Thursday 31 December 2009

Hours of work to make seconds of TV during CFTO weather forecast

Weather Or Not It Is Worth It.

Back at the TV station it is considered Pimping Up the News Broadcast. In an endless stream of accident reports, murder stories, gridlocked traffic reports, the bright spot in the news cycle is the "live-eye" reports. You know the drill. An on-air personality takes a remote crew and visits an event to give a series of good news 2-minute hits during the newscast.
In Toronto, Roger's owned CITY-TV pioneered the "live-eye" remote with its morning crew, anchored by singer and TV personality Jennifer Valentyne. Cross-town rivals, CTV's CFTO have countered with their roving weather reporters - Anwar Knight and Tom Brown - who go on location at events and happenings to wrap good-news stories around their newscast weather reports.
Regardless of which station you watch, the "live-eye" reports are always upbeat and hopefully fun for the viewers. Although the remotes seem light and breezy the stations spend considerable thought and funds into each daily foray into the community. There are satellite trucks, remote cameras, technicians and talent dedicated to visiting everything from the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, to Scotiabank Caribana. Over a year the live-eyers talk to civic leaders, trade show pitchmen, performers, artists, authors and yes, sometimes even clowns in full greasepaint. And, at Christmas they talk to religious leaders.
People like me are often involved in setting up live-eye visits. Television crews depend on outside help that they trust to round up guests to appear in a visually interesting setting and talk for no more than two-minutes about a specific subject. The guests have to be articulate, to-the-point and interesting. They shouldn't stutter, have thick accents or strange facial expressions. They must be willing to get up painfully early and wait for hours to appear on the "live eye" and accept with good grace having their segments moved or dropped. Most importantly the guests and all the location/events support staff (and publicist) must not charge the TV station for their time and costs.
In PR terms it makes sense to help out. Because the live-eye visits are good news skewed there aren't hard questions to answer. The guests that appear live are permitted to explain to viewers why they should be interested in their story. The live-eye is one of the few opportunities in the broadcast cycle for people to show and tell, and 2-minutes is a long long time on TV. Since the live-eye remote returns to the same location four times over the course of a broadcast, your story gets to repeatedly hit on the ever changing viewership which drops in and out of programmes many times over an hour.
On Wednesday December 16th I received an email from weatherman Anwar Knight at CFTO to ask for assistance with the noon "live-eye" on Friday December 19th. It took us a few hours to actually connect by phone, so, whatever help the station's weatherman needed, had to be organized by end-of-day Thursday.
In the lead-up to Christmas CFTO was sending Anwar to places of worship to see how different communities and different religions celebrated the holiday season. On Friday CFTO was to visit a Jamaican Canadian church, however, the Jamaican consulate somehow dropped the ball and there was no church for the station to visit. Did I know of any church that could help out over the noon hour on Friday?
I did. A year ago I had met with Pastor Pat Francis of the Kingdom Covenant Ministries in Mississauga. A special envoy to the United Nations, a charismatic preacher and the leader of a growing church, she hoped to hire me to help with a building project. The church, its private school and offices are currently entrenched in an old warehouse. The warehouse church is big but not big enough for its growing congregation. They currently have 3 services on Sunday and 1,000 people worship at each service.
Pastor Pat wants to build a $30 million church and school near the Mississauga / Toronto border. She figures she will need the help of a PR agency. I quoted but never heard back (even churches do that Toronto thing -- silence means no). I didn't forget Pastor Pat and always thought she would be great on TV.
With calls to the Church Deacon in Trinidad and the help of Andre Newell, a church member and a member of the Scotiabank Caribana marketing team, we were able to open the church up 48 hours after Anwar's call and help created 4 segments of good television.

This is what happened.

Wednesday - 2 calls to Trinidad from the vegetable aisle of Loblaws
Thursday - Pastor Pat agrees to appear on television
- Andre Newell asks Olunike Adeliyi,, an actress who recently appeared in the Flashpoint drama TV series to come to the church on Friday and help with the broadcast (she is a member of the congregation)
- Andre talks to Jamaican restaurant who donate traditional Caribbean Christmas dishes
- Andre asks gospel singer and organist to perform during the broadcast
- Stephen Weir provided CFTO with location map, background on the church, Pastor Pat and some of the Christmas traditions celebrated in the Caribbean.
Friday - Stephen Weir meets the three-man crew at 10.30 at the church. Cables are laid from the remote truck into the alter area of the church.
-Stephen Weir meets with Pastor Pat and members of her church to talk about the broadcast
- The Organist and singer arrive. The organist begins performing background music
- The Church has an A/V department which set up their own camera and lighting. A Christmas tree is decorate and a corner of the church is draped for a food segment
- Andre sets out the food.
- Anwar Knight arrives and meets the crew, Pastor Pat, Tattiawna Jones and members of the church.

At noon the broadcast began. After giving the weather Anwar interviewed Pastor Pat asking her about how Caribbean Canadians mark Christmas. Anwar wanted to stress that Christmas is a time for families to be together. Pastor Pat agreed but reminded viewers the most important thing over the holidays was Our Savour.
The second segment was with Olunike Adeliyi,talking about Christmas. Our gospel singer sang and the cameras saw how the Church was decorated for the holidays
In our third segment Anwar, Pastor Pat and Olunike Adeliyi, sampled Jamaican food. (We did get a plug in for the restaurant the home-made sorrel, black cake and a beef-patty like dish).
The fourth and last segment didn't run too smoothly - we had hoped the children attending the Church's elementary school would appear on camera (they were having an end of the year party in the next room). No model releases - so CTV was concerned about having the young students on air. The school principal didn't like the fact that kids were out of uniform, so, the children segment was scrapped.
In its place Andre and I hustled around and collected wrapped presents and put them under a Christmas tree. Dr. Pat talked about the Church's Toy Drive. It is being done in conjunction with CHUM radio, but, she was asked not say CHUM radio. Even though CTV owns the radio station, CFTO has its own Toy Drive and didn't want to promote someone else's drive!
CFTO was also worried about the copyright of the songs sung by our singer and played by our keyboardist. The solution? She sang a really old song and the organist played music that was copyright free.
By 1 o'clock it was all over. Four live segments were shot giving the church 10 minutes of air time. It took 20 volunteers, a few international phone calls and 8-hours of work by Andre and myself.
Was it worth it? Hard to tell! Do people still watch noon-hour TV? Will they remember the name of the church or its charismatic pastor? Who is going to pay me for a day of my time?
I don't have all the answers. I know viewership numbers are down but I think at least 100,000 people caught at least one of the spots. They might not remember the church's name, but, I believe they will remember Pat and her passion and intensity and profound faith.
For me, I didn't have to come, I could have done everything over the phone - however I do worry so, I made a point of being there. And I accept the fact that I am not getting paid. Cell calls to Trinidad were made on my dime. The drive, the two hours at the church and three hours of prep work were pro-bono.
I did send a note to Matt Garrow CTV's PR guy telling him I'd helped Anwar out. Can't hurt. Would I do it again? Depends on the Weather ... and I don't mind helping out a good cause.

Top: Pastor Dr. Pat Francis
Middle: Anwar Knight with a member of the congregation
Bottom: The broadcast in session

Pat Francis - Biography

Dr. Pat Francis through her local and international ministries has reached millions of people with the message and mission of hope.
Pat believes that "knowledge is power" and through her dynamic teaching seminars and weekly television program "Good News with Pat Francis" she empowers millions of people with wisdom and practical strategies to reach their full potential with the help of faith in God. She believes that education is the door to freedom and provides the foundation for a prosperous future. Pat Francis and her team have developed many schools from kindergarten to College and many associated programs to provide academic, social, and spiritual enhancement for children and young people. Over one hundred scholarships have been awarded to students to aid them in achieving their goals.
Pat's latest project "KC Collegiate" is an alternative high school with a customized program for high school dropouts providing a solution for the thousands of young people who are frustrated with the traditional public school program, with learning challenges and greatly at risk. Her Restorative Justice and Rehabilitation Program for youth were recently featured on "CFTO TV" referring to Dr. Pat Francis as a person that is "saving lives and stopping the cycle of crime in young people".
In 2004, Dr. Francis was awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the United States Senate for her work in the faith community and her efforts to rescue at risk youths. She was also awarded recognition in "The International Who's who" because of her passionate commitment to helping children at risk and her positive influence in the local community.
Through her international charity "Compassion For The Nations" Pat has supported orphanages, pastors, and annually takes teams to third world countries and the Caribbean for medical missions, develop health care centres and teach at conferences throughout North America, The Caribbean, India, Africa, Peru, China and other nations.
As a Business Person, Dr. Pat has developed several businesses. Additionally, she has engaged the services of the business owners to teach people on successful business strategies and has helped hundreds to purchase their own homes or start businesses.
Dr. Pat is a graduate of the University of the West Indies in the medical field of Radiography. She is also a Certified Psychotherapist and holds two Masters degrees and a Doctorate from Christian Life School of Theology, Columbus, GA. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Pastoral Counseling and is the founder and President several charities.
She is an author, pastor, humanitarian and international conference speaker.


Kingdom Covenant Ministries
20-1224 Dundas St. E.
Mississauga, ON
TL: 905.566.1084

Thursday 24 December 2009


McMichael Canadian Art Collection Holiday Hours,Exhibitions and Programme Information

December 24, 2009. Kleinburg, Ontario. The McMichael Canadian Art Collection will be open throughout the holiday period except on December 25th. On all other days, including Boxing Day and New Years Day, the gallery will be open from 10am to 4pm.

The gallery is located at 10365 Islington Avenue, Kleinburg, Ontario. For directions visit

Holiday Programming:
December 27 ArtChat
Maria Chapdelaine: A Québécois Saga
The story of Maria Chapdelaine is well known for its wonderful illustrations by Clarence Gagnon. View and discuss the complete set of original artworks, which tell the story of rural Quebec in the early twentieth century.
December 29 and 30 Bonus Family Days!
Help ring in the New Year with art activities and live entertainment including performances by David Hannan and Jordan O'Connor and their Cuckoo Clock Theatre. Free With Admission. 11:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m.

January 3, 2010 Cadence
Four men, four microphones, no instruments. Toronto's celebrated vocal band Cadence, whose members include Dylan Bell, Carl Berger, Kevin Fox, and Ross Lynde, will be performing in the McMichael's Great Hall. Free With Admission. 1:30 p.m.

January 10, 2010 Sing and Play
Enjoy an Inuit performance and drum making by Iqaluit artist, Naudlaq. Touch stone and bone carvings and handle the tools used by Inuit sculptors. Make your own Inuit-inspired prints and take a family tour of the special exhibition, Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth. In the McMichael's Great Hall. Free With Admission. 11:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m.

January 17 Chris McKhool
Enjoy an exciting jazz violin performance by Chris McKhool. In the Great Hall. Free with Admission to the Gallery. 1:30 p.m.

January 17 Canadian Stories
A guided tour of the gallery concentrating on a specific portion of the McMichael permanent collection. Visitors have an opportunity to expand their knowledge about their favourite artists. 1 hour. Free with Admission. 11:30 a.m.

Current Exhibitions (Free With Admission)

* Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth
On until January 17, 2010
Mark the fiftieth anniversary of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative and celebrate the remarkable achievement of the internationally acclaimed artistic community of Cape Dorset (Kinngait)

* Ed Bartram: The Eye Within

pictured above: curator Chris Finn (l) and artist Ed Bartram (r)
On until January 3, 2010
Discover the rugged Georgian Bay landscape through Ed Bartram's abstract and dynamic etchings.

* Woodland School
On until May 9, 2010
Explore the vibrant art of Woodland School painters Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, Alex Janvier, Blake Debassige and more!

* Maria Chapdelaine
On until January 3, 2010
Experience the popular 1916 novel, Maria Chapdelaine—a story depicting life in rural Quebec—through Clarence Gagnon's brilliant illustrations.



Stephen Weir
gallery publicist

PR Past Taints Harry Potter Story For Torontoist


I recently attended a press conference at the Ontario Science Centre. The occasion? A glitzy expensive pre-launch for the upcomingHarry Potter Exhibition.
I like attending public sector press conferences - it keeps me in touch with what is going on in the city and I stay up-to-date on current PR practices. Like everything else, the business of press conferences is rapidly evolving. In years gone by (try 2008) an art gallery or museum opening consisted of press kits, speakers, a couple of examples of art/artifacts and a cuppa coffee (evening events usually includes boxed wine and carrot sticks). In late 2009 it is: cue the smoke machines, fly in the international speakers and hand out bags of swag worthy of a minor league film festival. No one likes to spend money on a press conference but, as the story I eventually wrote about the Harry Potter exhibition reports, Toronto pressers have gone Hollywood because PR departments believe it is the only way to guarantee results.
While at the Harry Potter presser I took attendance (and pictures).
Noting that the Toronto Sun was the only newspaper not there, I went back to my office and wrote a story on the launch. I decided to write a news piece about how the bar has been raised for public sector pressers, and offer it to the Sun (since they weren't there).
I was a bit delayed by other (paying) jobs, so it was late that day that I finally got the piece over to their city editor Antonella Artuso -- it was very close to their deadline. Didn't hear back (the Sun's way of saying no). The next day when my Sun arrived, I saw a very small Harry Potter Science Centre story that had been cobbled together from the Science Centre's press kit.
I then sent the story and pictures over to the popular news website, the Torontoist. They had looked at another one of my stories, liked it, but said I had sent it in to late. So, this time, less than 24 hours after the press conference I delivered my piece along with three pictures and cutlines.
The initial response I got was good, they wanted to run it. However, a few hours after they showed strong interest I received a second email from their freelance review editor, Ashley Carter,questioning the story. Here is what she wrote: "The piece is good, but I have to ask (considering your PR background & our need to be obnoxiously careful with these things), do you work with the Science Centre?"
It has been a couple of years since I last did any work for the Science Centre, so, I was a little surprised that I wasn't passing their PR smell test. This wasn't a fawning fluff piece -- in the museum world my story isn't all together positive. CEOs of government owned museums and galleries don't usually like to be quoted trolling for ticket sales. As well there is the whole issue of home-grown Canadian shows versus big box / big dollar American travelling exhibitions raging through the museum/gallery community right now. The article might be seen as being quietly critical of Ontario's Ministry of Culture buying into an exhibition heavy on US/UK movie sets and light on Canadian content.
I have had stories rejected because they didn't "fit" or were too long, or didn't read well, or there wasn't the budget, but, this is the first time in decades of freelance writing that I have not had a story printed because I do PR work to pay the bills.
As they say these days, "No Worries". I have my own soapbox to post things on (but gets a dozen readers daily compared to Torontoist's thousands of daily readers). So, below is Mugging for the Media Muggles, the unedited story that the Sun passed on and the (non-paying) Torontoist rejected.
Cutline: Top: An Ontario Science Centre official fields questions from two different TV crews at the pre-launch press conference for next year's Harry Potter exhibition.Below: Freelance writer (and PR guy) Stephen Weir. Photo taken at the Toronto Market following the Harry Potter press conference (David Tollington).

Friday 11 December 2009

Mugging for the Media Muggles

Mugging for the Media Muggles – Big Box shows come at a cost
Ontario Science Centre conjures up advance media event

With one wave of Harry Potter's wand, the PR bar was raised a little bit higher this week in Toronto. In a city where newspaper readership numbers are in decline and television operations are being scaled back, public museums and galleries are having to use the Dark Arts to get the attention of the media.
It took a live wizard's owl, a Hollywood-style fog machine and a smoke and mirrors performance by officials at the Ontario Science Centre to conjure up a press event of mythical proportions. The Science Centre is bringing “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” to Toronto this April, and in a bid to promote advance ticket sales, staged a press event that was big on theatrics and small on details.
Only two speakers, Leslie Lewis the CEO and Eddie Newquist, President, Branded Entertainment, stood knee deep in billowing smoke (the fog machine was working overtime) and talked to a very large group of reporters, photographers and cameramen. Like a well scripted TV show the pair teased the audience with only tidbits about the coming exhibition and took the opportunity to sell, sell, sell.
"The Ontario Science Centre is the first and only Canadian venue to host Harry Potter: the Exhibition," said Science Centre's Lewis. "Did I mention that tickets are now on sale and can be purchased on line at our website?"
Why the hard sell from a Government of Ontario owned facility? It has to. In the competition for audiences, the major public galleries and museums are bringing in large traveling exhibitions. ROM's Dead Sea Scrolls. AGO's King Tut. The Science Centre's current blockbuster Body Worlds 3. All three shows have proved in other cities that they can attract audiences ... but the cost of renting these exhibitions comes at a very high price. Marketing and Public Relation activities aren't an option, they are mandated by the companies owning the traveling exhibitions.
If the Science Centre is going to recoup its investment it must sell tickets now, five months out from the official launch. Tuesday's event will go a long way to getting word out about the coming show and the ability to purchase advance tickets, all just in time for Christmas.
Over 50 journalists from every major news outlet in the city of Toronto (except the Toronto Sun) attended the short theatrical press conference. They captured images of confetti guns booming, school children waving non-functioning Hogworts wands and a costumed actor with a live owl on his shoulder.
They learned that this spring "visitors will experience dramatic environments inspired by the Harry Potter film sets and see the amazing craftsmanship behind more than 200 authentic costumes and film props."
According to press material handed out at the conference Newquist's Branded Entertainment (a division of Exhibitgroup/Giltspur) has teamed with Warner Brothers Inc to create a 1,300 square metre exhibit space that will give ticket holders "a firsthand view of authentic artifacts displayed in detailed settings inspired by the film sets, including the Great Hall, Hagrid's hut, the Gryffindor common room, and more. The exhibition will also include costumes and props from the upcoming installments of the Harry Potter series, once production of these films has been completed."
The press conference was timed to coincide with the Canadian Blu-Ray and DVD release of the latest Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The DVD is expected to sell well during the holiday season, and, if word gets out soon to consumers, advance tickets, at a base price of $27.50 each, could wind up in Christmas stockings this December 25th.
Earlier this fall the Art Gallery of Ontario proved the worth of holding a high voltage press conference for its blockbuster King Tut: The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs exhibition. Its November press conference, complete with pyramid shaped muffins, a cavalcade of international speakers and an exhibition tour that included a taped introduction by Harrison Ford, helped drive advance ticket sales of over 50,000 (base price $28.50 for adults) before the show opened to the public.
Be it Galleons, Muggle's pounds or an ancient Pharaoh's debens, that's magic that publicly owned attractions can easily understand.

CUTLINES: Top left:
Toronto students put on Harry Potter style scarves and waved non-function wands to help the Ontario Science Centre announce its next upcoming blockbuster show – Harry Potter: The Exhibition. The launch was held December 8th.
Top Right: Who? Who? Who are the media scrumming? It is a live owl being held by a costumed actor and Ontario Science Centre CEO Lesley Lewis. It was all part of a Tuesday morning press conference to announce the April arrival of a traveling exhibition about the Harry Potter movie series.
Above: Ontario Science Centre CEO Lesley Lewis announces that a new traveling Harry Potter exhibition will be coming to Toronto in April. The exhibition which will include costumes and sets from the Harry Potter movie series. The announcement was made at a glitzy Hollywood style press conference held at the Ontario Science Centre on Tuesday December 8th.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

This is the fortnight to launch ... anything. Keep that suit pressed and the black tie knotted!

When should you hold an event to get the maximum media coverage? Don't hold you event too late in December. Unless your story has Santa Claus or kittens, the Christmas Rush will rush right past you.
And here in Toronto don't hold any press event during the first two weeks of September unless you have Tom Cruise as your spokesperson - yes the Toronto Film Festival eats up every TV camera and every reporter in city during it's two week run. And don't hold it anytime after that for the rest of September - worn out reporters are off using up all that overtime that earned.
Summer is out unless you are looking after Caribana, the Indy or Pride. The CBC shuts down for the summer, so do the community channel and most regular radio programming. Veteran reporters with weeks of earned holidays have long since left the city with July and August roll around. Most of the copy produced in the summer is being handled by Mr and Mrs Phil Inn and summer interns.
January is out ... Post Boxing Day advertising revenues have gone south and the media has NO space to spend on covering a non-news event. Frankly the big guess in January is the weather, it is so unpredictable that even if your well planned event is newsworthy it could be whited out.
No, November and the first week in December is that MAGIC time. This is no big secret, every camera lusting publicist knows it well. Look at some of the events that I or one of my associates have attended in over the past fortnight or so:

The Giller Prize
McMichael Canadian Art Collection launches 50 year Cape Dorset Collection exhibition
Kipling Gallery launches Nordic/Inuit sculpture exhibition
King Tut at the AGO
New CBC newsroom and its stand-up new look
Writer's Trust
Body World 3 at the Science Centre
Canada Reads Launch at the CBC
Grenada Hosts Toronto chapter TMAC (travel writer's association)
The Launch of Harry Potter at Ontario Science Centre
The Santa Claus Parade

... and the list goes on from there!


Top: Stone Cape Dorset statue, part of the Inuit Cape Dorset retrospective at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The gallery is located in Kleinburg, Ontario.
Second from top: It is fitting that eveyone is standing. It is the launch of CBC's brand new National News look, where everyone stands up. Press launch held in Toronto's downtown CBC headquarters.
Third from top: Joy Lapps, plays the steel pan at a November meeting of the Travel Media Association of Canada. The get-together was sponsored by the Grenada Tourist Board and held at a downtown Toronto restaurant. Ms. Lapps and Grenadian-Canadian award winning Calypso singer Redman, provided the Caribbean content.
Third from bottom: Jian Ghomeshi, the host of Radio Q, was the MC at the Writer's Trust Award evening. Despite his star power and the fact that over $100,000 was given out to Canadian authors, there was little coverage of the event.
Second from bottom: Jian Ghomeshi again. This time in the lobby of the CBC building with the authors and participants in this year's Canada Reads radio series.
Bottom: Ontario Science Centre CEO Lesley Lewis announces that a new traveling Harry Potter exhibition will be coming to Toronto in April. The exhibition which will include costumes and sets from the Harry Potter movie series. The announcement was made at a glitzy Hollywood style press conference held at the Ontario Science Centre on Tuesday December 8th.
Below Bottom: Cell phone picture of the jam packed luxurious King Tutlaunch held last month at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Monday 7 December 2009



The trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation requests the honour of your presence at a press conference to announce the finalists for the 2010 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 10:00 a.m. sharp
Consort Bar. Main Level. Le Meridien King Edward Hotel
37 King Street East. Toronto. Ontario

Media Contact:
Stephen Weir 416-489-5868, 416-801-3101
Linda Crane 905-257-6033
PRIZE CONTACT: June Dickenson 647-477-6000