Monday, October 3, 2011

Providing Questions Up Front

Last week I was published for the first time as a paid journalist. It was very exciting as I received positive feedback from family and friends for getting the front page of the Lance with my election article. Here is the link to the story:

The article was about what candidates in the upcoming provincial election in the St. Vital riding are going to do to ensure housing and programs for the thousands of newcomers settling in St. Vital every year. I also did a election script and clip radio story last week for 92.9 KICK FM's election night coverage this Tuesday, October 4th.

Doing this election coverage meant that I had to interview politicians. Out of the four candidates that I interviewed, three of them or their campaign managers asked for the questions or topics I would be asking about up front--before the interview.

As a young journalist who hasn't interviewed many politicians I thought this was standard. I thought it would make the answers the candidates gave during the interview better and my story better. However, what I didn't realize at first was that if I did provide the exact questions up front I wouldn't get the opportunity to properly evaluate the candidates' answers unrehearsed and how much they truly know about the issues.

As a I learned from our journalism radio instructor Dan when discussing how our election script and clip assignments went, journalists are not required to provide questions up front. If someone doesn't want to participate in an interview, it's their loss that they don't get to get media coverage, which isn't what most politicians want especially around election time.

Although potentially losing an interview may be scary for a young journalist it is always best to keep in mind that a journalist's job is not to make an interviewee look good or make it easy for them to answer your questions, but to ask questions and fairly report the answers people you interview give.

On another note, there were some facts that weren't able to be included in the article that I thought were quite interesting.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s most recent numbers from April, the
neighbourhood’s vacancy rate was 0.7 per cent.

Of the 20,528 2-bedroom apartments in Winnipeg, only 142 were available in April 2011. Of the 1,060
apartments with 3 or more bedrooms, only 5 were available.

13,518 immigrants landed in Manitoba in 2009.

Here is the article I wrote for the Lance.

Housing, services top issues for newcomers

Catherine Moss, a teacher in the VM EAL program, helps newcomers who have settled in St. Vital  learn English at Glenwood School.
Catherine Moss, a teacher in the VM EAL program, helps newcomers who have settled in St. Vital learn English at Glenwood School.
A local advocate for immigrants wants candidates in the upcoming provincial election to pay attention to the needs of thousands of newcomers settling in St. Vital every year.

"Most newcomers find work in the beginning and find a place to live they’re happy with and their children go to school and fit in," said Audrey Owens, program manager of  the St. Vital-based VM EAL program, which helps newcomers learn English.

"However this is not true of every family, some struggle," said Owens, who has been working to help immigrants settle in St. Vital for 15 years.

Owens said newcomers can struggle if they take longer to learn English, which makes it difficult to find jobs.

They may also struggle with finding affordable housing, she said.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s most recent numbers from April, the neighbourhood’s vacancy rate was 0.7%.

"Morrow Avenue, Bonita Avenue, and Beliveau Road are always full," said Owens.

Mike Brown, the Progressive Conservative candidate for the St. Vital riding, acknowledged affordable housing is "always an issue."

"We can’t invite immigrants without housing being available," said Brown, who noted there will be more housing available when a Manitoba Housing complex currently vacated for repairs reopens.

Brown said programming for immigrants also needs to be examined.

"If we are successful in forming government we will be listening to the experts in all fields, including those related to immigration," he said.

"If we find the services wanting we will ensure those services required by new Canadians are adequate to ensure they make a successful transition to life in Manitoba."

Manitoba Liberal Party candidate Harry Wolbert said he heard from people living in Manitoba Housing on Marlene Street that workers were given three minutes to spray each unit for bed bugs, which he said is not enough time.

To prevent future incidents like this, Wolbert said he would like to see Manitoba Housing turned into co-operative housing where people would collectively own the complex and would have "ownership of day-to-day activities and (a) say in how the complex is run."

Wolbert also said he wants "more money to go towards after school programs and programs run by the community centres to keep kids off the streets."  

NDP incumbent Nancy Allan said affordable housing will come to St. Vital through a pledge made in March by the NDP provincial government to build 707 affordable housing units over the next two years in Winnipeg.

Allan said she plans to continue to support programs run through the Salvation Army’s newly-renovated Multicultural Family Centre on Morrow Avenue, which was partly funded by the provincial NDP government, and the Victor Mager Job Re-Entry Program, which provides employment training, academic upgrading and life skills.

People can "get stabilized and get settled into the community," and "learn about life in Manitoba and get job placements," Allan said, referring to the Multicultural Family Centre.

Voters across Manitoba will head to the polls on Oct. 4.

1 comment:

  1. Nobody benefits when journalists provide questions in advance.
    The interview subject sounds lifeless.
    The audience (remember them?) misses spontaneity.
    And the journalist disappears.