Sunday, June 15, 2008

A whirlwind of publicity

A return to my Home on Native Land to spend the summer aboard my boat has brought a series of appearances in support of my latest book, copies of which my beleaguered publisher is desperate to unload. In an eight-day period earlier this month, I gave two speeches, appeared in-studio for two radio interviews, and attended the Canadian Communication Association conference in Vancouver, where I presented a paper on my favorite media company, CanWest Global Communications. Unfortunately, Asper Nation didn’t win the CCA's annual Gertrude Robinson book prize, for which it was short-listed, but the book that won looks like a doozy, so I was just glad to be considered in such company. Sure, right. I’m sulking, and you know it.

My busy week began with an appearance on CBC radio in Montreal, for which I had to travel downtown to the Mother Corp’s Vancouver bunker, which is STILL under renovation. It was in similar disarray last summer when I was in studio. The program was Radio Noon in Montreal and I was on for their second hour, from 1-2 p.m. their time, or 10-11 a.m. in Vancouver. The host was Anne LagacĂ© Dowson, and we had no shortage of things to talk about, as CanWest has been just as active there with the Gazette as it has been elsewhere in Canada. Find the interview archived online here.

The next day, the CCA conference began out on the Point Grey campus of UBC, where the Learned Societies basically took over for two weeks or so. Unfortunately, the weather this first half of June has been just horrid, cold and wet, with high temperatures only in low double digits. I was actually in the belly of the beast for a confab at the School of Journalism on whether to set up a Journalism Studies offshoot of CCA. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the speakers actually referenced my writings on journalism education in Canada. I presented my paper the second day of the conference in the rickety old Math building. It was raining cats and dogs when I arrived, but by lunchtime it had abated somewhat. My publisher had a booth at the book fair on campus and reported selling all of two copies of Asper Nation. The awards reception was supposed to run from 7-10 p.m., so I decided to be all west coast about it and show up fashionably late, figuring the hardware wouldn't be handed out until at least 8. As I arrived about 7:45, I heard the awards being presented, and by the time I got there the whole thing was over. Maybe it’s best that I didn’t win, for I wouldn’t have been present to accept.

On Friday, I gave a speech at a rally outside the Vancouver Sun and Province offices downtown in support of Mordecai Briemberg, the activist who is being sued by CanWest for helping to distribute a parody issue of the Sun that lampooned their pro-Israeli coverage of the Middle East conflict. It was again gray and chilly, but just as we got going with songs and speeches the sun started to come out. You can watch video of the event here. An interesting historical footnote: Mordecai was one of the infamous “PSA 7” faculty members at SFU who were fired in the late 1960s for radicalism. As a result, the university was under censure by the Canadian Association of University Teachers the entire time I was an undergraduate there in the mid-1970s. He ended up teaching at Douglas College and has since retired. While I was waiting to go on, a former colleague slipped me a copy of a memo publisher Kevin Bent circulated to all employees that morning giving the company’s side of the dispute. I passed it to one of the event organizers and it ended up in the Georgia Straight.

The next morning, I had to get up early to appear on Co-op radio. Their studios are on the Downtown Eastside, and it was rather daunting to pull in about 9 a.m. just as multitudes of street people were pulling up their bedrolls on what must qualify as the world’s largest outdoor dormitory. I was a little bit nervous about parking my car there, but she was still intact when I returned. You can listen to a podcast of the interview here.

I then caught my breath for a couple of days before my next appearance, which was for a speech at the Planetarium to a group of retired executives and professional people called Probus. I merrily rattled on for 40 minutes or so, aided by PowerPoint, about CanWest’s stranglehold on local news media and their naked political agenda, assuming my impassive audience would be sympathetic. Instead, once the questioning started, it became apparent that most of them figured the media had a flaming liberal bias, CanWest notwithstanding. Oh, well. I put it down to demographics, as the crowd was exclusively Old White Males. The worst part was that we sold only a few books afterward, which was the main reason I was there. At least they bought me lunch and a couple of beers afterward and I didn't feel so bad.

I now look forward to relaxing for a few weeks. I brought about two dozen books back with me that need reading, plus I have a mountain of boat work to do. The weather just changed yesterday, and the forecast says that we may even hit 20 degrees this afternoon. I have to get some sun on my lilywhite, and I hope to even get out sailing soon.

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