Media, Darling: Jason Anderson

Jason Anderson is a film critic and columnist for The Grid (Eye Weekly before that). He also writes about movies regularly for the Toronto Star, Cinema Scope, Movie Entertainment and He won a Western Magazine Award in 2006 for his music columns for Swerve Magazine in Calgary, and is the author of Showbiz, a novel.

He teaches film criticism at the University of Toronto, programs for the Kingston Canadian Film Festival and plays keyboards in the Toronto band The Two Koreas. You can read his blog at


Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I always loved writing but discovered in my teen years that scribbling record reviews was a great way to get free music, too. I never really believed that there was a career in writing about whatever art works or cultural ephemera I was most (or least) enthusiastic about – after two decades or so, I still have a hard time believing it. If this all hadn’t transpired, I would have comfortably slid into a life in academia, which is why I’m happy the journalism has led to some opportunities to do some teaching at U of T.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

Hoping to continue to diversify my career with lots of other endeavours beyond journalism (e.g., teaching, programming for film festivals). I also hope to have found the time to crank out a second novel — hell, maybe a third, too.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?

Don’t put your eggs in any one basket, make sure to cover your bets and… damn, I can’t think of a third cliché. Anyway, my experience suggests that the wisest thing to do is have lots of projects on the go and not be precious about any of ‘em. You never know what’s going to pick up momentum – it could be your most seemingly practical idea or your looniest, most self-indulgent lark.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Still loyal to lots of print magazines, especially about film and music (e.g., The Wire, Mojo, Entertainment Weekly, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema Scope). The New Yorker and the Sunday NY Times, too. Like a lot of folks (young ones, too), I can’t read anything but the shortest items online so my existence is still cluttered with paper.

Best interview you’ve ever had?

I’ve had so many good interviews but I’m proudest when I have pleasant, lively conversations with subjects generally deemed to be impossible or downright nasty (two words: Lou Reed).

The worst of all time was an especially bored and sullen Jewel, who entertained herself in between her monosyllabic answers by lighting matches and flicking them into an ashtray in front of us. How charming!

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

Keep your head down and keep moving.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
See previous.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Please don’t be mad at me if I make an otherwise reasonable request that may deviate from your plans. I don’t mean to be difficult.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Too many positive ones to mention. Always impressed with the professionalism and friendliness of 99 per cent of the PR people I deal with in Toronto.

I hate?
Rudeness, small-mindedness, Maroon 5.

I love?
My wife and daughter, heavy metal, Stevie Wonder, racquet sports, Scandinavian movie comedies, dessert.

Lately: Simon Reynolds’ Retromania, Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, recent tomes on American horror movies in the ‘70s and Hollywood screenwriting.

Best place on earth?
Negril, Jamaica or my backyard.

Dinner guest?
Dr. John

John Berger

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Mostly fresh music.

Pool or ocean?

Voicemail or email?

Media, Darling: Karon Liu

Karon Liu is The Grid‘s (formerly Eye Weekly) resident food writer and he considers himself to be the luckiest guy in the world since his main task is to eat. Prior to The Grid, he has written for Toronto Life, National Post, Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun, and his photos have appeared in More, Zoomer, National Geographic Traveler and on

Can you spot Karon’s hand?
In addition to backpacking, stargazing and trying new foods, Karon also enjoys writing about himself in the third person.

What was your favourite class in high school? Why?
Photography class was my favourite because it broke up the monotony of staring at a textbook all day. It was the one class where I didn’t fall asleep. I learned how to develop my own film, manipulate photos without Photoshop and find my way around the darkroom when the red lightbulb would break. I also have many fond memories of hallucinating in an unventilated darkroom full of chemicals at 4 a.m.

How did you get your start as a writer?
After graduating with a journalism degree from Ryerson, I did a few internships and freelance gigs before becoming an editorial intern at Toronto Life magazine. They had just started a food blog called The Dish and I was pitching stories and taking every assignment that was handed to me. I didn’t know much about the restaurant industry at the time, so I had to do a lot of cramming. I continued to write for Toronto Life’s site for the next two years and then I moved on to The Grid, where I’m currently a staff writer.

If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
Hiking in the Himalayas and avoiding work of any kind.

Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?

We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?
Sending folders and packages full of press releases, CDs and USB keys. Writers and editors usually throw them out immediately, or keep the USB key and delete all the files in it. If I need additional information, I’ll ask.

Sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise when I’m on vacation, sunset for the rest of the year.


My sister’s chocolate chip recipe.

Chamomile. Add hot water, some honey and you’ve got a party.

Yes. It’s why I broke up with Oprah.

Shower or bath?
Moist towelette.
Tie between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park.

I prefer C-plus.

First job?
Working in the stockroom at The Gap in the Toronto Eaton Centre. I believe every teenager should work at least two years in the retail or food service industry to appreciate the value of a dollar and learn how to deal with jerks.

Books, coworkers, friends, newspapers, an afternoon stroll, pretty much anything can spark an idea for an article, photo spread or what I’m going to have for lunch.

Media, Darling: Edward Keenan

Edward Keenan is a Toronto writer who works as a senior editor of Eye Weekly (shortly to become The Grid), where he writes a weekly column about politics. He is also a contributing editor at Spacing magazine and a contributor to Yonge Street. He also contributed essays to two books in the Toronto Book Award-nominated uTOpia series from Coach House books.

Although he often writes about municipal politics, Keenan’s interests as a writer have been widespread: he has written frequently about the arts, sports, sex and sexuality, and business, and for a time he wrote a blog about manliness for The Walrus. A four-time National Magazine Award nominee, Keenan is a lifelong Toronto resident who has lived in Riverdale, Scarborough, The Annex, Harbord Village, Greektown and Bloorcourt Village. He has now settled down in The Junction, where he lives with his wife Rebecca and their two children.

What was your favourite class in high school? Why?
My favourite class in all of high school was a senior level history course called “Modern Western Civilizations.” I loved it for many reasons: because it was primarily a class about ideas, because it used a university-style seminar format that allowed for small-group discussion and debate, because there was a lot of reading and thinking involved and very little tedious memorization.

But what really made Mod WestCiv the best class I ever took at any level of schooling was the teacher: George Wrobel treated his students as peers, he was funny, a great storyteller, and many of his stories involved how he put himself through grad school in Cold-War Poland by trading US currency on the black market. He encouraged me to be a writer when no other teacher thought that was a good career path, and helped form my analytical approach to big essential questions. Plus, he gave me a grade of 100 per cent on a 22-page term paper once, which made me like him even more.

How did you get your start as an editor/producer/host?
I went to journalism school and had a false start early on as a trade magazine editor, but then wandered away into the restaurant business and fiction writing for a while. I really got the start that led me to my current career by interning at Eye Weekly and treating it as a chance to learn how to do every element of journalism and prove I was capable. I worked harder as an intern than I did for several years after that, and I suppose my efforts paid off: I got hired at the end of my term as a Staff Writer, which a little later led me into editing.

As a side note, I still consider myself primarily a writer, but I got into the editing side for two reasons. The obvious one is that editing tends to pay better. The less obvious one is that in magazines and especially in newspapers, editors are really the driving creative force behind the publication. Good writers provide the stuff a publication is made of, but editors are the ones who compose the way a reader experiences the publication – choosing the subjects, selecting the right writers to pair those subjects up with, arranging the mixture of stories and other items, working with the art department to manage how things feel on the page. Like a director in film, the editor uses the efforts of other talented people to build something greater out of them, crafting an experience for readers. That control-freak aspect appealed to me.

If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
What would I want to be doing, or what would I likely be doing? Either way, I’m not sure. I considered going into law at one point, but I’m not sure I’d have had the passion for contract parsing required to see it through. I also dipped my toe into entrepreneurship, and I may have pursued more small business ideas… I may still.

And then there’s my love-hate relationship with the prospect of going into politics, which comes up now and again. The thing I’ve most enjoyed as a side project is being a DJ – a couple friends and I had a pretty successful dance night at a local bar for a while. I have no turntable skills or anything, I just love composing a party. Pressing play on a song and having a packed dance floor jump up and down cheering is a powerful rush.

Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?
The truth is that you’re unlikely to hear back from me either way unless I’m interested in what you’re pitching (see: 200+ press releases by email PER DAY, in addition to the other 100 or so assorted bits of other business in my inbox). But email, please, unless it’s urgent and you feel lucky about the prospects of finding me at my desk.

We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?
Sending me three copies of the same release, assuming that a good cause is equal to a good story, feeling upset that I did not call or write back…

Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. Just because I’m actually awake when it happens most of the time.

Eau du Tobacco (for a few more weeks, at least, until I finally quit).

Why yes, please.

I like them, but I’m afraid I cannot be bothered to plant them or buy them (special occasions excepted) or take notice much of which is which. Orchid-looking interesting, brightly coloured ones are nice.

Not particularly. I think I got all tickled out as a kid.

Shower or bath?
Not sure anybody wants that mental picture conjured up. But: showers for cleaning, waking up, focusing; baths for relaxing and reading.

I have a few, but they’re the same as everyone else’s favourites: The Godfather and The Godfather II, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, Annie Hall, Pulp Fiction – off the beaten track slightly, Down By Law is probably my favourite of all time.

Orange, definitely. But I tend to prefer Root Beer.

First job?
Flyer delivery. The best week was when we delivered chicken soup samples rather than flyers. I wound up with a year’s supply of overstock that I used to make myself snacks after school every day.

I have a surplus of inspiration, and I don’t find it or the sources of it particularly remarkable (I’m inspired by almost everything and everyone – the world is fascinating and the people in it more so). What I have a shortage of is the time to see all my ideas and ambitions through. If anyone with a science background needs inspiration for a new invention: how about the 48-hour day?

Teacher’s Pet: Interning

Megan Kaczor is a Centennial College Corporate Communications and Public Relations graduate student preparing to start interning. 

Her question: Could you tell me more about the kind of work students will do during their internship at an agency? Will there be many opportunities for hands-on work, such as writing and planning, or will we be sticking to the basics at first?

Our answer: You can no longer be Saved by the Bell. It’s time to get out of the classroom and head to the office. You are set to report for intern duty Monday morning, but you aren’t too sure what to expect. Take a seat fellow intern, and keep reading.  An internship at a PR agency involves the basics, and then some. 

From time to time, you may be asked to make a coffee run before a big meeting or run an errand, but you may also be asked to write drafts of press releases, research and update media lists, monitor client media coverage, write blog posts or tweets, assist with press days and much more.

As an intern working events, you will gain experience working the door, organizing media check-ins and making valuable industry connections.

Meeting with clients is an important part of a publicist’s job. In such meetings, proposals, events, PR initiatives and results are discussed. Interns invited to sit on meetings should listen closely, and take note of client-relationship etiquette. If you aren’t invited, be sure to ask if you can sit in on meetings. PR is fast and the folks around you need to know what you’re interested in doing.

While the overall intern experience may be a ton of work, interns often benefit from a few cool perks. Here On The Fourth Floor, our interns have gone on photo shoots, modeled for television appearances, attended fashion and entertainment industry events, receive free tickets to films and concerts, and much more. 

Enjoy your internship and remember that every position, from intern to big boss, is important. Do your job with pride and remember that everybody above you has been there at one time, too.

Special Media, Darling post: Holidays

For the holiday season, we thought it would be fun to ask some of our previous Media, Darlings how they’ll be spending their holidays. Here are a few of the answers, we’ll post more next Thursday!
Nathalie Atkinson

 Nathalie and her sister.

What’s your favourite holiday tradition?

Personally, I love wrapping presents. I have a bit of a stationery and wrapping paper problem in that I amass a lot of the stuff, more than I can use. (Especially the individual printed paper sheets at DeSerres, when they go on sale.) I could be wrapping and wrapping and wrapping all year long – I find it really relaxing, sort of methodical and meditative. Slowing down and doing that is my favourite part of such a consumer season. I wrap everything that goes into every stocking, all my extended family’s presents to each other, but that’s still not enough, so now I even offer to do it for my friends and their gifts for other people. I’m not exactly Candy Spelling but our rec room is a temporary wrapping workshop right now. I should probably volunteer for the Salvation Army wrap station or something and get it out of my system.

Favourite store to receive a gift from?
In Toronto? My gourmand side says Good Egg in Kensington Market, hands down. There isn’t really anything in that store I don’t love. I cook a lot (see above) and for my birthday last week a very clever friend gave me a book called The Flavour Thesaurus from there; Mika has great taste and is a terrific buyer; I always find things I’ve never seen before, and her staff know their stuff and can help you find the perfect thing for everyone on your list. Whether they’re a foodster or not. It’s a whole lifestyle store.

In Texas? Anything from Specs, the humongous liquor store chain. I collect hard-to-find small batch bourbons and they have aisles of the stuff. It makes my sister’s Christmas gift to me very easy!

How will you spend your time off?
I’ll be in Texas. Baking, swimming, reading and browsing antique and vintage shops around Houston and Austin. It’s all about spending time with my whole family together, which I don’t get to do very often. My father travels overseas a lot and my sister lives in Texas, where my parents have a second home and my mother spends half her time, so we’re really only ever all together at Christmas. Our French heritage really dominates come the holidays and even my father, who’s from England and is therefore mad about all things Christmas in a different way, gets in on the French-Canadian traditions. He’s made the signature tourtières for years (along with his mince meat tarts and the Bûche de Noël), and my very favourite part of the holidays is the last couple of days leading up to Christmas, and in particular, Christmas Eve. 

 The delicious Bûche de Noël

My sister, mother, father and I are all in the kitchen cooking and preparing the snacks, the cookies, the sausage rolls and the meal all day long. The ovens basically run non-stop, the kitchen is as warm as a bakery, and my dad and I compare notes on the craft holiday beer we’re drinking as we cook. And we listen to our favourite Christmas album, which is Kenny and Dolly’s Once Upon a Christmas, over and over, singing along with abandon like goofy lunatics. It’s really fun.

What’s your favourite holiday tradition?

Growing up, my brother and I had a sleepover every Christmas Eve (sleeping bags and alternating our rooms each year). When we woke up Christmas morning we were allowed to go through our stockings but had to wait until our parents were up to touch the gifts under the tree. The excitement of it all always made me happy and it still stands out as a favourite tradition.

Favourite store to receive a gift from?
That’s a hard one! Indigo has a really amazing selection of stocking stuffers, stationery and home stuff (not to mention all of the books and mags) so I can’t say I’m ever disappointed with something from there.

How will you spend your time off?
I’m heading back to the East Coast to rest, recharge and catch up with friends from home. Halifax can be damp this time of year but there’s nowhere I’d rather be (and then back to Toronto in time to ring in the New Year).

What’s your favourite holiday tradition?
Two weeks before Christmas, buying a tree, setting it up, writing and addressing Christmas cards while watching Bill Murray in Scrooged. (Ed. note: a must-see. Go rent it if you’ve never watched it!).

What’s your favourite holiday tradition?
The nine adults in my family draw names and exchange stockings on Christmas morning. It’s kind of cheesy but doing a lot of small presents for one person is a good way to acknowledge who they are and what they like: specific books, cosmetics, silly stuff, notes, treats. I dig it.
Favourite store to receive a gift from?
Any used book store. I love getting books more than anything. Barring that, Holt Renfrew. 

How will you spend your time off?

I’ll be in suburban New Jersey and New York City at Christmas this year, so I’ll be chasing my nephews and nieces in the snow, and doing the classic Manhattan-at-Christmas stuff. 

Rockefeller Center

Media, Darling: Sarah Nicole Prickett

I’m 25, I was born in London, Ontario (ew), and I’m an unbalanced Libra. Also, I’m the style columnist for Eye Weekly, a regular contributor to FASHION Magazine and DazedDigital, and I’ve written for The Toronto Star, The National Post, Torontoist, Dossier Journal, Nico Magazine, and probably more.

Twitter: @xoxSNP

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
Say my name, first of all, and say it right. “Sara Nichole” is on vacation with limited access to email and will get back to you when she returns, in two-thousand-and-never. Little jokes go a long way; I’m a sucker for puns, especially in the subject line. Try asking how I’m doing. Above all, know what it is I write/blog/tweet about. It’s not difficult; I’m on the internet like red on M&Ms. I’m really rather “out there”. And yet! I get all these emails about vegan baby toys and ugly tech gadgetry and gross “VIP lounges” on King. Still, those are easy to ignore, so whatevs. 

It’s the pitches that are completely antithetical to my personal philosophies that make me want to throw things. Once, a beer company’s rep emailed me with a guide comparing the shapes of beer glasses to the shapes of womens’ bodies, then offered tips on how men should “help” women shop for bathing suits, with tips like “go for the most expensive one” and “don’t say anything, just grunt and whistle.” Would this be something I’d consider for Eye Weekly‘s (non-existent) swimsuit issue? My reply was the most sarcastic I’ve ever sent to a PR, and I’m not sorry.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?

Their obsessive communicative disorder. It never stops amazing me. Good PRs will always reply right away, even if they don’t have the answer. They’re always “working on it” and “getting images from the photographer this afternoon” and “thinking about which of our clients’ products would best fit your gift guide” and so on. They send reminder emails (without insinuating that I’ve forgotten, which… I usually have). They follow up. PRs are everything I’m not: organized, cheerful, on time, “with it.” I guess I could do my job without them, but I’d probably want to quit or throw myself under a streetcar.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?

Not having a personality. I get that fashion publicists have to wear all black, all the time, but do they have to be so colourless? It kills me to see them, and so many of them, always smiling and never laughing. I know you know when the product or client you’re repping is ridiculous; just wink and admit it. I won’t tell on you. I won’t quote you. But I will like you. Just give me anything at all to like. My favourite PRs are the ones who say, listen, you won’t be into this thing/place/person; don’t waste your time. Then, when they say I’ll be totally into something, I’m a thousand times more likely to believe it.
Your pet peeve:

Media, Darling: Kate Carraway

Kate Carraway is a senior writer at Eye Weekly and freelance life and culture writer, who has worked with Vice, Globe and Mail, LA Weekly, The Daily Beast, and, among others.
How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
To me, it seems so simple, and I really am curious as to why 90 per cent of the pitches I get are so far off-base, especially because everyone says this: even if I’m not that interested in an event, or product, or person, I will absolutely consider it for a story if the pitch takes into account what I do and what my publication does. Easy, right? But I guess not.
I don’t say that to be condescending: I really don’t know what that disconnect is all about. It seems like a tremendous waste of time, energy and opportunity for publicists to be blanketing — and in doing so, alienating — their contacts with a lot of random press releases and pitches when just a few pointed, personalized pitches would have better results. I instantly delete anything without my name on it, and anything longer than a few hundred words; I instantly read anything personal, short and specific about how I might use this information for my work at Eye or elsewhere. Just like I have to sell the reader on my writing, you have to sell me on your client. Use my ego, lack of time and need for constant, solid story ideas to do it.
In terms of Eye Weekly, I often get pitches for bands, films, arts stuff, some of which might work. But as the senior writer, my job is to write a monthly sex column, a weekly personal column and a daily blog, and do a certain amount of other coverage that gets handed down from the section and senior editors. A publicist would ideally know who the person is who assigns that coverage (it’s on the masthead), because in addition to those stories being their decision, not mine, those editors might already have a coverage plan for Band X, Film X, Play X or whatever. So, if a publicist has a specific writer in mind, the appropriate editor should be included in the email, and the pitch could say, “Dear ——-, I think you might like to cover X in your section; I think Kate would love it/them because from past stories I know she likes Band/Film/Play Y.” Then the editor and I would definitely talk about the pitch, and it would have a 1000% better chance of becoming a story.
If my name is spelled wrong, if it’s about something like menopause or an exhibit in Detroit or the release of a new limo company or municipal politics, that confirms that the publicist doesn’t know my work or my publication, and has possibly alienated me professionally. I don’t like attachments (I assure you I wont open an unsolicited attachment unless it’s a party invite with the word “Moët” involved), or press releases about something I can’t possibly use (don’t tell me you’re now representing Brand X unless you’re pitching me something specific on Brand X). Less, but better, is what I would love to get from pitches.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
I’ve had success just by contacting the PRs that handle stuff and people I already care about. It’s also helpful having a personal column with my face on it, because even if the PR doesn’t know that I might care about their client, they might know who I am if they (and they should!) read all the local publications.
What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Other than shitty pitches? Calling me, unless it’s necessary. Calling is the best if there’s a last-minute change of plans (I use a BlackBerry but it’s easier to miss one of 100 emails in a day than one of five phone calls) or an emergency. I will definitely resent a phone call that is about a press release I have not responded to. If it’s a really good pitch and I haven’t responded, email again, but with more details and more about how I’d use it, not just to ask if I got it. (I got it; I just wasn’t interested enough.) This happened today, actually, and the personalized reminder email was so nice and cool that I’m going to attend a thing I would have skipped if they’d called. Maybe this is not very generous to say, but, c’mon. We’re all too busy for that.
Also, sometimes my boss will forward me an email that is exactly up my alley, but that I wasn’t initially sent. I don’t expect anyone to just know that I am really into punk rock and luxury beauty products, for instance (if you are repping a book about these two things together, please send immediately) but it’s a missed opportunity to not be paying attention to what local writers and editors pay attention to, what the themes are in their coverage. I can identify the professional and personal interests of writers that I don’t know personally or follow closely, just having read a handful of their stories.
Oh, and assuming that I know who you are is a mistake. That is not an insult, it’s just that writers are like squirrely, bookish weirdos who don’t remember what day of the week it is and publicists are cuter and nicer and are better at that stuff. It’s important that you remind me in person or via email when we met or worked together last.
(For the record: the biggest mistake that I make, I think, is bad scheduling; I have to cancel on events and reschedule interviews more than I’d like because that is my dumb reality of writing and hustling full-time, and things come up. I had to email the PR for Vawk on Monday morning to cancel, because Monday was a batshit-crazy workday and I didn’t feel right leaving the office to see a fashion show. You know?)
My pet peeve
I am not into the politics or dishonesty that sometimes comes up in the relationship between writers and PRs. Recently I was uninvited to several parties after I wrote something negative about other, related events. That’s actually totally fine: I understand and am sympathetic to what a publicist does and has to explain to their clients. But, just tell me. “We can’t invite you because X” or “You’re in the local media, this is for national press only” or whatever is fine.
Or, telling me straight-up that you didn’t like something I wrote, instead of telling my best friend’s friend that I’m a bitch, is good. It’s just work, you know? And the process is collaborative between publicists, writers, editors and readers, especially now, with instant feedback and more transparency. We should work together to do all of this better. (Especially in Toronto: people who work in New York and L.A. tend to be more direct and specific about what they want and what they think, which is very good for everybody.)
I try to be as clear as possible about what I can and can’t provide; when people offer to send samples or an invite I have a stock response about how they can send whatever they want but I won’t guarantee or even suggest that I’ll cover it in return. As a reader I feel like I know when something is being covered because it’s convenient, not because it’s worthwhile, and I feel betrayed by that, so I won’t participate.
Also, I hate parties with cash bars. Is that bitchy?
Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
Since basically all of that was about the dark side of working with PR, I want to make a point of saying that I’m inspired by the 10 or 20 PR people I know who are very good at their jobs. They’re like the patient babysitters and writers are like the spoiled brats; I am always really impressed by how together and friendly and attentive publicists are with their clients and with media people. It’s awesome. I am also rarely pressured to provide specific or positive coverage; I think that all the PR people I communicate with regularly know what it is that I cover and how I cover it. And ultimately, we need each other to do our work and develop our businesses, so the more we understand each others’ needs, the better.