Top 25

Top 25 Journalism Moments (so far)

Working as a journalist you get to experience a lot of things most people do not.

I’ve covered elections at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. I’ve covered sporting events big and small. Spoken with kids about their dreams. Watched some of those kids accomplish those said dreams.

I’ve battled it out to get my questions asked in media scrums. Been to parties at the Toronto International Film Festival, taken advantage of free food, free tickets and yes, gone to events I didn’t get a story out of, but the experience was enough.

I love that interaction. I love hearing the stories of others, and sharing them for the reader. You learn more about the world when you’re at ground level. You don’t get that from sitting in a classroom. I must also credit my good colleague, and great friend, Francis Crescia as being my partner in crime on a lot of these excursions. Without him, my articles would be mere words.

Being a journalist has changed my outlook on a lot of things. And I have come a long way in my writing from running my high school newspaper in 1998.

Below are my Top 25 Journalism Moments (so far). Mind you there are plenty that didn’t make this list, like a one-on-one with former Columbus Blue Jacket Rick Nash, shaking hands with prime minister Stephen Harper, a chat with Jerome Williams at Earl Haig Secondary School, spending a day up in a crane overlooking the AGO, witnessing a politician go sour grapes during the federal election and a lengthy interview with model Candace Rae.

Still the following are the stories, interviews that I learned something from. I hope you find them as enlightening as I do.

25. Subject: Dougie Hamilton
When: September 2011, February 2011
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Publication: Town Crier (Bayview Mills)
What: A local high school student from Crestwood Prep was playing on the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs, and was taking part in the Home Hardware CHL Top Prospects Game, which was been held at the Air Canada Centre. I followed up with Dougie seven months later after being drafted by the NHL’s Boston Bruins. Photo courtesy AARON BELL/CHL IMAGES
24. Subject: Shawn Gore
When: March 2010, May 2010 and September 2011
Where: Toronto
Publication: Town Crier (Bayview Mills & North York)
What: Much like Dougie Hamilton pursuing his pro sports dreams, Shawn Gore was a Don Mills student who transferred to Newtonbrook so he could play football. Through the Toronto Argos PR folks, I spoke with Gore who was preparing for the CFL draft. After the draft, he tried out with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, and then I followed up with him again during the Lions Grey Cup season. Photo courtesy B.C. Lions.
23. Subject: Elena Semikina
When: Summer 2012, January 2012
Where: Toronto
Publication: Toronto Today, Urban Male Magazine
What: I learned plenty about the Miss Universe competition, and though I already understood there was a lot more depth to the pageantry, Elena introduced the aspect of charity behind it all in two separate interviews. Let’s just say, Miss Universe is all about being the change you want in the world. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TORONTO TODAY
22. Subject: Andre Talbot
When: October 2011
Where: Asana Yoga, Leslieville, Toronto
Publication: Town Crier (Beach-South Riverdale)
What: The level of community involvement done by the Toronto Argonauts football club far exceeds any of the other sports clubs in the city, and that is great. What I got out of interviewing Andre Talbot, who came back to T.O. to open up a yoga studio, was that there’s life after pro sports. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER
21. Subject: Rob Ford
When: January 2012
Where: Toronto City Hall, Office of the Mayor
Publication: Town Crier Education Guide, Winter 2012
What: I find most of the people who get their hackles up over current mayor Rob Ford are the ones who have little tolerance for another cross-section of the population: the blue collar. In some publications he’s mocked for his love of football, and frankly that’s very unprofessional. During a time when the media was getting the cold shoulder from the mayor’s office, I scored a one-on-one with Ford. It was great talking football with him. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER
20. Subject: Michael Lambert/Sean Pierson
When: July 2011
Where: Edo Sushi
Publication: Town Crier (Bloor West, Forest Hill, North Toronto, Leaside-Rosedale, Bayview Mills, North York, Beach-South Riverdale and Riverdale-East York)
What: I didn’t do articles on them, but for two years I organized the Athlete of the Year awards, and part of that job was arranging a guest speaker. In 2010 Olympic snowboarder Michael Lambert shared his trials and tribulations and in 2011, on a whim, I asked our reporter Shawn Star to ask Sean Pierson if he would like to talk with high school students about his UFC experiences. Both guys were great speakers. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER
19. Subject: Dalton McGuinty
When: October 2006
Where: Niagara Falls, Ont.
Publication: Daily Commercial News
What: These days the premier doesn’t “do” media scrums. But when I was cutting my teeth in journalism with a trade publication, McGuinty did. There’s no better rush for a journalist than to vie against his own peers to get a question answered. Given my location to McGuinty, directly at his right shoulder, I managed to shout my question into his ear. I was a baseball umpire at the time as well, so when I shout, you hear it. McGuinty heard it. Photo courtesy Patrick McConnell
18. Subject: Dillon Casey
When: January 2012
Where: Multicom Media office
Publication: Town Crier (Forest Hill)
What: I had been trying to get Rachel McAdams’ PR flak to set me up with an interview with The Vow actress for the Toronto Today. Anyhow, I was perusing my email one morning when I got a note asking me if I would like to interview Toronto actor Dillon Casey. It was random, and unsolicited but, I said what the heck. Casey kindly came out to the office of the Town Crier and sat down for a half hour, chatting “Nikita”, The Vow and going to University of Toronto. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER
17. Subject: Nick Kypreos
When: March 2011, June 2009
Where: Rogers office, Toronto
Publication: Toronto Today, Leaside Today
What: Working with Sportsnet on two separate occasions was decent experience and you get to understand what the community means to people like Nick Kypreos or Brian Burke, or even my planned angles with other stories I was working on before I left Town Crier. Leaside Arena was getting expanded, and though I touched on Kypreos’ efforts to help fund raise, I wanted take the more personal approach. Nick kindly obliged, and it turned into one of my favourite articles written for Toronto Today/Town Crier. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TORONTO TODAY
16. Subject: Toronto Roller Derby
When: September 2009
Where: The Hangar, Downsview Park
Publication: If you’re going into a new job, it’s best to go in like a lion, or leopard as was the case of the Gore-Gore Rollergirls. I contacted the Toronto Roller Derby to do a feature article on them and had fun doing it. I went to a bout between the Death Track Dolls and Gore-Gore Rollergirls and thought it was the best thing since well, wheels on boots. On top of that, I got to use the line, “She will drop you like yesterday’s bran muffin” in my lede. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER
15. Subject: Melanie Doane
When: April 2011, May 2009
Where: Toronto
Publication: Town Crier (Beach-South Riverdale)
What: I had one of those moments where, I recalled studying for university exam and the song “Adam’s Rib” came on the radio. Never would I thought that seven or eight years later I’d be interviewing the singer. But, Town Crier arts editor Lorianna De Giorgio passed a story on to me, and I ran with it. The first time I spoke with Melanie Doane she focused on motherhood and returning to her indie music roots. The second time around, it was about ukuleles and changed in life. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER
14. Subject: Elizabeth Ruth
When: February 2009, April 2009
Where: Toronto
Publication: Town Crier (Beach-South Riverdale, Midtown)
What: I was a member Writers’ Community of Durham Region not too long ago, and I still keep in touch with a couple of the members and friends I made there. One breakfast, Canadian author Elizabeth Ruth spoke, and I really dug her philosophy. So afterwards, I asked her if she’d be interested in doing an interview with the Town Crier. She was probably one of the coolest, if not the coolest conversations I’ve had. I won’t interview because we spoke about a mutual love: writing. In addition, sharing her experiences with Timothy Findley was a moment I won’t forget.
13. Subject: Jim Gregory
When: February 2012
Where: Toronto
Publication: Town Crier (Forest Hill)
What: I had just spent a good six months holed up at Doc Seamen’s (the Hockey Hall of Fame’s archives) researching various points in hockey history when I received a press release from St. Michael’s College School about them honouring hockey legend Jim Gregory, the man responsible for bringing Borje Salming to Toronto. It was a great interview – albeit over the phone – with one of the builders of hockey history.
12. Subject: Art Hindle
When: January 2012
Where: Toronto/King City
Publication: Toronto Today/Vaughan Today
What: Toronto is a great place to find actors. I connected with Art Hindle through LinkedIn and asked him if he’d be up for an entertainment piece on him with the local angle of growing up in the Beach. He kindly obliged, and I spent a good hour and a half talking with him on the phone about Toronto, ACTRA, Porky’s, Black Christmas and “E.N.G.” FRANCIS CRESCIA/TORONTO TODAY
11. Subject: Hayden Panattiere
When: August 2011
Where: FanExpo, Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Publication: For three years in a row, I had the honour to grab a press pass and skedaddle on down to FanExpo to cover the event. One year I met Canadian actor Art Hindle, another time I chatted with Kid in the Hall Scott Thompson. In 2011, I snagged shots of Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman, Doug Bradley, Robert Englund, Elisha Dushku and (at left) Hayden Panattiere. The story on Hayden was her handler was a little over-zealous with photo taking, and gave me a firm “No” when I asked Hayden. When a fan distracted the handler, Ms. Panattiere turned to me and said, “Take the photo”.
10. Subject: Connecting with the community
When: June 2010, June 2011
Where: Edo Sushi, Toronto
Publication: Town Crier (Bloor West, Forest Hill, North Toronto, Leaside-Rosedale, Bayview Mills, North York, Beach-South Riverdale and Riverdale-East York)
What: When I slid into the sports editor role at the Town Crier I had one thing in mind: connect with the community. Get to know what schools were known for what sports. Get to know the history. During a short amount of time, I developed a pretty good rapport with a majority of the 66 high schools – private, public and Catholic – in our coverage area. What also helped was the annual Athlete of the Year awards that I organized and picked the top athletes. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER
9. Subject: St. Paul’s provincial by-election
When: AugustOctober 2009
Where: The provincial riding of St. Paul’s
Publication: Town Crier (North Toronto, Leaside-Rosedale, Forest Hill and Midtown)
What: When Liberal MPP Michael Bryant stepped aside in his midtown riding to pursue other interests that opened the door for a by-election. I spoke with my managing editor about covering the election from its beginning – meaning right from the parties picking their candidates (Lib. Eric Hoskins – pictured; PC. Sue-Ann Levy; Green. Chris Chopik; NDP. Julian Heller) – to the election results. I also organized an all-candidates debate where I had the lovely experience of being threatened with jiu jitsu by a 60-something gentleman. BRIAN BAKER/TOWN CRIER
8. Subject: Toronto International Film Festival
When: September 2009
Where: Yorkville, Toronto
Publication: Town Crier (online)
What: For the entire run of the Toronto International Film Festival, colleagues Lorianna De Giorgio, Kelly Gadzala and myself ventured into the world of celebrity to experience the party life of Toronto when Hollywood comes to town. I spoke with Ivan Reitman while his son Jason played with his BlackBerry. Photo courtesy Karolyn Coorsh
7. Subject: The Toronto Raptors and TDSB
When: April 2011
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Publication: Toronto Today
What: Sometimes it’s not always your experiences, but what you can give to a community you write for. Initially, my Toronto Today feature was going to be on Kat and the Dance Pak, but with no local angle (Kat was from Burlington), I switched gears and did a feature school spirit, asking basketball coaches from three local schools for a player’s thoughts on school spirit. With the Raptors help, we brought the three high school cagers down to the ACC for a photo op. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TORONTO TODAY
6. Subject: Joey Votto
When: November 2010
Where: Toronto/Sarasota, Florida
Publication: Town Crier (online)
What: You never think small. No matter what publication you work for, you go for the highest possible branch and grab hold. Joey Votto is a Richview CI alum and when it was announced he won the NL MVP, I was quickly on the phone to Cincinnati’s media relations people to set up a phone interview. Though a media call-in, waiting to ask a question among reporters from NBC and the Washington Post was quite the experience. Photo courtesy Cincinnati Reds
5. Subject: 2011 Columnist of the Year, OCNA
When: April 2012
Where: Royal York Fairmont Hotel
Publication: Toronto Today
What: Any writer who tells you awards mean nothing is full of shit. Pardon the language, but when you’re lauded by your peers after being told by a high school teacher you’re immature, called a hack by a former university organization colleague and a caustic, man-hating editor gave you grief for being too creative, it just proves you were right, and they were only holding you back. Thanks go to the editors who worked with me on my award-winning column, The Game Fixer: Dan Hoddinott, Shawn Star and Eric McMillan.
4. Subject: Brian Burke
When: August 2011
Where: Leaside Gardens Memorial Community Arena
Publication: Toronto Today
What: It took me a while, but after some hard work, and constant bothering of MLSE I managed to get a one-on-one early one morning with Brian Burke, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was also during a time when some journalists were not endearing themselves to Burke. So it was a nice feather in the cap to sit down and talk hockey – at the local level – with a hockey honcho. FRANCIS CRESCIA/TORONTO TODAY
3. Subject: Jane Goodall
When: April 2011
Where: University of Toronto, Convocation Hall
Publication: n/a
What: Yes, there are times when stories fall through. Even stories where you get to meet influential people and really feel like you’ve been enlightened and grateful for sharing the same atom bits of air. I took anthropology classes at university for my archaeology undergrad, so a chance to stand in the hall and shoot the breeze with Jane Goodall, is a top experience, even if there was no copy that came from it. Photo: Brian Baker
2. Subject: Trish Stratus
When: December 2009
Where: Stratusphere Yoga, Vaughan Mills
Publication: Vaughan Today, Town Crier
What: Then Vaughan Today editor Alexis Dobranowski made my day/month/year when she offered a story to me regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs taking yoga lessons from Trish Stratus. The story eventually turned into me taking a yoga class with Trish Stratus, and a previous interview one-on-one with the WWE diva. FRANCIS CRESCIA/VAUGHAN TODAY
1. Subject: Dalai Lama
When: April 2004
Where: University of Toronto, Convocation Hall
Publication: n/a
What: Sometimes, it’s those experiences you get before you travel along a chosen career path. A friend of mine, Owen Jarus, asked me to be his photographer at the University of Toronto’s event where they honoured the Dalai Lama. So, I stood on the stoop of Con Hall awaiting the arrival of his Holiness. I snapped photos of the procession, him coming out of his motorcade,  but the one that grabbed me, (at left), was a shot I just took before he entered the building with him looking right at me. If I were to get all maudlin, I’d say it’s one of the reasons why I pursued journalism. Photo: Brian Baker

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