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Kathy Vey to Receive the 2019 Digital Publishing Leadership Award

The NMAF is delighted to announce that TVO Executive Producer of Digital Kathy Vey is the 2019 recipient of the Digital Publishing Leadership Award, which honours an individual whose career contributions to Canadian digital publishing deserve recognition and celebration. Vey will receive her award—the highest individual distinction from the Digital Publishing Award program—at the DPA Soirée on May 29th.

Kathy Vey’s 37-year career in Canadian journalism spans pivotal roles at media outlets including the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Sun, Queen’s Park Briefing, OpenFile, and TVO.org. Vey grew up in Toronto’s east end and began working at the Toronto Sun while still a teenager. In 1988, she jumped to the Star, where she soon became an assistant national editor.

After taking a 1993 buyout from the Star, Vey worked as a freelance writer for Canadian Gardening magazine and spent a couple of years editing at the Ottawa Citizen before returning to Toronto and the Star in 1998. She then served as a deputy city editor, a news editor, and the team editor of training and development. In the latter role, she headed up the Star’s first multimedia training program, an intensive weeklong effort that introduced many editorial staff members to the rapidly emerging potential of digital journalism.

“Having Kathy on your team meant there was someone there who could take on the toughest and most complex assignments.”

John Ferri, TVO Vice-president of Current Affairs & Documentaries and Vey’s longtime colleague

In 2010, she left the Toronto Star again to join the team launching OpenFile, an innovative online news startup that prioritized local reporting and audience engagement. As the founding editor-in-chief, Vey guided OpenFile’s development and in less than two years established a core team of editors and freelance writers while building readership in major cities across Canada. She hired a cohort of young reporters, whom she sought to mentor and empower. “Journalists in nearly every city we operated in, from Ottawa to Calgary to Halifax, have similar stories to tell about her support and advice in building a career in journalism,” says TVO Digital Editor Chantal Braganza, who adds she gained invaluable experience working for Vey at OpenFile.

“She offered a guiding hand in shaping stories and facilitating skills development, but left city editors to manage their own teams, experiment endlessly with tools and engage constantly with audiences. That required a skillset uncommon to many newsroom leaders, particularly those in Canada’s nascent digital startup space,” says Maclean’s Digital Editor Nick Taylor-Vaisey, whose journalism career began with Vey at OpenFile.

“Everyone who runs a newsroom should lead by Kathy’s proven example. To use a sports analogy: she drafts prospects and turns them into all-stars, and no matter which team she leads, they’re contenders while she’s at the helm.”

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Maclean’s Digital Editor

“She led a small newsroom and encouraged it to take risks and think of new ways of engaging with an audience. She was a tremendous editor and mentor for the young journalists we were lucky to hire,” confirms BuzzFeed News Media Editor Craig Silverman, who worked closely with Vey for two years at OpenFile. Silverman cites the development of “The Poppy File” as a key example of her leadership style. The award-winning project resulted from Vey’s encouragement of OpenFile contributing editor Patrick Cain, who had been collecting the names of Torontonians who died in World War II. Vey devised an interactive map to show where each of the more than 3,000 people had lived in the city, working closely with the product team to realize an innovative data visualization. The resulting interface was not only attractive and functional, but offered a platform for OpenFile reporters to share some of the stories revealed through the project. (Though no longer active on OpenFile, a version of the project is viewable here.)

“The Poppy File” was praised by Toronto mayor David Miller, won a Canadian Online Publishing Award, and earned National Magazine Award and Online Journalism Award nominations. The Guardian’s former data editor Simon Rogers called the project “the pinnacle of what data journalism is supposed to be about.” The project “came together because Kathy immediately saw the potential and brought everyone together,” says Silverman.

OpenFile.ca was a significant and extraordinary achievement… Kathy helped put into practice many of the theories and ideas that are seen as crucial to the evolution of journalism in the age of digital disruption: community engagement and emphasis on social media, the notion of journalists as curators of information and not just news-gatherers, and data-based interactivity,” says John Ferri, TVO Vice-president of Current Affairs & Documentaries and Vey’s longtime colleague. “It’s no exaggeration to say that she has played an instrumental role in building a bridge to the future of journalism in Canada.”

After OpenFile, Vey joined Torstar’s Queen’s Park Briefing as executive editor. According to Ferri, the fledgling online publication—aimed at a politically inclined professional audience—was “in desperate need of a steady hand” when she took the reins. She transformed it within six months. “Kathy believed that there was a role for smart, policy-focused journalism that was willing to look outside of the daily news cycle—and that people would be willing to pay for it—and she was right,” says TVO Columnist John Michael McGrath, who was among the team Vey brought on board.

In 2013, Vey became a part-time instructor at Ryerson University, a natural progression from her newsroom mentoring in earlier years. She was appointed Rogers Journalist in Residence, during which time she developed the Canadian Press Style Coach, a prototype e-learning program designed to help journalists—both emerging and established—master the CP style guide.

“Kathy has consistently demonstrated exactly the kind of values our industry needs, both to meet the challenges of a changing business environment and developing the talent that will tell the stories of the future.”

John Michael McGrath, TVO Columnist

For the past three and a half years, Vey has worked as the Executive Producer, Digital, at TVO, where she oversees all content produced for the web, including daily articles, short video, editorial newsletters, and podcasts, as well as the journalistic social media accounts. “She has been key to the evolution of TVO’s digital presence,” affirms Ferri. “In sum, Kathy Vey has been a catalyst for change. She has a superb analytical mind and is a master of newsgathering logistics. She has demonstrated a clear and cohesive vision of the future of journalism in the digital space. She has shifted easily from working in large traditional media to startups. She is a creative and innovative individual, an industry leader. She is loved and respected by her peers and staff. She has a tremendous wit and style. This kind of passion for our craft deserves to be recognized and fostered.”

For her leadership, innovation, and dedication to Canadian digital publishing, the NMAF is honoured to present Kathy Vey with the 2019 Digital Publishing Leadership Award.

Nominations for the 2019 Digital Publishing Awards will be announced tomorrow at 10am EST. The Digital Publishing Leadership Award will be presented at the 4th Annual DPA Soirée on May 29th in Toronto. Tickets will be available for purchase on May 2nd at digitalpublishingawards.ca.

Eternity Martis to host this year’s DPAs

We’re pleased to announce that award-winning journalist and editor Eternity Martis will host this year’s DPA Soirée on May 29 at One King West Hotel in Toronto.

“I’m very excited to emcee this year’s Digital Publishing Awards and honour the excellent work of journalists, editors, designers, producers and all others in digital publishing who are creating and telling the stories that matter. In the years the DPAs has recognized digital excellence, it’s provided a space for celebrating a range of voices and content that both reflect our cultural landscape and push the boundaries of storytelling. As a young woman fairly new to the industry when the DPAs launched, it was thrilling to see the stories I cared about nominated and awarded. Now as your emcee, I look forward to celebrating another year of astonishing achievements with all of you.”

Eternity is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor at Xtra. Her work, namely on race and gender, has been featured in Vice, HuffPost, The Walrus, CBC, Hazlitt, The Fader, tvo.org and more, and one of her essays was selected by Roxane Gay as part of Salon’s series highlighting writers of colour. 

Her article “A Capital Idea,” exploring the reasons for capitalizing Black and Indigenous, helped influence media style guides changes across Canada including The Ryerson Review of Journalism, tvo.org, and Xtra. Her writing has also been featured on syllabuses at Western University, Carleton University, University of Ottawa, University of West Indies St. Augustine and on numerous #BlackLivesMatter syllabuses around the world.

In 2018, she won Gold for Best Investigative Feature at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards for her piece “The Health Effects of Anti-Black Racism.” In 2017, she was a National Magazine Awards finalist for Best New Writer for her longform feature “Know Your History, Know Your Greatness” in Hazlitt. She recently wrote an essay in the highly-anticipated anthology “Black Writers Matter” from University of Regina Press (2019), and her memoir, They Said This Would Be Fun, about being a student of colour amid growing white nationalism on campus, is forthcoming from McClelland & Stewart.

Eternity is from Toronto and tweets at @eternitymartis.

Come and celebrate with us!

Gold, Silver and Honourable Mentions will be presented at this year’s Digital Publishing Awards Soirée, a night for our industry to come together and celebrate the creators responsible for producing the best digital content in Canada.

Join us on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at One King West Hotel in Toronto. Tickets for the Soirée will go on sale on May 2nd, when the nominations are announced. For sponsorship inquiries, please contact Executive Director, Barbara Gould at info@digitalpublishingawards.ca.

Interview Series: Shauna Rempel of Global News

In October 2017, the Global News investigation Canada’s Toxic Secret shone a light on pollution in Sarnia, Ontario. The city and its surrounding region, including the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, is popularly known as Chemical Valley due to its high concentration of petrochemical facilities. Global News investigated how recent chemical leaks and spills may be contributing to illness among local residents.

The impactful project lead to funding for a new health study on the impacts of air pollution in the Sarnia region. It’s also received many awards, including the Gold award for Best Social Storytelling at the 2018 Digital Publishing Awards.

With content shared across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Medium, Canada’s Toxic Secret was able to reach a wide audience of Canadians. We spoke to Global News’ Shauna Rempel about the important role of social media in the investigation.

A Global News image used to promote the Toxic Secret project on Facebook.

I was curious to hear about the social media perspective behind the project, since you won the DPA award for Best Social Storytelling. Can you tell me about your role working on social?

I’m the national managing editor for social media and distribution, so I’m taking a look at it from more of a management perspective. I’m the editor for a lot of these things, but also assigning them to people on my team or attending the meetings for some of these bigger projects—attending the meetings and representing the social media team to give feedback as to how we want to approach it.

I was in months and months of meetings. This was quite a lengthy investigation and it involved not just Global News; it was a co-production with students from Ryerson and Concordia journalism schools, and of course the Toronto Star and a few other organizations.

Pretty much everyone on my team had some sort of part in the project, whether helping to create some of the graphics that went out on social media, or captioning the videos or distributing the videos, or adding to a Twitter thread, or moderating some of the comments and checking out the feedback that we were getting from the audience. It was a real group effort.

About how long did the project take to create?

The investigation was months in the making. On the social desk you tend to be involved more in the later stages of things. But Carolyn Jarvis, who was the lead journalist on this whole project, she’s very good at getting everyone involved. So I was getting regular updates from her.

But it was more in September that things started to really ramp up and we looked at all the elements—and there was a lot of video, a lot of images, just a lot of material to go through, and figure out what was going to work for what platform. We did it in three stages. That was the first time we did it in this way, and it’s actually become the template for all of our big rollouts for our big projects. All of our social rollouts now have some version of this template.

We did a pre-social treatment to try and get people excited and interested in it. And then when all the elements were coming out, different stories, different aspects of it, we were sharing it and sometimes re-sharing it the day it was published. Then afterwards we were doing more of a look back. It was being discussed by politicians; there was some fallout from it. So that provided opportunities to not only share the latest elements, but to say, “Now this has happened, as a result of this investigation.” To also share, “In case you missed it, here’s the full documentary again, here’s our main post about it.”

I was curious about the response you saw on social media after the initial push.

There was a lot of discussion amongst the opposition party, and Ontario’s environmental watchdog, who had condemned the fact that there was this population living so close to these known polluters and nothing seemed to be happening. It did lead to, in the aftermath, proposals for new standards to control air pollution. And we did a follow-up, about a year later. Some things had changed, but actually not a whole lot, in a year’s time since we did the initial investigation.

What kind of responses did you get from members of the public?

We had a lot of people discussing it, coming out in one way or another. There was a lot of sympathy amongst the viewers, I think, especially those who were watching the videos. We got messages to that effect. Some of it was people wondering why people were living in that area in the first place, and that started a good conversation, because then you would actually have other people weighing in on, well, maybe they grew up there, that sort of thing. Or, why shouldn’t they live there?

There was a good discussion in that regard, which is what we want. We want a talker. We like it when there’s actually more of a nuanced discussion instead of everyone sort of having a straightforward answer to it. We had over a million, 1.3 million views on the videos that we posted to Facebook, so that was a good indicator to us, too, that people were watching, that they were consuming it on social media.

People were weighing in and talking about pollution where they lived, and their concerns, as well. Folks were either sharing their own stories or comparing it; saying that they too had concerns about pollution, or they were happy to be living somewhere where things were better monitored.

We want this to be something that people can relate to. The videos, the images that we chose—we really wanted this to be something that people could relate to. The idea that someone’s young son got cancer and died after a very short battle with cancer, that’s something that goes beyond any particular city. That’s a universal experience that people could relate to, just the grief of losing a child so suddenly to cancer. That’s the sort of thing we’re trying to tap into, really tapping into the universal themes and the emotion behind it; while also, of course, we’re presenting the facts.

It was a lengthy investigation and there was lots and lots of information. But when sharing it with a social audience you really want to make sure you’re getting the attention, not just with facts and figures but also with people, with human emotion and human experience.

What sort of considerations you have to take into account—if you’re making this for broadcast, how will it work if you’re putting part of it on Facebook, or putting it on YouTube? Is that something that comes into play during the production?

For the documentary itself, it was really more with broadcast in mind. It was more when we were doing the shorter clips that we were really thinking about which ones would work best for a social audience. Our YouTube channel is quite strong, but we weren’t completely sure how many views we would be getting on YouTube. So I think the primary focus for that element was going to be for broadcast first and then seeing what we could put in, either extended interviews or various clips that we could do for a social audience.

A Global News social image featuring a local activist interviewed for the Toxic Secret report.

You mentioned the social process you used for this has become the template you’re using for future stories.

We don’t call it the Toxic Secret template, but we have found this was a good way of approaching anything. Not just our investigative stories, but if we had, let’s say a weeklong feature series that we’re rolling out, we’ve done this for several since then.

We’ve done this pretty much every time we have a major project that’s being published. We always do something ahead of time to tease it with content, to actually give people a bit of a fuller taste of it. And then of course the rolling out throughout the week, or as we have updates, and then trying to do more of a wrap-up, a look back on it. It can take various forms, it depends on the project and the elements. It’s not always a cookie cutter thing, one size fits all. That’s why I say it’s a template, but we do vary it, depending on what we’ve got and what’s available when and where the story leads us to.

Another example is #FirstTimeIWasCalled—this project was very social-focused, we were asking public figures and also the public to share their first brushes with discrimination. All stemming from a story that one of our anchors had about the first time she was called a slur, the first time she was judged by her skin colour. We found we had so much reaction to that that our wrap up just kind of kept going and going because we couldn’t fit it all. We would do one story wrapping up social media reactions, and then we’d send that out on our social channels, and then it would bring in more reactions so we would end up doing another round of it. That’s a great problem to have.

Or sometimes with this Toxic Secret project, we were getting a lot of reactions from politicians. There was a pledge that new standards for air pollution were going to be developed and released. So that gave us something more, something new to report on.

Do you find that there are certain stories, maybe like this one for example, that are more suited to social?

We do find that with the stories that immediately elicit a reaction, and that does tend to be ones that are people-focused, rather than ones that are focused on policy or process. Of course those are important stories as well.

But we do always want to get to the person involved and try to play them up big on social media. So I’m often the one saying—and everyone else has this instinct as well—if we don’t have a photo of someone who’s been interviewed for the story, then we have a problem. We make sure we have a photo of someone, if they’re telling their story, we make sure we play that up on the social media channels. So that people can relate to that person.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the project?

I would reiterate that it was really a group effort, there were a lot of hands involved with it, and so I’m very pleased that it was recognized in this way. You don’t do any of these things for the awards, you don’t do it for the rewards, but it is nice to see hard work being recognized in this way.

I’m very happy that an award like this exists, because the social media aspect of things has become so ingrained in everything that we do; every aspect of our lives, every aspect of every industry, but especially in the media industry. But it almost gets taken as a given. There’s not always a lot of thought or understanding into what actually is involved with making the things that appear in your Facebook newsfeed or show up on Twitter or pop up in your Instagram feed. So it’s nice to see that work, which is largely behind the scenes, get recognized.

That’s so true. Do you think that social media will continue to be a major part of your work at Global, and continue to be a crucial component of sharing stories?

I do. I think that algorithms come and go, and there’s always some new flavour of the week that might appear on social media, and maybe some folks will shut down their accounts in protest—we’ve definitely weathered some storms when it comes to social media—but I really think it’s so ingrained. I think more these days of social media as just one of many distribution channels. It’s another way that people consume our content and learn about the world. I don’t think that’ll ever go away. It can evolve and change, and it should, because that’s what it’s been doing up until now. But I think it’s still going to be a very vital, very important part of what we do, of how we tell stories.

Interview conducted by Jill Blackmore Evans.

Finalists for the 4th Annual Digital Publishing Awards will be announced on May 2, 2019. Follow us on Twitter for the most up-to-date news. 

Last chance to enter the 2019 DPAs

As the month comes to a close, so does the Digital Publishing Awards’ call for entries: Friday, February 1st is your last chance to submit your work to the awards. Entries will be judged by three-member juries, made up of Canada’s top digital publishing talent. You can read more about the judging process here.

For categories, there are 23 to choose from: with this expansive lineup, Canadian writers, editors, art directors, graphic designers, web developers, photographers, illustrators, and videographers, are sure to find a good fit for their work. Best of all, Gold winners in individual categories will take home a $500 cash prize!

The entire submission process takes about ten minutes. Start by clicking here to access our online portal. There, you’ll enter the details of your submission(s) and pay the entry fees. Easy!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for updates—that’s where we’ll be announcing the nominees. Also note that the deadline to nominate someone for the Emerging Excellence Award or the Digital Publishing Leadership Award is Friday, March 1, 2019.

Early-Bird Deadline for the Digital Publishing Awards

Early-birds, you’re almost out of time—our discount comes to an end this Friday! If you want to save $25 per entry, be sure to make your submission(s) by midnight (ET) on January 25th. After that, entry fees will be $125 each.

All Canadian digital publications and digital creators are welcome to enter the awards. Many of the categories have a $500 cash prize for the gold winner, while our national publicity efforts promote all finalists and winners. Placing in the Digital Publishing Awards means getting your work read and recognized.

What’s more, the submission process is simple: review the categories, then click here to access the online submissions portal, and follow the steps provided. (Freelancers, remember that we also offer the freelancer support fund.)

Any and all questions can be sent to info@digital publishingawards.ca.

Work from 2018 that falls into the business-to-business category can be entered in the inaugural National Magazine Awards: B2B. The final deadline for the NMA: B2B program is February 1, 2019.