Tag Archives: Journalist

Freelance Foreign Journalist and CBC Dispatches Producer Naheed Mustafa

26 Jul

Lunch with Mary 020

Date of lunch:
Friday, July 24, 2009

The company:
I first came across Naheed when listening to my favorite podcast/radio show CBC Dispatches. She was reporting from Afghanistan and telling a story about determining the “barometer of success”. She was speaking with shop keepers and business owners and reporting on things such as how long people were going without a power outage. First of all, any correspondent for Dispatches is someone I want to take for lunch – but secondly, I was intrigued by Naheed and how she was right in the midst of Afghanistan, getting to know the people and what life is really like over there – not what we hear on the daily news. So I Googled her, found her on Twitter and invited her with a Tweet. Aside from Dispatches, Naheed is a freelance journalist and has been working in radio for nearly nine years after ten years in print. She produces documentaries and is currently working on an online resource for the upcoming Afghanistan election. She also regularly covers Swat Valley in Pakistan and is planning an upcoming trip to Bosnia.

The food:
We ate at the Queen Mother Café on Queen Street West. It’s such a staple of this area and has a beautiful patio but the weather was being strange – sun then rain then sun then downpour (welcome to the summer of 2009). So we didn’t chance it and ate inside. Naheed had the cannelloni and I had a grilled vegetable wrap with goat cheese – both came with a small mixed green salad and we both drank water. I am in the midst of a personal experiment to go vegetarian for July (this is likely a blog post on its own). I have always enjoyed grilled veggie sandwiches and wraps so I didn’t mind but I am finding the lack of veggie options when I go out quite shocking. All in all though, the service was great and the food was delish. The total bill was $23 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
I think the lesson of this lunch was almost simple in its message but something that is difficult to always remember. The feeling I left the lunch with is that you cannot ever really know what a place and its people are like until you’ve been there. I consider myself to be pretty well informed. I am a news junkie and I always grab news and stories from multiple sources. Beyond reading and watching news regarding current events, I try to watch documentaries, read novels by international authors set in many other countries and just overall, try to learn as much as I can about what’s going on in the rest of the world. But the truth is, I have never really travelled far off the beaten path and have never met people living and surviving in a warzone or living in complete poverty. And no matter how much news I watch and read, I will never know, not only what their lives are like, but what they’re like – their dreams, passions – or, even more basic, their pastimes and hobbies. For example, did you know that Afghanistan culture is very family oriented and one of the most popular activities on a day off is to picnic? Naheed taught me that one.

The lunch:
Every so often throughout our lunch, Naheed would say something that was unbelievable to me, but for Naheed, it would be like me telling her that I watched ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ on TV last night. For instance “Ya, I had a couple of run-ins with Taliban.”

The experiences Naheed has had and the things she has seen and learned along the way are definitely more than what can be captured in one lunch. But I hope to have gotten a small glimpse.

Naheed talked a bit about being a journalist and reporting on the types of stories that she does. She says in order to be able to move on to the next story, she can’t stay emotionally connected. She says she always remains intellectually connected but has to find a way to keep her emotions out, in order to continue doing her job.

She even mentioned another journalist, Stephanie Nolen from the Globe and Mail, who is the South Asian correspondent currently based in New Delhi. Naheed read an article that Stephanie wrote while reporting on the people of Rwanda ten years after the genocide and she still wonders how Stephanie was able to move on from that story. Naheed says she often goes back and reads that same article and it still gets to her every time.

We talked about Iran and how it has been a progressive Middle East country in many ways, with a population that is extremely educated. This is another place that was mostly shown in the media as a reflection of its leader and, recently, we have seen this is definitely not the case.

I also wanted to ask Naheed, what is someone like me to do? I see horrible stories on the news of girls being attacked for going to school and I want to help but don’t know how. She said it’s not easy to help. This is a country that is extremely conservative, 80 per cent rural, with tribal and sectarian divides and women, at times, are still seen very much like property. She suggested donations to charities that have tangible results such as those offering medic al care. Women are dying in childbirth when they could be easily saved with proper medical care. Proper care for these mothers is very much a women’s rights issue and a way for us here in Canada to help.

I really enjoyed my lunch with Naheed. I feel like I always have follow-up questions after I watch the news and I was able to get some insightful answers from Naheed. I could honestly have talked to her, asked her questions and listened to her stories for hours. Hopefully we can meet up again one time. Now I think it’s time for me to start a secondary “lunch set up” blog because I think Stephanie Nolen and Naheed should get together.

Globe and Mail Communities Editor Mathew Ingram

22 Apr

Lunch with Mary 016

Date of lunch:
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The company:
Mathew Ingram is the communities editor at The Globe and Mail. Likely a lot of people reading this blog know who Mathew Ingram is because they found their way here from his Twitter, as Mathew is far more popular on Twitter than I am. Mathew has been at the Globe and Mail since the early-nineties, starting off as a business writer then moving into covering technology, blogged for the Globe and Mail and eventually moved into his current role where he engages and connects with Globe’s readers online and also covers the state of media in the online age.


The food:
We ate at Thai Princess, a great Thai (obviously) place at King and Spadina. I made a reservation and when we got there it was empty so I thought maybe I had been overly cautious – but about 10 minutes later, the place was packed. And for good reason, the food was delish! I had my go-to Thai meal, Green Curry Chicken and Mathew had the grilled combo lunch special. We both drank water. Total bill was $23 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Mathew said the easiest way to get others to understand the importance of Twitter, and I believe social media in general, is replace the word Twitter (or Facebook or the next thing) with “talking to people”. I’m against Twitter – changed to – I’m against talking to people. Not everyone needs to embrace these new technologies but it’s important that before they take a stand, they truly understand what they’re against. These are tools for engaging and interacting with each other – they’re not replacing in person contact, it’s a different forum, but a valuable one. Can’t we all just get along J

The lunch:
We had some great conversations over the course of lunch. One of my favourite parts was talking about Hunter S. Thompson, Mathew began reading his stuff in high school and I read pretty much all of his work during university. Mathew said what he really liked about Thompson was how powerful a writer he was… and I agree. There is something about his stuff that you can’t explain. It got me thinking of Hunter’s career as a journalist and I thought it was really interesting that Mathew was so into his writing as he was working to become a journalist himself. It made me wonder what other historic journalists are looked to by the reporters that I read every day.

We talked a lot about community engagement on Globe and Mail’s site. As a long time commenter on the articles, I was interested to hear Mathew’s plans. He hopes to create a meritocracy (I newly love this word and what it stands for). He wants to develop some sort of system that rewards good commenters in order to encourage good comments by all and also make the conversation more valuable.

Mathew pointed to the Guardian in the UK and the New York Times as publications that are doing very interesting stuff online. He told me about the Guardian giving their best online commenters their own blog on the site. I know if I could get my own blog on a newspaper’s site, I would comment a lot and well AND not use my awesome pseudonym. The New York Times, which I am obviously a fan of if you look at my Top 5 Dream Lunch List, now includes external links on their homepage – directing people away from the site sounds almost unheard of but it is a very interesting experiment.

Working in the media space and as a news junkie, I found this lunch extremely interesting as the way we receive (and engage with) news is changing day by day and Mathew is on the front line and offered up some great insight.

Going back to Hunter S. Thompson for a minute, Mathew also mentioned Christie Blatchford as another journalist who is a powerful writer. I agree and enjoy her writing. Mathew mentioned that Christie isn’t really down with blogging and Twitter so Mathew’s goal for his new role at The Globe and Mail is to get Christie Blatchord on Twitter! A noble goal indeed – good luck, if anyone can do it, you can!