Thursday, 29 March 2012

Off-topic: Journey for Justice - A review

As part of our Journalism class in Creative Communications, the program I'm attending at Red River College, we dug into a book called Journey for Justice: How "Project Angel" Cracked The Candace Derksen Case. It tells a great story about the events of the disappearance and murder of Candace Derksen, and the aftermath, describing the trial of Mark Grant, the murderer of Candace, and the struggles the Derksen family had to overcome, having lost a family member.

It's time to look at the book itself.

Mike McIntyre re-wrote this remarkable story, shifting between two different styles of writing throughout the book, so it seemed. The first part of the book consisted of retelling the Derksens's experience of Candace's disappearance in a novelistic and very attention-grabbing way. I felt like I couldn't put the book down. It was as if I was right there with the family, traveling back in time. It was a feeling that kept me gripped to the book until the end. At least I thought so.

The second part of the book pulled me back into reality and it started to feel more like I was reading a copy of the Free Press, from front to back, just about Candace Derksen. Not that it was bad or anything, but I felt the appeal of the book fading away, once I went deeper into the second part. More quotes were used as dialogue for the story, and made the story just seem more like a long article.

The third part with the Mark Grant trial wasn't really any better, I have to admit. While I could easily picture the events in the courtroom and everything else in between, I still felt somewhat distant from the action, as if I was still reading this newspaper in front of me. It was great of McIntyre to include reactions of the occurrences, especially from Wilma Derksen, Candace's mother, as she wrote about her feelings on her blog. It also was great to include the recruiting efforts for the jury, because I don't think many people know how the law system works, and including that in Journey for Justice is a great way to show what exactly happened in the courtroom.

The last part was a slow, yet good afterburner, involving the events after the conviction, and the memorial and dinner event, held in honour of Candace. Hearing testimonies from the people close to Candace was shaking me a bit on the inside, even if I didn't know any of the people going to the podium that night. Closing the book with some final words from Wilma Derksen was the icing on the cake to me. Final words should always leave a good impression on the book, and I believe Mrs. Derksen's words have done justice for that.


Now, a more technical analysis.

I believe the book would have worked better, if McIntyre had kept the story in a novel-like fashion, and tell the whole story that way. But this could be, because he is used to writing newspaper articles and he used these skills to write the book. The second and third part could have worked better if they were written like a novel, like it was in the first part, and I wouldn't have put the book down after starting to read the book. Otherwise, the journalistic writing style did not feel like it was working well with the book, because it just didn't feel like it fitted. The sudden shift in style made the book less appealing.

Journalists can learn quite a few things from this book, including keeping the writing style consistent and how to make the details work in favour of the book. For example, McIntyre kept the course of the events in order of occurrence, going chronologically up, starting with the day Candace disappeared to the still ongoing trials of Mark Grant. Some stories work with going back and forth, using flashbacks and such, but I don't think it would have worked for this book.

I think many journalists would love to speak up against the convicted and trash them in the main media stream, so I also believe many could learn how to keep the story in a neutral position. I believe it was really challenging for the author to write about the family coping with the loss, and not go into a rage against the one who did the wrongful thing. In a professional environment, it is important to stay calm and write neutrally. You won't get in trouble for that.

This book was probably McIntyre's most challenging work. Compared to his work he does for the Free Press, it somewhat felt like the writing he had to do was a bit out of his element. He has a blog called "Mike on Crime" and his writing there is great and enjoyable. But I'm not here to make any judgements on his writing style. I just think that his switch between styles in the book didn't work as they should. Journey for Justice is a book, and in my honest opinion, McIntyre should have stayed with one writing style from beginning to end, to keep it consistent, just like he keeps up in the Free Press and his blog.

Overall, I would have to say the book was definitely a great insight to the Candace Derksen case. It had lots of details included and told the story in as many perspectives as possible,  and it kept the family element at a high importance, which made me find this book touching and outreaching

It's worth a read. Check it out.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Fabrice Muamba: The miracle of Bolton

I never thought there would be another major death on the pitch after Antonio Puerta (RIP) of Sevilla FC collapsed during a game in 2008. I was proven wrong this week.

During an FA Cup match between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur on March 17th, Fabrice Mumba collapsed from a cardiac arrest in the 41st minute. The medics immediately came to him and kept pumping his heart, trying to get it to work. He was transported to a nearby hospital and was treated there, until his heart finally started beating on its own. He's still recovering in hospital.

The match was abandoned and rescheduled. 

What a scary moment this was for the world of soccer. It has happened before, but like every other sudden incident, it doesn't come with a warning, and it's uncontrollable. We expect every player to be perfectly healthy and working as they should, and that's what Muamba did, but I guess there were consequences.

In a National Post article from today, the doctors say that Muamba was dead for over an hour, until his heart pumped on its own again. But thankfully the doctors kept pumping his heart and supplying oxygen to him while he was being treated, so that brain death was prevented (Brain death occurs after 4-6 minutes without oxygen supply). It shows how serious medical training is and what miracles it can accomplish.

And I think I can say that Muamba was one of these miracles. Bless him and his family. Hope to see you on the pitch again soon.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

MLS First Kick 2012!

I haven't been this excited for an MLS season before. With a new team joining (Montreal Impact) and many off-season moves made, this 2012 MLS season is going to be one of the best.

This is why I think it will be:

- 3 Canadian teams, old and new rivalries made (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver)
- New stars coming from overseas (ex. Kris Boyd, former Glasgow Ranger, top scorer in Scottish Premier league for 4 years, now with the Portland Timbers)
- The return of already famous stars (Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane etc.)
- Stadium attendance and media coverage still growing

Today is the day. I'll be watching the Vancouver Whitecaps take on the newest MLS member, the Montreal Impact, in an all-Canadian battle. Should be an awesome game.

Cheers for another good season!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Live and let play - hijabs in women's soccer

United Nations pressures FIFA to lift hijab ban - National Post

FIFA does not allow female athletes to wear hijabs in respect of their Islamic religion. That just seems like a big pile of rubbish to me. But according to a repost by the National Post (link above) the United Nations is pushing the International Football Federation to overturn this ban, four days before FIFA is reviewing this rule. 

I'm not a person who could easily understand the Islamic ways of life, but I have much respect for any religion out there in the world, and wearing a hijab in football does not harm the other players and fans in any way, in my honest opinion. It defies stereotypes, fights against discrimination and it brings an opportunity to these people to show what that got on the world's stage.

Last year, the Iranian women's national soccer team was penalized with a 3-0 loss to Jordan after the team refused to take off their hijabs before kickoff. The team was undefeated up to that point, and the penalty crushed their dreams of going to the Olympics Games in London this year. Outrageous, right?

Just look at the photo above (courtesy: National Post). Do you see anything wrong with it? What are these women doing wrong in the sport of football? Are they breaking any rules? Please tell me, because I don't see a pixel wrong with it.

These Iranian players just want to compete. So why exactly did FIFA ban this kind of headwear? They say it's for safety reasons. No, just no. They have far bigger safety concerns to worry about, like fan safety at the World Cup. Letting female players wear a piece of cloth on their head should not be a safety concern.

It's time that this sport is moving forward, and not stay in a standstill. FIFA, allow these hard-working women to wear what they want to show respect for their believes, and be able to compete without worrying about what is allowed and what is not. They don't want to hurt anyone, they just want to play.