Off the Page, with investigative journalist Virgil Grandfield

Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. In this interview we chat with freelance journalist Virgil Grandfield, who won the 2016 National Magazine Award for Investigative Reporting.

In his award-winning investigative story “The Cage” (Eighteen Bridges) Virgil Grandfield describes one particular day of his multi-year investigation into human trafficking allegedly linked to Red Cross humanitarian efforts in Indonesia, post-tsunami. “Eva” is his assistant; “Mulyo” is a labour agent who may have been involved in human trafficking; “Otong” is a worker who disappeared while working on a Red Cross project and was allegedly murdered while trying to escape.


NMAF: In 2008, you decided to resign your position as spokesperson for the Red Cross / Red Crescent reconstruction efforts in Indonesia’s Aceh province. The international community had poured millions into rebuilding the region after the 2004 tsunami and 2005 earthquake, and from your position you were able to observe human trafficking creeping into the humanitarian project. How did you start down this road?
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Posted on February 23, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , ,

Alberta Publishing company and CEO Ruth Kelly leave their freelance content creators shivering through the winter – Hire now; pay much, much later

Edmonton, February 22, 2017 – Venture Publishing Inc. of Edmonton and its CEO Ruth Kelly have developed a disturbing business model when it comes to paying the freelance contributors hired to create articles, photos, and illustrations for the various magazines the company produces, such as Alberta Venture, Alberta Oil, and Heroes on behalf of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.

For several years, Venture Publishing has contracted freelance writers, photographers, graphic designers, and illustrators to produce content, and then failed to pay them in a timely manner, or at all.

Venture Publishing currently owes tens of thousands of dollars to these freelancers, and has failed to make good on constant promises to pay them for their work. For those freelancers who do get paid, Venture takes months, or even years, to fulfill its financial obligations.

“Many of the people we’re representing have told me how frustrated they have been, and how some have had their credit ratings ruined because they couldn’t pay bills they were counting on covering with income owed from Venture,” said Canadian Media Guild (CMG) Freelance Branch President Don Genova. “It’s shocking that Ruth Kelly feels she can commission people to fill their magazines with high quality photos, stories, and illustrations, and then not bother to pay them for months and months, leaving her editors, art directors, and financial people to make excuses about why the cheques haven’t been sent. I wonder how the Alberta Congress Board feels now about selecting her as the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Workplace Leader award, when she treats her content providers like this.”

In 2016, a CMG Freelance Branch member approached Genova for help in getting the pay she was owed. Genova soon discovered other freelancers with the same problem. Some reported they had been paid, but only after months or sometimes years of waiting. Others said they were still owed money, and provided contracts, invoices, and email threads to substantiate their claims.
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Posted on February 22, 2017 at 8:00 am by editor · 3 Comments · Tagged with: , , , ,

Webinar: “How To Go Viral Like A Journalist”

yulischeidt-Lauren-headshot-4Ever wonder how BuzzFeed finds funny, heartwarming, or enraging viral news before everyone else? The next in our series of professional development webinars will look at how to track down content on social media, how to find the best tools that do the work for you, and how to make sure you’re not falling for a viral hoax.

The webinar How To Go Viral Like A Journalist is scheduled for Tuesday February 28, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

The webinar will be hosted by Lauren Strapagiel, managing editor for Canada at BuzzFeed. She has previously worked at the National Post, Canada.com, and the Huffington Post Canada.

You can register for the webinar at this link. CMG Freelance and CWA Canada Associate Members can use their membership numbers to register. For a limited time, CMG Freelance is making live viewing of our webinars available to non-members. If you’d like to watch this one, you can use the special code “Storyboard” in place of a membership number.

Archived webinars are available for viewing by CMG Freelance and CWA Canada Associate Members on this members-only page on the CMG Freelance website. Subjects of previous webinars include contract negotiation, pitching, freelance finances, and achieving “Inbox Zero.”

Students, volunteers and emerging media workers can sign up for a free CWA Associate Membership right here.

For information about the price and benefits of CMG Freelance membership check out the CMG Freelance website.

Posted on February 21, 2017 at 9:31 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , ,

Off The Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer Feb 14-20

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, publishing, 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 February 20, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

J-Source wants you to help create a list of the best places to freelance in Canada

5qPdZ5wUEarlier this month, the Columbia Journalism Review ran a great post that surveyed two dozen freelancers about the best outlets to work for. It gives a rundown of six publications that freelancers love, offering specific details about pay and editorial style.

Now J-Source editor H.G. Watson wants to create a Canadian version. She put out a call this week for input from Canadian freelancers about this country’s best outlets to work for — whether because of pay, or great editors, or any other reason. She’s also looking for people who might be willing to go on the record about why they like freelancing for a particular Canadian media outlet.

If you’ve got opinions to share, you can email her at hgwatson@j-source.ca.

We’re looking forward to seeing the results of her research!

Posted on February 17, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , ,

Looking for a coffee shop to work in? Work Hard Anywhere can help

Ja-ss1d3_400x400You probably know the feeling. You’re out in the world, laptop in tow, with some time to spare between appointments. Or maybe you’re on vacation in an unfamiliar city and need a quiet spot where you can get a bit of work done — preferably somewhere with fast wifi, accessible power outlets and good coffee. But if you don’t know the neighbourhood, it can be hard to find a place that checks all the boxes.

We recently ran across an app that might help.

Work Hard Anywhere is an iOS app that maps laptop-friendly workspaces such as coffee shops, libraries and co-working spaces. The app depends on users to rate various aspects of the locations on the map — from wifi speed, to parking, to noisiness and price.

Work Hard Anywhere’s co-founder and CEO Benson Chou told Story Board via email this week that although most of their users are concentrated in the U.S., Canadian freelancers have been helping to map workspaces north of the border as well.

“Besides the US, Canada is certainly one of the more active countries with more than 500 locations scouted by the creatives there,” he says.

A quick scan of the maps of several Canadian cities reveals that newer coffee shops and co-working spaces haven’t yet been added. But there’s enough information there already — especially in larger cities — to make it a useful tool. And the more users get on board, the better the maps will get.

Chou says since the app launched last year it’s had good response from freelancers who’ve used it to find good places to work when they were in a hurry. Others, he says, have used it to find new places to work right in their own neighbourhoods.

The team has had several requests for an Android app, which is currently in development. There’s no release date yet for the Android version (“We’re a bootstrapped startup so we’re inching forward as fast as we can,” says Chou) but you can follow @WHAnywhere on Twitter for updates.

Posted on February 16, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

Off The Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer Feb 7-13

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, publishing, 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:

  • The Born Freelancer on the Sanctity of Deadlines: Douglas Adams, the late great British author of the SF humour classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy used to talk about the whooshing sound of deadlines as they flew past his head. For the vast majority of we mere mortal freelancers, deadlines are sacrosanct…
  • Webinar: “The Savvy Freelancer’s Guide to Contract Negotiation”: Negotiating contracts is one of the most challenging parts of freelancing. To help you out with that, CMG Freelance has planned a webinar called “The Savvy Freelancer’s Guide to Contract Negotiation”…

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 February 13, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

The Born Freelancer on the Sanctity of Deadlines

Also: R.I.P. Sam Levene & Keith Maskell

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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Douglas Adams, the late great British author of the SF humour classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy used to talk about the whooshing sound of deadlines as they flew past his head.

I love his work. And I love that story. But it was set in another time, another place. (In fact it was in the late 1970s at the BBC in London.)

The reality is that even then such behaviour was rarely tolerated. Adams was an exception in an exceptional situation. Today I doubt such behaviour could be tolerated at all. And I suspect his output would have been greater as a result. 

For the vast majority of we mere mortal freelancers, deadlines are sacrosanct. Have always been and always will be. And yet, incredibly, I hear some still don’t quite get it.

Why they should

When I started freelancing on radio I learned the first “golden rule” – always turn up on time. It didn’t matter if you were sick or hung over – you had to turn up and “perform”. Naturally there were exceptions – like death. (Your own, of course.) 

When I started freelance writing I learned the first “golden rule” there too – always make your deadline. And always be accurate. (OK, so I learned two golden rules.)  

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Posted on February 8, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , , ,

Webinar: “The Savvy Freelancer’s Guide to Contract Negotiation”

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Freelance writer and author Ann Douglas

Negotiating contracts is one of the most challenging parts of freelancing. To help you out with that, CMG Freelance has planned a webinar called “The Savvy Freelancer’s Guide to Contract Negotiation.”

It’s scheduled for Wednesday, February 15 at 6 PM EST and will be led by author and freelance writer Ann Douglas.

Negotiating a writing contract doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be a positive and empowering experience. In this practical and thought-provoking webinar, Ann will teach you how to analyze a freelance writing agreement so that you’re totally clear about what you’re being asked to sign.

Then she’ll share some insider advice on negotiating the best possible contract terms for yourself — and in a way you can feel good about. Expect to be informed, inspired, and entertained during this information-packed session. 

Ann Douglas is a bestselling parenting author (her most recent book is Parenting Through the Storm), an award-winning magazine writer, and the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio. She is also a powerful advocate for and supporter of Canadian freelance writers.

In February 2013, she went public with her decision to resign from the parenting column she had been writing for The Toronto Star. (She detailed her reasons in this much-read blog post for Story Board: “Why I Am No Longer Writing The Column I Loved for The Toronto Star”). In June 2013, she became the second person ever to be awarded a Lifetime Membership by the Professional Writers Association of Canada, in recognition of her contributions to the freelance writing profession. 

To register for this free webinar go to this page on the CMG Freelance website.

Previous webinars are available in the “For Members” section of the CMG Freelance website. Subjects of previous webinars include pitching, freelance finances, social media storytelling, and achieving “Inbox Zero.”

For information about the price and benefits of CMG Freelance membership check out the CMG Freelance website.

Posted on February 7, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , , ,

Off The Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer Jan 31-Feb 6

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, publishing, 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:

  • Panel discussion to launch Journalism in Crisis book February 9 in Toronto: Toronto journalists and freelancers, mark your calendars for next Thursday, February 9 at 5:30 p.m. for “The Future of Journalism in the Canadian News Media Ecology,” a free panel discussion and reception to launch the book Journalism in Crisis: Bridging Theory and Practice for Democratic Media Strategies in Canada… 
  • Canadian freelancers turn to the US market to secure higher-paying gigs: When Canadian-based freelancer Katherine O’Brien started working as a web content and blog writer, she hadn’t made a conscious decision to publish with US companies to make a decent living. Yet for over a year and a half, O’Brien has written mostly for companies south of the Canadian border…
  • Loving the work without working alone: Freelancers are often idealized as isolated entrepreneurs. Nicole Cohen addresses this idea of the lone wolf writer head-on in her book, Writers’ Rights: Freelance Journalism in a Digital Age

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 February 6, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,