If My Past Self Could See Me Now

“What would our first-year selves think if they saw us right now?” my friend asked as we set up a camera and tripod to film an interview.

“They’d be amazed at our confidence,” she said, answering her own question.

“I would definitely be amazed,” I echoed.

It was a short conversation, lost in the bustle of the interview, but this moment stood out in my mind because it is something I’ve been thinking about lately—what my past self would think of my current self. I know for a fact that my friend was right: my first-year self would think it’s crazy that I am so much more confident in all aspects of journalism.

I wrote last year about the fact that studying journalism forced me to jump out of my comfort zone; and as the year went on, I became comfortable with being outside of my comfort zone. I know that if I feel nervous about an assignment or task, that’s a good thing—because it means I am going to learn from it. This is a mindset that I didn’t always have during my first year, but it is something that I think my first-year self would really admire now.

But let’s take it back further than my first year of university. My high school self might be surprised that I’m still blogging. She’d also be surprised, I think, at all of the amazing friendships and opportunities that have come out of my experiences at university. I have an incredible group of friends who encourage me to be a better journalist and a better person. They help me expand my comfort zone both in writing and in other things, like trying new foods. I tried octopus the other week (OK, one bite, but still). Trying new foods at new restaurants in the city with friends is something my high school self would think was super cool.

I also think my high-school self would also be surprised at how hard her work paid off. At the end of my grade 12 year, I found out that I received a major scholarship to university because of my academic, extracurricular and creative achievements throughout high school. If my past self could see me now, continuing to work hard to maintain my scholarship and achieve new things, I bet she’d be proud.

And my elementary school self? Well, sixth-grade Sherina would be pretty amazed that the article I had published in the local newspaper as a result of joining my school’s writing club had resulted in a desire to pursue journalism as a career. She’d also probably think it’s pretty cool that her future self is writing for thousands of people on the Internet to read. Back then I could only dream of sharing my thoughts with the whole world—so I’m pretty lucky that I get to do that now, through this blog.

So, to answer my friend’s question: What would my first-year self think if she saw me right now? I dare say that she’d be happy and proud—and, strangely enough, that makes my current self feel the exact same way.


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CNN’s Facts First Ad Highlights the Need for Transparency in Journalism

When powerful figures try to dissuade the public from learning the truth, facts matter. A new CNN ad attempts to make this point with fruit (yes, you read that correctly). “This is an apple,” text underneath a shiny red apple reads. As an image of an apple continues to show, the text and voiceover explain that, no matter how hard some people might try to convince you are looking at a banana, the fruit in question remains an apple.

The ad is obviously, and perhaps quite smartly, targeted at U.S. President Donald Trump. Since his days on the campaign trail, Trump has consistently made claims at odds with the truth. Daniel Dale, the Toronto Star’s Washington Correspondent, fact-checks Trump. The sheer number of inaccuracies is startling—most recently, Trump broke what Dale called “his one-week record for dishonesty,” making 57 false claims.

In a literal sense, there is nothing but the truth—our world is made up of scientific, real truths. But our own biases and perceptions may mean that we all have different truths, even when data tells us differently.

It is this that, in my mind, complicates CNN’s ad. Yes, the fruit in the image is an apple. But if enough people begin to say it is a banana, doesn’t it kind of become a banana? If everyone believes it is a banana, does it matter that it is really and truly classified as an apple?

In Trump’s presidency we’ve seen, for instance, him employ rhetoric insisting that Muslim people are dangerous and should not be allowed into the country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter that the data shows that “more Americans have been killed by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners,” as Vox reported. Trump says, over and over, that Muslim people are dangerous and pose a threat to American security—and despite the facts proving otherwise, some people believe him. We are looking at an apple, but some people are convinced it is a banana.

The premise of CNN’s ad is correct: facts matter. But more and more, we are seeing that they might not matter to an alarming number of people. As I’ve already written, emotions, biases and perceptions can impact what we believe to be true. That right-wing media on his side are further perpetuating incorrect ideas about Muslim people only helps Trump’s case in convincing people of something that is not true.

But while some of us see sites like Breitbart and InfoWars as those perpetrators of false ideas and stereotypes, it’s important to remember that many people see centre and more left-leaning media organizations in this way, too. No media organization is perfect. I think it’s crucial to remember the role that journalists and media played in helping to elect Trump; both by giving his rhetoric sensationalized coverage, and by overplaying stories about Hillary Clinton such as her email scandal.

Still, the fact remains that many people see CNN and other similar news organizations as—to borrow one of Trump’s favourite terms—“fake news.” CNN may be calling apples apples, but when a large number of people (influenced by powerful politicians and media outlets) believe those apples to be bananas, we have a severe disparity in opinions.

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This is an apple. Right? (Source)

I may just be a journalism student, but in my opinion, it’s no longer enough for media organizations to say, “This is the truth—this is an apple and you should believe us because we are honest and value facts.” Some level of public skepticism in journalism is healthy (it is, after all, an imperfect institution). However, a recent poll suggests that 46% of Americans believe Trump when he says that major news outlets make up stories about him. As journalists, we need to do more to show the public why they can trust us, instead of just stating that that trust should exist.

One way that I see this happening is by creating a culture of transparency in journalism. I see a lot of news organizations taking steps towards this already. The Toronto Star, for example, launched a “Trust Project” to take readers behind the scenes of the newspaper.

These articles from the Star show how certain reporters take on their responsibilities, and even things like how the paper chooses when to publish a breaking news story, how they write headlines and how they correct mistakes. It’s hard to call something from the Star “fake news” when you read about the actual processes they use to ensure accuracy. This model of writing about the inner workings of the paper is enlightening to readers.

More transparency about how journalism is done can show the public why they should trust journalists when we say that an apple is, in fact, an apple. This is all not to say that CNN’s apple campaign is for naught, however. The ad is engaging in its simplicity and, if this lengthy post shows anything, it is certainly a conversation starter about facts and public trust in journalism. I hope that we continue to have these conversations as both producers and consumers of the news, because CNN is right—no matter how many times someone screams “BANANA” at an apple, the truth matters.


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It Started With a Sunrise

My day yesterday was bookended by pink skies. I woke up early to do some work before class and saw, through my blinds, colourful clouds. I haven’t seen many sunrises recently, so I eagerly opened my blinds and soaked in the sky as I worked on my assignments. It was a lovely beginning to my day.

I met up with a few of my friends for breakfast. I ate what were quite possibly the best pancakes I’ve ever had in my life. We all laughed when our one friend learned that orange pekoe is not a tea flavour, it simply makes the tea orangeshe discovered this after sticking her nose in her mug, trying to sniff the flavour.

Then we went to our journalism lecture and to our lab afterwards. I spent my afternoon editing a video with my partner for an assignmentit was time-consuming, but I learned a lot about the video editing process, and we had a lot of fun while doing this. I didn’t expect that we would finish the video today, but we didand crossing it off my assignment planner felt amazing.

After exporting the video, I went shopping with one of my friends and then had dinner while watching this week’s episode of Riverdale on Netflix (if you haven’t watched Riverdale, I would highly recommend it). Then I did some more work planning an essay and brainstorming topics for a journalism assignment.

As night fell, I looked down the street and noticed a pink huejust like I had seen in the morning. With a darkening sky, bright headlights from passing cars and a colourful background behind tall buildings, it was a gorgeous scene. Watching the sky, I thought about how lucky I was that I got to see a beautiful sky not just once, but twice over the course of a day.

I saw a quote recently that has stuck in my mind: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” Being a student, my days tend to be filled with classes, assignments and writing (I am studying journalism, after all). And in between these things are co-curriculars, going to the gym, hanging out with friends and, of course, relaxing. In the midst of all of these things, my life happens.

Sometimes I feel like life is moving too quicklynot necessarily that it is passing me by, but just that it is speeding along while I am busy with school and other things. But that quote reminds me that those things are my life. The essay and article writing, the laughing with friends over delicious pancakes, the learning how to edit videos and watching Netflix in bedmy life is made up of these moments. If I acknowledge them, then I feel less like life is moving too quickly and more like I have a solid grasp on it.

Seeing a beautiful skyeither a sunrise, or a sunsetalways grounds me in a moment of reflection and awareness. Yesterday, seeing both helped make me mindful of all of the moments in this life that I am so grateful to be living. Life may be what happens while you are busy with other things, but you can be fully present in your life if you embrace the moments that make every day special.


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Why Journalism?

It’s been almost exactly a year since I started studying journalism at university. As I’ve written before, I love journalism. However, had I known all of the things I would be doing in my classes beforehand, I may have thought twice about it. It’s lucky I didn’t know, though, because I ended up jumping in headfirst, fears and all. I love so many things about journalism: the process of piecing interviews into a story, the ethical discussions and debates and the actual act of writing, to name a few.

When people ask me why I decided to study journalism, I never really know what to say. I’ve always enjoyed English and writing and I have hilarious short drafts in old notebooks to prove it. I had my first article published in a local newspaper when I was in grade six and then I continued writing regular articles. Some of my teachers and friends started assuming that I would study journalism. I guess I eventually decided that I would study it, too. I can’t recall what I wanted to do before journalism; I think I considered creative writing, teaching and, at one point, marine biology (out of the blue, I know, but I really love sharks and the ocean).

On a basic level, I think I chose to study journalism because it involves writing. Although I enjoy all of the parts of the article writing process, from brainstorming and pitching story topics to interviewing sources, my favourite part is always looking at my list of transcriptions with highlighted quotes and starting to write. At a certain point, the quotes and ideas come together and the words just start to flow. It’s a different kind of writing than fiction or blog post writing; but it’s incredibly fun, and rewarding, nonetheless.

I think another reason I chose to study journalism had to do with the fact that it requires a sense of curiosity. In the essay portion of my application to journalism school, I wrote about how there is an endless supply of stories in the world around us. Anything can be a story—from neighbours rescuing baby bunnies in their backyard to citizens across a town mobilizing for a fundraiser for the local hospital. We can capture all of these stories and tell them to the world; but only if we are curious enough to discover them in the first place.

Being curious means asking questions. It means wondering about why things are the way they are, questioning the seemingly obvious and the evidently obscure. Being curious makes for great journalism. When a journalist wonders why something is the way it is, they ask questions; and then they write about their findings for the rest of us to learn. This applies to investigative journalism especially, but curiosity is key across all types of journalism. After all, if you don’t want to learn more about the world and the people, systems and places in it, then why would you want to write about those things?

While I may not know all of my reasons for choosing journalism, after studying it for one year I can definitely list all of the reasons why I’m now happy that I chose it. Something I didn’t expect was the growing importance of journalists in democracies; as we’re seeing in the States, journalists are incredibly valuable in holding politicians and leaders to account. I’ve loved leaving my comfort zone in doing interviews with strangers, and learning new things like multimedia. Journalism also allows me to draw on my other interests, like politics and law, which makes it even more fun for me.

As I head into another year of journalism, I’m both thankful for my decision to study it and excited for what lays ahead. I’ll definitely be writing more blog posts about my experiences studying journalism in the future, so if you have any questions about my studies, feel free to ask in the comments!


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Trump’s Remarks About Journalists Are Unacceptable, But Unsurprising

So much of what is happening in America lately is, to put it simply, unfathomable. Many actions may seem appropriate for an earlier time period, but are strikingly out of place in the “modern democracy” of the United States (quotation marks seem necessary). I could reference about any number of topics, from the growing evidence that Trump tried to stop FBI investigations into ties to Russia to his expansion of a policy he revoked early in his presidency to give U.S. aid to abortion providers across the world. I want to focus, though, on something close to my heart: the treatment of journalists under Trump’s administration.

In the aftermath of the explosive New York Times report that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating his also-former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, another appalling tidbit was lost in the chaos. Trump suggested that Comey “Consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information,” writes Michael Schmidt.

This remark is startling at best and deeply troubling at worst. It is reminiscent of authoritarian governments and starkly un-American values. It is also, sadly, not a surprise coming from Trump, who has displayed malice towards journalists at every step of his path to the presidency.

Now, in the Oval Office, he still can’t see that journalists are an essential part of a democracy. I mean, it’s probably hard for him to see this, considering the impact of journalism on his reputation. Just this week, outstanding reporting from journalists at the Washington Post and The New York Times brought quick and serious implications; from calculated throwing around of the word “impeachment” — from both political sides — to the worst day in the stock market since Sept. 2016.

Interestingly, as Politico reporter Josh Dawsey noted on Twitter, Schmidt, the journalist who wrote about Trump asking Comey to stop investigating Flynn, was the same journalist who first broke the story about Hillary Clinton’s private email server. So was Schmidt “out to get” Trump? Or did he simply use the same journalistic rigour he applied to a story about Clinton to write a story about Trump?

As a journalism student, I am inspired by the persistence of journalists who cover Trump. They are up against serious odds — barred from press briefings, not invited to meetings with foreign officials, for example — and often have to decipher fact from fiction when White House officials blatantly lie (this is not to say that there haven’t been problems with media coverage of Trump, because there have). Journalists keep going, though, because what they do is important. The public has a right to know what is happening in their government, and journalists fulfill this critical role of gathering and communicating information.

Trump’s treatment of journalists both on the campaign trail and as President is unacceptable. But it is also unlikely to change. As the newly-appointed special prosecutor begins his investigations, I can only see journalists rightly continuing to cover Trump. But, sadly, I can only see Trump continuing to berate and belittle journalists in return.


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4 Things I Learned In My First Year of Journalism School

I recently wrapped up my first year of journalism school. It went by so quickly, and although it was challenging I had a great year. In some other blog posts where  I’ve mentioned my journalism experiences, some commenters have been curious about the program. And, seeing as I’ve interacted with some bloggers who are also either aspiring or current journalism students, I decided to write a post about four of the many things I have learned this year. If you’re curious about anything else, feel free to ask in the comments!

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I took these photos in the morning of Nov. 9, just before I went out to interview people for my article about the election results. 

1. As a journalist, you have the opportunity to witness history.

I didn’t have any journalism exams this year; instead, we had “Story Days”; four or five days throughout the semester where we had to conduct interviews, take photos, record audio… to file by 5:30 p.m. the same day. One story day in first semester fell on Nov. 9, the day after the U.S. election. I was planning to write about Hillary Clinton becoming the first female president; but I ended up getting people’s reactions to Donald Trump winning the election.

Even though I wasn’t able to add my personal opinion in my article (I saved that for a blog post that I wrote a few days later) it was still an incredible feeling to be writing the same story that other journalists all over the world were writing. Witnessing Trump’s historical victory through writing an article about it was a really cool moment in my first year of studying journalism.

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I took tons of pictures of the CN Tower this year, but this is one of my favourite shots. 

2. Get photo composition right in the moment.

I learned pretty early on this year that heavy photo editing is frowned upon in journalism because it means altering the reality of an image. Not relying on editing or filters after the fact means it’s important to pay attention to compositional elements when taking the photo. I took most of my photos horizontally, and tried to remember elements like rule of thirds, lines, and framing. Thinking of these things when taking photos — and taking multiple shots instead of just one — helps you take good photos, without needing to edit them afterwards.

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OK, this photo is vertical (and slightly edited). But, hey, artistic rules are meant to be broken… right?

3. Forget “Less is more” when it comes to gathering material.

The adage “Less is more” may be true for word counts due to readers’ increasingly shortening attention spans, but it doesn’t ring true for the process that comes before writing. My journalism professors gave us guidelines on how many voices to include in our stories; often we’d need at least four.

However, this didn’t just mean going out, interviewing four people, and calling it a day. Four voices means four good voices who have interesting stories to tell. This means getting more interviews than required so that you can narrow it down to the best ones. As one professor said in our last lecture, you know you’ve done your job well when you have good quotes on the cutting board.

The same thing can be said of research, and even emailing sources; I remember one story day where I was looking for an expert in war journalism. I reached out to several war journalists, but ended up only hearing back from one. If I had only contacted one person, I probably wouldn’t have had a quote to include in my article.

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Toronto has no shortage of cool buildings to photograph!

4. You can do so many cool things with a journalism degree — and you don’t have to wait to graduate to get started.

When I reflect back on this year, I wrote a lot of things that I’m really proud of. For one of my last story days I pitched a story about press freedom on campus since there had been some incidents where student journalists were denied entry to on-campus events. This was a story that was important to me, and it ended up being my favourite article that I wrote this year. Having that opportunity to choose the story I wanted to cover has made me even more excited to branch out into other types of news writing and to continue pitching my original ideas.

And that was just for an in-class assignment — outside of class, there are so many interesting opportunities, from writing for on-campus publications to working on your own journalism-related projects. Working towards a degree in journalism is exciting because you don’t just get to do “real” journalism once you graduate; you get to do it while you’re in school!


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Time Flies

As I “move on” in my education, so to speak—graduate from high school, finish my first year of university—I am beginning to realize just how true the saying “It goes by in the blink of an eye” really is. I entered high school almost five years ago. I remember getting off the bus and standing with my friends as we waited for the doors to be opened and for our time in high school to officially begin. I blinked and high school whizzed past. Before I knew it, I was wearing a robe and cap, walking across a stage to receive my high school diploma.

Eight months ago, I gathered my belongings into suitcases and moved into a university dorm. It felt like there was an eternal distance between me and my family and friends. But then I began to make new friends, and I realized that I love my program. I blinked, and my first year of university has flown past. I am shaking my head as I type this—because I can’t believe that I am mere weeks away from being one quarter of my way to my Bachelor of Journalism degree.

It’s a cliché saying, but I’ll say it anyways: It feels like just yesterday I was starting university. I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach that sprouted the morning of my program orientation. And I can still feel the excitement of those butterflies fading as the day went on and I met people who are now among my best friends. Time is funny in that way—how, as to quote C.S. Lewis, nothing changes day by day, but everything is different when you look back.

In my journalism program, we created private blogs to post our work onto. For a recent assignment, we had to edit the blog and ensure it was well organized. As I scrolled through all of my work from this year, I felt so proud of how far I have come. There is an obvious difference between the first article I wrote and my most recent article; not only have I become more confident in multimedia, such as photography and audio recordings, but I have also grown more comfortable with “streeter interviews” and conducting interviews in general.

It’s not just my work in journalism of which I am proud. This year I became a stronger essay writer after a particularly tough politics course first semester. I also learned a lot about subjects that I’ve never taken before. Before this year I had thought, for example, that my grade 10 history course would be the last history course I ever took. But then course selections rolled around, and, when faced with either microeconomics or world history since 1945, I selected the latter. It ended up being super interesting and useful, since Cold War history comes up in most of the politics courses I am taking.

It’s weird to think about my life at this time last year. In April 2016, I had just had my wisdom teeth taken out, and I was preparing for a school model United Nations conference. I think I had accepted my university offer at this time last year, though I didn’t know I’d be living on-campus, nor that I’d receive a scholarship which covered my tuition costs. University felt like it was so far off in the future, even though it was only months away. But then I blinked, and an entire year went by.

A lot of the time, when people talk about life going by in the blink of an eye they mention regrets that they have. The thing is, if I were to go back and talk to my high-school self, I wouldn’t tell myself to change anything. In high school, I was aware that time was flying by, so I made a conscious effort to make the most of my four years. They still went by quickly, but they were full of moments that I still hold close to my heart. I hope, three years from now, I will be able to say the same thing about my experience at university. If this year is any indication, it’s going to go by quickly—but it’s also going to be an amazing journey.


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To Write About Trump, or Not?

“You write about Donald Trump a lot,” my friend told me. I paused, thought about the the homepage of my blog, which I knew featured several posts about Trump. Then I thought about the drafted articles saved on my laptop—many of which are about Trump—and I nodded.

“You’re right,” I said. “But is a lot too much?”

Speaking of drafts, I have one called “To talk about Trump, or to not talk about Trump?” So let’s talk about talking about Trump (confused yet?).

A few weeks ago, Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent, Daniel Dale, came to speak at my journalism school. Dale fact-checked Trump throughout the election, and continued to fact-check him after he took office in January. He is, in other words, no stranger to writing about Trump. During his speech, he said, “Pretty much anything with Trump in the headline gets a ton of readers.” I nodded my head and laughed, because it’s true. As a news-consumer, I am quick to click on articles about Trump. And, lately, the articles I have written about Trump have outperformed non-Trump articles.

This, I think, is exactly the way Trump wants things to be. The adage “All press is good press” seems to embody Trump. Even in the days before he entered politics (the good old days, if I do say so myself) Trump faced negative news cycles. Still, they always seemed to work in his favour—more people watching The Apprentice, for example. I imagine the inside of Trump’s head is a chaotic place. The word “ratings” probably still bounces around a fair bit in his mind. After all, Trump did brag about the viewing statistics for his Inauguration. The presidency is like a reality TV show to him. Negative news about Trump is still good press to him.

So maybe we shouldn’t feed this. In January, I thought it would be cool to go a week without reading Trump-related news and then write an article about the experience. I imagine it would have been a bliss-filled week. I have to complete a weekly news quiz for my journalism class, though, so ignoring Trump-related news unfortunately isn’t an option for me (and, besides, another like-minded journalist ended up doing this experiment and writing about it). I have also considered what would happen if, for one day, news organizations just stopped talking about Trump and American politics. The problem is that, speaking of ratings, theirs would likely plummet. But a Trump-free news cycle would be so refreshing; and I think that’s what my friend was hinting at when she said I write about him a lot.

To say that a Trump-free news cycle would be refreshing, though, is an indication of my privilege. Unfortunately, many people can’t ignore Trump. To them, he isn’t just an incessant topic on CNN. He’s the reason they’re fearful to go outside, the reason their community is facing increasing hate crimes. Trump’s executive orders, policies, and actions affect real people—not just in America, but around the world. If you are privileged enough that they do not have a directly negative impact on you, then I believe you have a responsibility to speak up for those who are affected.

Beyond the fact that, as Dale said, posts about Trump are popular, this is one of the reasons why I refuse to stay silent about Trump. I want to think critically and write carefully about him, and I want to spark conversations and critical thinking for my readers. Maybe I am preaching to the choir—I have no evidence that any of my posts have, for example, made a Trump supporter change their mind about him. But if I’ve made one person think about him differently, or think about his policies and the people affected, then I think I’ve done my job as a blogger and as a journalist.

As I read and write about Trump, I am cognizant of the fact that so many other people are also writing about him. I am just one of the many voices, shouting Trump’s name into the void. Except it’s not really like that, because it’s not a void. I consider myself fortunate to be in a position where people read my blog, consider my words, and sometimes add their own perspective. I am not, by any means, a “definitive voice” on Trump or American politics. But writing about Trump challenges me, and it matters to me.

I know I write about Trump a lot. Maybe it is too much. Maybe we all write about Trump too much—because it is, after all, giving him the attention that he seems to crave. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that our words matter, because the impact Trump has matters. I am going to keep writing about Trump, the people he is impacting, and the ways we can help them. And if you are also a blogger, writer, or journalist, I would encourage you to do the same.


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A City of Stories

Today was a dark, cloudy Tuesday in downtown Toronto. As I was walking along a busy street, trying to make it to my class before rain spilled from the clouds, I noticed that the person walking in front of me was holding a camera, gazing around. He seemed to be looking for a photo to take. Watching him gaze at the blinking billboards, the cars whizzing past, and the dark sky, I thought of the way I view the world.

Just like that person was looking for a photo, I am always looking for a story. Not everything is a story, but I’ve learned that anything can be woven into a story. I am constantly filing away things I see, conversations I have and often these things emerge—months, years later—in some sort of story that I am telling. For example, a few weeks ago I saw this haiku about Donald Trump on a crosswalk button.

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On its own, a haiku isn’t necessarily a story. But when that one haiku is woven into a story about the larger movement, like the other haikus the group #HaikuForYouTO has put up, then it becomes a narrative. It becomes a story that a blogger or journalist like me would tell. But I can only tell the story if I am aware of it in the first place.

When I created this blog, all the way back in Sept. 2013, I made my tagline “The world as I see it.” Although I don’t feature this tagline on my blog anymore, I still think it’s an accurate summary of what I do as a blogger. I  don’t write objectively about the world—I write about the way I view the world. What makes the way I view the world special, in my eyes, is that I am constantly looking for stories to tell. I get my inspiration from all over the place.

My recent post “What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with Donald Trump?” was inspired by, well, an elevator. You probably wouldn’t automatically come up with that post idea just from riding in an elevator—but if you had previously had an experience where the elevator alarm went off, as I had, and had considered what you would say to Donald Trump, given the opportunity, as I had, the idea for the post may come more naturally.

I consider myself a curious person, so this is where some of my passion for discovering and telling stories comes from. I think it also comes from my parents. My mom is constantly showing me pictures of architecture she finds interesting, or the pretty flowers in the lobby of a building she was in. I find myself taking pictures of buildings I see downtown because I know that they have a story attached to them—and if I can’t find the story online, I can make it up.

Making up stories is something I get from my dad. He is always making up funny, fictional explanations for situations we are in. Traffic stuck on the highway? There must be an ice-cream truck blocking the way, promising to give everyone free ice cream after the accident is resolved. This penchant for creative thinking has influenced my passion for telling fictional stories—because fictional stories are, in my opinion, equally as important as non-fictional ones.

Through blogging, I have the opportunity to tell my own stories, which I love. But through being a journalist, I have a platform to tell other people’s stories and I love that, too. Being in a busy city like Toronto, there is no shortage of stories to tell—as long as we are looking for them.


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What Would You Do if You were Stuck in an Elevator with Donald Trump?

As a journalism student, something I’m learning to do is ask questions. Not just any questions — open-ended, thought-provoking, hard hitting questions. In line with this, and coupled with my affinity for self-reflection, I often find myself pondering over questions that I’ve asked myself. Last week, I posed a random, though difficult, question to myself: What would I do if I was stuck in an elevator with Donald Trump?

My first instinct was that I wouldn’t feel safe in that situation, in a confined space with a man who doesn’t seem to respect the rights of anyone who doesn’t agree with him. Then, for some reason, I thought of throwing cold spaghetti at him (though this wasn’t an entirely arbitrary thought — on her podcast Not Too Deep, Grace Helbig asks her guests who they would most like to throw cold spaghetti at, so it’s a topic that I’ve already given some thought to).

I’m Canadian, so Trump’s policies don’t directly impact me (although his policies on things like free trade and the economy do impact me as a Canadian). But his policies are reflective of some people’s attitudes, and these attitudes and policies are already having an extremely negative impact on other people’s lives. So, in short, I think I could make a pretty convincing case for throwing cold spaghetti at Trump.

However, I could also make a convincing case not to do this. Although these situations are markedly different, thinking about what I would do if I ever encountered Donald Trump made me think of what Malala Yousafzai said she would do if she ever encountered a member of the Taliban, after they shot her for advocating for girl’s rights to education.

“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ Then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’”

– Malala Yousafzai on the Jon Stewart show

Again, I know that these two situations — mine, purely theoretical, Malala’s, a frightening reality  — are completely different. But the truth that Malala shared in that interview can be applied to the situation I am imagining. Because she is right. If, in this hypothetical situation, I yelled abrasively at Donald Trump, or ruthlessly insulted him, I would be no better than he is. And, as angry as he makes me, I would not want to stoop to his level. I would rather take Michelle Obama’s advice: “When they go low, we go high.”

I think again, though, that it is important to consider that I’m Canadian, and I’m privileged in that many of Trump’s policies don’t affect me (due to my race, for example). It may be easier for me to say that I wouldn’t stoop to his level, because my life hasn’t been turned upside down by his presidency. If any Americans who have been negatively impacted by Trump wanted to throw cold spaghetti on him, I wouldn’t stop them. I can only speak for myself when I say that I wouldn’t want to stoop to his level, and maybe my privilege plays a role in that.

Moving on from what I would do in this situation, though, another question is what I would say. What words could possibly reach a man who frequently rejects the truth? Clearly, some words get through to him — there is evidence showing instances where Trump has copied tweet material from cable TV shows. I’m inclined to believe in the positive power of words, as someone who hopes to make a career out of writing them. But so many words have been shed trying to convince Trump that he is not making good decisions (to put it lightly), and I’m not sure those words have been successful. What has been successful are the American courts, as demonstrated by the response to his travel ban, when the courts acted as checks on Trump’s power. And the lawyers didn’t even have to endure an elevator ride with Trump.

But what would I say? I would tell Trump that there are real people being negatively impacted by his policies. I would tell him that not all Muslims are terrorists, that, in fact, people from the countries he has included in his travel ban have not killed anyone in terrorist attacks in America. I would tell him that women are not objects, that we are fundamentally equal to men and deserve to be treated as such. I would tell him that his focus on “America first” should include the American people — including women, people of colour, Muslims, immigrants. Everyone. I would tell him that the fourth estate is critical to American democracy. And, finally, I would tell him that the way his policies are currently lining up, he is not making America great “again” — and that I’m not fake news for saying that.

Having said, or written, all of this, I’m curious. What would you do or say if you were stuck in an elevator with Donald Trump? Comment below and let me know or, if you feel so inclined, write your own post on the subject and link it back to me.


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