How Batman inspires the work of Hamilton’s ubiquitous cameraman

This article was originally published in Hamilton Media Guild, July 28, 2014.

Michael Canton‘s love of film started with a superhero.

When he was seven, Canton watched the first instalment of the Batman series at a local theatre. It was the first film he saw on the big screen and it left a lasting impression.

“I just loved the fact that I could use my imagination and feel like I am Batman,” recalled the 31-year-old.

In high school, Canton was introduced to video editing through a communications technology class at grade 10. It sparked his interest in television broadcasting.

He took out his savings for one semester of college and put it towards purchasing his first video camera. He then enrolled in the Television Broadcasting program at Mohawk College.

“I fell in love with media. I was finally in something that I loved to do.”

Shedding the (camera) light on Hamilton’s startup scene

During his second year at Mohawk, Canton did an internship with the Hamilton Economic Development department. He produced BizClip, a video series on local business news. Some of his favourite videos include the opening of Tourism Hamilton in the Lister Block and the Hamilton Digital Media Interactive (HDMI) event. The annual event brings together Hamilton’s web, media, film, gaming, music and animation groups.

One of his assignments brought him to Demo Camp. Launched in 2011 by Software Hamilton, each Demo Camp kicks off with a keynote speaker followed by five software demos for five minutes each.

Watching start-ups pitch and present their ideas to the audience, Canton was inspired by their passion.

“They just wanted to make something really cool and unique to benefit others,” he said.

“I believe that having these different aspects of the community is very important. They all play a role in telling Hamilton’s story.”

This led to the idea of a online video series showcasing new initiatives in media and technology called TechTalk (now known as TechTalk X)

The series consists of more than 70 videos of interviews and footage of key young professionals, media, start-up and entrepreneurial events. The Hamilton Media Guild’s first event after its launch, Doing Media Differently, was featured on TechTalk X.

Whether it be interviews of start-ups, developers or coverage of young professional events, Canton would be documenting them all and he has done them without being paid.

“They deserve recognition with what they have done and created. I am more than happy to spend my time on them [the videos].”

Building a community of web series creator

As Canton continued doing videos, he connected with the Toronto Web Series Community, an open group of individuals who create scripted online videos. Like him, many of the creators share a passion for storytelling.

The group founded the Independent Web Series Creators of Canada (IWCC) in 2013, a grassroots nonprofit organization that promotes, supports and encourages the development of web series in Canada. Canton became the organization’s social media manager in 2013.

The IWCC launched the first Toronto Web Fest in May 2014 at Harbourfront Centre. With the goal to support independent and audience-focused web and digital series, the three-day festival covered a wide range of entertainment genres including drama, comedy, kids, fantasy, non-fiction and more.

For Canton, initiatives like the web fest and IWCC showcase the talents of video creators and give them creative control of video production.

“You have the freedom to share and tell the story inside of you,” he said.

“It opens up more doors for different kids of storytelling where the viewer isn’t just the viewer.”

Spectator reporter joins elite club for Canadian journalists

This article was originally published in Hamilton Media Guild, June 4, 2014.

Hamilton reporter Molly Hayes has joined an elite club in Canadian journalism. The 24-year-old Hamilton Spectator reporter brought home the 23rd Goff Penny Memorial Prize, awarded to journalists between 20 and 25 years old for excellence in news reporting. The award was presented in Charlottetown at the May 28-30 INK + Beyond conference organized by Newspapers Canada, a joint initiative of the Canadian Newspaper Association and the Canadian Community Newspapers Association. Also present was fellow Hamilton Spectator reporter, Jon Wells, a finalist for the Long Features category for the National Newspaper Awards. Hayes is the first reporter from the Hamilton Spectator receiving the Goff Penny award.

“It was very cool. I have been to the Ontario Newspaper Awards three times but have never been to the national awards. It’s really cool to see reporters that I read about and look up to,” said Hayes.

Previous winners of the prize include City Hall reporters Daniel Dale and Jennifer Pagliaro, both of the Toronto Star. Hayes was thrilled when she learned that Michelle Shepherd, Toronto Star’s national security reporter, once won the award.

“It was very flattering and humbling. I am in such good company, with the past recipients,” said Hayes, who admires Shepherd’s work.

Hayes’ submission package to the awards committee included articles on the Tim Bosma murder case, an original e-book titled The Penniless Millionaire and a profile of a family whose son took his life. The story shed light on mental illness and prompted discussion on the significance of the issue, said Hayes The murder mystery started a year ago, when Ancaster’s Tim Bosma took two strangers for a test drive in a truck he was trying to sell. He never returned. Instead, his burned remains were found. Two men, Dellen Millard, 28, and Mark Smich, 26, have been charged with first degree murder.

A year since the tragedy, Hayes published her second e-book titled The Vilest Form of Evil: Tim Bosma’s Murder One Year LaterReleased shortly after the awards, the book revisits the tragedy, looking at Bosma’s childhood, relationship with his partner Sharlene and how his loved ones are coping with the loss.

How a shy kid became a leader among Hamilton young professionals

This article was originally published in Hamilton Media Guild, April 22, 2014.

Growing up, Abigail Santos was painfully shy.

Just the thought of speaking publicly gave her butterflies.

“My hands would be clammy, I would be shaking,” recalls the 30-year-old who was born in Quezon City, Philippines and moved to Hamilton at the age of three.

But that all changed when she was 18 and decided to take part in the 2002 Miss Philippines Toronto pageant.

The annual pageant celebrates and promotes Filipino culture. It is hosted by the Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDC).

“That kind of just thrust me into the public sphere. I was forced to address crowds, welcome people,” says Santos, explaining that she found herself being the emcee and even a dance performer at concerts featuring international Filipino stars.

Since then, Santos has been in the spotlight as a TV host, as the second-in-command of Hamilton’s young professional organization, Hamilton HIVE and in her day job as a marketing professional.And she never looked back.

In 2010, she beat more than 44,000 competitors to vie for the $50,000 grand prize in the world’s largest obstacle course in the reality TV series Wipeout Canada. In her audition video, Santos danced in full Polynesian costume, wowing the judges with her dynamic personality.

She says winning the 2002 Filipino pageant showed her the basics of professional communication.

“You need to learn how to present yourself. That’s how I broke my shell.”

Communications in the field

Santos stayed on with PIDC to assist with its communications initiatives and events while pursuing a bachelors in Communication Studies and minor in Anthropology at McMaster.

While she studied the foundations of communication at university she also volunteered to promote Filipino culture to other Canadians.

She wanted to attract a younger generation so she planned sporting events, galas, community picnics and festivals, most notably the Mubuhay Festival (“Welcome” in Filipino), one of Canada’s largest festival celebrating Philippines’ art, culture and heritage.

Currently as a Press Relations Officer for the Philippine Canadian Association, her role requires her to build relationships between the organization and its many publics; Santos saw herself progressing naturally to a career in public relations.

Telling the stories of young professionals

Now working full time as a Marketing and Admissions Coordinator for the Ontario Dental Education Institute, Santos liaises with organizations to recruit students for programs and courses on dental hygiene and education. Her clientele ranges from high school and international students to foreign nurses and working professionals seeking a second career, including a 56-year-old male nurse.

Recruiting students is just one part of her role.

“It’s also my job to communicate with local media and promote it [student initiatives], to get into the public eye. It’s about making those connections and getting the stories out.”

She knows hundreds of Hamilton’s young professionals and knows they are thriving, with no shortage of success stories.

So when she was approached by Torstar’s to cover the young professional beat, Santos knew she couldn’t pass on the opportunity.

Santos’ first story offered a comprehensive look at the city’s umbrella organization of young professional groups, Hamilton HIVE. The article was one of the best read at YHB.

Her stories put her in touch with young professionals at the ground level to learn about the innovative things they are doing.

“It challenged me in a certain way that I wasn’t challenged before, talking to different organizations, meeting new people to cover stories,” said Santos.

She has a knack for building relationships and she combined that with her communications expertise to spearhead marketing of HIVE’s annual young professional conference HIVE X in 2013.

The result was 250 attendees, the best turnout ever.

Her leadership did not go unnoticed. Santos was elected the 2014 Hamilton HIVE Vice-Chair, defeating six other candidates. She will become Chair in 2015. As part of the exec team, Santos now keeps in touch and provides support to over 20 HIVE groups to ensure that the organization can provide the best experience and opportunities to young professionals in Hamilton.

Reflecting on her journey in media and public relations, Santos knows that she has come full circle.

“Journalism, marketing and public relations are in the same family; you end up doing storytelling.”

Doing Media Differently: Ryan McGreal builds public discourse with Raise the Hammer

This article was originally published in Hamilton Media Guild, February 11, 2014.

A passionate community, good discourse and a diverse media environment are what it takes to ‘raise the hammer.’ For Ryan McGreal, these are the ingredients of a livable and vibrant city.

But the editor and founder of Hamilton news website,Raise the Hammer, wasn’t always interested in urban revitalization. The epiphany came during the 2003 Road World Championship in Hamilton. The streets were closed for this bicycle road racing event.

“People were out there. Children just playing on street. People wheeled the TV out [the street] so that you can watch a helicopter footage,” says McGreal, who was raised in Ajax and moved to Hamilton 22 years ago.

“It felt so good. Why don’t we design our neighbourhoods to be more like this?”

McGreal wrote an op-ed piece for a creative writing course at Mohawk College, presenting a case for a more accessible and livable city. The Hamilton Spectator picked it up and published his piece.

He began getting calls from people who expressed a similar vision. From there, a loose network of urbanist thinkers began to form.

Channelling this energy and enthusiasm, they decided to launch the Raise the Hammer website to discuss urban issues. McGreal, who is a computer programmer, helped build the website and launched it in 2004.

Today, Raise the Hammer attracts thousands of views each day. Its volunteer writers have varied backgrounds: young professionals, expert urbanists, students, small business owners, activists and more. Aside from writing and editing, McGreal fact-checks submitted articles, formats and posts them on the website.


There is never shortage of content, says McGreal, who maintains that RTH has always been a non-profit venture.

“People who write for it are people who write because they have an itch to write something. They are doing it because they want that piece to be out in the world. For people to have access to it to read it and comment on it, and maybe be inspired to write something on their own,” he says.

A healthy public discourse is an inclusive and open one, with voices from both big and small media platforms, says McGreal.

McGreal advocates for open discourse coming from various people and organizations (Photo by: Alyssa Lai/Hamilton Media Guild)

Raise the Hammer is a good example of an open-source, collaborative media organization at a grassroots level.

“What drives us is trying to put good arguments and good information that everyone who encounters it will be better informed,” says McGreal.

“We managed to come up with a model that doesn’t require us to chase money.”

Doing Media Differently: Gigaom’s Mathew Ingram says to embrace new media

This article was originally published in Hamilton Media Guild, February 10, 2014.

Mathew Ingram has been interested in technology since he got his first computer in the early ’90s.

“I remember seeing the graphical web for the first time. When I saw Mosaic [which was the first web browser] I thought: ‘This is just incredible, and it changes everything’” says Ingram, a senior writer for U.S. top technology website, Gigaom.

During the infamous Canadian criminal trial of Paul Bernardo in 1992, the court issued a publication ban, restricting the media from publishing details of the killing. But because American media wasn’t subject to the publication ban over the border, Ingram was able to learn more about the case via the Internet.

A light bulb went on.

“This [the internet] is going to change the way media works and journalism works,” says Ingram.

When the Globe and Mail launched its digital website in 1995, Ingram, who was a business columnist, became interested in the intersection of the web and technology.

Working for the Globe and Mail online site, he started writing more about technology and less about the stock market.

“The thing that fascinates me isn’t about tech per se. But what it does to us, our behaviours,” says Ingram, who became Globe and Mail’s first communities editor. In that role Ingram taught journalists how to embrace and use social media tools to engage with different audiences. He also launched the Globe’s Public Policy Wiki, combining a publicly editable wiki tool with public discussion forums and voting features.

Drawing from more than 15 years of experience writing about business, technology and web, Ingram spoke at the first TEDx Toronto, asking news organizations to take new media seriously.

“Working online can give you connection with audience that is fundamentally better. You become a better journalist.”

Ingram co-founded mesh in 2006, an annual web conference to discuss web trends, marketing, business and more.

The future of the news business is digital, says Ingram. Gigaom’s revenue has grown from $2 million when it launched in 2006 to $15 million in 2012. It has more than 6.5 million monthly unique visitors and has expanded to offer business conferences and propriety research.

For Ingram, this reflects the power of blogging and writing online.

“It is just you and whoever that reads it.”