Deadlines Inspire Fiction in Newrooms: Camp VJ

Too many deadlines and not enough time can often lead writers to crack under the pressure. Especially when they desperately need that story!

Think of “Wafer-gate”: the editor of the St. John Telegraph did a little “extra editing” and tweaked a reporter’s story to suggest that the Prime Minister Harper pocketed the host. See: PM gets apology in wafer flap

The editor was fired.

I spoke with Journalist and New Media Guru, Bill Dunphy, who has admitted that deadlines have also pushed him across the line from fact to fiction, when faced with an impossible deadline.

The story goes back to his days as the weekend editor at the Hamilton Spectator. The word arrived from on high, that the paper was going to start publishing a weekly story on the weather — to go above the weather map. One of the most read pages in the paper. Bill was told to “take care of it”.

Of course this was happening, at same time as the big cut backs, and there was not enough staff (with time for another story) especially on the weekends.

It was late Sunday night and nothing was done. So Bill did what any desperate writer would do — he made something up. He invented the weather guy — a fictional character who was a slightly bitter, unemployed ex-weather man who was now stuck writing a “weather column”.

The Weather Guy went on to become one of the most popular columns in the paper. It was moved from the back to page 2.

And Bill wasn’t fired. In fact he lived happily ever after. And today he is still trying to teach writers about the difference between fact and fiction. Check out his suggestions for journalists who are writing for the web: Seven Ways to Write Like a Digital Native.

The Beehive and the Hairball

comb Illustrations by Franke James

hairball and comb Illustrations by Franke James

hair Illustration by Franke James

hair Illustration by Franke James

hair Illustration by Franke James

hair Illustration by Franke James

hair Illustration by Franke James

hair Illustration by Franke James

hair Illustration by Franke James

hair style Illustration by Franke James

hair style Illustration by Franke James

hair style Illustration by Franke James

math Illustration by Franke James

math Illustration by Franke James

math Illustration by Franke James
math Illustration by Franke James
beauty Illustration by Franke James
sink Illustration by Franke James
ringing clock Illustration by Franke James
cook Illustration by Franke James

foil Illustration by Franke James

landfill Illustration by Franke James

ask why Illustration by Franke James

fish Illustration by Franke James

yikes Illustration by Franke James

soup Illustration by Franke James

skull Illustration by Franke James

cigarette package from wikipedia

lipstick Illustration by Franke James

hairball Illustration by Franke James

hairwash Illustration by Franke James

sink Illustration by Franke James

My Green Beauty Action Plan

  1. 1. I Will Use Safer Hair Dyes: I will ask (insist) that my hair salon use hair dyes and shampoos from the 1290 companies that have signed The Compact for Safe Cosmetics which includes six common-sense requirements.
  2. 2. I Will Move To A Green Salon: Bad habits are hard to break. Salons (and uninformed clients) have been abusing our natural environment for years. Even though I love my salon, I am prepared to switch! Check out Clover Earthkind Hair Salon in Vancouver, as one example of a green salon. With a little effort (and pressure from clients), salons can use safer hair dyes, recycle foils, recycle empty dye bottles, and take other green actions to minimize their toxic and carbon footprint.
  3. 3. I Will Stop Building Foil Mountains: Recycling hair foils is a bit of a challenge but not impossible. Smelting appears to be the best way. Clover Earthkind Hair Salon used to wash their foils but now they are selling them to a scrap metal company. When I called Turtle Island Recycling and spoke to co-founder Louis Anagnostakos, I learned that anyone can drop off bags of foil at no charge (they discourage small numbers of bags but will accept larger quantities). They would sell the foil to smelting companies in North America. I then called North America’s leading recycler of foil from curbside collection programs, Connecticut Metal Industries. Interestingly, neither company had recycled hair foils — yet.

    Green Circle Salons is a new business launching in Toronto that promises to help local salons clean up their act and go green. They have their work cut out for them. Let’s hope they can do it!

  4. 4. I will NOT be intimidated by long chemical names: I will understand what I’m putting on my hair and skin by looking up the chemicals (and the products) at Skin Deep.
  5. 5. I Will Buy Fragrance-Free Cosmetics: I will reduce or eliminate products from my beauty regimen that contain “fragrance.” A loophole in Canadian and U.S. government regulations allows cosmetic companies to refuse to disclose what chemicals are in their fragrances on the basis that it’s a “trade secret.” Fragrance is used to mask or hide the odor of chemicals, but many contain phthalates which have been linked to hormone disruption.

Key Health Reports for You:

Environmental Working Group:
Teen Girls’ Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetics Chemicals
“Laboratory tests reveal adolescent girls across America are contaminated with chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and body care products. Environmental Working Group (EWG) detected 16 chemicals from 4 chemical families – phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks – in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls aged 14-19. Studies link these chemicals to potential health effects including cancer and hormone disruption. These tests feature first-ever exposure data for parabens in teens, and indicate that young women are widely exposed to this common class of cosmetic preservatives, with 2 parabens, methylparaben and propylparaben, detected in every single girl tested

US Breast Cancer Fund:
Policy and Research Recommendations: Cosmetics and Personal Care Products:
“Because the U.S. lacks a pre-market screening program, shampoo, deodorant, make-up, lotions and other products that consumers use every day contain chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. Major loopholes in federal law allow the $50 billion cosmetics industry to put chemicals into personal care products with no required testing, no monitoring of health effects and woefully inadequate labeling requirements….

New York Times: A Simple Smooch or a Toxic Smack?
The debate seems to resurface every few years. Do some lipsticks contain lead? If so, is the amount so negligible that consumers have nothing to be concerned about? Or will all those years of applying lipstick several times a day add up to a worrisome accumulation of a dangerous substance?

Good green reading to get started:

Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry by Stacy Malkan, reveals the toxic truth about the personal care products used daily by women, men, teenagers and children – and how activists are forcing the industry to clean up its act. Author Stacy Malkan is also co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada by Adria Vasil. Her book features a Top Ten list of beauty product ingredients to avoid, including DEA, Parabens, PPD, Toluene, and Phthalates.

Writing and illustrations © 2009 Franke James, MFA
Franke James on Twitter

Thanks go to Ontario chemistry secondary school teacher Anthony Corvinelli who helped me in my hair dye research. Anthony also collaborated with me on Sparking a Green Conscience.