help people, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I guess when I was in high school I was researching programs and this one caught my eye. And I mean, also not to mention, I have some lived-experience of living with anxiety, which has led to some depression problems, but also friends and family.”

KJ: “So what are your goals after graduation?”

CP: “I would like to work in the community because I think there are limited accessible services that don’t involve high cost or long waiting lists. Also I have a theory about acute inpatient psychiatric wards. I feel like if you treat someone with a mental health crisis, stabilize them, and then discharge them right back into the same environment that made them ill in the first place, what’s the point? Why don’t you just work in the community and get to the heart of the problem? That’s kind of my personal philosophy.”

KJ: “How does the psychiatric nursing program operate?”

CP: “Well, it’s a joint program between the University of Winnipeg and Brandon University. There are 10 prerequisite courses in order to enter. So after you take the required courses you can apply into second year. Usually about a third of the applicants are accepted based on GPA only, no interviews, which is wrong. Then once you’re in it’s just three full-time years of school with practicums.

KJ: “And how many practicums have you done?”

CP: “I’ve done a total of five or six.”

KJ: “Did it help you feel like you’ve made the right career choice?”

CP: “Yes. There was a time during second year, which is a lot more medical focused as opposed to mental health, where we had to do a surgical rotation. Once a week I was on a neuro supportive unit with a lot of people who had intensive brain injuries. That was really hard for me because that’s not what I want to work in. So when I was in that practicum, I was like, okay, why am I in this medical program? I don’t want to be a medical nurse. It’s not for me. They just had to teach us medical nursing as well as psych nursing. I stuck through it.”

KJ: “Do you have any frustrations with Canada’s mental health system?”

CP: *laughs* “Yes. There’s a major lack of funding for mental health care within Canada’s health care budget. The World Health Organization recommends eight to ten per cent of the total health care budget be allocated to mental health. In Manitoba, only 4 per cent of our budget is allocated, and of that the majority is used for inpatient services inside of hospitals and less on community resources, health promotion or recovery. So most of this money is going to acute psychiatric wards and, in my experience, acute psychiatry needs to come a long way because they’re very uninviting; they’re full of locked doors, they generally use medication as a first-line treatment, and there are minimal activities. This type of environment, in my opinion, doesn’t promote recovery. I just feel like the system is very flawed when it comes to acute care, which is pretty much why I want to work in the community.”

KJ: “Do you have any idea of how these problems can be fixed?”

CP: “Not particularly because they’re very structural problems. I think as per the funding, that’s very government institutional based. I don’t know what I could do personally as a singular nurse to change that, even though I wish I could do more, which is very frustrating when you work in a system that you know is flawed. Manitoba also though just recently mandated reform in mental health care and now we are required to operate within a recovery oriented framework.”

KJ: “Instead of?”

CP: “Instead of just maintenance therapy or stabilization. We need to change the way we talk about mental illness. It hasn’t really been put to practice everywhere yet, but it is a mandate and I think it will help but I don’t think it will help the structural problems I was talking about.”

KJ: “What is a common misconception about mental illness and treatment?”

CP: “Okay, I’ll just throw a couple out there. A lot of people assume that because an individual is having an episode of psychosis that they are a higher risk of being violent, and it’s actually the opposite. People who live with psychosis are at a higher risk of being a victim to violence. A lot of people think the contrary. Also, people like to assume that mental health professionals basically just push medication onto patients, like without doing anything else, any other kinds of therapy or counselling. Although I mentioned that I think medication is too often used first-line in acute psychiatry, I think most mental health professionals view it as a tool. It’s not a cure or a band aid or whatever, it’s a tool that can help some people make necessary changes in other areas of their lives. I think it’s really important to be respectful of that and not dismissive. A lot of people like to shut psychiatric medication down, but some people wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for it.”

KJ: “Do you think Canada is currently having a suicide epidemic?”

CP: “I don’t think I would go so far as to say it’s an epidemic, but I think people are finally recognizing the disparities between privileged and underprivileged populations in terms of mental health care, accessibility, and cultural awareness, competence and practice. I think as a result of that there has been an increase in awareness with First Nations communities and, as you’ve probably heard on the news, smaller communities like Cross Lake are obviously at a much higher risk of suicide because they lack resources and live with all of the effects of intergenerational trauma and discrimination. Also, I know it’s kind of an odd thing, but suicide contagion or clusters is a real phenomenon and Cross Lake is the perfect candidate for it, which is scary but we have unfortunately seen that this past year. So I don’t know if I would call it an epidemic, but I definitely think there’s more awareness around it.”

KJ: “With Cross Lake then, I know the system is generally flawed, but how do you think the government can aid in sending more services up to Indigenous communities and reservations? Is it their fault?”

CP: “I don’t know if it’s specifically the government’s fault but it’s not the community’s fault. Basically after colonization and all Indigenous people went through, mental health care wasn’t equipped to really help First Nations people in a culturally competent way. Now I think there’s a shift in recovery oriented practice and the need to be culturally competent that we need to recognize their ways of healing and incorporate it and respect it into their recovery. And I think it can be done but I don’t think it’s as easy as just sending mental health professionals over there. I don’t know the answer to that.”

KJ: “Almost like it’s more engrained.”

CP: “Kind of like a bigger structural issue. I mean, no doubt it would help just to send mental health professionals out there, which they have by the way, but the problem is larger than just that.”

KJ: “I recently read an article about post-secondary students struggling with mental health issues. Do you have any recommendations for how they can manage?”

CP: “Well, I think it’s important not to go through things alone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, whether it be with anxiety or depression or intrusive thoughts or whatever it may be, tell somebody. I know that the U of W, and I’m sure Red River College and the U of M, have free counselling services and stuff like that. Being able to recognize when your body is reacting to stress in a negative way is really important and just kind of building that self-awareness. Tell someone though. You’re not alone.”

Unplugged: The Day All Media Vanished

The Challenge: “Write a 275-word fictional story about a person who wakes up one day to find all media has vanished. Use only active sentences of a maximum of seven words.”

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“Monday morning,” I groan. I shuffle to the living room.

My radio sits in its usual corner. I jiggle the dial, seeking sound. Silence fills the airwaves. The stations are empty. Where is Richard Cloutier?

It must be a glitch. I turn to the television to check CBC. Both it and Global have vanished. I sigh. Well at least there’s still print.

I unlock the door and step outside. There is nothing on my porch. The Winnipeg Free Press should have arrived. I hope they are just running late. Manitobans cannot survive without the news.

The billboards downtown are empty. Even the CTV building looks abandoned. I step onto my bus. There is a crowd of disconcerted faces.

“Do you know what’s happening?” I ask the woman beside me.

“The news stations are gone,” she says. “No papers either.”

Social media must have an explanation.  I reach for my phone. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are deleted. Has all media vanished? The loneliness begins to set in. I feel unplugged from the world. I push my worries aside. I still have to get to school.

Entering the college, I notice it’s emptier. None of my classmates are visible. I glance around nervously. Where’s my class again?

“Are you looking for something?” A voice inquires.

I turn around. “Yes, the Newsroom.”

“For Creative Communications?”

I nod my head.

“Sorry, but that program has been cancelled.”

“Why?”  I demand.

“It’s just not needed anymore.”