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General Reporting
General Reporting is some of the reporting I did as a Master of Journalism candidate at Carleton University’s School of Journalism.
During this time, I was enrolled in two journalism workshops. The first was a workshop in print reporting called Centretown News. The other was an online workshop called Capital News.
The section also includes the best articles I wrote as an intern at The Windsor Star in December 2011.
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Bedbugs plague public housing
Robin Grant, The Windsor Star
Published: Thursday, December 15, 2011
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Apartments in a geared-to income building owned by the City of Windsor were sprayed Wednesday for bedbugs.

Pest control was called to the 920 Ouellette Ave. apartment building to deal with a continuing infestation in the city.

One resident said he had bed bugs when he moved in June 2010, but that management was diligent about dealing with the problem.

The number of infected apartments was unknown.

Kari Schofield, communications officer for the Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation, said bedbugs are now part of the corporation’s regular budget operations.

“It’s a year-round problem,” Schofield said. She added that the occurrence on Wednesday was not an isolated incident. “We’re continually treating for bed bugs in our buildings.”

In 2007, resident John Fontaine resorted to sleeping on his balcony because the infestation in his apartment was so severe, The Star reported.

Schofield said in every situation, when residents report bed bugs incidences, pest control is sent within 24 hours to spray the unit. Residents are asked to wash everything that can be put in a washing machine and to move furniture in the middle of the apartment.

Windsor is not alone in dealing with bedbug problems. In recent years, Toronto and Ottawa have reported severe infestations.

Bedbugs were found in residence apartments at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University in September this year.

Toronto experienced a dramatic spike in the number of bedbug infestations in 2008, according to a report funded by the city and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term care. Over an eight-month period, Toronto Public Health received 1,500 reports of bedbug infestations in the city.

Schofield said despite a tendency to stigmatize people living in low-income residences, bedbugs occur at every socioeconomic level.

“Five-star hotels get bedbugs,” she said.

Dr. Allen Heimann, medical officer of health at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said low-income individuals have greater difficulty dealing with the problem.

In September a new bedbug program was introduced to help the vulnerable population in Windsor-Essex County.

“The goal of the program is to both control bedbug infestations, and to prevent them from occurring in the first place through public education and awareness,” Heimann said.

The program was initiated with $135,000 from the province to support bed bug outreach, education and interventions to prevent and manage bedbug infestations. The funding was part of the government of Ontario’s larger $5-million fund to support public health units in addressing bedbugs in communities.
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Sex assaults, heists hurt crime ranking
Robin Grant, The Windsor Star
Published: Friday, December 16, 2011
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Windsor ranked 35th out of 100 on a list of Canada’s most dangerous cities compiled by Maclean’s, despite the city’s recent two-year stretch without a homicide.

The rankings, released on Thursday, are based on Maclean’s analysis of Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index from 2010. Maclean’s commissioned the CSI to measure criminal activity in Canada’s 100 largest cities and police districts.

Although homicide-free for two years, Windsor is noted for its high level of robberies and sexual assaults, according to the results.

In Windsor in 2010, 77.3 out of every 100,000 residents suffered a sexual assault, which places the city about 20 per cent above the national average. The study found that 111.6 out of every 100,000 experienced a robbery, placing the city 25 per cent above the national average.

“It’s the specific fact that the robbery and sexual assault rate is so high,” said Philippe Gohier, Maclean’s online managing editor. “That’s what’s interesting about Windsor’s case.”

The StatsCan severity index uses police reports on a number of offences to rank their relative seriousness.

More weight is assigned to serious offences, such as murder, sexual assault and robbery, based on the length of sentences served, according to Maclean’s.

Otherwise, Windsor and Southwestern Ontario are average compared to the rest of Canada, Gohier said.

“We’re very pleased with what’s going on here and strive to better to bring down our crime stats,” said Windsor police Deputy Chief Jerome Brannagan.

He said for a community the size of Windsor the crime rate is low. Brannagan attributed the decrease in crimes to the community and the police department’s intelligent approach to fighting crime.

This year there have been 2,234 crimes against persons, compared to 2,523 last year, The Star reported in November.

“That’s a significant situation to be proud of, not just for the police service, but for the people who live in the community,” Brannagan said, referring to the significant drop in crimes in 2011.

Prince George, with a population of 73,590 compared to Windsor’s population of 221,310, ranked No. 1 on Maclean’s list with the highest per-capita murder rate in Canada. Prince George is 486 per cent above the national average and ranks highest overall in violent and non-violent crimes.

Maclean’s reports that overall Canada’s crime score fell almost 23 per cent since 2000.

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Historic church literally sinking
Robin Grant, The Windsor Star
Published: Tuesday, December 20, 2011
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A piece of Amherstburg’s history is sinking.

The Amherstburg First Baptist Church on George Street, built by former slaves in 1849, has been out of commission since Nov. 29.

It was in September that Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi and his wife, Abiola, a contractor and mortgage broker in Windsor, noticed that the floor had detached from the baseboard.

“We knew we had a problem,” Abiola said.

The church is sinking, she said, because it’s at a lower grade than the surrounding houses, allowing rainwater to pool under the structure and the ground to soften.

When Abiola called the town and insurance company, both said they couldn’t help with the renovations.

And the trouble didn’t stop there. After an inspector advised them to cut a hole in the floor, they discovered that some of the original oak beams that support the building were rotten and had broken in half.

A few weeks later, the building was deemed unsafe and ordered to close.

The Afolabis, who buy and restore old houses in Windsor, said they expected the decision.

But they’re worried that as the building is left unrepaired, greater, irreparable damage will occur to parts of the church with historical significance.

“It’s a part of the Canadian historic site, so it’s what every Canadian can rally around to save,” Olaniyi Afolabi said.

Church services were moved to the Amherstburg Food & Fellowship Mission with the possibility of using the Nazrey AME Church at the North American Black Historical Museum.

The Afolabis are asking for donations to help repair the church. The First Baptist Church has set up an account at TD Canada Trust. Donors can email amherstburgfbc@hotmail. ca or call 519-988-6725 or 519-736-4646 for information.

Tax receipts can be issued for donations of $20 or more.

“We are expecting that the public will give us a hand to get the church into a normal state of health,” Olaniyi Afolabi said.
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Balmy temps greet solstice
Robin Grant, For The Windsor Star
Published: Thursday, December 22, 2011
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If you’re sick of the short days and crave more sunlight you won’t have to wait much longer.

Today marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing an end to shortest daylight period and the longest night of the year.

From now on, days will get longer as the sun gets higher in the sky over the next six months.

As the first day of astronomical winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice marks the point at which the sun shines directly overhead at 23.5 degrees south latitude.

“The solstice is really an instant in time, not a day,” said Denis Tetreault, an instructor in the department of earth sciences at the University of Windsor.

That instant occurred at 12: 30 a.m. today.

Windsor will get a total of nine hours and seven minutes of daylight today and by Christmas Day, daylight will increase to nine hours and eight minutes.

The changes in daylight hours won’t be noticeable until further into the winter months, said Greg Pearce, a forecaster with Environment Canada.

But despite more sunlight, temperatures get colder in January and February: the sun doesn’t give off as much energy in the winter months because it is lower in the sky and not as intense.

In addition, more snow on the ground reflects the sun’s energy back into space.

In ancient times, the winter solstice was an important way to mark time when there were no clocks, watches and calendars.

In terms of the weather, a white Christmas in Windsor does not seem likely, said Gina Ressler, a meteorologist at the Weather Network.

No big snowmakers are moving through the area from today through Sunday, she said.

This year, temperatures have been one to two degrees above the seasonal average. In terms of the overall outlook, it appears the mild trend will continue, Ressler said.

Environment Canada says most Canadians will not wake up to a white Christmas on Dec. 25 for the first time since Canada’s weather office began recording snowfalls in 1955, the government agency said Wednesday.

With just days before the holiday, Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips said he has never seen so little snowpack in Canada’s cities. And the forecast for the coming days is sunny and very mild.

“A white Christmas is usually a sure thing in Canada, but not this year,” Phillips said.

“We are usually the snowiest country in the world,” he said. “But this year, like no other since we’ve been monitoring in 56 years, there will be many Canadians just dreaming of a white Christmas and not getting one.”

For a city to qualify as having a white Christmas, Environment Canada must note at least two centimetres of snow on the ground at 7 a.m. on Dec. 25.

This month has been on average six to seven degrees Celsius warmer than normal and most snow that has fallen has melted soon after hitting the ground.
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Wood sculptor carves out busy career
Robin Grant, The Windsor Star
Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2011
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Fred Zavadil’s wood carving career has humble roots.

When he and his wife immigrated to Canada in 1989 from the former Czechoslovakia, Zavadil used to come home from his job in construction in Toronto, sit at the dining table, and carve intricate designs and figures in wood.

Now, almost three decades later, after multiple awards and his work displayed in religious institutions, museums, schools and in private homes in cities throughout Ontario, the Windsor man has a successful career as a wood carver.

With no formal education in the craft, Zavadil took night classes run by the Toronto Board of Education.

“They showed you how to hold the chisel. That’s basically all. You can’t really call it learning or education,” said Hana, Zavadil’s wife.

Essentially, Zavadil is self taught. But he always had an appreciation for artistic creation.

In the former Czechoslovakia, his profession as a bricklayer involved restoring historic buildings. And he painted and sculpted as a hobby.

When a friend in Toronto introduced him to wood carving, it was love at first sight.

“I didn’t look back. I just wanted to carve and carve. Wood is beautiful material,” Zavadil said.

Still an amateur in the 90s, Zavadil got his first job at a Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto. There, he said he spent a lot of time looking over the shoulders of the more experienced carvers on the job.

By 2000, Zavadil was hired full-time at a company that deals with religious art. After two years, he started his own business.

The majority of the work Zavadil does is liturgical carving, which involves repairing old religious statues from wood, resin and plaster and replacing broken parts of church furniture and religious art objects.

But lately, he’s had jobs that involve carving sculptures out of old trees that have been cut down. His recent work is at the newly established Christopher Children’s Centre in Cambridge, Ont.

“It’s like an extension of life for trees,” Zavadil said, referring to the black walnut on the property that was cut down to make room for the centre.

Emma Perlaky, president of the Ontario Wood Carver’s Association, said Zavadil is easily among the top 10 per cent of wood carvers in the world.

In the past decade, Zavadil won best of show and best in masters honours in almost every wood carving competition he entered.

In 2008, he won first, second and third place at the Woodcarving Congress in Davenport, Iowa, which hadn’t happened in the congress’s 43-year history.

Perlaky’s favourite pieces are two caricatures called the Cellist and the Maestro, which she said capture the essence of human passion and demonstrates Zavadil’s understanding of the human condition.

“A God-given talent works from him,” she said. “I’m really proud to have him as a member of the association.”

Today, Zavadil also offers carving lessons out of his studio at his home in Windsor. He wants to preserve the art of wood carving.

“For me, teaching is one of the most important things. I know so much about carving, it’s important to me to share the knowledge.”

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Adobe Slashes 100 Ottawa Jobs
Centretown News
Robin Grant
Wednesday, Nov. 9 2011

Approximately 100 employees lost their jobs with computer software giant Adobe at its Preston Street headquarters in Ottawa, the company confirmed Tuesday.

In a statement released late on Tuesday in the U.S., Adobe said it planned to cut 750 positions and use $94 million as part of restructuring to focus on digital media and marketing.

The company said it plans to release its strategic objectives and an update of its business strategy. Its focus is to become more digitally based in terms of web and media.

The Ottawa location is the company’s only Canadian office, which focuses on product development, customer support and technical services.

Despite the layoffs, the Ottawa location will remain operational, the company said.

Adobe is known for its Photoshop and Acrobat software and its Flash multimedia platform.
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Diane Holmes Earns an A+ for Environmental Strategies
Centretown News
Thursday November 24, 2011
Robin Grant

Environmental lobby group Ecology Ottawa released its annual report card Tuesday assessing the city councillors environmental strategies based on how they voted on key motions. Centretown’s Diane Holmes scored A+.

“The report card performs a watchdog function,” said Janice Ashworth, community organizer at Ecology Ottawa. “Our role is to provide information to voters on how their councilors are performing on environmental issues.”

The report lauded Holmes as one of the “few bright stars” making an effort for the environment by displaying leadership with her “Sidewalk Summit” that addressed how proper pedestrian infrastructure is lacking in the city.

Key environmental votes related to transportation including the segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue. Public transit took a major hit when OC Tranpso’s operating budget was slashed, leading to several service reduction and route cancellations.

Council did approve an increase in O-Train frequency to take effect in 2014, according to the report.

The council was far less divided than previous years with most councilors voting the same way. The unity in voting patterns resulted in less differentiation with the majority of Council members scoring an average of B, the report said.

Mayor Jim Watson scored a B, which is a significant improvement over his predecessor, Mayor Larry O’Brien, who generally received the lowest score in previous years.
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Syrians Gather at Human Rights Monument to Protest Regime
By Robin Grant
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Centretown News workshop, Fall 2011, Carleton School of Journalism
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“Leave us. Leave us, Bashar al-Assad. Our freedom is not for you,” chanted hundreds of protesters who gathered around the Human Rights Monument Saturday demanding an end to the dictator’s regime in Syria.

The protest comes three days after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called on Canadians in Syria to take commercial flights out of the country, which was followed by a rebel attack on a Syrian military base and France’s recall of its ambassador.

“We’re here to support the Syrian people,” said Abdullah Al-Haj, co-organizer and member of the Syrian Canadian Council. “Simply, we want to bring down the Assad regime. It’s been in power for 40 years. It’s illegitimate.”

Since the uprisings began in February 2011, Human Rights Watch has reported evidence of crimes against humanity, including torture and unlawful killings by security forces. The death toll from the eight-month uprising has reached 3,500, the UN reported.

“We want the Canadian government to recognize the Syrian National Council as the legitimate and only representative of the people. We call on Canada to expel the Syrian ambassador and for Canada to call back its ambassador in Syria. Only this will alienate the regime,” Al-Haj said.

At 2:45 p.m. protesters unraveled a giant Syrian flag and held it over the stairs at the monument on Elgin Street while they chanted.

Some people had the flag painted on their face. Others had their faces completely covered with ski masks and winter scarves, out of fear that regime supporters would spot them and report them to officials in Syria, threatening family and friends still living in the country.

Black, green and white, matching the colours of the flag, were the dominant colours worn by protesters.

“The fear is real,” Al-Haj said, pointing down the street to the Syrian Embassy on Cartier Street.

Holding a sign in his hand that said “The Syrian Ambassador is a spy,” Sam Al-Sayed stood among the protesters.

“I’m standing up for my people in Syria,” he said. “Something is seriously wrong and something urgently has to be done by the international community. Not today, but yesterday.”

Referring to his sign, Al-Sayed said the embassy spies on the community in Canada. He said it uses intelligence to pressure people outside of Syria and discourage them from taking part in activities that undermine the regime such as protesting.

“I’m here to tell the world we will never stop,” said Noor Ayash, a Syrian who came to Canada last year. “I’m standing with our people. The killing is increasing. This doesn’t just involve Syrians. It involves everybody in the world. We all need to stand together.”

On Wednesday, the Arab League confirmed the suspension of Syria from the organization. It gave the government three days to stop the violence and accept an observer mission or face economic sanctions.

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Vigil Commemorates Trans Murder Victims
By Robin Grant
Monday, 21 November 2011
Centretown News workshop, Fall 2011, Carleton School of Journalism
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Flickering candles at the Human Rights Monument on Sunday night marked the 13th International Transgender Day of Remembrance.

A crowd of approximately a hundred people stood at the monument at 7 p.m. holding candles while two people read out the names of the 221 transgender people who were killed in the last 12 months.

The list  of names of the murdered individuals was provided by Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project (TGEU).

Alex Thomas, who works at Pink Triangle Services on Bank Street, read from the list at the candlelight vigil.

“The more people know about transgender issues and what they face, the more easily they will be able to accept them and not subject them to stigma and violence and harassment,” she said.

The memorial started in the U.S. to honour Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered on Nov. 28, 1998. Her murder – like most anti-transgender murder cases – has remained unsolved, according to
Transgender.org, a website that monitors the murder cases.

A disproportionate number of transgender people are murdered and a great number of them are sex workers,” said Kay Dundas, a transgender woman in Ottawa. “Transgender people go into sex work because it can be difficult to get a job. You have to eat and pay the rent. Unfortunately, a lot of them get murdered.”

The Trans Murder Monitoring project reported that since 2008, over 755 transgender people have been murdered in 51 countries. It notes the actual figure is likely higher because the number represents known
cases only.
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Art Festivals Boost Local Economy
By Robin Grant
Centretown News workshop, Fall 2011, Carleton School of Journalism
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While Ottawa residents reap the cultural benefits of art festivals such as the International Writers’ Festival and the International Animation Festival, art festivals boost the city’s economy, according to studies by the City of Ottawa.

From Sept. 21-25, animators and filmmakers could be found in the Chateau Laurier lobby. Janet Perleman, a filmmaker from Montreal, says she’s been to the festival since it started in 1976.During the festival, Perleman stays at a hotel.

This year, she was at downtown Ottawa’s Novotel.In fact, hotels are one of the biggest festival sponsors in Ottawa.Kimberly Wilson, Novotel sales and marketing director, says sponsoring festivals shows support for the city and helps business.

“The city needs support because it is competing with other cultural hubs like Toronto and Montreal.”

Arc Hotel sponsors the writers’ festival among other art festivals.

“Being as we are an artistic design hotel, these festivals make sense to us,” says Dean Lake, director of sales at the Arc.Studies compiled by the City of Ottawa report the total spending by non-local visitors from 21 festivals is about $57 million, and festivals and arts contribute $48.8 million to the city’s GDP.

A study by the City of Ottawa Revenue/Income Study found arts and festivals generate $41.3 million in Ottawa annually.

Sean Wilson, director of arts for the writers’ festival, says the revenue from festivals is substantial. Wilson has spent more than 15 years in the industry and seen how funding has changed.

“Government now looks at festival funding as tourism funding,” Wilson says.  “When you support a festival all the money goes back into the community.”

The Mayfair Theatre on Bank Street hosts events for the writers’ festival.

Lee Demarbre, a Mayfair employee, says it brings publicity to the theatre.

“The outside of Mayfair is kind of beaten down, so some people don’t really consider coming here. But then . . . they get inside and see how beautiful it is,” he says.

Back at Chateau Laurier, Perleman admits the animation festival is good for business.

“I always go walking through the mall on my way back to Novotel and shop. I can’t help getting sucked in to all the stores.”

Multimedia Stories for Capital News Online, Winter 2012 Damage Control

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