Movember 2012: Part One

This past week saw the start of this year’s Movember campaign, a month-long event in which folks grow and sustain moustaches for the four weeks of November to raise funds for men’s health, particularly, prostate cancer and, now, mental health. And, for the first time, albeit starting a little late, I’ve decided to participate.

In addition to supporting prostate cancer, Movember recently decided to add men’s mental health to its causes. This means that the funds raised this year by Mo-Bros will go towards both prostate cancer programs (60 per cent) and men’s mental health initiatives (40 per cent).

Since this is such a great cause that has a personal relevance for just about everyone, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to do my part to contribute and raise awareness. Despite the fact that I may look ridiculous in a moustache, I’ll be growing one in an attempt to raise funds and posting photos tracking my Mogress on my Mofile.

Additionally, every week throughout the month, I’ll be featuring other first-time Mo-Bros. In particular, I’ll be sharing their motivations for participating.

So, stay tuned!

Health and lifestyle, Mental health , , ,

“Frankenstorm” – does it overhype, trivialize or neither?

“Frankenstorm” has definitely become the word of the week in the news.

It’s the word to describe a collection of storms out there, including Hurricane Sandy, which seems to be roaring towards the east coast.

However, on Friday, CNN decided to ban the term from its media coverage, citing it doesn’t want to trivialize the impact the storm has made thus far.

It is a valid argument, since using the term equates the storm to a popular mythological character.

Other media coverage compared the storm to a “pre-Halloween hybrid weather monster.” Calling the storm a monster can make it seem like something fictional out of a horror movie, as opposed to a storm that is actually happening.

But, personally, I feel that using the term can have the opposite effect as well. Labeling the storm with such a scary-sounding name can hype up the story, which begs the question. Is the media overhyping the storm in its coverage?

Weather experts say no. But as the CBC reported, Environment Canada’s chief climatologist said that “naming like this is really trying to shake up the general public.”

Folks who believe “Frankenstorm” is being overhyped took to Twitter to voice their thoughts.

While hyping up a storm can help the public prepare, it also runs the risk of eliciting unnecessary fear. Remember “Snowmageddon” in 2011? It didn’t match up to what it was expected to be.

The debate over whether the media overhypes hurricanes and storms is nothing new. When Hurricane Irene hit last year, it too didn’t meet the expectations, leading reporters to criticize their peers, saying “that the media had overhyped Irene and caused millions needless fear.”

Julie Moos wrote an interesting piece for called “The 6 criteria for hype & why Hurricane Irene does not meet them,” in which she provides an excellent way to assess whether the media has overhyped a story. She lists the six criteria as follows:

  • Amount of coverage: How much time and space is this news occupying?
  • Dominance of coverage: Is this news taking over a platform (website, newscast, front page) and/or dominating several platforms?
  • Prominence of coverage: How prominent is this news? Is it leading a newscast, on the front page?
  • Type of coverage: Is the news trivial or vital? Are respected newsmakers acting as if it’s vital? Is the event unexpected, rare?
  • Tone of coverage: How urgent is the message, how intense the delivery? Are the graphics and images conveying crisis?
  • Context of coverage: What else could or should be receiving our attention instead?

Going back to Hurricane Sandy, I do agree that referring to it as a fictional monster runs the risk of backfiring. Besides that, it’s not even accurate. Shouldn’t it be Frankenstein’s Monstorm instead?

So, what do you think? Has the media overhyped or trivialized the storm? Or has the media covered it how it should? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Journalism , , , ,

International Stuttering Awareness Day 2012

Photo credit: Judith Kuster

Today is International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD), an annual day intended to raise public awareness of stuttering. The event has taken place each year on October 22 since 1998, when it was launched by the International Stuttering Association, the International Fluency Association and the European League of Stuttering Associations.

In recognition of the event, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some thoughts about my stuttering, being someone who has stuttered since around the age of three or four years old.

Over the years, I’ve realized that there are benefits to stuttering.

  • Having compassion

For starters, I’ve come to the realization that being someone who stutters makes me a more compassionate person. It allows me to sympathize with others.

  • An interesting trait to have

Although this may sound weird, I think having a stutter can make you more interesting.  People have asked me questions, ranging from “Do you stutter more in certain situations?” to “When did you start stuttering?” Although most research out there shows that stuttering has neurological roots, there’s still a lot of mystery to it.

I don’t even know when I specifically began stuttering. All I know is that my stuttering fluctuates between periods of fluency and periods where I get stuck on a certain syllable.  And, although stuttering isn’t caused by stress, stress can certainly exacerbate it.

  • Being part of a supportive community

Perhaps most of all, it allows me to meet and connect with other people who stutter. In 2011, I attended my first annual conference for the National Stuttering Association (NSA), which is based in New York and is the largest organization of its kind. To be honest, before then, I never knew such a thing existed.

Since 2011, I’ve become involved in the NSA, the Canadian Stuttering Association and Stutter Social. I’ve met other stutterers from all walks of life, and from virtually every part of the world, including Canada, the U.S., Australia, India, New Zealand and Croatia.

And in the few weeks preceding ISAD, stutterers, their friends and families, researchers, and anyone with a stake in stuttering came together for ISAD’s annual online conference, hosted by Judith Kuster, professor emeritus at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

I’ve definitely become involved in such a close-knit community of likeminded people.

In the past, I’ve considered my stuttering to be an obstacle. But since then, I’ve learned to accept it and I realized it’s only an obstacle if I let it become one. I don’t consider it a problem anymore – simply a trait. And I’ve decided to see the glass as half full instead of half empty.

Stuttering , ,

New brand, new blog

I’ve finally registered a domain name for myself. So, I’ve decided this would be the perfect opportunity to rebrand myself and revitalize my blog.

Starting now, I’ll be blogging about a number of things. Among them will be my thoughts on journalism and public relations, especially as someone who has his feet in both worlds.

Additionally, I’ll be blogging about social media, particularly its impact on community-building and mental health. As Communications Director for Stutter Social, an online community that uses Google+ Hangouts to connect people who stutter from worldwide, I’ve been able to bear witness to the impact that digital channels such as Google+ can have on people’s lives.

Speaking of which, I’ll also be blogging about stuttering. About one per cent of the world stutters and I’m one of those people. Thanks to organizations like the National Stuttering Association in the U.S. and my involvement in Stutter Social and the Canadian Stuttering Association, I’ve begun opening up more about my stuttering. With that, I’ve also started to use my experiences to help others who stutter, and make an impact in the national and international stuttering community.

In fact, with tomorrow being International Stuttering Awareness Day, stay tuned for a blog post about it!