Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Passed The Test But Can't Make It Home

The Star released, “Fail rates set for driver test centers,” today in the article which discusses the difficulty of urban test tracks versus more rural routes.[1]
Five years ago, while I was graduating through the Ontario licensing system, there was a trend amongst new drivers to create an easier testing scenario.  The trend was to do one's drive test on simpler routes, for instance in Huntsville.  Today, the trend continues—but should it be stopped?
Brampton holds Ontario’s highest failure rate norm of 53% while Kenora, a Northeastern town of 15, 177 people, [2] has only a 7% failure rate.
As a teen who has invested money to get their license, wouldn’t you want the easiest test to ensure you pass?
Growing older, we realize that what we wanted in our teens isn’t necessarily right or beneficial.  We start to look at the bigger picture.
And so, it should be mandatory for drivers to take the G2 and G drive test in the area closest to where they currently reside.  If you live in an urban area and are tested on a lower volume route with less traffic laws, lights and signs then the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is potentially passing those who can’t even safely make it from school to home.
Now, as a more mature driver, I know that this test trend doesn’t create a safe ‘big picture.’  However, at 17 not all do and thus a law should be put in place, to ensure that the easy way out is not an option.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I have recently been following the Colonel Russell Williams court case and listening to peoples’ reactions.
A News Talk 1010 commentator spoke about Toronto newspapers’ choice of photo to accompany yesterday’s front page court case article.  Out of all the publications, the paper on my door step—the Toronto Star, got his pick for the most sensational photo.  Yesterday’s front page photo compared the Russell William we now know, in a young female’s underwear to the once dignified Canadian Military Commander.[i]
As a mature adult, I was disturbed by this photo; however, I could comprehend it.
But what about the child who picks up the paper and brings it to mom and dad in the morning, or the one who catches a glimpse of the unusual picture in a news box while walking to school?
What do you say to this kid who sees an older man in a young girl’s underwear?  Children simply don’t have the capacity to comprehend its meaning and will certainly ask, “Why is he dressed like that mommy?”
I wonder, did this conundrum cross the Stars mind?  I certainly understand that children cannot be censored from life, that bad images are everywhere.  The picture was impactful, depicting Russell Williams’ double life.  But wouldn’t a simple half page over-cover have solved such a problem?  These are used for extra advertising bucks all the time (not a fan), so why not use it for a “warning” protecting children from an unnecessary image and parents from the grief of explaining it.

Fact Vs. Fiction
Others have commented on the vast details and evidence displayed in the courtroom and the extent of newspaper coverage of such.[ii]  I have ever been so near to tears reading the paper on the subway as this morning reading the article, “Brave women tried to prevent their murders.” [iii] Some have chosen to stop following the case because of the grotesque accounts.
Watching an episode of Criminal Minds I witness as many heinous deeds in one hour as reading this case’s coverage.  What is the difference?  Is it that when we read the words on paper our imaginations are left to fill the holes?  We don’t see the emotion in an actress’s eyes and so we place our perceived emotions into the characters we envision as we read, drawing ourselves closer to the victim and their pain.  Or is it that we are not as desensitized as we often think?  Although the gruesome crimes on CSI are quite plausible, we know it is not real.

[i] http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx
[ii] http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/877982--do-we-need-to-know-all-the-details-of-williams-crimes
[iii] http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/878117--mallick-brave-women-tried-to-prevent-their-murders

Monday, October 18, 2010

Making Your Vote YOUR Vote

Sunday the Toronto Star announced its vote for mayor: George Smitherman.[i]  Today both Smitherman and Ford are neck and neck in the polls with only a week until Election Day. 

The poll also found that so-called strategic voting has taken hold, with 21 per cent of Torontonians backing one candidate to ensure another doesn’t get elected,” reads one of today’s Star articles.  In fact 40% of those voting for Smitherman are doing so for this reason. It is no longer about who citizens want in office, but more who they don’t want.  Even Smitherman has jumped on this tactic, warning that, “A vote for Joe Pantalone is a vote for Rob Ford.” [ii]
Admittedly apathetic until my first public affairs class in 2008, I am gradually becoming more informed about Canadian politics.  Following Toronto’s current municipal election campaign I began to question whether my views on candidates were my own or simply reflections of my informant—the Toronto Star.  Although the newspaper only recently announced its pick, its vote has been evident in its pages since day one.
I chose to make my vote my own—expanding my sources to make a more informed decision.  By watching debate coverage, such as TVO’s debate segment on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, I was able better understand candidate’s platforms.[iii]  But more importantly, I was able to decipher their personalities to assess who will best lead our city born on the motto, “Diversity: Our Strength.”
I consciously chose to make my vote my own and now let you make yours.

[i]The Toronto Star: Star's choice: Smitherman for mayor”, editorial published Sunday, October 17, 2010  http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/876268--star-s-choice-smitherman-for-mayor

[ii] The Toronto Star: Ford, Smitherman now tied with days until election, poll finds,” by David Rider published Monday, October 18, 2010 http://www.thestar.com/news/torontomayoralrace/article/876860--ford-smitherman-now-tied-with-days-until-election-poll-finds

[iii] TVO: The Agenda with Steve Paikin published September 7, 2010 http://www.tvo.org/TVO/WebObjects/TVO.woa?videoid?605552990001

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Displaced, In Debt & Begging For Help

Toronto Star Article, "Hundreds of Wellesley St. fire victims still yearning to go home," Saturday, October 16 and “Fire victims search for their dignity," Sunday, October 17, 2010 http://www.thestar.com/article/876509--hundreds-of-wellesley-st-fire-victims-still-yearning-to-go-home

The cute yet predictable movie, Leap Year, posed the question--what would you grab if the fire alarm sounded? What would be that one item with sentimental and not monetary value? For me, a very sentimental person, the question is not easy, but I decided on my external hard drive (holds all my photos) and a family history photo album handwritten by my grandmother.

This question is valid and really makes you reflect on what is important.  However, for those 600 tenants still displaced by the Wellesley fire, this question doesn't answer any of their problems.  Problems like, what will I wear to school? What will I write on when I am there? What will I cook my food in and what food will I even cook?

The six-alarm fire at 200 Wellesley on Sept. 24th left roughly 1200, low-income residents displaced--many with nowhere to go.  This building is just 400 meters from both my apartment and my job at Shoppers Drug Mart. 

The article mentions that, "tenants will receive a one-time clothing allowance late next week--$150 for those in bachelor and one-bedroom apartments," but is this really enough?  A thrifty shopper can certainly get a nice bag of goods for that price, but imagine if you had no clothes to start with?  How many days can $150 of clothes get you through, especially if you have to go to a job or to school?

As a public relations student I have learned the necessity of planning for events and campaigns, but even more so, planning for the "what ifs."  The city of Toronto or Toronto Community Housing should have planned ahead, pulled the "Building Fire" binder off the shelf and implemented a plan to mobilize support organizations, house displaced tenants, call on private sector sponsors and first and foremost, communicate with residents continuously.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Honesty Is Not For Sale

The Toronto Star article, “Consumers left open to energy sales abuses” by Ellen Roseman
Roseman’s article describes Summit Energy’s practices and the Ontario Energy Board’s plan to penalize the company $495 000 for misleading customers in its door-to-door activities.  Here is my experience with Summit Energy.
Early this summer I was desperate for a job—but not desperate enough to fall for Summit Energy.  Finding a vague marketing/public relations add on Craigslist, I applied and set an interview.  The receptionist told me a different name of the company (Summit Home Services, or something similar) and so when Googling the company I was to interview for, I found nothing.
At the interview, the marketing manager explained that as an employee, I would be going out door-to-door to help implement a soon-to be-passed government bill for more efficient, Energy Star gas tanks. So is this a government funded initiative? Oh, no it definitely was not, although my interviewer made sure to throw the word ‘government’ around enough to make it sound like we were on its side and simply ‘helping’ people improve homes.
Looking at my resume, the interviewer noticed I was studying public relations and asked me to define the practice.  In my answer I must have used the word ‘honest’ two or three times.  The interviewer explained that this job was hands-on public relations at the ground level.  She also flashed around some numbers—I could be making $800-$1500 weekly.
I went home and Googled the company, with the right name, Summit Energy, and found out the truth.  I read through pages of complaints from home owners.  Newspaper articles, such as this, were plenty and it didn’t take long to realize that this was not the job for me.  I decided $800-$1500 was not enough for me to sell my soul and deceive good people.  My morals are much too strong.
What bothered me the most about the experience was the interviewer’s comparison of marketing Summit Energy products to public relations, especially when I used the word ‘honesty’ to define the practice.  I felt deceived, just as home owners must after hearing Summit’s knock on the door.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why Blog?

As a public relations student at Humber College we have been taught how to get our company out there on the web and in the media.  We’ve been told how to use Twitter and blogs to give a large corporate entity a face and a soul.
Last week, in our final semester, we learned something new.  We talked about global companies (Coca-Cola, IBM, Sony) and why branding matters to them.  We were then poised with the question, “Shouldn’t you care about your [brand]?”  We were shown the importance of creating our own brand using websites, blogs, and social media sites as an outlet to showcase our personality and flare.
It seems, especially in public relations, that a personal blog is becoming a must.  So, I thought to myself, “What is my brand?”
I always thought blogs were interesting, but what do I have to share with the world?  The thought has been percolating for a few months, but now, maybe the brew is ready.
See, one thing this course has taught me is to know the world around me.  It has taken three years, but now I can truly say, I read the paper daily—and I enjoy it!
Furthermore, I like relaying and sharing what I learn with those around me.  And so, I discovered what I, Amber Murphy, have to share with the World Wide Web and blogosphere, and it’s simple: what I read and what I think.
So here it goes!