It’s official – news reporters are the pits

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Writers who want to parlay their literary skills into a print journalism career might want to take a look at the CareerCast “worst jobs of the year” list before they commit to their new profession.

As Poynter’s Caitlin Johnson reports, “newspaper reporter” finished at the absolute bottom of a ranking of 200 jobs in the list of 2013’s worst. Working journalists have probably suspected as much for years, but now it’s out there for the rest of the world to see.

The profession has been officially labelled as the worst possible career choice for young job seekers.

There are the usual reasons for the abysmal ranking – low pay, high stress, long hours and so forth. The downsides of journalism are well documented, and were once considered part of the “glamour” of the profession.

But the normal newsroom despair has been amplified in recent years by the slow death of print news outlets. The industry is shrinking. And it is shedding jobs as fast as it can in a scramble to survive — throwing reporters off the sleigh, so to speak, to keep the wolves of insolvency at bay.

As a result, today’s news reporter faces fewer job openings, limited prospects for advancement, higher work demands and an extraordinary level of job uncertainty as publishers sell off, downsize, outsource, close down and migrate to the Internet.

In other words, print journalism would be a very poor career choice for a well-educated, articulate, hard-working writer.

But all is not lost. Writers could try churning out books instead of labouring fruitlessly in the newsroom graveyards of broken dreams. Fiction or non-fiction seems to make no never-mind.

“Author” managed to crack the CareerCast’s 200 best jobs of 2013 list, coming in at #156, just ahead of bus driver, welder, hotel manager and garbage collector. Of course, almost every other job you can think of came out ahead of anything to do with writing (auditor, financial planner, computer-related jobs, a bunch of stuff to do with health care).

But if you insist on trying to write for a living….

Journalism group looks at media innovation

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What will the next generation of journalism look like?

The Canadian Journalism Foundation will take a crack at the question of media innovation when it hosts a talk in Toronto on Thursday, January 31. Titled Journalism, Disrupted: How to Create Media Innovation, the discussion will focus on what traditional media companies can learn from tech start-ups and how a spirit of innovation can be fostered within newsrooms.

Marissa Nelson, acting director of digital media for CBC News and Centres, will moderate a panel featuring Zach Seward, senior editor at Atlantic Media’s device-centric business news venture Quartz; Michael De Monte, CEO of ScribbleLive; and David Skok, director of digital for Global News.

Tickets to the event at the TMX Broadcast Centre are $25 or $15 for students. You can register on the foundation’s website at http://cjfinnovation.eventbrite.com.

The Canadian Journalism Foundation promotes excellence in journalism by celebrating outstanding journalistic achievement through an annual awards program; by operating journalism websites, J-Source.ca (English) and ProjetJ.ca (French), in cooperation with the country’s leading journalism schools; by organizing events that facilitate dialogue among journalists, business people, government officials, academics and students about the role of the media in Canadian society; and by fostering opportunities for journalism education, training and research.

It is currently soliciting nominees for its annual Canadian Newsperson of the Year Award, for journalists who report or produce the news, or run or own newsgathering organizations. Deadline for nominations is January 21.

Five vie for political writing prize

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The Writers’ Trust of Canada has announced its five finalists for the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, with the winner to be announced in Ottawa on March 6, 2013.

Spotlighted topics include a tour of razor-wire barricades, options for urban transit, Canada’s move from peacekeeping to war, the state of Canadian health care, and amalgamation in Montreal.

Finalists, who will each receive $2,500, are Marcello Di Cintio (Walls: Travels Along the Barricades), Taras Grescoe (Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile), Noah Richler (What We Talk About When We Talk About War), Jeffrey Simpson (Chronic Condition: Why Canada’s Health-Care System Needs to be Dragged into the 21st Century) and Peter F. Trent (The Merger Delusion: How Swallowing Its Suburbs Made an Even Bigger Mess of Montreal).

Selection of finalists was made by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, columnist Tasha Kheiriddin, and novelist and translator Daniel Poliquin.

The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize is sponsored by Bell Media and supported by the Politics and the Pen Gala. Now in its thirteenth year, it is awarded annually to a non-fiction book that “captures a political subject of interest to Canadian readers and enhances our understanding of the issue.”

Shaughnessy Cohen was the Liberal MP for the riding of Windsor-St. Clair from 1993 until her death in 1998, when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while addressing the House of Commons.

 

Prairie writer wins $60K nonfiction prize

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Saskatchewan writer Candace Savage has won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape.

The prize was announced at a gala literary event in Toronto.

In a Monday release, the Writers’ Trust said Savage is a celebrated writer of dozens of books and essays, who writes on a wide range of topics, from the cosmic science of the aurora to the inner workings of a beehive. She was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2010 in recognition of her scholarly and artistic achievements.

The four other finalists each received $5,000. They are Kamal Al-Solayleefor Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes; Modris Eksteins for Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age; Taras Grescoe for Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile; and JJ Lee for The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit.

The Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction is awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction, which includes, among other forms, personal or journalistic essays, history, biography, memoirs, commentary, and criticism, both social and political. Finalist works are judged to demonstrate a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique.

Glitz and glory brighten city’s literary skies

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Glitz, glory, grants and glamour – the next five weeks promise to be a high-octane celebration of all things literary in Toronto.

On November 7, the Writers’ Trust of Canada will hand out $114,000 in prize money at its 12th annual awards event, to be held at the city’s Isabel Bader Theatre.

Headliner is the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, where five finalists will vie for honours as writer of the year’s best novel or short story collection. Each of the five will receive $2,500, with the eventual winner receiving a total of $25,000. Finalists were chosen by a jury of Lynn Coady, Esi Edugyan, and Drew Hayden Taylor from 116 nominated titles.

To give the public a taste of their work, finalists Tim Bowling (The Tinsmith), Tamas Dobozy (Siege 13), Rawi Hage (Carnival), Alix Ohlin (Inside) and Linda Spalding (The Purchase) will be reading at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto on October 24 and in Owen Sound on October 25.

(The annual festival runs from October 18 to 28 and features such luminaries as Alice Munro and Rohinton Mistry.)

Also competing at the November 7 awards event will be three finalists for the Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, which recognizes new and developing writers for the best short story first published in a Canadian literary journal during the previous year.

Kevin Hardcastle (“To Have to Wait” in The Malahat Review), Andrew Hood (“Manning” in PRISM international) and Alex Pugsley (“Crisis on Earth-X” in The Dalhousie Review) will joust for the $10,000 Journey prize.

Four additional prizes for a body of work will also be presented at the ceremony:

  • Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life ($20,000)
  • Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature ($20,000)
  • Writers’ Trust Distinguished Contribution Award

Canada’s literary leaders will reconvene for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, with the crowning of the 2012 winner set for a November 12 gala at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

The five finalists were chosen from a slate of 104 titles by former Ontario lieutenant-governor James Bartleman, past prize finalist Charlotte Gill and writer Marni Jackson. They are Kamal Al-Solaylee (Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes), Modris Eksteins (Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age), Taras Grescoe (Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile), J.J. Lee (The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit) and Candace Savage (Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape).

After all that praising and prizing, literary benefactors will start topping up the till again at the annual Writers’ Trust Gala to be held Thursday, November 15 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. Proceeds from the event  fund  programs and initiatives that include the organization’s literary awards program, Berton House Writers’ Retreat and scholarship program with Humber College.

The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing.

E-sun shines on short-form writers

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The rise of ebooks is injecting new life into a couple of story-telling formats that have been languishing on the fringes of literature for decades.

Amazon reported last month that it has sold more than two million Kindle Singles since it launched the service in January 2011.

These mini-ebooks, which typically run between 5,000 and 30,000 words, have breathed life into the kind of works that are virtually unsaleable in contemporary print markets – those that are too short to be real books and too long for a standard magazine article.

The cover prices are low – from $1 to $5 – but several writers have already managed to parlay the platform into substantial returns, a task made much easier by Amazon’s generous royalty rate.

Even established writers are being encouraged to dip their toes in the short-form waters. Right now, for instance, Ontario author Margaret Atwood is sitting at number 2 position on the Kindle Singles list with her 42-page story, I’m Starved for You.

The good news for writers is that publishers are, for the first time in years, offering these shorter works to the general public. They are putting them in their digital shop windows. People are looking. People are buying. Readers are reading.

The even better news is that Amazon is not alone in embracing the shorter form. Other publishers are starting to break into the market with their own short-form offerings.

There is Byliner, for instance, which specializes in “single sitting” stories (and also features Atwood’s I’m Starved for You). It offers curated archives for its members, in addition to a slate of original commissioned work.

And for non-fiction fans, The Atavist publishes nonfiction stories for digital devices like the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, and Nook. The Atavist’s specialty is long-form journalism, a kind of reportage that had, only recently, seemed destined for extinction.

It’s still early days, of course, but there is definitely a sense of excitement around the shorter-form digital format. The potential is there for shorter-form works to break into mainstream reading.

The day may come when short-story writers can climb out of their basements, dusty manuscripts in hand, and emerge into a sunlit landscape where they can actually sell their “cracking good yarns” to members of the general public. For real money. At last.

Prize spotlights exemplary non-fiction work

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The 2012 winner of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction will be announced Monday at a luncheon  in Toronto.

This year’s finalists are Wade Davis (Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest), Charlotte Gill (Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe), J.J. Lee (The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit), Madeline Sonik (Afflictions & Departures: Essays) and Andrew Westoll (The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery).

The national book award was established in 2000 to commemorate the life and work of the late Charles Taylor, one of Canada’s foremost essayists. It is awarded annually to the author whose book best combines s command of the English language, an elegance of style, and subtlety of thought and perception.

The prize consists of $25,000 for the winner and $2,000 for each of the runners-up, as well as promotional support for all short-listed books. The winner will also be invited to read at the International Festival of Authors in October at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.