Category Archives: Education

THE LITTLE TORONTO NEWS SITE THAT COULD – MEET PUBLISHER KJ MULLINS OF NEWZ4U.NET

About 18 months ago, I was introduced to one of Toronto’s unsung heroes, a woman who launched a news site that champions the underdog stories and gives a voice to those causes and issues that don’t get much exposure in mainstream media due to their lack of media “sexiness” or mass appeal. These are the stories that confront day-to-day life and issues in the naked city.  KJ Mullins is passionate about Toronto and her neighbours, and publishes her daily NEWZ4U.NET e-newspaper with the help of talented reporters and photographers dedicated to bringing the real news to you without corporate or advertiser “filters” and without fluff or filler content.

I recently sat down with KJ and asked her to tell us all about NEWZ4U.net and what prompted her to create the site.

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Tell us a little about KJ Mullins – what is your personal journalism/business background?
KJ: I started out in college on the journalism track but went to drama/psy instead. Ten years ago after other jobs and being a stay at home mom, I got the writing bug again and this time went full steam.  One of the first articles I wrote back in college helped to bring forth positive changes for disabled students rather quickly, and seeing that I could make a difference was really powerful.

KJ MullinsWhen was your website first launched?
KJ: I launched NEWZ4U.NET on May 12, 2010.

What first inspired you to create Newz4U & what news niche wasn’t being fulfilled by the national newspapers?
KJ: I wanted to get my voice out there and the voices of others who may not fit into the mainstream model. Social issues like homelessness, poverty, LGBT issues and the arts are often overlooked in the mainstream because if it’s not a ‘front and centre’ story it isn’t sexy. The same is true with stories on the city’s front line responders – in mainstream media the motto of if it bleeds it leads also means that stories about good works aren’t covered. It’s rare to find articles about the various Kops and Kids programs that do curb youth violence.

homeless porter_002 DSCF8097How did you source your first news items?
KJ: We have always sourced our news items in the same way; with on the scene and through interviewing with fact checking. We also use reliable newswires for additional coverage. 

What sort of feedback did you receive from readers once the first few editions were e-published?
KJ: Knock on wood, from the beginning we’ve had positive feedback. For the readers who had personal issues in the city like a pot hole appearing and reappearing at their Toronto Community Housing building which we helped to bring positive results, the feedback was extremely positive.

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DSCF0879Who are your readers and how do you reach them?
KJ: Our readers are mostly from Toronto and are generally 25+, evenly mixed between genders. Most have university educations and many are movers and shakers. They are interested in social change and the arts.

DSCF3761As a web-based news source, what sort of reach does Newz4U enjoy?
KJ: In 2014 we had over 449K readers who read over 2.4 million articles. We average 31K monthly readers going through 146K articles.

What stories do you look for?
KJ: We are always looking for new stories about social issues. Fresh produce in the city, and childhood hunger is a current issue we are tackling hard. In Canada’s largest business city it is mind-blowing how many go to bed hungry every night or haven’t got a bed to sleep in. We’ve covered Pride and the Caribbean Festival for several years, looking into the areas that aren’t touched by mainstream.

DSCF2517The arts are also a strong interest for us. We cover as many events, big and small, as possible. Right now we are working on the RBC Taylor Prize and the Lionel Gelber Prize, both covering Canadian non-fiction literature. Each shortlisted book is read and reviewed prior to the prize announcements. It’s a lot of work but promoting our Canadian authors is very important. These men and women are putting forth some amazing work. Photography, fine arts and music are also a prime focus. We hope to be at the Junos this year with one of our newest writers whose focus is music.

DSCF8833 DSCF6408We will also be covering sports at the Pan Am Games. Our sports photographer, Hugh McClean, has been covering soccer and rugby in the past year, two sports that get very little coverage in the city.

?????????????????????Do you offer sponsored pages or ad space and if so, what is the range of $s?
KJ: This is a hard one for us but yes we do have ad space. Ads run from $25 to $150 a month depending on placement. We have plans to change up our layout in mid-March/early-April that will allow for pages to be sponsored as well. Prices for this are still in the works.

We also have a sponsorship program which gives ‘free’ ad space for Toronto small businesses. Our Angel sponsors keep us going and growing.

NEWZ4U.NET gives back to the community by offering local grassroots and small charities space for promoting themselves and their events for FREE.

How do people reach you for editorial coverage and/or advertising?
KJ: We are always available via email at editor@newz4u.net. We respond within 24 hours Monday-Friday. You can always get in touch with me personally on Twitter @kjjournalist.

20141018_143931Above photo: G.J. Fordham

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Monday Walkabout in Ottawa, Canada

The Canadian Comedy Awards week is done and dusted…whew! My PR colleague, Jennifer, and I survived the organized chaos of a major awards show and finally got to play tourist in Ottawa for 2 hrs before leaving for our train back to Toronto. Here’s our quickie trip around the historical parliament buildings and various points of interest…some I covered solo in my previous blog. So much more fun with a friend and some sunshine, yes? Jenn took a quick pick of the big Catholic church opposite the National Art Gallery – the silver covered spires sparkled in the sunshine.

20140915_123644We then took a hike up and around “Champlain Point” which offered stunning vistas across to Quebec and all across the city and hills.

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20140915_124457 20140915_124537 20140915_124613 20140915_124646 20140915_125041(0)I was careful to tell Jenn (above) not to back up too far as the cliff was right there….aaaaaaargh!  Then Jenn got me to do my best impression of Ottawa’s hostess with the mostest! Ladies and gentlemen, may I present….the capital

20140915_125119So much beautiful green space and flower gardens…we snapped away at everything and anything

20140915_125746 20140915_125752 20140915_125905 20140915_125947 20140915_130121Jenn got into the statues and helped a family with their group shot!

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We circled the fabulous Hogwarts-style Chateau Laurier hotel (below) with all its fancy-schmancy architecture & walkways along the Rideau Canal.

20140915_13081120140915_130858 20140915_130928 20140915_130937 20140915_131052 20140915_131210Then it was back to the hotel to pack out suitcases and head to the train station. Thanks to Kathleen from Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa who graciously offered to drive us and a couple of other comedy guests….

20140915_131249 20140915_142228 20140915_142237…and we finally made it. Poor Jennifer looks tired but happy it’s all over, and I felt exactly the same (hope you appreciate my lack of a selfie here as I looked pretty scary with no make-up, no sleep and no energy).

20140915_145500 20140915_145512 20140915_151050Toronto, here we come……oh, oh, look…. horsies!

20140915_152631The little kid in me made a surprise visit…haa! I also saw a cheeky groundhog and a big white-tailed deer dart away from the tracks – I watched her disappear into the brush alongside the rails – too quick to snap a photo. How wonderful.  Am now home and ready for a nice cuppa tea and the comfort of my own bed. Thank you for such a warm welcome, Ottawa. I’ll be back soon.

 

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A Visit to Westmount Galleries, Toronto – what stunning artwork!

I recently spent a delightful couple of hours enjoying the fine art exhibited at WESTMOUNT GALLERY in the west end of Toronto.  What a stunning display of Canadian and int’l artists who work in various mediums, and I found so many that I truly loved, I need to start buying lottery tickets to feed my new addiction.   Here are some examples of my favourite pieces….

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I adore this charming barnyard portrait of a blue rooster titled “Chickenizer” by Tim Hough

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and these lovely miniatures of Victorian English seaside working ponies…

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Speaking of horses, I found a few equine masterworks by award-winning artist (and client) Bruce K. Lawes including this stunning portrait of racing’s legendary mare, Zenyata (bottom).  www.bklawesart.com

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I also happen to love moo cows, too. Whenever I visit the country, I can usually call up the cows from far across fields and meadows…it’s a cool talent I have, calling cows!  This lovely lady (below) definitely needs to come home with me so I’m calling her now as I sit and type this story. Here cow cow cow……

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There were some lovely seascapes by Robert Amirault that I sat and stared at for some time…I could almost hear the waves crashing on the shore.

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There truly is something for every taste and bank account at Westmount Gallery and I was particularly thrilled to see a lovely landscape by one of my newest fave artists, Anthony Batten. His Newfoundland cottages are at the bottom of this set of photos….what do you think? Wouldn’t you just love to visit this down east fishing village?

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The charming and knowledge gallery President is Judy Smith who presides over this “Disneyland” for art enthusiasts. She kindly posed for me in her office surrounded by some amazing paintings and sculptures. The woodland scene with deer takes up the entire wall to the left of her desk…it was so big, I could’t snap the whole thing. What a lovely view from her desk chair.

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When you enter the gallery, you’re met by a giant bronze heron …

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…and when I was leaving by the side door, I noticed these delightful small originals of Toronto cityscapes.

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Thank you to Judy, her husband Murray and the friendly gallery staff who made me feel so welcome. http://www.westmountgallery.com

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Come up and see us sometime!

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INCENTIVE WORKS TRADESHOW FOR MEETINGS/EVENT INDUSTRY A WINNER!

Each year in August, I attend the Incentiveworks conference and trade show in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where I get to meet up with old friends in the meetings and events industry, make some new biz connections and check out new opportunities to explore.  This year, I took Jennifer Murray, an Events/Mkt’g/PR student going into her last year at Humber College’s program and she had a blast! Sometimes it’s good to see things you take for granted through a newbie’s eyes. Big thanks and congrats to organizer Robin Paisley and her team for another great year at Incentiveworks.

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One of the first booths was Berber Lounge (pictured above) where they set up the giant (and very comfortable) booth similar to their venue located at Front St East, Toronto. Lots of yummy taste treats but where were the belly dancers? I needed to wiggle off a few pounds..LOL

Jennifer and I loved meeting the men of Cheesewerks – Toronto’s premiere big cheeses!  We spent a long time tasting their apple & cheese samples – .in fact, we were little piggies. Yum yum yum  www.Cheesewerks.com

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Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery of Niagara made a beautiful statement with their rustic booth (below) …loved the decor. http://www.ravinevineyard.com/

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Then we moved down the aisles and had a little chocolate-money fun at the Caesars Windsor booth. They know how to spoil trade show visitors!

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Jenn and I had our pictures taken with a big furry friend at the Arctic Kingdom Marine Expeditions booth. Grrrrrr. The polar bear (made of borg, not real fur) was so cute and cuddly, Jennifer near fell on top of him as he tumbled over after she hugged him a bit too much!! Think it was all the sparkly stuff we had at Caesars…LOL

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We were thrilled to meet up with the reps from the host hotels for the upcoming Canadian Comedy Awards in Ottawa. Patrick from Les Suites and Melanie from the Courtyard Marriott posed with Jennifer (below)  www.les-suites.com  www.marriottcourtyardottawa.com

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I always love visiting the various Maritimes booths (the reps are always so damned friendly) and this year, I took Jennifer to Pr. Edward Island where she showed her prowess with a putter! She shoots…she scored! Me, too…and we ended up with a handfull of black and blue ball markers. Sounds rude but if you’re a golfer, you’ll know what they are…and I have a bunch of ’em, if anyone wants them!

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After all the drinkies, it was time for a visit to the loo and one of the service companies, Star Meetings, had decorated the ladies room….I couldn’t resist snapping these loo pics!

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Back on the trail looking for cool booths, we then found Universal Links who had a “special guest” in their booth….LOL! Stick your head thru Rob Ford’s tummy and snap a pic. I just couldn’t stoop that low – literally – my back was hurting!

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Loved these cute rubber duckies we found at the Calgary booth…one now sits proudly on the side of my own tub.

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We met these super friendly ladies who told us all about the Metropolitan Hotel – we noticed they had colour-coordinated their wardrobes to match the booth. Apparently, they said, it was a happy accident. Love the fresh flowers.

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Jennifer entered a cool contest to win a flight, courtesy of Porter Airlines. Good luck, Jenn, you gotta take me with you if you win.

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And then I introduced Jennifer to the rep for CanSPEP, an organization for professional meetings and events people. They offer valuable information and networking opps for new graduates such as Jenn as well as industry pro’s such as myself. www.canspep.ca

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Another sponsor for the Canadian Comedy Awards was also there, VIA RAIL, so we got to try out their comfy seats. Hope our trip up to Ottawa is just as nice as this.

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Sole Power Productions welcomed all the visitors to Incentiveworks with their groovy music and delightful skating dancers. They played all afternoon and kept everyone energized and happy. The best entertainment on the trade show floor!  www.solepowerproductions.com

20140820_124053So if you’re in the Meetings & Events industry or planning to enter this business, I strongly recommend you sign up for the educational workshops & seminars or the FREE trade show next year. Watch for dates and news here: http://http://www.incentiveworksshow.com/show-info/

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NURTURE YOUR CREATIVE “INNER ARTIST” @ IDEA FACTORY SERIES.

I had the pleasure of meeting young Toronto-based artist LORETTE C. LUZAJIC at this summer’s Toronto Outdoor Art Show and she so impressed me with her energy and bubbly, welcoming personality.  Lorette is no stereotypical angst-ridden artist who needs pain to create…this girl is FUN!  When she told me about her innovative (and super cool) workshops, I knew I had to share the news with you and encourage any Toronto art lovers to join in.  So here’s the scoop…..

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Have you  always wanted to get your hands dirty in an artist’s studio but didn’t know where to begin?  Or maybe you love art and want to get more from galleries and openings? Perhaps you’d like to know more and develop confidence to talk about art with others – to ask questions and respond to artwork?  Well, here’s the perfect opportunity to develop your own artistic skills:  join artist LORETTE C. LUZAJIC in her workshop and discover the benefits of participation and creativity. Lorette has two fun workshops in September: Wine and Art and Art for People Who Can’t Draw.

DSC02209 Lorette at work OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith her Idea Factory series, you will engage your creative side in comfortable, informal and intimate group workshops. The special two-tiered class model is uniquely designed to remove pressures and expenses of longer-term course commitments, while providing more benefit than traditional workshops through the chance to review, reflect and return. Participants gather to learn and play, then reconvene a week later. Each workshop consists of two x three hour “play dates” one week apart.
studio with wine If you want to develop your creative side and learn more about art, you’ll be empowered to dive in, explore, experiment and expand. You will leave your inhibitions, limitations and intimidations at home and participate for the sheer joy of creativity.

Visit http://www.ideafountain.ca/workshops.html for more information.

Lorette

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DEGRASSI STAR RELEASES UPLIFTING POP SINGLE ON iTUNES & YOUTUBE

CEILING, music and lyrics by Sarah Fisher, Derek Hoffman and David Fischer

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http://youtu.be/TjJOfRT2LcI

Shot in numerous locations across Toronto, including Bayview Glen School, the video shows how everyone can push through the ceiling and be whoever they want to be in life, and if you want something badly enough, it’s worth working hard for. This philosophy has guided Sarah in her own life, and wanting to share this with others, Sarah was inspired to write this song with music industry pro’s Derek Hoffman and David Fischer.

In the video, the youngsters (students from Bayview Glen) show that you can achieve your dreams and goals when you truly believe in yourself, no matter how young (or old) you are. You can be a skater, a gymnast, you can be a musician, even a great cook…and if you work hard at relationships, those, too, can be successful and happy throughout your life. It reinforces self-respect and kindness, attributes that are rarely incorporated in today’s pop music videos.

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Featured in a very touching scene is an elderly serviceman reminiscing about his glory days in the military; that gentleman is, in fact, Sarah’s grandfather, Judge Hugh Foster, who fought in Normandy during WWII and landed on Juno beach where he lost a leg. When he returned from the war, he entered the legal profession eventually becoming a well-respected judge.

The skater is played by Carley Alison, an 18yr old cancer survivor who certainly pushed through the ceiling big time.  The little fairy princess girl is Sarah Kluge, and the cute-as-a-button dog is Gypsy, who belongs to Sarah’s sister, Kelly.

The inspirational video suggests all the images you see are simply pictures on a ceiling, and Sarah is seen in the closing scenes high atop a ladder putting up a heart.

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 Ceiling is available now on iTunes for just $0.99

If you’re in Toronto this Sunday (July 20) join Sarah at Yonge/Dundas Square for a live performance of Ceiling (approx.8:45pm) on the main stage of YOUTH DAY, a celebration of Canada’s young citizens. She will also be appearing at the Kids Help Phone booth between 5:30-6:30pm for autographs and photo opps (come take a selfie with Sarah). Sarah is the official spokesperson for KHP.

You can also see the Ceiling video at www.SarahFisher.ca & you can follower Sarah at http://www.Facebook.com/Sarah-Fisher

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ARTIST RETURNS TO GETTYSBURG TO PAINT HISTORIC BATTLE SCENES

Renowned artist BRUCE K. LAWES ( http://www.bklawesart.com ) created quite the stir last year when he set up his tent overlooking the Gettysburg battlefield site and painted all the cannons, cavalry charges and infantry skirmishes re-enacted by thousands of Civil War aficionados. 2013 was the 150th anniversary of the legendary battle and Bruce was so inspired that he decided to return again this year to paint another canvas, and just before he leaves Toronto for the July 4th Gettysburg observances, he shared a few thoughts about painting history:

You’re returning to Gettysburg after last year’s 150th anniversary painting trip….what has happened with the Pickett’s Charge painting since you left the battleground last year?
Well, as most people know that were there on the final day of the 150th year reenactment a powerful downpour happened pretty much as the battle of Pickett’s charge was coming to a conclusion. At this time I was at the edge of the battlefield getting a close vantage point of all the action, all the while the painting of Pickett’s Charge I had been working on during the weekend was on display at my tent. By the time I worked my way back to my battlefield studio the rain came down in sheets. Blowing almost horizontally the large painting in the works was like a big sail catching wind and rain to the point of total destruction. I knew there was no point in trying to save the painting so I would have to start again with a fresh outlook.

This year, what have you decided to paint?
As I had many requests for my ‘Pickett’s Charge’ painting while I was working on it last year I decided to start a new composition, entitled, ‘Pickett’s Charge, When Boys Became Men’. This new painting will be featured on this year’s commemorative poster, available to all the guests (see below)

Bruce Lawes- Pickett's Charge poster (Final) 3

Do you find you’re more inspired and energized by being there, watching the reenactments?
For an artist, experiencing any situation up close and personal will always help with the creative process as it puts you back there in the action allowing you to imagine the fear the panic and incredible resolve of these young men.

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As a “professional observer” of life, how do the park visitors impact your work or working process?
As most artists, including myself, usually work in total seclusion it was a bit unnerving having the 100’s of thousands of visitors watching my progress throughout the weekend, coming back several times to see how much more of the painting was completed. I must say though, like at my studio back home I often would go into a zone and would block out all external influences until a young boy or girl would come up to me in amazement and ask me how I do that? This would bring me back to Earth and realize that being there on these hallowed grounds was a privilege and of great importance.

Are you asked any specific questions while you paint at the battlefield?
Besides the “how do you do that?” from  the young ones, most people seemed to be respectful of my concentration and my brother, Keith, who was acting as my manager would field most questions unless it was specific to my technique. I noticed a few up and coming artists would watch and even take notes as I was working which reminded me of when I first started and was absorbing everything I could from the masters of the day. I think a lot of people just do not know what to ask so they just like to watch.photo (1)

What inspired you most when you set up your easel and canvas for the first day?
Although I was exhausted from the preparation work leading up to the event and the 7 hour drive from home on only 2 hours sleep I think back and realize the dedication Americans have to their history to come and participate year after year was admirable. While setting up my easel, with the help of an enthusiastic young boy, I then realized at that point I could be starting something special that includes me in on their whole experience. It was that feeling of inclusion, while looking out over the historic battlefield of Gettysburg that gave me pause and the inspiration to be great.

The battle ground is known to be haunted by the ghosts of Union and Confederate soldiers – did you encounter any strange happenings last year while you were there for 4 days?
Although I was aware of the stories of the presence of the soldier’s spirits I never had direct conversations with any of them. I think the fact that I was there to honor them with my work they must have approved of my being there as I was never haunted to this day…

Do you “feel” the vibes of those who lost their lives there?
I guess to be successful in my work I must be channeling the essence from somewhere.…do we ever really know?

What artwork or posters will you be taking with you for sale at the park?  And is there a charitable component to these sales?
Last year’s poster, ‘Brothers in Arms’ (below) and my new release, ‘Pickett’s Charge, When Boys Became Men’ will both be available. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Gettysburg Association Committee who support the preservation and historical organizations they nominate.

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Any comments/observations about painting at Gettysburg you’d like to share?
The whole experience has allowed me to meet many new people and I’ve developed some great opportunities since last year, one of which is a painting I created of General Custer (see below) that was accepted in the exclusive Coeur d’Alene auction this July 26th in Reno, Nevada. http://www.cdaartauction.com/2014/Bruce Lawes- Custer Before the Storm (Coeur d'Alene copy signed in frame) Glenda's copyThinking of heading to Gettysburg next weekend? Check out all the events here: http://www.gettysburgreenactment.com/

 

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