Editorial Cartooning

What's A 'Rwanda'?

I know I haven’t posted in a long time and this is because school has been hectic. I just finished the craziest week of the semester (so far) which included something due every day of the week.

One of these major projects was my Media, Information, and Technoculture honours seminar project. I am enrolled in the The Art of Commentary: Editorial Cartooning and the Role of Dissidence in the Press seminar class in which we study editorial cartoons and the history of cartooning. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the class but it is now one of my favourites. We not only look at editorial cartoons, but we also learn about the political and historical events that were occurring at that time and see how the cartoonists engaged in political commentary through their work. It’s amazing how powerful and strong the cartoonists’ messages can be.

Along with attending lectures, we each worked on a research project throughout the semester and then held a half-hour seminar for the class to present our work. For my project, I looked at the topic of genocide – something I became very interested in and passionate about since I took the Century of Genocide class last year. I started by researching all editorial cartoons that deal with genocide and then slowly put together a theme.

I ended up talking about the phrase “Never Again”. After each genocidal event starting from the Holocaust, we (the public, the international community, and the United Nations) said “Never again”. However, we all know that genocide has happened and is happening again and again.

What I found through my research is that editorial cartoonists criticize the United Nations, the western nations, the western media, and the public for their lack of interest, lack of action, and inability to do something to save people (an inability that comes from conflicts of interest, veto powers, etc). It has now gotten to the point where the cartoonists look straight at the words “Never Again” and show how empty the words are. “Never Again” is just rhetoric.

In my presentation, I used these themes and worked through information and cartoons about the Holocaust, Rwanda, and Darfur. I was nervous about not giving the topic enough time because it is very important but I feel like it went well. I want to highlight here two of my favourite cartoons, both of which I think have powerful messages:

The UN's Strongest Warning against Sudan

They Always Say That

And finally, I finished the presentation with the following animated editorial cartoon (you have to click through to view the flash video). I look forward to your comments.

Never Again... Again

What’s going on?

I spent a lot of my time over the past year wondering what direction to take when I finish my undergraduate degree this year. My mind was all over the place but in the end, I looked at what experience I have, what interests me, and the logical choice that flows from that.

In January, I will be starting the Corporate Communications + Public Relations post-graduate certificate program at Centennial College. I am so very excited about the program, the experiences I will have, and how it will prepare me for a career that I know is right for me.

What is Public Relations?

It seems that the PR community can’t agree on a definition. The Critical Perspectives in PR course I took last year told me that, but even after roaming around the web I can’t seem to find an exact definition.

The Canadian Public Relations Society defines PR as:

“the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or organization with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”

My working (and broad) definition, which will change as I go through the CC+PR program, is:

“the practice of managing strategic relationships between a company or organization and its employees and the public. It is about allowing for a clear communication channel between two or more parties in order to develop and maintain a brand, message, or cause.”

According to Inside PR, there are five major segments of PR: Media Relations, Government Relations, Stakeholder Relations, Investor Relations, and Internal/Employee Communications. Within each of these segments, various PR tactics such as writing, event planning, and image management, are used.

Why Public Relations?

When I flipped through my current resume and a few of my older ones, I found common themes that all pointed me towards PR. The most obvious cues in this direction are my internships.

My first internship through UWO was with Big Brothers of London. There I helped organize the ‘Bowl for Kids’ Sake’ fundraiser and communicated with the media, local companies, and current members to raise funds and find participants. My second internship was with IBM Canada as a Corporate Communications intern. It was sixteen months full of amazing opportunities and experiences that had me creating various communication media, working on two different conferences (one which sent me to Japan), and a lot more. My most recent internship, and my part-time job now, is as a Knowledge Engineer with IBM. It is not directly associated with PR, but I am editing technical documents by adhering to publishing and company standards. I see the impact of my work on the relationships between the company and the customers it needs to support.

My other related experiences include being a communications student-at-large for the University Student Council, acting as a communications officer for a club on campus, and helping organize an orientation event in high school.

The more I dig, the more examples I can find that lead me to believe that PR is what I should be doing.

Why more school?

I may have related experience but I am not a fool. I haven’t learned enough about the various PR functions or tactics. I don’t know how to put together a communications plan or handle media relations or write to persuade. I know that in order to succeed in this industry and to be at the same level as my fellow job hunters, I need to take a practical college program that will equip me with all the tools and knowledge and connections that I need.

Why Centennial?

Beyond its great reputation for successful graduates and a quality program, Centennial is recognized for its additional focus on social media and online PR.

Not only am I interested in social media because of my technical background, but I have been active in one way or another online since 1997. At IBM, I worked with some great people who are proponents for social media and are enthusiastic about recognizing the benefits of social media practices for companies. From all that I have learned (and I will write about this at another time), I believe that it is a mistake as a PR practitioner to ignore the Internet and its impact on communications. There are many great tools that can be used online and there is an ever-increasing expectation that new PR students are able to use these tools successfully.

To quote the Inside PR team:

“Social media gives us another really powerful tool to use … [as] media relations is tougher now than it has ever been. There are fewer cameras chasing more stories, and certainly in the Toronto market and in other large urban centers, it’s really tough to get media coverage unless you have a really good story. So why not explore those tools that allow us to reach beyond the narrow confines of earned media and take our message directly to the audience that we’re trying to reach … It gives us more control to reach a better-defined audience with a message that we can deliver on our own terms. … In five years, those who don’t know social media in the public relations space will be the equivalent of those, currently, who don’t do media relations in PR”

So now what?

I have been following PR-related blogs for a while now and as I finish off my last undergraduate semester, I would like to start participating in the online PR conversation. I used to write a lot in the past and I think I need to start writing again to document my thoughts and experiences, as well as to participate in these interesting conversations.

I have pulled together some old blog posts from some of my old blogs but from this post on, I will be writing new material here.

Hopefully not all my posts will be as long as this one, but I welcome all comments and suggestions.

Political Debates

To all the Canadians out there:

Tonight, when you sit down for some political TV, are you going to watch the Canadian Prime Minister candidate debate (English) or the American Vice President candidate debate?

My guess is that most people will watch the US debate and just read about ours tomorrow.

What does that say about political debates, our candidates, and us?

(of course, I realize that many people will watch neither…)

A Pre-Quarter-Life Crisis

“The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance” – Victor Frankl

Many people who have spoken to me or read some of my previous blog posts know that for more than a year now, I have continuously debated over which career and life path I should be following. I have worried about the choices I have, whether I will select the right options for me, and whether it will work out. I’ve also worried about various other factors that come along with each option, mostly financial issues as well as the opinions of my parents.

Then, in a comment to one of those aforementioned blog posts, Tristan pointed out that I need not worry; I’m just going through what many people call a Quarter-Life Crisis. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a Quarter-Life Crisis is “an emotional crisis in one’s twenties with anxiety and self-doubt after leaving academic life.” My “crisis” may not be as intense or critical as that, but I definitely was spending a lot of time (too much time) wondering what to do next.  I realized pretty quickly that many people in their 20s are going through the same thing.

Since then, I’ve decided that I need to stop worrying and put together a potential plan instead. I have picked up books about the Quarter-Life Crisis (like 20 Something Manifesto by Christine Hassler) and am working on a way to calm myself and figure out a proper, realistic plan.

One step in that process was to meet with some of my mentors. These are people who I may not have officially created a mentorship relationship with but I feel that I can talk to about their experiences and my goals. I will admit that so far they are all people who I worked with during my last internship, but they each have their own stories and opinions.

One mentor spoke to me about the long, rapidly changing career path that she followed to get to where she is now. After graduating with a graphic design degree, she worked for corporations doing graphic design, then freelanced with her own company, then moved back to corporations, then went into event planning, then finally into communications where she is now. Her biggest advice was to be open to anything and to approach everything with an open mind. You never know where you may end up.

The second mentor I met with spoke to me about not giving up on your dreams and on working towards finding the job that you can be passionate about. A Computer Science master and PhD holder, the former manager of a corporate research department, and now an information sciences professor at a university, she seems to have finally found something that she loves to do. She is incredibly happy and passionate about the research that she gets to choose and take on herself. She shares and encourages the mentality that we all have to make the best out of every experience and to make each step on my journey, whether positive or negative, a learning experience. She believes that by doing that, you make success and luck happen. You create your own opportunities.

I’m embracing those words of wisdom. Through all of my co-op placements, I have found what I do and do not like to do. I have started to narrow down the next few steps of my career/life plan. I am consciously taking any negatives from what is going in my life now and using them as lessons to prepare me for the next step.

This includes finding out which field of work I’m more interested in working in. It involves clearing up financial issues and making a set financial plan. It also involves reading books, blogs, and articles that will encourage me and push me to be more optimistic about the next steps in my life.

It’s definitely better than sitting around and feeling down about a future that isn’t even here yet.

One month as a Knowledge Engineering Assistant

It’s been just about a month in this new position and I think I’m doing well. I am still in the process of being trained – a sort of ‘train as you go’ system.

For the most part, my duties are:

  • reviewing, editing and publishing technical e-support documents (as per the company’s style guidelines)
  • undertaking administrative duties for the content management system
  • dealing with customer feedback on documents
  • fixing style violations that come in through an automated style checker

As well, I participate in team meetings in which information management issues come up. I find those challenges interesting to think about and I would like to get more involved in finding solutions for those problems.

The work is interesting. I get a sense of challenge from trying to understand what authors are trying to say, finding missing documents and authors, and evaluating feedback. I am also constantly considering issues of clarity, findability, and those information management problems.

Plus, I enjoy editing work. Editing technical documents is slightly different than other documents because I have to figure out what the author is actually talking about. If I don’t know the product, fix, or tool, then it takes extra long. It’s all a learning experience.

Obviously the work I am doing is quite different from what I did the last time around. Last time I was working on corporate and employee communications – writing, editing and formatting various documents and media, organizing events, etc.  This time, I am able to combine both my communication skills and my interest in computer science.  It is a chance to determine, yet again, what possibilities I have with my previous experience and education.

I’m already thinking about what I will write in my term reports when they come along (and I’m already dreading them).

Another big difference from my last placement is that most of my current team is situated across the United States. The team is considered to be a remote team and we communicate through phone calls, conference calls, instant messenger, e-mails and sometimes we combine phone calls and desktop sharing to work together on projects. I’m not sure if I will ever meet the people I work with every day.

This is definitely a learning experience because I have to learn how to communicate through technology to my team. I will write a separate blog post about the challenges and the benefits of having a remote team and working with technology to collaborate.

Of course, I cannot believe that a month has already passed. I only have three more months to get up to speed, make some good contributions to the team, and show my worth.

I plan to blog about my progress, so stay tuned.