The Born Freelancer Talks with Joe Mahoney, Author of Adventures in the Radio Trade

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.

the born freelancer

Joe Mahoney has seen both sides of the freelancing paradigm.

As a CBC Radio employee, engaged in diverse and demanding positions including management, he saw a multitude of freelancers come and go. Recently retired after 35 years with the CBC, today Mahoney faces a new series of challenges as a freelance or self-employed writer, publisher and podcaster.

The Born Freelancer Talks with Joe Mahoney, author of Adventures in the Radio Trade

The Born Freelancer: Hello Joe! Welcome to the world of freelancing. How’s it going?

Joe Mahoney: I’m focusing on my writing career, which I’ve always wanted to do. I love having the flexibility and ability to do that. My mornings are no longer rushed. I have time to walk the dog. There are things that need to get done outside of work that I now have time to do without worrying about an employer. So yes, I do prefer being self-employed. The money isn’t as good…yet…but I’m very fortunate in that I have a pension and a partner who works. And my plan is for the money to get better. If it doesn’t, it won’t be for the lack of effort.

The Born Freelancer: What mistakes do you think you made starting out in your new self-employed career?

Joe Mahoney: Gee, where do I begin? First off, I don’t beat myself up over mistakes. They’re all part of the learning process. I may have made a mistake incorporating my company, Donovan Street Press Inc. It’s a little pricey around income tax time. I’m told corporate tax is challenging to do yourself so I’ve gone with an accountant, which is a greater drain on my self-employed finances than I’d like to see. But whether it’s really a mistake or not remains to be seen.

The Born Freelancer: Any mistakes regarding writing and publishing specifically?

Joe Mahoney: It’s easy to spend way too much money advertising and promoting your work. The problem is you don’t know what works and what doesn’t work when you first start out, so the temptation to throw money at Amazon or Facebook Ads is too great. And you wind up spending more than you make.

The Born Freelancer: What revenue streams are you now pursuing or do you plan to pursue in the future?

Joe Mahoney: My main priority is my writing career. I released a book the day after I retired, Adventures in the Radio Trade. So that part of my plan was a success (though it’s yet to make its money back). I’m trying to finish another novel. It’s in four acts, like the Japanese Kishōtenketsu story structure (introduction, development, twist, conclusion). The first three acts are finished, I just have to finish the fourth.

Cover image of a memoir called Adventures in the Radio Trade

I’m also co-hosting and producing a podcast called Re-Creative with my friend and fellow writer Mark A. Rayner. It doesn’t generate any revenue (so far). The idea was that it would increase our profile and help book sales. Unfortunately, although we enjoy the podcast and plan to continue, it has not boosted book sales appreciably, at least as far as we can tell.

I’m exploring expanding Donovan Street Press Inc., seriously considering publishing books other than my own, as well as producing more podcasts. I’ve prepared a business plan to this end and am talking to a few people. That and my own writing are my two main pursuits at the moment.

The Born Freelancer: Full disclosure: This reporter paid for and thoroughly enjoyed a copy of your memoir of life “behind the scenes” at CBC Radio. I can highly recommend it. How did it come about?

Joe Mahoney: Thank you, glad you enjoyed Adventures in the Radio Trade! I’ve always been in the habit of writing down anything interesting that happened to me. A lot of interesting stuff has happened to me at the CBC, and it all got written down. When blogs became a thing, a lot (not all, but a lot) of that material wound up in a blog. One day a friend, Karina Bates, suggested I turn it into a book, so I did, digging up old notes, and expanding on existing material.

The Born Freelancer: But why self-publish?

Joe Mahoney: I decided to self-publish it because after putting together and publishing both my own collection of short stories (Other Times and Places) and my father’s collection (The Deer Yard and Other Stories) I knew how. Also, I had learned that when other people publish your stuff, through no fault of their own but simply the exigencies of keeping a publishing company afloat, everyone else gets the lion share of the profits (of course, they assume all the risk up front). And after having the rights to my first novel, A Time and a Place, revert to me, I discovered that I REALLY LIKE having the rights to my own intellectual property. Plus, I knew that because I’m basically a nobody, I suspected that no publishing company would be interested in Adventures in the Radio Trade anyway. All that and the fact that by publishing it myself, I have complete creative control. I’m not averse to having someone else publish future work of mine, but I don’t regret publishing Adventures in the Radio Trade myself.

The Born Freelancer: What about the basic process itself?

Joe Mahoney: The process was time consuming but pretty straight forward. Write it, create the index, hire a book designer/cover artist, let them do their thing, upload the files to the distributors of your choice, acquire author copies, attempt to sell it, try not to lose your shirt advertising it. Try to figure out how to turn it from an expensive hobby into something actually profitable. Still working on that last part.

The Born Freelancer: Let’s talk about creativity in general. What inspires you? How do you keep your creativity alive?

Joe Mahoney: I just keep trying to do creative things. I write. I make music (though not as much as I’d like). I make podcasts. I’ve made videos. I do it because it’s fun. I do the business related stuff, like tracking income versus expenses and that sort of thing, and I try to do it properly, but I also try to get through it as soon as possible so that I can get back to the fun stuff, the creative stuff. You will notice that I’m answering your questions the same night I got them because:

The Born Freelancer: Which sounds like an ideal segue! So how do you balance your professional and personal lives?

Joe Mahoney: I practise the three-legged stool school of balance. The three legs are: work, family, hobbies. Without any one of those, the stool falls over. When I work, I focus on work. When I family, I focus on family. When I hobby, I focus on that. My hobby used to be writing. Now that’s work. So my hobbies become music and karate. When it’s time to do family stuff, I give them all my attention. Ultimately, they’re the most important. And I’ve always tried to practise good mental hygiene. Think positive thoughts. I have no time for negativity. Sure, I succumb to it from time to time, but am always aware that I have to bust out of it. My family and I always think of Eeyore. We like Eeyore, but we don’t want to be Eeyores. If we catch someone Eeyoring, we say no Eeyoring!

An illustration of Eeyore the donkey saying "If it is a good morning, which I doubt"

The Born Freelancer: Finally, Joe, what new projects are you working on right now or do you hope to work on in the near future?

Joe Mahoney: I’m helping a couple of friends polish up their novels for publication. And I just finished mastering a CD for a talented harpist friend of mine. That was a lot of fun. My own big project these days is my novel, Captain’s Away. That’s my main focus right now, to get it written and out into the world, either traditionally published or otherwise. Then I will focus on growing Donovan Street Press Inc.

Many thanks to Joe Mahoney for answering our questions so fully and promptly.

Joe’s website contains information on how to order any of his books—as well as some of the funniest mock reviews to be found on any author’s website.

Posted on February 28, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Webinar: Empowering You! CFG Experts Panel on Tax Time 2024

It’s that time again: getting ready to file our annual tax returns. What’s changed? What qualifies for expenses? How can you get through this without setting your hair on fire?

Image to advertise an upcoming webinar called Empowering You! CFG Experts Panel on Tax Time 2024

Our CFG finance experts panel is here to help.

Our Presenters

Dr. Nadine Robinson is back again. She began her career as an accountant at Deliotte, and believes in spending on things that can’t be taken from you, like travel, life-long learning, and life experiences.

Michelle Waitzman also returns. She edited for the Canadian Tax Foundation for eight years and uses webinars and conference presentations to teach freelancers about HST/GST.

And joining us for the first time, Sandy Yong, personal finance writer, TEDx and keynote speaker, who’s the award-winning author of The Money Master.

Come with your questions and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

Empowering You!! Our CFG Experts Panel is Here to Help You Navigate Tax Time

You can register for this webinar right here.

Learn more about the cost and benefits of membership in the CFG on this webpage.

The link to the Zoom webinar will be sent to you via email about half an hour before the start time.

Please check your spam or junk folders if you can’t find the email, and contact if you haven’t received the link 10 minutes before the scheduled start time. This webinar will be recorded and posted to the CFG Video-On-Demand site. Once posted, all paid registrants will receive a link and instructions on how to view.

Posted on February 23, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT

Growth and mistakes: Reflecting on year one as a freelance writer

This article on reflecting on a year as a freelance writer is written by Becky Zimmer who is based in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. She has experience in farm, community, small business and sports reporting.

Overhead photograph of a young woman typing on a laptop computer, which is sitting on a table
The decision was simple.

I was coming out of an editorial contract with nothing else on the horizon that wouldn’t have included a move that my husband and I weren’t ready for.

My network has grown in the eight years I’ve been living and working in rural Saskatchewan, so it became the perfect time to freelance writing a shot. That was a year ago and now I’m looking back on my first full year running my own business.

This has been the best move of my career. However, this doesn’t mean I still don’t drool over the job postings that pop up on my LinkedIn feed. Or that I’m not worried about the eventually slow times that will creep up.

What I’ve learned in my first year as a freelance writer

I still have questions, like what I could have done better or what changes I am going to make as I start year two, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Set your schedule

Our to-do lists will never be empty. That is just a fact of making work for yourself. There will always be stories to research, phone calls to make, interviews to do and travel plans to make.

With that being the case, set up a work schedule but also remember your brain needs time to rest. Take the coffee and lunch breaks, have a quitting time, take days off. The endless slog will not cease when you’re on the verge of burnout.

Set some goals

When I first started out, any story, contact, or new job was like striking gold. I was just happy to be covering the stories that interested me, but I didn’t know what to expect when it came to calculating any word count or net income goals. Some media outlets pay more than others but in my experience, community news pays far less than agricultural writing and corporate work pays more than agriculture. I wasn’t going into this looking at the dollar and cents of it all. I just wanted to work as a storyteller and communicator.

I count this year as a success.

At over 160 stories written, that’s 14 a month with most of them around the 800-word mark and $38K worth of work filed, I’ve been happy with my output.

Financially, I surpassed what I made as a rural editor and reporter, I have no bill collectors knocking down my door and my husband (who has some money anxiety) was cool as a cucumber all year.

Whether you’re looking at your output, dollar amounts or even the number of pitches and queries you make in a week or a month, set a goal for how you define success.

Keep everything in order

It doesn’t matter what you use: Wave, QuickBooks, your own Excel sheet, a professional bookkeeper. If it works for you, use it to keep all your invoices in order. The only rule of this is stay on top of your finances.

While some people have said an Excel sheet isn’t enough, I have enough people in my network, including a small business support organization, telling me that I’m on the right track. Everything is in order and I usually take a good look at it a few times a week and update my invoicing while work comes in and work goes out.

Maybe an app would be easier but for now, trying something new would take some initial time and energy before making the switch worth it.

Ask for help, never stop learning and own your mistakes

I put these all together because it falls within the same sphere: fearlessly learning the business.

I became a bookkeeper and marketer overnight when I chose to go down the route of freelance writing. I’ve been saying for years that I’m a writer not a mathematician, but now I’m wrapping my head around taxes and invoicing.

In general, humans hate being vulnerable, so accepting the fact that I didn’t know everything but also not wanting to give the wrong impression to clients and newsrooms, I had to get over this.

I’ve made mistakes with my invoicing and missed some claims for GST that would have saved me some money. But so far owning up to it has saved me stress and has not lost me any clients. We all make them but mistakes are only failures when you don’t turn them into learning experiences. Take it from Alanis Morissette: you live, you learn.

Join guilds

While I don’t mean this to be a shameless plug, this is the one piece of advice I give to writers whether they ask for it or not. Part of building my network has been finding like-minded people who are just as passionate as I am about journalism and writing. I’ve found those people in farm writers, fiction writers, and fellow freelancers through guild memberships (such as Canadian Freelance Guild) and social media.

Part of asking for help is knowing who to ask and there is no greater resource than these guilds full of experienced people who’ve been there before.
Beyond that, they have also provided a wealth of travel and learning opportunities. If you’re paying the membership, these are what your dollars go towards. Dive in with both feet and maybe even see how you could get even more involved on boards and event planning. The thing that makes these guilds great are the people in them.

Other posts by Becky Zimmer

Posted on February 22, 2024 at 7:17 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: 

Why Freelancers in Marketing and Communications Should Have an Email List

by Robyn Roste

If you spend any time studying online marketing you’ve come across advice to start an email list. And if you’re a typical freelancer who gets most of your work from referrals you may think you don’t need one.

I get it. On the surface it doesn’t make sense. Why would you collect random subscribers when your work comes through different channels? And why would you spend time sending emails when you don’t need many clients to run your business?

Email lists can be good for your freelance business. If you can create an environment where your email subscribers enjoy hearing from you and find your content relevant and applicable, you position yourself to be the first person they think of when they’re looking for a freelancer.

Here are six reasons why having an email list makes sense for freelancers.

1. An email list nurtures potential clients who aren’t ready to hire you…yet

Read the rest of this post »

Posted on February 1, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , , , ,

Webinar: The CFG Social Media Experts Panel Returns

One of the highlights of the Canadian Freelance Guild’s 2023 Summer Academy was the first gathering of the Social Media Experts Panel. Six months on, it’s time for an update on navigating the messy world of social media.

CFG Social Media Panel returns - slate - no Carolyn.001

This time, the panel will methodically work their way through the top social media platforms to talk about the good, the bad and the horrible.

Our Presenters

Vanessa and Mina are confirmed, and we’re hoping Caroline will also be able to join.

This webinar is part of the Canadian Freelance Guild’s Business of Freelancing series.

The CFG Social Media Experts Panel Returns

You can register for this webinar right here.

Learn more about the cost and benefits of membership in the CFG on this webpage.

The link to the Zoom webinar will be sent to you via email about half an hour before the start time.

Please check your spam or junk folders if you can’t find the email, and contact if you haven’t received the link 10 minutes before the scheduled start time. This webinar will be recorded and posted to the CFG Video-On-Demand site. Once posted, all paid registrants will receive a link and instructions on how to view.

Posted on January 22, 2024 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: 

The future of AI

This article on the future of AI is written by Becky Zimmer, a freelance writer based in Humboldt, Saskatchewan with experience in farm, community, small business and sports reporting.
Illustration of a head with the word "AI" overtop to illustrate the future of AI
Kenzi is four years old. Asking her to write and tell me a story, blue pen scribbles on notebook paper her own form of “writing”, was a great way to distract her while I hung out on my aunt’s couch on a working holiday, the long wait before Kenzi’s mom came to pick her up a failed attempt at my own writing.

The small glimpse into the mind of a preschooler was a lesson in itself. My cousin talked about the adventures of her grandpa and a snowman, her mind jumping from one plot line to the next. First, the snowman was melting as he travelled down a river to the ocean, her small mind flabbergasted on where to take the story from there. Then, her great grandpa, also present in the room, came into the picture, he and the snowman performing magic tricks and singing a song that sure included her own name a lot.

While the players and settings were closely front-of-mind in the form of her family and her hometown in British Columbia, individual words came from somewhere else. The dozens of stories she already heard in her short life a goulash of ideas in her head, forming something completely new.

By the time she is in university, how will these tales be transformed into something different? What new characters and location will play a role in her storytelling?

In 10 or 15 years, will she still be forming her own stories? Maybe she will be learning how to take them from her head to the page or screen?

Throughout this series on artificial intelligence, we’ve talked about how AI has had an impact on writers and educators and what AI development means for journalists, but the biggest question I’ve wanted to ask is what the future of AI development is going to look like.

How far will AI development go and is it a good thing?

This discussion was brought even more into the spotlight recently with breaking news about Geoffrey Hinton quitting his job with Google after 10 years. According to a New York Times article, the artificial intelligence pioneer created technology at the University of Toronto in 2012 that became the intellectual foundation for AI. Now, he is speaking out against his creation.

Just like what we said in previous articles, Hinton expects AI to take the grudge work out of rote tasks but they may take away more than that.

“It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things.”

While Alec Couros, director for the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Regina, mentioned the utopian dream of AI taking away those monotonous jobs to let humans focus on the critical thinking, collaboration, comprehension, and creativity elements, he also mentioned the concerns of the current path we are going down. There is no final destination because so far, there is no perceived end to the places AI could take the human race.

However, there are already issues in security, technological over-dependence and drops in literacy rates that are telling signs of trouble for the future, especially when coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Couros. While he is not talking about all of these problems coming to a head in the next few years, systemic changes may alleviate some of these concerns; Couros cites universal basic income as a solution because people could be free to pursue more creative endeavours after they’re jobs become AI-based.

AI is going to change the world, so how do we solve the ensuing global problems?

“We have to retool our ideas. We have to think differently about how we see work and labor and how we interact with technology.”

You cannot watch this AI-powered shift and not see the potential changes to copyrights, production, and creation, said Owen Brierley. There are always going to be two camps of people; those that want to maintain the creative process without AI and those that want to embrace AI and both will bring different value adds to the table.

The biggest shocks to the system will take place in the short term, said Brierly, but over the long term, we are going to be dealing with a “deepening of accuracy, the broadening of application.”

“This ability for a human to human to AI collaboration where I can become a much more effective collaborative with you, as a colleague, friend, whatever, and AI helps augment that by contributing in ways that I can understand the noise that you can’t understand so we end up generating something that we’ve never been able to generate just on our own, the two of us.”

With AI coming into the more creative aspects of society, with many recent examples of AI based art and music, we have reached an existential step, said Darren Hick, assistant professor of philosophy at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Technological development concerns are nothing new; Hicks remembers when the internet was just personal websites and six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but it figured out how to be useful. AI is not going anywhere, he said, and we have to be cognizant of where we’re going with it.

“It’s technology, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with computers, there’s nothing wrong with cell phones, as long as we don’t lose sight of why we were doing this in the first place.”

Posted on January 19, 2024 at 3:00 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Webinar: Find and Win Government Contracts

Join the Canadian Freelance Guild for the first CFG Experts Panel of 2024 and discover how you can navigate the government contracting system to your advantage.

After all, it’s the biggest purchaser of private sector goods and services in the country.

We’ve confirmed two expert CFG panelists who know how to find and get Government of Canada contracts, and a representative from Procurement Canada.

This is bound to be a popular event just two months from the government’s annual year end, when budgets are either spent or returned to the Treasury.

Find out how the system works, how to make it work for you, and whether this is the kind of client you really want.

This webinar is part of the Canadian Freelance Guild’s Business of Freelancing series.

Our Presenters

Marion Soublière is president of M.E.S. Editing and Writing Services (, and a veteran of the communications, journalism and public relations fields.

donalee Moulton is a professional writer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. But she is also so much more! Animal lover. Business owner. Boss lady.

Dolan Bogus is a procurement lead for Procurement Assistance Canada, and has been working in government procurement for nearly 20 years.

Find and Win Government Contracts

You can register for this webinar right here.

Learn more about the cost and benefits of membership in the CFG on this webpage.

The link to the Zoom webinar will be sent to you via email about half an hour before the start time.

Please check your spam or junk folders if you can’t find the email, and contact if you haven’t received the link 10 minutes before the scheduled start time. This webinar will be recorded and posted to the CFG Video-On-Demand site. Once posted, all paid registrants will receive a link and instructions on how to view.

Posted on December 27, 2023 at 2:12 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT

Navigating NaNoWriMo with ADHD: One Freelance Writer’s Experience

This article on one experience with ADHD and NaNoWriMo is written by Becky Zimmer, a freelance writer based in Humboldt, Saskatchewan with experience in farm, community, small business and sports reporting.

An image of a young woman staring contemplatively at her computer to illustrate Navigating NaNoWriMo with ADHD

Diving into the fray, a fallen soldier became my next point of cover, his weapon loosely….

Diving into the fray, a fallen soldier became my next point of cover, his blaster fallen from his outstretched….

Diving into the fray, a fallen soldier became my next point of cover, his weapon close at hand after……he…………..fell??????

Diving into the fray, a soldier became my next point of cover, his weapon close at hand where he fell.

After 15 minutes of working on this scene, I reached the point where I wanted to quit for some mindless social media scrolling, even though I knew I wouldn’t find solutions for my writer’s block on any Facebook or Instagram feed.

Once I dove down the social media distraction hole, I knew it would be harder to get back to my writing project, and easy to waste 20 minutes there than that same amount of time inching my way through my scene.

Frustration over not having the words for what’s going on in my head is the worst cause of my procrastination

How many times can I use “fall” in this sentence, because I am losing count! It’s the only word I can think of right now to indicate the fallen soldier and his fallen weapon that my protagonist will grab for.

Why can’t I spell the word “soldier” on the first try without needing spell check and autocorrect?

Did I remember to send that email I was going to write an hour ago?

Aww, my dog is so cute.

The five minutes remaining on my Pomodoro timer pulls me back into my Word file and I keep going, nearly getting my heroine out of her latest scrap. When the 10-minute break timer sounds, I hope it will help me do the same and I can inch Augusta 306 further to safety.

This is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in my ADHD brain, and the first one since my diagnosis.

Starting my freelancing career was the biggest reason I sought to, in the words of my 15-year-old self, figure out why my brain is a watercolor painting that’s constantly running.

I remember things feeling off, like I was always on and leaping from one thought to another. Using this analogy to explain my brain to my mother got me nowhere—no doctors appointments or talking with a psychologist—but the vision of a blank canvas that paint never stuck to has stayed with me.

Before my diagnosis, I coasted through my English degree, rarely finishing the assigned reading assignments by the time the final exam hit and never feeling like I completely understood the concepts. Trying to concentrate on textbook readings was a chore, 10 minutes and three pages feeling like hours of work that left me frustrated and unable to focus.

Forget study groups. Unless the tasks were clear and concrete, like a class project, I was the one that talked the most about everything other than the quiz or exam when the only goal was to “study.” At least my journalism degree had clear objectives in mind—interview this person about this subject, go to this event and take photos.

For the most part we weren’t studying abstract concepts or classifications of novels or authors, we were learning hands-on tasks in order to become journalists. For classes like ethics and media law, there was a clear drop in my grades, not because I enjoyed it less or didn’t understand—I understand now that presenting my understanding was just harder to do.

This was my litmus test. The control group. My academic career before intervention or medication

Shortly after starting on Methylphenidate, more commonly called Concerta, I went back for a full semester of classes to complete a Global Studies certificate at my old alma mater. It was night and day. Every assignment was turned in days before the deadline, every reading assignment was completed and understood and my grades saw a measurable jump.

Beyond the academics of being a journalist (researching, writing, editing, etc.), I could focus on a project for longer than 10 minutes, my brain stayed on task without wandering. Medication, therapy and having a name and reason for why my brain acted like a leash to pull me back to the task at hand.

This doesn’t mean my problems are solved. I know what works—things like making lists, setting specific tasks on my Pomodoro timer, specific breaks and work time set and tracked with the help of an app and Habitica, a habit-forming app where I’m rewarded for things like going to bed on time, cleaning my house and, yes, writing. I also have a better idea on what sets me up for failure.

What works is clear goals and dedicated work time to focus on one thing at a time

When it comes to a 1,000-word story about this year’s seeding trends, I know what that finish line of written, edited and filed looks like and I am laser-focused for an hour or two knowing what needs to be done.

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, ambiguous end goals cause me problems. It may be 50,000 words, 1,666 words per day if you can write every day, but I’m also working on plots and characters and possible ideas for book two.

When my brain is trying to work on agriculture stories, communication and media documents for a new capital project and a story about an intergalactic queen’s decoy, it takes time for my brain to switch. I can’t only focus on Augusta 306 for an entire month.

If I can carve out a day for myself where I can focus on having some fun with a fictional tale, I will bang out thousands of words at a time. When I’m also busy being a full-time writer and communicator, those days are hard to find.

So here I am at day four. I am 2,775 words behind, with 1,666 words on the docket for today.

“Diving into the fray, a soldier became my next point of cover, his weapon close at hand where he fell.”

Nailed it.

Do you have a similar experience to Becky’s? We’d love to hear about it, along with your strategies for focusing on your freelance projects. Let us know in the comments, in our Facebook Group, or on our Discord channel!

Posted on December 13, 2023 at 7:42 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Emerging from the Dark Ages into the Light and Right

This article on deadnaming and decolonization is written by Nadine Robinson, a freelance writer, professor and keynote speaker based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Stock image of a stack of newspapers. This is to illustrate the changing style guide journalists follow for the article Emerging from the Dark Ages into the Light and Right: Decolonize your writing and become LGBTQ2S+ friendly

Decolonize your writing and become LGBTQ2S+ friendly

Are you sending your work to editors chipped out on a stone tablet without knowing? If you haven’t upgraded to the 19th edition of the Canadian Press Stylebook you might appear more Neanderthal than you might like. Some important writing style changes have happened since the 18th edition was released in 2017, and regardless of that, there are times to get ahead of CP style.

While not raised reading hieroglyphics, I still grew up with very different terms for Asians, Inuit, First Nations, the LGBTQ community, salespeople, and board chairs, among others. As language evolved, there were growing pains, but I tried to as well. Even if you don’t understand why an old term is suddenly offensive, if that group is saying that it is, that should be reason enough to update our parchment and quills.

Using chosen pronouns and avoiding deadnaming, and decolonizing language and respecting Indigenous worldviews, are two of the most notable changes in the 2021 CP Style edition. How to clearly write about climate change, sexual misconduct, and the ever-evolving language around COVID-19 are also reflected in the 19th edition.

Deadnaming and Pronoun Usage

Back in early 2022, I found myself (as a freelancer) in an email dustup with a staff writer.

The reporter in question had deadnamed a celebrity’s child and used their former pronoun. Since I had passed him the story (and because I felt morally obligated) I asked him to change the pronoun and remove the deadname. He argued that it was factually accurate and that the new pronoun would “confuse readers.”

For background, a transgender or non-binary person’s “deadname” is their birth or given name. It is called a deadname as the name is considered as dead as their former gender identity. “Deadnaming” is when anyone, including the media, uses their birth name instead of their chosen name, without their consent.

Deadnaming can be accidental, like when I didn’t know my friend’s child’s new chosen name. It can also be a lack of emotional intelligence. My trans friends have since explained that it is often seen as an overt or micro aggression delegitimizing their new identity.

So…I suggested alternate wording that would remove the deadname, correct the pronoun, and not affect the context of his excellent article. Even with my well-intentioned overstep, the story ran as it was originally written. To make myself feel better I did some research, and sent it to them for future reference:

Decolonizing Your Writing

The 19th Canadian Press Stylebook notes that the word Indigenous should be capitalized. The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) posted a media style guide asking writers to choose Indigenous Style over Canadian Press Style, including where capitalization may be different.

Here are a few terms that are capitalized under Indigenous style:

ITAC’s online guide titled, 12 Ways to Better Choose Our Words When We Write About Indigenous Peoples is to educate writers to avoid historically inaccurate terms and offensive language. Within the recommendations, it notes that the authority on the topic is Elements of Indigenous Style, by Gregory Younging and published by Brush Education.

They recommend that Indigenous Peoples are referred to in the present tense and that the possessive not be used, as they have not been assimilated.

“Avoid the phrase ‘Canada’s First Nations.’ Instead, use ‘Indigenous People in Canada,’ or ‘First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples in Canada.’”

Further, the guide highlights that Indigenous Peoples are not a homogenous group (they have distinct cultures and heritages).

“The Indigenous population in Canada is made up of Inuit, Métis, and some 634 different First Nations.”

Ask for the name of the community or nation if there was no self-declaration.

Also, writers are asked to remember that Oral Tradition and Traditional Knowledge should be considered as holding its own copyright and to ask permission before reprinting them.

As professionals, at a minimum we need to meet Canadian Press Style, but there are times when we need to write ahead of it, even if a few stone tablets get smashed along the way.

Posted on November 21, 2023 at 6:30 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

How rural community newspapers defy industry challenges and deliver vital stories

This article on community news is written by Becky Zimmer, a freelance writer based in Humboldt, Saskatchewan with experience in farm, community, small business and sports reporting.

A younger man with brown hair and a beard is looking above the camera and holding a newspaper. He is outside and the sun is just rising behind a tree.

In the words of Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changin’.

This is true for community newspapers as much as any other industry.

But just because papers are getting smaller, coverage areas are getting bigger, staff getting harder to retain, and confidence dropping in the reach of print advertising, this doesn’t mean the stories coming out of rural communities are any less important.

Talking with privately owned papers in rural Canada, they are seeing success in rural reporting for a couple of reasons.

Chris Ashfeild, has been a newspaper man for the last 30 years, and is now a publisher for Grasslands News Group, a company that owns five of the nearly 30 privately owned weekly newspapers in rural Saskatchewan.

Coming from a time when every community had some form of news, no newspaper can survive just covering one community anymore, he said.

“You need more personnel and more staff for that, but unfortunately, the dollars aren’t there to do that. So it doesn’t make it more challenging as far as putting out and getting a newspaper to press nowadays.”

Right now, driving from one side of their coverage area to another is two hours but he is lucky, he said. With good staff, he trusts that they do their jobs well and he can do what he needs to do without needing to pick up the slack in other areas of the office. Being a public figure, he also has time to get out into the community, whether that is on behalf of the business or for himself as a community volunteer.

Staffing goes hand in hand with putting out a well put together newspaper, he said, so you need those boots on the ground in the community.
With his position, he can make those staffing decisions or the most valuable use of his time without needing to appeal to shareholders from two or three provinces over.

“It becomes a totally different ballgame for how you operate a newspaper,” he said.

Daniel Bushman is finding the same thing as the owner and operator of The Watrous Manitou covering the Watrous and Lanigan areas of central Saskatchewan. Great staff and his family are the biggest reason he is able to keep the paper going.

Now in his early 30s, purchasing the newspaper back in 2014 so shocked the Canadian journalism world that he was the subject of a J-Source article for Angela Long’s series on rural reporting.

Working at the paper for years before, Bushman and the paper were fortunate, he said. There was an existing newspaper to buy and he cares enough to keep the paper going for as long as he can.

From making donations, sponsoring events, to just ensuring local coverage, Bushman’s focus is making sure a community that is supporting them is a priority. That mentality is keeping them viable, he said.

“If you pick up the paper and you can read about your family member who’s received a Queen Elizabeth the second Jubilee medal, you’re not going to find that in a different paper. Or if you can read about your daughter’s volleyball team who got a silver medal…the main street revitalization project in Watrous…or the emergency room disruptions in Lanigan and Watrous, you won’t find that somewhere else.”

For many people that “somewhere else” is social media but that has been in theory more than practice.

Not everyone has Facebook, said Bushman, so when people do advertise in the paper, they are often surprised at how well it works.

“I’m not gonna lie, I understand there’s value in the social media aspect of things, but at the same time, I feel like we still have a niche. Placing an ad in the newspaper, I think there’s value there.”

A stack of newspapers, representing community newspapers across Canada
As publisher of the oldest newspaper in Northern Ontario, Alicia McCutcheon didn’t expect to even work as a reporter, let alone take over the Manitoulin Expositor from her father who bought it in the 1970s.

Located on Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron, McCutcheon takes the job seriously as the paper is the foundation for a strong community as well as its history keeper, cheerleader, and champion. Even to the little events that reporters may roll their eyes to cover, everything is important to somebody.

They are in a fairly unique situation being as isolated as they are, she said, but that doesn’t make the job any less important.

“We like to joke that we have a captive audience, so that’s kind of helpful, I guess, a little bit. But the community support has been very good.”

Demographics are shifting with more people moving to the area from bigger centres. Newspapers, including free ones that couldn’t penetrate the markets of Toronto, are a novel thing to newly arrived urbanites who are giving rural life a try and McCutcheon questions the integrity of the product in that case. However, she does admit that the Expositor’s subscription sales have also declined at an alarming rate in recent years, but they are also capitalizing on this online shift by introducing a paywall for their award winning website.

Members of the community haven’t complained, she said, as she trusts the quality of her newspaper. Both readers and advertisers notice the hard work that goes into it week after week.

Posted on June 27, 2023 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: