It’s a Creative Communications tradition: the presentation and celebration of each second year student’s Independent Professional Project (IPP). Over the course of three days, each student has his or her ten minutes on stage to showcase their project in a dynamic and engaging way.
Friday March 9, 2012 I presented my IPP, “Media in the Military,” to fellow students, instructors and industry professionals at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. I was also honoured to present my work to those who’ve helped me throughout the past year.
On this page I’ve posted my introductory video followed by my speech. A tweet team was on hand for the event, so I included some of the messages sent out during my speech. The slideshow at the bottom features all the background images I used during the presentation. Enjoy!
The comforting thing about doing that ice dunk is my chance of drowning from panic is far greater than dying from hypothermia.
That experience proved what a wise journalism instructor once told me: Nothing beats being there.
Sure enough, that expression became the motto of my IPP.
Good morning ladies, gentlemen, colleagues and instructors; today I share with you the journey of my IPP, Media in the Military.
The video you just saw is only a brief glimpse into the time I spent working with the 38 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs Office.
Or 38 CBG PAO for short.
For more than a year I’ve been at their disposal, their little ball of communications energy.
The project brought together so many of the things I’ve learned from this program – how to design and lay out a publication, how to write articles, take pictures – I took the images you see behind me – and also how to create great stories for broadcast.
But most of all, how to move on when things don’t work out.
You see, ladies and gentlemen, while my IPP was always going to be about the military – I’m just really fascinated by the Canadian Forces – my original plan fell through the summer before second year.
It fell through right after I spent ten days at CFB Shilo with some colleagues of mine in this room, as an embedded journalist.
It was a huge exercise, with 1500 reserve soldiers from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of Ontario. I was also faced with a steep learning curve: understanding military ranks, figuring out acronyms and of course – getting used to the culture.
I’m a civvy girl – that means civilian. I truly stood out.
The experience left me wanting more – so when my original idea fell through, things changed – and I’m so happy it did.
I met with Lft. Donna Riguidel – whom I worked under in Shilo. I’d continue writing and producing stories published by the public affairs office, completely re-design and release their newsletter as a PDF, and potentially embed on more exercises.
A soldier told me recently that for the 10 percent of action you see in the field, the other 90 percent is waiting.
That’s really how we work as communicators– we plan, collect notes, draft for a while and then the magic happens, it comes together.
So before I could get the action shots you see behind me, I had to work – hard.
I was given four days to completely redesign the 38 CBG newsletter – a publication that goes out to the soldiers and members of the Department of National Defence. I was told the deign needed to be modern and sexy – but not too sexy, it is the military.
And there’s something intimidating about having a colonel as a client – messing up really isn’t an option.
So I kept things simple and neat, and the re-design of the Brigade was successful. The first newsletter was 19 pages, the second 30. The great thing about it being an electronic copy, is that I was able to play with adding colour images and adding design elements without worry of a budget.
Also, with the money we saved by not printing them, the 38 CBG wants me to design and layout a colour yearbook for the soldiers featuring imagery from the past year.
While my main role in the newsletter was layout and design, I was able to go out and cover a variety of stories taking me all over the city and even to Winkler Manitoba.
It was during this time, I found out I’d be spending my spring break – north of sixty, for Exercise ARCTIC RAM.
It’s one thing to cover a story on the military, but it’s a whole other thing to do so “in” the military.
Exercise ARCTIC RAM was a large training operation involving more than 1500 soldiers from across Canada in cold weather operations with one crazy embed.
I didn’t go in blind – the arctic definitely isn’t the place to try things out for the first time.
I knew I’d be embedding with the Arctic Response Company Group so I did work up training with the guys – the dunk tank was so we’d know what it feels like to fall into the ice, I did media training with some of the guys to help them speak with media, I met with a SAR TEC – Ernie Whelan – who not only leant me the best boots, but taught me so much about artic survival. And finally, I got acquainted with snowmobiles in Helca, Manitoba.
Throughout the training I was able to get some great broadcast opportunities out of the training, doing stories for Shaw TV Winnipeg and Army News. The email I received from Ottawa read, “great story for Army News – and who is Daniella Ponticelli?”
A lot of soldiers asked me the same questions – who are you? What are you doing? – wait, you volunteered for this?
It wasn’t until we were forced into each others lives for ten days, that I truly saw the soldiers; I saw them focused, tired, frustrated, happy – moody, joyful, hungry, chatty – silent.
I was with the same soldiers for ten days and they spoke to me without too many abbreviations and jargon. They laughed and shared jokes only those in the military would really understand.
The guys I was with, who appear in the slideshow quite often, quickly became my family. We ate rations together, got cold together, sang ridiculous songs together – and at the end, we all smelled funky together.
We were able to visit the people who live in the town of Gameti, and worked alongside the Canadian Rangers who treated me to rabbit, fish and caribou.
In so many ways I’m spoiled as a journalist, getting to see husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, best friends doing a job so few who are even related to them will ever see, honestly, or understand.
In the end, Exercise ARCTIC RAM was a success – the soldiers returned home safe, we were well received up north, and I got some great stories.
I’m proud to announce today that all my work from Exercise ARCTIC RAM and my IPP will be available at mediainthemilitary.wordpress.com. The blog was a surprise addition to my IPP, but one that allows you to see the project in its entirety.
I have to thank two great people who’ve worked with me whole heartedly on this – Lft Donna Riguidel and Captain Ray Taylor. They’re here today and that means so much to me, thank you for your patience and understanding – Lt Donna Riguidel; without you I wouldn’t be here sharing this experience, thank you for believing in this project.
Captain Ray Taylor, commander of the ARCG, we met on the first day of this project and you’ve always been excited about having me be a part of this. Thank you for keeping me alive when I was half frozen the very first day of the exercise. Also, my sincere gratitude to the entire 38 CBG Public Affairs team for trusting me on this project.
To my mom, happy birthday – your gift is I won’t sign another waiver… until the end of the month.
And to my dad for being a big supporter of my trip up north, which is not a cheap endeavor.
Thank you to all the soldiers who did their job so passionately, and kept me safe so I could do mine.
And to Duncan McMonagle, my advisor who refused to make it easy and just tell me what to do – and who’s always been enthusiastic about this project, even when I was worried about it.
I leave you now with an answer I received from a soldier. I asked him why he was so excited to go on deployment.
“It’s what we’re trained to do, it’s our job – you wouldn’t want to be a student journalist forever, right?”
So to my CreComm family, thank you. I can’t wait to see you on the battlefield.