I sat through a defamation trial. Here’s what I learned.

by Alison Motluk

Like many journalists, I live in fear of being sued. I pray that being accurate and fair and unmalicious will be enough. Just in case it isn’t, I make sure never to indemnify any publication I write for. Still, what I learned from observing a defamation trial in Toronto this spring shook me up a little. Here’s what you should know.

You just can’t predict who will sue

I thought I had a pretty good nose for what kind of story I might be sued for, and by what kind of entity, but now I’m not so sure. My new policy is that I shouldn’t try to predict. Even if you go to extraordinary lengths to be accurate, even if the person suing you has already been taken to court elsewhere and didn’t show up, even if your lawyers have gone through the copy with a magnifying glass, don’t be cocky. It’s a crapshoot. You might be sued.

It might take years to be resolved

Cases may come to trial many years after the original story was published. In this instance, the trial was held more than seven years after the story was printed, and about four years after the journalist had moved on to work elsewhere.

Preparing for and defending a case can take many weeks of your unpaid time

The trial itself took more than three calendar weeks. Luckily for the journalist in this case, his new employer understood the importance of defending journalism. For a full-time freelancer like me, however, it would be three-plus weeks of lost income. In addition to that, many, many more weeks go into the preparation of the defence. As the writer, you know the story best, so you have to guide and assist your lawyers as they prepare to defend. That’s more lost income.

A case that could ruin you may go unnoticed
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Posted on June 20, 2018 at 8:57 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

Off the Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer June 12-18

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, communications, and freelancing—with a Canadian focus—and share them in Off the Wire. Who needs a water cooler?

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From Canada: 

From The U.S. and beyond:

Recently on Story Board:

  • A Tricky Transition: Can Good Writers Become Competent Editors?: Veteran freelance writers exhausted by the endless cycles of feast or famine often reach a point in their career where they fantasize, “I want one of those cush editing jobs!” But do strong writing skills automatically translate into editorial talent?…
  • Vancouver freelancer social night June 26: CMG Freelance members and non-members are all welcome to drop by this semi-regular gathering for drinks, snacks and conversation. It’s an opportunity to catch up with some old freelance friends or meet a few new ones.

Spot a story you think we should include in next week’s Off the Wire? Email the link to editor@thestoryboard.ca or tweet us at @storyboard_ca.

Posted on June 18, 2018 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

A Tricky Transition: Can Good Writers Become Competent Editors?

by Steven Threndyle

Veteran freelance writers exhausted by the endless cycles of feast or famine often reach a point in their career where they fantasize, “I want one of those cush editing jobs!”

And why not? The most prestigious editors sit atop the magazine pyramid as creative overseers. Like chief executive officers who hop from one brand to the next, an executive editor (or editor-in-chief) of an A-list magazine is a personality in his or her own right; entrusted to steer the magazine in a profitable direction while ensuring high standards of journalistic integrity.

The best ones also get to bring home the hardware during awards season.

But can writers simply slip into the editor’s chair? Do strong writing skills automatically translate into editorial talent?

Jim Sutherland, former editor of both Western Living and Vancouver magazine, offers some encouragement—and a warning. “There’s a certain kind of free-spirited writer who is probably not going to be offered an editorial job. Otherwise, editors and writers share way more similarities than differences.”

The path from writer to editor

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Posted on June 14, 2018 at 10:00 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Vancouver freelancer social night June 26

Vancouver-area freelancers, come out and celebrate the start of summer at a casual social evening on Tuesday, June 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Central City Brewpub (871 Beatty St).

CMG Freelance members and non-members are all welcome to drop by this semi-regular gathering for drinks, snacks and conversation. It’s an opportunity to catch up with some old freelance friends or meet a few new ones.

Whether you’re having problems and could use some advice or you’re just in need of some time away from your desk, come out for a little freelance camaraderie and build your professional network.

Please RSVP to freelance@cmg.ca to let us know if you can make it. Hope to see you there!

Posted on June 12, 2018 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

Off the Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer June 5-11

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, communications, and freelancing—with a Canadian focus—and share them in Off the Wire. Who needs a water cooler?

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From Canada: 

From The U.S. and beyond:

Recently on Story Board:

Spot a story you think we should include in next week’s Off the Wire? Email the link to editor@thestoryboard.ca or tweet us at @storyboard_ca.

Posted on June 11, 2018 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Freelancers invited to VICE networking event in Toronto June 14


Freelancers are invited to a VICE networking event in Toronto later this month.

VICE Hustle: Editorial happens on Thursday, June 14 from 5 pm to 7 pm at 78 Mowat Avenue.

The event will be a chance for freelancers at all stages of their careers to speak with editors and participate in a panel discussion about careers in journalism and freelancing. 

VICE says the event is intended to offer freelancers a chance to network and build their confidence and to increase transparency among Toronto’s freelance writers.

“If you’re new to the game and want to know where to start, this is the place,” says VICE. “If you’ve been in the trenches for a while and want to pester editors in person rather than over email, this is also the place.”

This event is free to attend, but please RSVP here: vicehustle.splashthat.com.

Posted on June 6, 2018 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

Largest-ever freelance delegation attends 2018 CMG convention

Last month the largest-ever delegation of freelancers came together to represent CMG Freelance at the Canadian Media Guild’s 2018 biennial convention in Toronto.

Approximately 175 people from 11 branches of the union — including CBC, Thomson Reuters, VICE Canada, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and Canadian Press — attended the convention from May 25 to 27 at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel.

CMG Freelance’s six executive members plus five delegates and one observer spent time together in branch meetings and participated in the union’s plenary sessions.

CMG Freelance president Don Genova said he was heartened by the level of support that CMG Freelance received from delegates and other branches of the union.

“We’re moving forward to develop some guidelines that will help our fellow brothers and sisters at other employers think of our members first when it comes to allowable hiring outside of their collective agreements,” he said.

Genova also said the convention was an opportunity to learn about problems individual members are having with pay and working conditions.

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Posted on June 5, 2018 at 1:30 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , ,

Off the Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer May 29-June 4

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, communications, and freelancing—with a Canadian focus—and share them in Off the Wire. Who needs a water cooler?

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From Canada: 

From The U.S. and beyond:

Recently on Story Board:

Spot a story you think we should include in next week’s Off the Wire? Email the link to editor@thestoryboard.ca or tweet us at @storyboard_ca.

Posted on June 4, 2018 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Systematic Editing for the Uncomfortable / Nervous / Reluctant / Insecure Editor

by Amanda Maxwell 

Editing a piece of work isn’t my favourite occupation. If it’s my own, then word blindness and over-familiarity settles in. If it’s for someone else, then I panic about changing their voice.

Most of the time I sort-of know when something’s not right, but not always how to fix it. And this hasn’t changed much; editing courses usually leave me confused and demoralized so I’ve avoided them. At the risk of annoying all the writing instructors I’ve taken classes from, I admit I’m still reading aloud and switching to Comic Sans as my basic only method.

Unlike a carefully crafted narrative, my editing approach has no beginning, middle or end as I dot between lines, paragraphs and pages

However, my approach is slowly changing.

I recently took an all-day Eight-Step Editing workshop with my local chapter of Editors Canada. As well as nudging me into a systematic approach for editing both my own and workplace documents, I was surprised to also pick up some useful writing tips.

Editors Canada has run the Eight-Step Editing workshops since 1985 alongside its full certification programs. Describing Eight-Step Editing as “breaking down the editorial process into a series of tasks,” the organization promotes the workshops to three audiences:

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Posted on May 29, 2018 at 10:00 pm by editor · One Comment · Tagged with: , ,

Off the Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer May 23-28

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, communications, and freelancing—with a Canadian focus—and share them in Off the Wire. Who needs a water cooler?

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From Canada: 

From The U.S. and beyond:

Recently on Story Board:

  • 2018 Portenier Human Rights Bursary competition open for applications: Freelance journalists and independent documentary makers working on projects that focus on human rights abuses can apply for the bursary, which provides the winner with $3000 to attend hostile environment training…
  • The Born Freelancer Asks: Are We Notoriously Lazy?: The accusation took me completely by surprise. I was once in casual discussions with an industry insider about the conditions under which we might work together on a number of future projects — me as a writer and he in a non-creative administrative capacity…

Spot a story you think we should include in next week’s Off the Wire? Email the link to editor@thestoryboard.ca or tweet us at @storyboard_ca.

Posted on May 28, 2018 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,