Maple Syrup, Gourmet Popcorn and Tuna-Mango Tartare

It’s been a busy spring and summer for me on Global Television and Breakfast Television in Montreal. I did monthly segments on each morning show, talking about everything from upcoming Caribbean festivals to the best meal delivery services you’ve never heard of to vegan popcorn made with citrus peels from one of Montreal’s top restaurants.

Here’s a little recap:

Breakfast Television January, 2017: Maple Syrup Classifications
Maple syrup got political last winter when Quebec changed the way it labels its golden nectar. I broke it down for Breakfast Television host Elias Makos.

Global Montreal Sept. 20, 2017: Montreal meal delivery taste test from Maurin Cuisine, Freshmint and Goodfood Box Need a quick poke bowl or super salad lunch in the Old Port? Or a full week of rustic, affordable homemade meals in the Mile End? How about a meal kit with the exact amount of the ingredients you’ll need to make seared haddock with a fennel, orange and caper salad? Global Mornings Monteral host Laura Casella tasted her way through the watermelon and feta salad, sweet potato frittata, Mexican rice bowls, and spaghetti and meatballs I brought her.


Breakfast Television Montreal on CityTV, Sept. 14, 2017: Martinique Gourmande – 10 days of Martinique food and culture
I recommend the best of the hot and spicy Caribbean fest highlighting Martinique culture, all while managing to not spill a traditional Martinique tuna-mango tartare and ti-punch all over myself or host Derick Fage.

Global Montreal, June 28, 2017: Gourmet Popcorn Taste Test
Chocolate hazelnut praline? Vegan caramel? Pear amandine? I get Global Montreal host Laura Casella to taste test three brands of local, artisanal popcorn. All of them are available in Montreal and ship across Canada.

Talking Top Restaurants at Montreal en Lumière on Breakfast Television

Thanks to BT Montreal for inviting me to talk about the best deals on dinners, lunches, brunches and happy hours at this year’s Highlights Festival (Montreal en Lumière in English).

Here’s the segment, in case you missed the places I recommended: H4C, LiliCo., Maison Boulud, Le Balmoral, Laurie Raphael, Toqué!, Tapas24 and the Festival of Our Cheeses.

Food and Family: Monthly cooking classes in Montreal’s St-Henri neighbourhood are helping mothers coming out of the justice system

This is the multimedia article my Online Magazine team created this year. It profiles the women who participate in cooking classes at CFAD, a “reinsertion” program for mothers who have had run-ins with the justice system.

Meet organizer Agnès Billa, chef Melissa Simard and participants Natasha Razouk, Sylvie Godin and Agathe Melançon through videos, photo galleries and quotes.

And get the recipe for the rustic plum tarts the women made at last month’s class:

https://amiewatson.atavist.com/cfadmontreal

Expo Manger Santé et Vivre Vert

More than 250 exhibitors are taking over Montreal’s Palais de Congrès this weekend for the 18th annual Healthy Eating and Green Living Expo.

Follow the first day of the weekend-long event here:

Montreal Complètement Cirque on Soundslides

Here circus performer Miho talks about the Towel of Babel production she participated in at Montreal’s Complètement Cirque festival.

Montreal Complètement Cirque Takes Over Place Emilie-Gamelin from Amie Watson on Vimeo.

Montreal Complètement Cirque Takes Over Place Emilie-Gamelin from Amie Watson on Vimeo.

Photos: Keith Race; Audio: Andy Fidel

I Made a Map

Eight years ago in Toronto I wanted to make a map of all the restaurants I’d reviewed. This is what I need to do it. If only I had the latitude and longitude of each restaurant. Is that easy to find? While I figure that out, here’s a map of Canada’s historic sites, including people, districts and monuments.

[googlemaps https://mapsengine.google.com/map/embed?mid=zyhIEFby6RMY.kVB47LNWU0uA&w=640&h=480]

Just think of all the good food people could eat if I could find all those coordinates…

Update: I just figured it out. It took two seconds. So what do you want to eat?

Math for Dummies: Excel Spreadsheets and Data Journalism

It was really nice of you, Microsoft, to make the lives of journalists easier. We know that’s what you were thinking when you created the Data tab on Excel spreadsheets. 

All so we could calculate crime rates, left-handed people and America’s favourite brand names grouped according to state and then crunch them into fun info-graphics suitable for the front page of newspapers, websites, and best-selling social economics books that inspired one of my favourite podcasts.  

Excel isn’t that scary. I was the kid who loved quadratic equations in highschool, but my accountant does magical things with Excel that I never understood until this week. And if someone had told me that I could take take all the information on restaurant health inspections in Toronto, make friends with IT people, and turn it into a handy map, I’d have felt extra good about telling friends to lay off the fish tacos at Rancho Relaxo on College Street. 

The More Serious and Far-Reaching Implications of Data Journalism

Ex: You need a statistic that’s not listed on an official document. But you know it’d be simple enough to calculate for a large batch of data using one little equation. In this case, Excel is god.

Data journalism is important the same way any kind of investigative journalism is important. It creates awareness. But instead of having readers lost in words, it gives the bare truth of facts and figures, often packed into graphics that make the information more understandable: federal justice, provincial and municipal convictions per capita, important statistics for disease awareness and potential future funding, and the effectiveness of social programs and organizations measured in ways that pull readers heartstrings, causing unforeseen chain reactions.

Such as?

The best feeling as a journalist is knowing you made a difference in someone’s life, whether that’s by getting an article in the National Post that causes thousands of dollars worth of sales for an artisanal fruitcake baker (I didn’t make the graphic, but my editor did a beautiful job), or millions in donations for an NGO (some day, I hope). 

So in those cases, I love the little arrow in the bottom right corner of an Excel cell that lets your calculation be copied down an entire column in an instant rather than painstakingly doing each one by hand. 

And I love Microsoft. Just this once.

And I now have the utmost respect for the data journalists who sit and crunch and come up with something interesting. 

Rob Ford’s Return to Office Via Storify

My “Rob Ford Returns” story on Storify:

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What did Storify bring to the story?

It brought a sense of narrative. I could set up the press conference as the exposition, then move on to the development as the conference unfolded. I could show conflict with the press and twitter reaction to the event, and I could even throw in the unforeseen protagonist in the form of the #shirtlessjogger, now a much-loved Titter icon.

Because Storify is a way of telling an ongoing story, I could update it as new story twists appeared. It wasn’t bound by a deadline, and it combined the best of video, text, and photos.

Storify let me curate the story, and turn it into a exhibition—to make it a work of art, but with more alcohol.

Potential in Digital Curation and “Scouring”

I see potential in digital curation. While print journalism jobs are being cut, the BBC’s User-Generated Content hub has created new job opportunities for journalists (though maybe not the same journalists). “Scouring blogs and social networks for potential news stories,” as the BBC’s website describes the hub’s assignment, would be more interesting to me than calling my contacts and still missing what could be the day’s top story. Journalists can cover more ground online, both locally and internationally.

I especially like the idea of a team of people “scouring.” Not just because “scour” is a great verb, but because there’s a task involved—a scavenger hunt—that requires digital hunting skills à la Rick Moranis:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtkK3eijBso&w=600&h=400]

Objectivity

Journalists who write for publications but also have blogs are in murky waters. They’re supposed to be objective, but their own blogs—often linked to from the publication’s website—suddenly use the first person. For me this generally weakens their credibility. A foreign correspondent’s blog, however, could fill in the background of a story. With shortened word counts in publishing versus all-the-time-in-the-world in blogging, these modern diaries can help paint a picture of an event, day, or place. That is, if the reader is actually interested in all those words.

Twitter

On Twitter journalists become brands, whether they’re Jian Gomeshi, Michael Bell, or Beppi Crosariol. I also think it’s interesting that I didn’t feel the need to hyperlink Jian Gomeshi’s name, definitely felt the need for Beppi (he goes by his first name), and figured I’d hyperlink Bell just in case.

Even I have to be careful what I say on Twitter and what photos I put on Facebook, and who am I? If readers don’t already know me in person and social media is how they “meet me,” then the personality I present to them there is how they will judge me, for better or for worse.

Feedback

I personally rarely engage with news stories via social media. There’s usually an annoying sign-in process, even if anonymous. The worst feeling of frustration comes after putting your heart into a comment on a story, clicking “submit,” and losing the comment because of a glitch.

The next worst feeling is getting no response. More than once I’ve responded to articles on sites from the now defunct Montreal Mirror to the Montreal Gazette and never known if my words evaporated in cyberspace, or reached an editor who had or chose to give no response.

But I got my first freelance assignment with the Gazette because Lesley Chesterman is on Twitter, saw my article on sustainable seafood for Montreal blog, Midnight Poutine, followed me, and then politely answered my direct message on who to contact at the Gazette about a story I was developing. I often think her tweets are ridiculous, and really don’t care how much she loves World Cup soccer players, but I do love her photo of wines a wine writer friend brought to a BYOB restaurant, and her links to articles of other food writers.

Spooking

She could do all that with a blog, yes, but the best part of Twitter for me is being privy to celebrities’ (both big and small) conversations. With Chesterman that means conversations with local chefs. And when I tag these elusive, private figures, they’re forced to pay attention to something I wrote. It’s as though I’m in a corner jumping up and down, waving my hands, saying “Look at me!” And they actually turn to look, the fools.

I think the top three things journalists can do on social media are:

1. link to their own stories (Brand creation)
2. link to other relevant stories (like putting further reading suggestions at the end of your article)
3. start conversations with readers/commenters and the people about whom they write. These also have a reality television element, where if the Tweeter messes up or makes a fool of themselves, it’s cheap entertainment for the rest of us lowly followers/sheep who wish we were important enough to mess up and have it matter.

Until that day, I can spook to my heart’s content. The BBC might even say I’m “scouring.”

Maybe they’ll hire me.