|54 weeks ago I read a theory that going for 50 coffees with people you’ve never met is the entrepreneur’s equivalent to the theory that doing anything for 10,000 hours will make you an expert on it. While I got the idea, 50 coffees was far easier than practicing something for ten years, so after completing that challenge I decided to make a major commitment and publish 500 over the next few years. In this series I introduce you to interesting Vancouverites, many of whom I had never met before. It’s an exercise in networking for myself and for V.I.A. while also being a platform through which I to introduce you to some people who are doing really cool stuff in the city you live in.
Meet James Keller. Journalist, skilled bocci player and my neighbour in The Village on False Creek. Since 2005 James has been employed by The Canadian Press and, by extension, almost every major newspaper in the country. In the past few weeks he’s had stories featured on the front pages of the Vancouver Sun as well as the Globe and Mail, and that’s just his recent local hits.
James and I live in the same building and we often cross paths in our lobby. Before this 500 Coffees occasion we had really only ever talked over Twitter and exchanged the odd Hello in real life. We went for coffee nearby at Urban Fare and I learned that he’s originally from Calgary, and that he went to school in Halifax. I asked him how the Canadian Press works and he told me that essentially it’s like a subscription service for Canadian newspapers and other media companies. They pay a flat rate to be able to access the stories that the CP produces each and every day, so that they don’t have to employ as many of their own journalists, especially in places where they might not have boots on the ground (a Calgary paper wanting a Vancouver story, for instance). Media entities that subscribe to their service also have the option to go in and take pieces from an article instead of publishing the entire thing. So when you see something that says “With files from the Canadian Press” it could mean that James or one of his coworkers wrote the original piece, and the paper you’re reading added or subtracted some stuff from it and then published it. Often times you don’t see the journalists name as they’re not obliged to print it, but I see James’ name in a lot of papers.
We talked a bit about the differences between what he does as a schooled professional journalist and what I do as a hack. Being an online publisher since 1996 (fun fact: I started and sold the first online skateboarding magazine way back when) one of the accusations that I am still sometimes faced with is “You’re not a journalist!”. And it’s entirely true. I’m far from a journalist; I’m a storyteller, a lifestyle writer, and I’m free to weave my biases and my leanings and my opinions into my stories however I see fit. I’m free to run sponsored features about the Olympic Village or take people I like out for coffee and only tell you about how great I think they are. So when I’m accused of not being a journalist I just shrug and let people know that I’ve never aspired to be one, nor do I claim to be one. I absolutely love the work of journalists, I am a news fiend and in fact I’ve featured a few of them in this coffee series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). But to say that I am ever simply reporting the facts from a journalistic point of view, the way that James does, would be an outright lie. In fact, I imagine there’s more than one Vancouver journalist who would consider me a “shill”, which I actually get a bit of a kick out of.
But enough about me. I asked James if he would send me links to a few of the pieces he’s particularly proud of, and he sent these over:
– Recent projects renew debate about gentrification in the Downtown Eastside
– Restricted from giving interviews, Pickton proposes bizarre ruse to media
– iPhone app allows First Nations speakers to chat in their native tongue
– Health officials, advocates call on Abbotsford to end needle exchange ban
And stay tuned for 446 more Coffees!