I’ve been away from here this past week but busy, busy, busy in my REAL job of establishing myself as THE Canadian-Israeli Jewish writer. As you may know – well, everyone in my world knows – I’ve spent the week covering Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper’s first-ever visit to Israel for the Canadian Jewish News.
Read my articles about the visit on the CJN site here:
- Harper welcomed warmly as a friend to Israel
- Harper makes historic address to Knesset
- Canada, Israel, update free trade deal
- “Private settings” best for sensitive topics
- Harper honoured at Tel Aviv U
- Harper “understands Jewish history and Jewish aspirations,” says Cotler, a wrap-up of the visit that was held for the following print edition.
Here’s a personal opinion piece I wrote during a break while we waited to go in and hear the prime ministers speak:
In pictures, on the news, he looks like nothing much, just a guy. But in person, speaking in perfect, unaccented English, with his deep, plain-spoken, reassuring voice? Nothing could be wrong with the world when a guy like this is in charge.
(That doesn’t mean I agree with him politically, but I do know that if he speaks anywhere near as well in Hebrew as he does in English, it is very obvious why he’s Prime Minister today.)
The way I see it, covering Harper’s visit has been a win-win for both me and the CJN.
For me, in addition to an (admittedly small) paycheque, I earned some serious on-the-spot reporting experience, working on much tighter deadlines than usual, covering far more political topics than I usually handle. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for a better apprenticeship, and being paid (a bit) to do it – well, that’s great, too.
So how’s it a win-win? The CJN is a low-budget organization, in the perilous position right now of pulling itself back from the brink of closure, where it hovered for a couple of months last summer. No way they could pay the $2500-something to send a reporter over with the “official” media contingent; that honour was reserved for the Big Boys of Canadian media.
Yet at least they had the chance to have a reporter on the ground, covering their specific angle, which is far more positive (about Israel) and far more Jewish in focus than that of the regular media organizations.
Plus, I’m super-frugal! They told me they’d cover expenses, but I just have to brag here that my total billed expenses for this entire 3-day cub reporter stint came to about $110 Canadian. ₪74.80 round trip for the bus to Yerushalayim, ₪74.50 round trip for the train to Tel Aviv, and ₪200 for the night I spent in Yerushalayim. That’s compared, again, to the $2500-something that the Prime Minister’s office wanted if we had to be part of the official media contingent (which didn’t include airfare).
Another win for me: spending a few days with “real” journalists in their natural habitat. I always feel like I’m more of a “writer” than a “journalist,” partly because of my lack of credentials, and partly because I tend to write more feature-y, fluff-type articles. Also, I feel humbled and shy around people who know politics – always an area of mystery to me.
But I have news for you, world: “real” journalists aren’t so smart either. Seeing a bunch of them here in person convinced me of that. They have some background knowledge, they know who the key players are (usually)… but I found out that a lot of that comes in the form of press releases and backgrounders, which the Canadian prime minister’s office put together and sent out at times hourly.
Media professionals can also be prima donnas, whining and kvetching and demanding, and generally losing perspective on how ultimately insignificant their role is in the unfolding drama before them. If their newsfeed doesn’t get through or they don’t check their Twitter feed every ten minutes, the world won’t come to an end.
I hope not, anyway… I haven’t checked my Twitter feed in about six months. I wonder what they’re saying about me???