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MediJean: Canada needs an intelligent debate on medical marijuana

Oct 23, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Canadians deserve a smart conversation about medical marijuana’s future, says Anton Mattadeen of bio-pharma company MediJean. The company launched an online national debate on medical marijuana where Canadians coast-to-coast can participate.

The Medical Marijuana Debates invite the public, patients, doctors, law enforcement personnel and politicians to engage in a discussion on medical cannabis.

The Medical Marijuana Debates are being launched in conjunction with, part of the Quebecor Media network, the largest press group in Canada.

The Debates come at a timely moment for the country: Health Canada announced in June new regulations that will change the way Canadians access marijuana for medical purposes. These regulations require patients who need medical marijuana to receive a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner before having medical marijuana shipped directly to them from a Health Canada-approved Licensed Producer.

As of Oct. 1, Health Canada isn’t accepting new applications for Canadians to grow their own medical marijuana. The government will completely exit the medical marijuana business beginning April 1, 2014.

To learn more about the just-launched Debates, Digital Journal spoke to Anton Mattadeen, Chief Strategy Officer of MediJean, a company that recently won a special Research and Development exemption granted by Health Canada to grow medical marijuana for research and development purposes. We wanted to find out why a national discussion will be an integral step forward to teaching Canadians about a medicine often derided as a recreational hobby.

Digital Journal: What are the main facts Canadians should know about medical marijuana?

Anton Mattadeen: Canadians need to know this is going to be a legitimate industry. This is not a fly-by-night operation. And there is no one place to air a variety of ideas about medical marijuana and to have an intelligent conversation about this medicine.The Medical Marijuana Debates will serve up opinions that may shape other people’s opinions. When more people are talking about medical marijuana, it’s better for the whole industry.

Digital Journal: Has Canada talked enough about medical marijuana in the past decade? Do you see a gap in the discussion?

Anton Mattadeen: There’s been a lot of talk but not a conversation about medical marijuana. There hasn’t been a respectful sharing of ideas. Canadians need to realize medical marijuana is something that is going to affect everybody. And we need to have more cohesive voice discussing the topic.

Digital Journal: We’ve seen how the Medical Marijuana Debates has a wide range of voices sharing their opinions on the topic, from parents of sick children to MS patients. What does that variety of perspectives offer to readers?

Anton Mattadeen: Multiple perspectives demonstrate there’s an awful lot of expertise in this industry at all levels. Look at the patients of the old Health Canada Marihuana Medical Access Program – those folks developed lots of expertise and have a lot of information locked up in their head. We’ve also seen newly released scientific data adding layers of professionalism to this industry, along with tons of business acumen.The goal of this entire debate process is to get us to a place where no one feels uncomfortable about discussing medical marijuana. People have to realize marijuana can be a medical solution for people’s health as opposed to something used recreationally.

Digital Journal: What do The Medical Marijuana Debates offer to other countries who may be curious about how medical marijuana can affect their citizens?

Anton Mattadeen: It sets an example of how to create an intelligent conversation that benefits all participants. The new Health Canada regulations are much more progressive than other decisions made by governments around the world. Canada is taking a very responsible approach and no one is sticking their head in sand.

Digital Journal: How will Health Canada’s changes to its medical marijuana program affect Canadian patients?

Anton Mattadeen: It ensures patients get high-quality medicine. Let’s face the facts: The program now in place looks after just under 40,000 Canadians. The government admits through its own research that hundreds of thousands of Canadians have medical requirements and are self-medicating with marijuana because the program is very difficult to become part of. It’s very paper intensive. But the new program is simple and the patient discusses his or her ailment with the doctor, gets a prescription, and then a licensed producer can assure a high level of quality control.

I spoke to a brain injury victim who uses marijuana for neuropathic pain, but he’s never had the opportunity to become part of Health Canada’s old program. So he is getting his marijuana through black market channels. That helps him with pain but he never knows what he’s going to get. So he’s excited he can go to a licensed producer to get consistent medicine.

Digital Journal: Where do you hope medical marijuana in Canada will be five years from now?

Anton Mattadeen: I hope the stigma attached to the substance itself is pushed aside. One of the reasons I’m so happy about this debate process is that when people start talking about medical marijuana and digest information based on facts, those facts change a lot of opinions.This is the normal path for drug discovery; it’s something that may start off on the periphery but it evolves into medicine through research and science. The same stigma once existed around opium and now it’s commonplace to hear about its derivatives like morphine, or codeine. Who hasn’t used Tylenol?

Right now people spend lots of time dealing with misconceptions. It would be great in five years from now if a patient could walk into any health care practitioner’s office with a particular ailment and medical marijuana is one of the options openly addressed and offered. Medical marijuana is a benign substance that has great therapeutic value and it has never killed anyone via an overdose. It’s been put on this planet for a reason.

This article originally appeared on Digital Journal

Photo courtesy Anton Mattadeen

UK’s Guardian launches citizen journalism site

Apr 18, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  3 Comments

By Jane Fazackarley (Guest Contributor/Digital Journalist)

The Guardian newspaper is inviting would-be journalists to contribute to its new citizen journalism site. Citizen journalists will have the opportunity to add photos, stories and videos to the new site, which is called Guardian Witness.

News stories will be read by staff before being published; as well as appearing on theGuardian Witness news site, video footage will also appear on YouTube and stories submitted by citizen journalists could also appear on The Guardian or The Observer website.

Joanna Geary, the Guardian’s social and communities editor, said:”At the Guardian we have a long history of getting our readers involved in our journalism. In the last few years alone our readers have helped us to review MPs’ expenses documents, follow the UK riots, gain real-time insights into the Arab Spring as events in the Middle East unfolded and challenge the government’s employment schemes.”

GuardianWitness will further reinforce our recognition that journalism is now a two-way conversation and will open up our site as we never have before. Not only will this make it even easier for our readers to get involved in our journalism and form both local and global communities of joint interest, it will also provide our journalists with a fantastic new tool, providing them with insights and views that we perhaps don’t yet have access to.

“We can’t wait to see how the platform grows and develops in the coming months and look forward to sharing some of the best contributions with our global audience.”

As part of the new site, there is an assignment section for contributors to take part in. When I looked earlier some of the assignments included views of tall buildings, Record Store Day, delayed spring and Syrian refugees. More details about the site can be found here.

Citizen journalists will also soon have the opportunity to join The site invites submissions of written content, video and photography, which can be uploaded to the marketplace by contributors. will also have an assignment feature on the site; an app will allow contributors to create and upload stories.

Anyone interested in can register their interest here.

This article was originally published in Digital Journal [Link]

Review & Interview: Distant Witness by Andy Carvin

Apr 5, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

By Cate Kustanczy (Guest contributor/Digital Journalist)

NPR’s Andy Carvin is redefining how news is disseminated, distributed, shared, and consumed. His new book details how social media was used to report events in the Arab World in 2011, and more broadly, how technology is changing news reporting.

Carvin’s Twitter bio reads, “Senior strategist at NPR. Real-time informational DJ and occasional journalist, but not a social media guru.” He uses the platform to share news, views, and converse with his 90,000+ followers.

Lately Carvin’s feed has been peppered with news relating to his new bookDistant Witness: Social Media, The Arab Spring, And A Journalism Revolution (CUNY Journalism Press), which details the 2011 political uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, as well as the harrowing stories -online and in real life -around them. Told in a distinctly 21st century way, the Washington-based strategist weaves own direct experiences with those of many others, offering observations on the challenges of referencing and sourcing in the digital age.

“Am I a journalist or not?” he asks, half-hypothetically, half-serious. “Well, I commit acts of journalism, but I see myself as part of the blogger/maker/citizen-journalist cultures, someone who is creating things online because I think it’s in the public interest to do so, whether I’m employed to do it or not. I’ve been creating online content going back to 1994 and I’ve only been paid to do it in the last five or six years.”

Carvin regularly injects his tweets with tons of personality, something he was asked about during a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) last month:[...]my Twitter acct began as a personal one. My very first tweet was about eating pita and hummus – not exactly breaking news. Over the years, the account began to include more and more news-related tweets – and my followers seemed to like the mix. Also, I think it’s healthy to remind people that I’m not a bot – I’m just another guy on Twitter, hanging out with everyone else, trying to figure out what’s going on in the world.

In-person, Carvin is many things at once: jovial and contemplative, passionate and ponderous, confident and touchingly awkward. These apparent contradictions make him such a popular online figure; with so many responsibilities, his sizeable following, and his appetite for news, Carvin still manages to balance a family life (he’s a husband and father) and a passionate curiosity about people.

Over the course of our almost-two-hour conversation, he doesn’t take his mobile phone out once, reflecting both a respect for traditional conversation and a love of communication in all its guises. His ease with mixing the professional and the personal has fueled his online passion, that gives him such an impressive following, and, conversely, that has opened him up to some harsh criticism.

Last December, media critic Michael Wolff raked Carvin over the coals for the way he reported the Newtown shooting. Wolff characterized the Washington-based Carvin as “ a fevered spreader of misinformation” and scolded him as being “the empathy king.”

Furthermore, Wolff (who recently criticized newly-elected Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll for not using Twitter) sarcastically hinted at an underlying current of smugness in Carvin’s work:It is this self-righteousness, and claim of moral stature, that, more than the technology, may give him his leeway and license – and voice. By virtue of his immersion in social media, he identifies with suffering more than people who see the world through traditional media. Through social media, he shares the pain.

Carvin made a thorough, detailed response, addressing Wolff’s piece paragraph by paragraph, but isn’t quite sure the critic -and those who share his views -fully appreciate the role of social media in 21st century reporting.

“It’s why you can’t argue with him on it,” he says, referring to Wolff. “When people do critiques like that, if I feel the need to respond, I do, but then I’m done with the conversation because I know I’ll never be able to change their minds. There’s no point.”

Raised in Florida and exposed to technology at an early age, Carvin first used the internet to have conversations. “The first time I went online was in 1984 when I was twelve years old,” he recalls. “There were all these NASA geeks who set up these systems. A friend of mine… his dad had a small computer company and he’d let us borrow his equipment. It was great. The first thing I thought (the internet) would be useful for was talking to people, because that’s all I used it for!”

After graduating from Northwestern University in 1994 with a Master’s degree in Telecom Science, Carvin was a recipient of the Annenberg/Washington Post-Graduate Fellowship, and worked for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; he went on to the Benton Foundation and later, the Digital Divide Network, before joining NPR in 2006.

It’s this sense of community that fuels much of the subtext inDistant Witness; the author was quick to point out in a recent interview that he doesn’t think the political upheavals were solely owing to the use of social media:What bothers me are sweeping generalizations that the Arab revolutions were social media revolutions. Yes, social media like Twitter and Facebook played a role — and what role they played always seems to be a matter of debate. But I don’t know many people who were involved in these revolutions who would describe them as such … real human beings had to march in the streets, protest against their governments and, in some cases, die for their cause. I don’t think their family members would consider their sacrifices part of social media revolutions.

It’s this human side that his followers appreciate, a side that mixes equally, again, in Distant Witness. The book has garnered no “lukewarm reactions. You either love it or hate it.”

A big part of the criticism as he sees it, stems from an out-moded mindset in journalism -what it is, how it should be done, and how it should be consumed. “People see the way journalism was produced in black and white: you do it this way but not that way. And people assume that since I’m doing it the one way, I must disapprove of the other. If that were true I wouldn’t work at NPR.”

What’s notable about Carvin’s feed is how, despite his huge following, he still manages to chat with followers while sharing pieces of information and news. That’s because “Twitter’s natural state of being is conversational. I don’t see [it] as a publishing tool – it’s a conversational tool. If all you do is publish-publish-publish, and you don’t LISTEN… the best thing you can do on Twitter is listen; that goes for all social media.”

The reporting of the Newtown shooting was difficult not only because of the high emotions, but because there was, as he puts it, so much “bad information flying around” last December 14th. The contradictions in reports made for a confusing, if not deeply unsettling, experience.

“Breaking news is messy,” Carvin explains. “So if I’m going to be trying to give a breaking news story, I want people to experience the messiness [...] like when CBS claimed one thing, CNN another. I tweet them one after the other so people can experience the contradiction.”

Broadcasting has a history of reporting things that aren’t confirmed, he notes. “You have reporters and anchors saying, “We have reports this is happening but we have not confirmed it…” So if we can do that on-air, why can’t we do that on other platforms, especially when those platforms offer instant feedback?”

The misinformation that spread during the Newtown shooting symbolizes the way the news industry has changed, he says. “Forty years ago -or more recently than that -rumors would be passed around by people talking on the phone or meeting in-person,” he explains. “Now rumors have platforms of people with hundreds of thousands of followers. The rumors become more prevalent than the facts. If our job isn’t to investigate and debunk rumors, what are we doing in this business?”

Traditional forms of journalism -print, TV, radio -don’t have what Carvin terms “a monopoly on debunking anymore. They don’t have a monopoly on controlling flow of information either. We need to navigate these waters of new dynamics, one we’re not used to, that make us very uncomfortable. If we’re going to do the public-interest aspects of our jobs, then it means publicly discussing things we’re skeptical about.”

Carvin expresses that skepticism, along with generous dollops of hope, throughout Distant Witness. Nowhere are those twin qualities better expressed than in the chapter, “Outing A Gay Girl in Damascus”, which highlights the search for the mysterious Syrian-American blogger Amina Abdallah Arraf in 2011.

“Ultimately I think the reason that story became a story was the initial reporting failures by several news organizations that did interviews with her, at least one of which implied the interview happened in person,” Carvin says. “The media was fooled… obviously rumors get spread by everyone, but there are times social media can correct mistakes by mainstream media.”

It’s with a similar sense of curiosity and drama that Carvin presents the story of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was injured in a 2011 attack on his residence. A photo of the injured leader circulated on the internet shortly thereafter; Carvin wasn’t so sure about its authenticity.“

As soon as I saw it, it felt wrong on so many levels,” he recalls. “I was pretty sure it was fake but the fact I was seeing it on regional websites meant that in a matter of time it might be used in news sources elsewhere.” Carvin posted the photo for his Twitter followers to analyze.

“They attacked it like piranhas,” he recalls, smiling. “I loved how it wasn’t just a matter of, “Oh look at the crop marks and problems with the shadows!” They found at least twenty different things wrong with it, including things I wouldn’t have found. There was a trauma nurse talking about it, noting the oxygen clipped to his nose was clearly not going into his nose; others spotted a second ear.”

His job, as he sees it, is to expose how the journo-sausage is made. “I am basically a transparent newsroom… perhaps the most important role I’m playing is expanding media literacy.”

Perhaps, I suggest, you’re doing shredding, but in reverse. “That’s a good way of describing it!” He thinks for a moment. “I hadn’t thought of that analogy, but yes, the job of a journalist is to be a reverse shredder. When people see what I’m doing on Twitter, that is the output of my process… they’re not going to see everything else going on. I’ve heard critics saying , ‘Well why doesn’t he just pick up a phone?’ Why are they assuming I don’t do that too? Skype is always open!

For somebody who doesn’t consider my work journalism, I don’t care. I’m not going to lose sleep over it because what I feel like I’m doing is, I am using certain platforms to tell stories, weave facts together as best I can and debunk rumors In the process and capture emotions of what people are experiencing. If people want to label that something else, let them argue over it.”

This article originally appeared in Digital Journal [Link]

Why good news is shared more than bad news

Mar 27, 2013   //   by admin   //   Media blog  //  8 Comments

by David Silverberg

Which will go viral – a news article on an intriguing Mars discovery or one on a divorce between two actors? Some might think celebrity news will be shared by readers more often than the space report, but it’s the opposite, says author Jonah Berger.

When we care, we share. That’s how Berger summarizes his analysis of news articles and their shareabability in his new book Contagious: Why Thinks Catch On. The social psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania provides conclusive evidence that positive awe-inspiring news is more likely to be shared than negative news, no matter the category.

A story with emotion will compel a reader to share it with friends, Berger says in an interview. “And my research found the main driver to emotional sharing is arousal. It gets our heart beating quicker. It makes us excited…and want to tell our friends about how we’re feeling.”

For example, emotional stories can be about newcomers falling in love in NYC, Berger says, or they can focus on a new discovery in the Milky Way. How are they linked? Arousal. Awe. Both make us stroke our chin and think “Oh, never thought of that before.”

On the other hand, a story about a celebrity doing something outrageous or an obit of a popular writer might not evoke that same emotion. Sure, we might feel some sadness reading that obit, but it won’t be a strong emotion if we don’t feel close to that individual.

To come to this conclusion, Berger and his colleague Katherine Milkman analyzed the “most e-mailed” list on the New York Times website for six months, controlling for factors like how much display an article received in different parts of the homepage.

One of their first ah-ha moments came when they noticed articles and columns in the Science section were much more likely to make the list than non-science articles. Science reports made readers wonder about the mysterious…and mystery gets us talking and sharing.

“The sequester news might be important but it doesn’t arouse us,” Berger explains. “But UFO news isn’t affecting our lives but it can be quite remarkable and get people sharing it.”

In his book, Berger cites the Susan Boyle example. When the Britain’s Got Talent underdog took the stage and began singing her breath-taking song, “it was not only moving, it’s awe-inspiring. And that emotion drove people to pass it on.” We love the unexpected, and we think others should be in the same state of awe as we are.

But not just any strong emotion boosts sharing. Happiness or contentment didn’t encourage others to share articles, Berger found. A positive review of a Broadway play may evoke happiness in the reader, but it wasn’t interesting enough to be shared. Feeling relaxed or content may make us smile, but it doesn’t speed up our heart rate. It doesn’t evoke strong emotions.

Anger, though, can be a strong motivation to share a news article. Anger is high-arousal and gets us sharing our feelings with friends and family. Ever had a terrible experience with your cellphone provider? Didn’t you want to share your experience with others? When we get angry, we are aroused; when we’re aroused, we want the world to hear us through our online megaphone.

Berger found adding more arousal to a story can have a major impact on people’s willingness to share it. When his team changed details of a story to evoke more anger, that fury lead to more sharing. “Adding these emotions boosted transmission by boosting the amount of arousal the story…evoked,” he writes in Contagious.

Predicting buzz has scientific roots. This New York Times article looked at a particular brain region associated with social cognition — thoughts about other people.

“If those regions lighted up when something was heard, people were more likely to talk about the idea enthusiastically, and the idea would keep spreading,” the article found.

“You’d expect people to be most enthusiastic and opinionated and successful in spreading ideas that they themselves are excited about,” says Dr. Emily Falk, who led research on this topic. “But our research suggests that’s not the whole story. Thinking about what appeals to others may be even more important.”

This article was originally published in Digital Journal [Link]

Future of Media 2013 recap: Branded content wooing brands, media

Mar 15, 2013   //   by admin   //   Blog, Media blog  //  10 Comments

Branded content, or content marketing, could save journalism from its financial precipice while also giving brands a 24/7 strategy to entice new fans, the audience heard at the recent Future of Media event in Toronto’s Drake Hotel.

Digital Journal hosted an insightful panel discussion on the role of branded content both in journalism and the brand communities. Taking place March 14 at Toronto’s Drake Hotel, the Future of Media talk invited respected speakers to offer their perspective on a topic on the tips of many tongues.Speakers included: Josh Sternberg, reporter at digital media news outlet Digiday; Steve Ladurantaye, media reporter at the Globe & Mail; Joseph Barbieri, former VP Content Solutions at TC Transcontinental and on the board of directors for the Custom Content Council in New York City; and Sabaa Quao, Chief Marketing Officer of Digital Journal Inc. and co-founder of /newsrooms.

The theme of the night looked at branded content’s increased visibility while also touching on the challenges news outlets and brands face when adopting a content marketing strategy.Hosted by Digital Journal editor-in-chief David Silverberg, the event began with a broad question on how branded content should be positioned in today’s branded marketplace. Ladurantaye quickly said it’s not a matter of if brands and media should adopt branded content but to what extent. “Brands are producing content at the speed of digital,” Sternberg also noted.

The conversation quickly turned to the controversy over The Atlantic giving the Church of Scientology a branded piece of content. Sternberg said the client’s polarizing nature may have raised the ire of readers, but he stressed the content was clearly marked as sponsored, so why the big deal?

Branded content is an essential revenue stream to fund the rest of journalism,” Ladurantaye added.

So who’s doing it right, the panel was asked? Quao said, “Brands and ad agencies aren’t built to create custom content efficiently or effectively,” but pointed out how Red Bull is winning acclaim for their content marketing work. He liked the Red Bull Stratos project, a space diving event involving Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner. “At this point Red Bull is a media company, they produce so much content,” Quao added.

“It’s not exactly media, but Rogers has a relationship with L’Oreal. Very seamless and profitable,” Ladurantaye said.

A veteran in the content marketing space, Barbieri said brands don’t need to try to be media. “They just need to borrow the talents and skill sets journalists have,” he added.Next the panel discussed the positioning of user-generated content in branded stories, and Quao said, “It’s free and random, but it’s mostly bad.”

Sternberg agreed, saying the cream will always rise to the top, and curation by skilled editors is still needed to find the right content from ambassadors and users.

Quality work comes from professionals, the panelists stressed.

Next the issue of journalists finding work in branded content businesses became a hot topic, with Ladurantaye saying if he were out of a job tomorrow, he would write for a company in a second. He got laughs but was he joking?

Ladurantaye then added, “Working for a brand isn’t being a journalist: it’s just using journalistic skills. It’s PR.”

Quao countered by saying what Ford creates on its site could be considered journalism since it’s offering value to readers. Sternberg expressed some disbelief, saying, “Would you really go to that source when all they write about is Ford cars?”

“Producing branded content isn’t out of the question for journalists. But don’t call it journalism,” Ladurantaye argued. “Brands respect the audience as human beings, said Barbieri. “They see opportunity to use the skills journalists have.”

Quao agreed by saying the flexibility and nimble nature of newsrooms gives brands some inspiration to emulate. Sternberg wasn’t agreeing, saying brands and news outlet are two distinct entities who shouldn’t learn from each other.

Ladurantaye voiced concern that brands would be confusing the issue by giving journalism free reign in their content marketing spaces, instead of calling it like it is: PR with a fancy name. “Journalism is about balance, getting two sides of a story and this branded content stuff is nothing like that.”

Follow the money, Sternberg added to this point. Who is paying for what? Who has control over a writer’s stories?

So what can brands learn from news media? Quao said, “Look at how news breaks, how stories form…things can often be messy but that’s OK.”

But real-time coverage exposes serious risks, Ladurantaye said. In the Red Bull space-diving example, what if Felix’s face had melted during that jump?

Brands are not held to the same standard as correcting mistakes as media outlets have been, Sternberg said. Discussing how businesses can stand out in a busy content marketplace, Barbieri said, “It’s not just about selling something. It’s about engagement, discussion, brand reputation.”

Brand that invest in people, process and quality will succeed. That was the overarching message from this topic, the audience heard.

he panel then agreed brands and publishers were slow to shift resources and effective branded content to mobile, despite social media giants recognizing the value of that space. Sternberg said Facebook makes $4 million a day off mobile advertising.

Quao and Sternberg agreed design isn’t getting enough attention by companies engaged in this field. Sternberg predicted design upgrades will be a key priority for forward-thinking businesses.

The Future of Media event ended with resounding applause, but don’t take our word for it. Check out the tweets below to see what attendees were saying about the discussion: