September 28, 2012

A pleasant distraction (aka Heartbeat test trailer)

There are three major writing projects on the go this week: a marketing brand analysis, a case for support for a non-profit and a public relations strategy for a recently launched online radio station. And while I'm interested in each and every one of those projects, I find I can only write continuously for so many hours before my brain and my output devolves into mush.

I've found a pleasant distraction, however, that's allows me to take a quick creative jog around the block before returning to word crunches. It's my independent professional project Heartbeat, an arts-focused interview show that launches this November on Red River Radio. True, when November arrives and the dangling Sword of Deadlines quivers just over my head, Heartbeat may become less a pleasant distraction then a fountain of problems. But for now, I'm tooling around, there aren't consequences and the results please me.

Like this video trailer. You like? Does this mini-ad catch your fancy? Or not? Your honest feedback would be appreciated as well as invaluable.

Happy weekend!

September 21, 2012

Express yourself

Not much to say today, being in the middle of a heavy slog at school. Where first year in Creative Communications was difficult for it's sharp (occasionally cutting) learning curve, second year is hard for it's heavy workload. So it seems, anyways. Evidence: being a day behind the news cycle

Matt: Mel, did you see this video of Romney?
Mel: (yawns) The one where he says being Latino would make winning the presidency easier and calls 47% of Americans entitled for wanting housing and food?
Matt: ...

So a short blog post, pointing to this lovely video on YouTube. This past week I was sitting at Frozen Comfort, meeting with the owners to talk about rebranding their business and marketing online. I hope I made a good case for the Twitter and the Facebook, but this video does it better (my pie charts don't have the impact they used to).

And below a low-quality video of high-octane Winnipeg band Yes We Mystic, belting out Odessa Steps. These kids (and now I'm thirty, I can call anyone in their twenties "kids") are smoking, stompin', achingly good. Be advised.

September 14, 2012

My hAPPy place

Last night, a machine ate my tape, possibly destroying footage I won't be able to replace. My voice recorder failed to capture an interview, leaving me to struggle and scribble quotes from memory. My appointment for this morning cancelled, so I'll have to push plans back.

And I'm feeling groovy.

If this series of unfortunate events had happened on the same day last year, I don't think I would've held up so well. But the past few months have been filled with lessons of keeping perspective and mindfulness. I'm not claiming to be above stress or conflict (which may not even be a worthwhile goal), however, a number of activities have brought me to a place where I can maintain some amount of calm.

Perhaps it's no surprise, as I am a creative communications student, that these activities come with apps? Where once a guru, trainer or mentor guided you on a quest of personal growth, mobile applications now make it possible to carry around a pocket-sized coach who will encourage you to keep a level head.

Here are some of the apps (not miracle cure-alls) helping me find balance these days.


I'm a casual jogger with hopes of running a marathon one day. So... just like every other casual jogger. RunKeeper might make that happen, though. It's my coach, trainer, cheerleader and one of a host of running apps (do you have one you like?). Using GPS, it tracks my running, calling out directions if I'm using a preprogrammed route, letting me know how many kilometres I've gone, mapping my pace.

But it goes further, connecting me with other local runners so I can encourage them (and they can encourage me) when we complete activities. The Facebook integration is seamless. And it's free, unless you'd like to pay to take one of the classes devised by RunKeeper instructors (I haven't tried one yet, though I might in the new year as local marathons approach).

If you check it out, add me to your "Street Team" and we can go jogging together, even if we're miles apart.


This is the app used by the Winnipeg Public Library to download it's ebook collection - the rapidly growing future of libraries. By logging in to your online account, you can view the available titles and create a wishlist. Anytime a book/audiobook you want to enjoy becomes available, you download it and it's yours for a set number of days. No travelling to the library, no late fees, no problems.

I'd like to recommend Wherever you go, there you are by John Kabat-Zin et al. It's a discussion on mindfulness, as well as exercises to help you build meditation and awareness of the beauty of life into your daily routine. Ever take seven minutes to eat a raisin?

Are there any ebooks on Overdrive you'd recommend? I'm busy these days, but that's where the wishlist comes in handy.


Right, right — the app that makes everyone think they're a professional photographer. Why would you jump on the bandwagon of a sure-to-fade fad?

First, Instagram doesn't seem to be fading, growing at the rate of a user a second in the spring of 2012.

And while it certainly isn't guaranteed to make you a better photographer (though the practice it promotes can't hurt), it does offer you a chance to see the world around you in a new light — literally, with the use of filters. Three months after joining Instagram, I've found more beautiful sights in Winnipeg than I did after 12 years of living here.

A large part of mindfulness is slowing down to appreciate the wonder and beauty of the world around us. Instagram has helped me do that with a couple of clicks.

Are you on Instagram? Follow me (mtenbruggencate) and I'll follow you back.

September 7, 2012

Reflections on the Newsroom

No, not this newsroom...
THIS newsroom.

This summer I peeked behind the curtain of the great and powerful Winnipeg Free Press, working as a copy editor on the night shift (editing the "news" segments of the paper, as opposed to sports and arts). Now it's autumn and I've returned to school, it's time to talk smack about my former employer, right?

Wrong - I'll leave that to the buzzing horde of online commentors who live to criticize (abide to deride, remain to disdain...).

Because I think the Free Press usually does a pretty good job covering the many, many events shaking up Winnipeg and/or Manitoba. Do they miss sometimes? Widely. They'll admit they do. But they regularly are the leading (if not the only) coverage of breaking news, political subterfuge and artistic events.

So the following is not a townsfolk-with-a-pitchfork-style rant. It's just three nuggets I picked up that might come in handy if you ever need to interact with a newsroom yourself.

Downtown, viewed from the distant offices of the Winnipeg Free Press.
1. The newsroom is in a rush

There may be moments when a reporter is waiting to hear back from a contact, an editor is waiting to hear back from a reporter, a copy editor is waiting to get a page from the editor (etc). But in the meantime, everyone is following up other leads, scanning the competition's tweets, reading the wire. The newsroom is always busy - and it switches to a rush in the evening as the print deadline looms (10:50 PM for the Free Press). It gets super quiet in the newsroom as everyone races the clock to put in the best performance possible.

Moral: Don't waste the newsroom's time. I witnessed a PR person call at 10 one night to deliver some not very important news. As soon as he was hung up on, he was cussed out for calling near deadline. On the other side of the coin, I've heard editors muttering under their breath, "Please be writing the story on the road, please be writing the story on the road," as they wait for a photographer to drop a reporter back at the office. (They were often disappointed.)

A newsroom, sans power, is a tense room. Happily, the sun was still up.
2. The newsroom is depressing

Newspaper people are stereotyped as cranky, cynical, angry, or just bitter. And it's true.

OK, OK, it's not totally true. But when a person wades through murders, thefts, stabbings, beatings, dismemberments (which happened a LOT this summer - eep), abuse and cataclysms on a daily basis for their work, it takes a toll. For me, the most depressing aspect of the newsroom was the police scanner. Every media outlet is equipped with a scanner to listen for breaking emergencies; it's kept on all night, at a high volume. The most frequent call? Young female with lacerations to wrists.

Moral: Cut news people some slack if they're grumpy; you don't know what story they just covered.

Hey look - it's tomorrow's newspaper, today!
3. The newsroom loves a great story

News people got into the business because they're junkies - they love a good story, they love a scoop, they love uncovering the truth and sharing it with the world. Even on the busiest day, a really great, well written story would cause colleagues to gather around a computer and quickly read. If you've got a story - as a journalist or a PR professional - with emotional impact that affects a wide audience, it will get picked up for love of craft alone.

But that isn't the only factor. The truth is, many days of the week the Free Press looks for content to fill its pages. The wire services (Canadian Press and Associated Press being the biggies) have been noticeably cutting back on staff and resources - they're no longer a reliable source for "filler" stories. Local reporters are being trimmed down to keep costs low, while the advertising department is trying to keep the page count up to maintain salable space. The result is any night there isn't a murder, fire, high-profile legal case or emergency, the newsroom is hungry for a good story.

Moral: If you have a story to pitch, especially one that isn't time sensitive, you can probably get it in the paper. Read the stories that do get picked up - the ones with legs, the ones with impact - and see if your story can be framed the same way. Controversy can be a good thing to include (so long as it doesn't hurt your organization deeply, of course). Struggle, sacrifice and resilience in the face of opposition - throw in a cute dog (if you can) and you're the front page.