Category Archives: Lead Story

Caught in the headlines – how Canadian journalism failed MMIWG

Red Dress

The red dress is a symbol to remember and honour the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. These earrings were made by Bryson Syliboy. Photo courtesy Bryson Syliboy

One year on from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG),1  the world has changed but too much of Canadian journalism has not.

Even as news reports offered extensive coverage on the publication of the conclusions and recommendations, commentary focused on one word: genocide.

The response by major Canadian news outlets remains a source of shame and embarrassment, but it was not a surprise.

“The report on missing and murdered Indigenous women was searing and important, marred only by its inaccurate genocide charge” (Globe and Mail, June 4, 2019)

“’Genocide’ appropriation makes reconciliation harder” (National Post, June 11, 2019)

My personal belief is journalism means reporting, not commentary. A particular problem last year was editorials and commentaries. They weren’t needed and were at the expense of critical reporting of the inquiry’s findings.

“Critical” doesn’t mean criticising the inquiry’s very existence. There are countless questions we could have asked before about racism and its consequences within Canadian borders. And there are endless questions we should ask about how the “calls for justice” could be implemented, why they weren’t decades earlier and how they’ve been ignored in the past 12 months.

There were demands for action worthy of journalism’s attention in the hundreds of pages in the final report, such as safe and affordable transit (4.8) or an annual liveable income (4.5).

Both of those are now being discussed widely because of the coronavirus pandemic, i.e. only once it affected the majority, not a minority. That is a hallmark of racism, that we care about a problem only within the context of the white majority.

One passage that particularly stuck out for me last year was this, on page 10 of the executive summary of the final report:

In describing the relationships that were important to understanding the violence experienced in their own life or the life of their missing or murdered loved one, families and survivors drew attention to specific moments in those relationships they felt were especially important to understanding the circumstances, causes, impacts, or details of that violence – what we have characterized as “encounters.”

This concept of “encounters” refers to powerful moments that occur within relationships that families and survivors showed to be significant. These encounters represent a time and space through which the vision, values, and principles that shape families, communities, and individual lives are created. We see these as transformational moments, too; in other words, these encounters can lead the way to harm or to healing, depending on the context. To engage in encounters like these represents an important responsibility and an opportunity to shape the terms of a relationship in a good way.

That sounds like good journalism to me: we interview people about their encounters, good or bad, to report a truth based on what we are told and what is known.

Whether because of racism or their comfort with judging certain peoples, groups or nations as less newsworthy, columnists and editorial boards last year failed to recognise that the inquiry report met higher standards of journalism than most papers hold daily.

My profession should always aspire to be as thorough as the inquiry. With more than 2,380 people taking part, that is more than read many of our stories now. Even fewer will read or engage with Canadian news organisations after last year’s failures. It was a missed opportunity that would take years to rebuild from, if it was possible at all..

The very idea that some columnists and editorial voices carried more weight than 2,380 is the definition of privilege, and a superiority complex which underlies the hundreds of years that preceded the MMIWG report.

I was trained in journalism in the UK, outwith the obsessive concept of “objectivity” in North America. Walking Eagle News was entirely correct last year when, even in satire, it pointed out Canadian news outlets would look for pro-cancer voices.2

We have accepted there is no need now to offer the “other side” of climate change. Why is it still necessary for murder? Why does genocide require only one side when elsewhere in the world but not at home?

Then as now, I accept the findings of the inquiry, and the conclusion of genocide. I appreciate whether I do or don’t accept it doesn’t matter to the truth of the experiences shared with the inquiry or its conclusions. But as a reporter, particularly after the response from privileged white voices in Canadian media last year, I feel it remains important to sit apart from their positions.

Reporters, I believe, must comfort the afflicted and afflict the complacent. That means we must report on loss, murder, racism, genocide AND what is being done in response to it, or not.

It is complacency that has ensured the genocide of Indigenous peoples within Canada continues long after the language of politicians changed to ones of apologies, even if their actions didn’t match up.

And commentators or editorial boards who argued against the word genocide seemingly decided their creed is to “comfort the comfortable, afflict the afflicted”.

That approach also fails principles of accuracy, justice must be seen to be done, promote responsible debate and mediation, and more.

As the pandemic has pushed some news organisations to close and others to even further cuts to their journalism, the same voices who refuted the word “genocide” last year have survived. Columnists who spout hate always do.

I absolutely want more resources for reporting, but not if it’s going to break what should be basic pillars of our work. If we can’t recognise the reporting inherent in the MMIWG inquiry, then we have no business doing journalism ourselves.

Meeting the demands for change of the TRC and MMIWG inquiry requires much better action than my profession has shown. That was true in 2019 and remains true 12 months on.

Journalism must survive the pandemic. But it should change fundamentally from the profession that allowed or encouraged racism for more than a century against Indigenous nations within Canadian borders.

Canadian journalism has to do better. We have to report the ways to make lives better, and report on those who stand in the way.

Domino’s apologises for TV ad depicting ‘Inuit’

This investigation contains words, images and videos which may be offensive to some readers1
"Winter Survival"

Screen grab of TV advert for Domino’s Winter Survival Deal depicting “Inuit” admiring a white family eating pizza. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence

  • Banks RBS and Clydesdale and car rental firm Enterprise use children in headdresses for ads
  • Strathclyde Pension Fund investigates share holdings in oil developments opposed by Indigenous groups after questions raised by Tomorrow
  • Government agency Education Scotland celebrates claiming of Canadian land and Scots who founded more than a century of genocidal policies
  • Catalogue giant Argos and Exeter Chiefs rugby team also examined in exclusive Tomorrow investigation

Food giant Domino’s has apologised for causing any offence with a “light-hearted” TV ad depicting Inuit licking their lips as they watch a white family eat pizza.

The commercial is one of several examples in the United Kingdom where Indigenous culture is used to sell products or services.

A lengthy investigation by Tomorrow examined adverts from major banks, items sold at small markets or through catalogue stores, and government-promoted education about colonialism.

And questions from this probe have led to one of the UK’s biggest public pension funds to investigate more than $3 million invested through mutual holdings towards a firm connected to the Standing Rock fight in North Dakota.


For sale: Making a killing from Britain's colonial crimes - Part 1

Banks RBS and Clydesdale and car rental firm Enterprise all use children dressed with feathered headdresses while an upmarket home furnishing company has a luxury brand of “teepee wallpaper”.

While Washington DC’s American football team has had its trademark revoked for being racist, the team won new approval for the UK and across Europe.

And rugby team the Exeter Chiefs have seen their annual turnover increase from more than £19,000 to more than £13 million since changing their name to make use of Indigenous imagery.

Indigenous peoples on both sides of the Atlantic interviewed by Tomorrow agreed Britons should educate themselves but would find it easy to buy the products and services on offer without accepting the modern reality as a direct result of colonialism.

"Red Indians" for sale

Figurines on sale at the German Christmas Market in 2015 in Glasgow, UK. Similar figures are on sale in 2016. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence

Artist Shelley Niro told Tomorrow: “It is about ownership and possessiveness and making it okay to play with kind of imagery. In the end, it’s really racism.”

Author and activist Brandon Pardy said Inuit might eat traditional food, but also eat Domino’s, tacos and oranges.

“It’s fine if someone makes fun of themselves, but Inuit aren’t in deerskins only having hard winters sitting around chewing the fat – that’s not all we are,” he said. “And if you lock us in history like that, then it diminishes the fact that we have doctors and lawyers and somebody that’s just finished open heart surgery on you might be Inuk and they might want to go home and eat some Domino’s because they’ve had a really hard day.”

Domino’s did not answer questions about who made their “Winter Survival Deal”, which was cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority as “factual”. They also would not answer suggestions by Mr Pardy or even accusations under the video on YouTube that the actors are not actually Inuit.

Louise Butler, brand and digital communications manager, said in an email statement: “Our winter advert intended to be light-hearted in humour and so we would like to apologise if this has caused any unintentional offence.

“We undertake substantial advance consumer research and go through a strict regulatory approval process for all our adverts and at no point was this raised as a concern. Domino’s will also be using a fresh creative for its adverts this winter onwards.”

In almost all examples examined by Tomorrow, children are the target for the products or are used in commercials “playing”.

Activist and author of Indigenous Writes, Chelsea Vowel, said: “At this point what I have to do now is convince people that we’re human, that we’re worthy of respect,” she said. “And that’s always a weak position when you have to convince other people of your humanity. And that’s what we’re often forced to do, and I really resent that.

“Why should British people care? Well, they don’t have to care because they have all the power to not care.”

“You can’t just take the fun bits and leave out the all the awful things that happened because those awful things that happened are still having an impact on our health and our education, our access to water, our access to human rights.”

[Tweet “”What I have to do now is convince people that we’re human, that we’re worthy of respect””]

Strathclyde Pension Fund, which is involved in funds with shares in major US pipelines opposed by Indigenous peoples, told Tomorrow: “These particular stocks are not direct investments by the fund, but are held passively through an index tracking portfolio – which does limit the influence the fund has, in comparison to direct investments.

“However, the fund notes the concerns raised and is currently seeking further information from the portfolio manager and its responsible investment advisors.”

As well as headdresses, figurines and t-shirts depicting Indigenous peoples easily found on sale, Indigenous peoples are also mocked in education and training settings or the colonial claiming of the land celebrated.

Scotland’s education department website promotes the wealth of places within Canadian borders named by or for Scotland. A group of teachers in Exeter celebrate their rugby team, the Chiefs, with a drum chant, mirroring that for the Atlanta Braves, long derided by campaigners in the US.

And far-right and anti-immigrant political groups in the UK and Europe continue to make use of Indigenous history to manipulate their own arguments for racial purity across the continent – something with a long history in propaganda and popular entertainment, particularly in Germany.

“I hate that we have these images that are just a complete joke,” said youth activist RJ Jones. “People are not taking us seriously because of these images. Or they’ll take our images but they don’t want to take the suffering that comes with it.”


For sale: Making a killing from Britain's colonial crimes - Part 1

  1.  Tomorrow has chosen to use all words, team names, logos and items without restriction. This is not done casually but under our duty to educate, it is impossible to educate readers ignorant to what is offensive without clearly indicating what is considered offensive by others. Similarly, under our core principle to comfort the afflicted and afflict the complacent, if words, images or actions of the complacent are afflicting others, then that must be highlighted and challenged.

As Olympics begin, little progress on athlete funding or indigenous sport


Money…how much does sport need?

FUNDING for athletes continues to be cut in real terms as advocates campaign to make up the now 24 per cent gap.

The rate for the Athlete Assistance Program (AAP) has not changed in 12 years and the Government of Canada did not mention sport in its 2016 budget at all.1

Little progress has also been made on implementing the “calls to action” in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the government claiming it is still examining the recommendations.

Even as Canada has sent elite athletes to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2015 Pan Am Games and Parapan American and now the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil, the taxpayer-funded budget has not changed.

AthletesCan,2 the organisation for national team athletes, said they were currently fighting for an increase in cash to match the rise in consumer price index (CPI).

Ashley LaBrie, executive director of AthletesCan, confirmed by email: The rate has not been increased yet. We are still in the midst of a campaign to increase – we are recommending a 24 per cent increase to reflect the CPI increase since 2004. 

“We’re hoping that something will happen either fall or winter. We’re hopeful that the new government will agree this is a priority moving forward.”

Tomorrow has followed the static funding in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and only the elected government has changed significantly in Canada in that time.

Catherine Gagnaire, public relations manager with Canadian Heritage, the department which manages sport funding and policy, acknowledged there was no mention of sport in the 2016 budget.

“But it remains a priority for the Government of Canada,” she told Tomorrow by email, pointing to the $200 million annual funding through sport organisations and to athletes, including the AAP. Ms Gagnaire said $20 million was committed in match funding to private sector investment while $28 million goes to more than 1,900 athletes through the AAP.

She continued: “Ensuring that Canadian athletes have the support they need to continue to push for the podium today as well as in the future is an important focus for the Government of Canada.

“The program is currently reviewing the cost of living impact on carded athletes since last the stipend increase and will be consulting with sport community to seek further input into this matter.”

‘Exploring options’

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, delivered last year, considered the legacy of Canada’s residential school system abusing and killing indigenous children. It included wide-ranging recommendations, amongst them for indigenous sport.3

Tomorrow challenged the Government of Canada on these points, one year on from the first query and since the Liberal Party took power from the Conservative Party of Canada, but with little sign of progress.

In 2015, it stated they were “currently analyzing the recommendations”, evolving to “exploring options of how to more fully respond”.

See both statements side by side here.

Ms Gagnaire pointed to the ministerial mandate letters which includes a priority for indigenous relationships and recognition.

In May, the government announced $3 million for the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games, she added.

How much funding do athletes need and how long should action on indigenous sport take?

  1. Download the full budget here.
  3. Sport is outlined on page 10 of the “Calls to Action”. The report and documents can be found at the TRC website.

Revolutionary ideas: From Che Guevara to Bernie

Is your chosen hero the correct type of rebel?

Bernie as Che

A variety of t-shirts and other items are available online with public figures; such as Bernie Sanders; portrayed as Che Guevara. This photo, of an online sales site, is Creative Commons, but the product itself may have copyright elements.

What do US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the past two leaders of Scotland and Star Wars stormtroopers have in common? They’re all revolutionaries like Che Guevara. According to what could be described as the original meme.

The desire to be seen as a revolutionary, or to portray your chosen political leader as the correct type of rebel, has driven an increasing use of a single image for a very diverse set of leaders from a spectrum ranging from Communist to neoliberal arch-conservative.

The image of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary and major figure in the rise of Communist Cuba, has now become so widespread – particularly on T-shirts – that experts question what it actually means, if anything, to voters.

An original 1960 photograph by Cuban fashion photographer Alberto (‘Korda’) Díaz Gutiérrez was “posterised” by Irish photographer Jim Fitzpatrick and since been used widely and without any copyright issues. Mr Fitzpatrick in recent years has said he was keen to restore some measure of control over the image so the the Guevara family could see some income from it.1

Bournemouth University senior lecturer in creative advertising Rutherford2 said the image continues to be divorced from the revolutions it originally symbolised. And as time goes on, and the further you get from Latin America, the less it has anything to do with revolutions.

“Increasingly, the image seems to be used less and less as a means of identifying oneself with a radical left political ideology,” he told Tomorrow by email.

“There is reason to believe that an increasing proportion of those who sport the image have little or no idea who ‘the revolutionary guy’ is or what he stood for. But, like so much in an increasingly consumerist society, [where] a desirable or attractive persona can be acquired simply by buying the ‘right stuff’, the image is seen as – and so has become – a way of implying that one is not a conformist.

Originally associated with anti-capitalist and ‘anti-establishment’ policies, as we get farther in time and space from 1960s America, it seems that the image is less often used as a means to express solidarity or allegiance with the policies and practices of the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist Latin American revolutionary groups with whom ‘Che’ was associated.”

T-shirts easily available online with a Che-like image include left-wing UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, nationalist Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond, British TV personality and right-wing columnist Jeremy Clarkson, musician Frank Zappa, the Planet of the Apes, right-wing UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, late UK Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a meerkat, Pikachu, pop “princess” Britney Spears, the animated Homer Simpson, Democratic US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Super Mario, band U2’s Bono, musicians the Sex Pistols, hacker group Anonymous, musicians Bob Marley and Morrisey, fascist leaders on the right and left such as Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, the Khmer Rouge, scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, fictional TV character Alan Partridge, Star Wars and the original Che set against various national flags.

Be like Che

Collage of some of many T-shirts for sale online using style of Che Guevara image. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence

Neil McGuire, a Glasgow-based graphic designer,3 said the original red of the manipulated image symbolised the political message of the man. But now it can make a point about the opposite politics.

“It’s kind of a viral image before we understood viral in the same way as we do now with the internet,” he told Tomorrow by phone. “It was a pre-meme meme. People can knock it about and do whatever they want with it, without it really damaging anything or changing the original image. 

[Tweet “”It was a pre-meme meme. People can knock it about and do whatever they want with it””]“Some people use it with a full understanding of the original intended message. But if you don’t understand that, you can still use it on just a very basic level – like this person is anti-establishment or a rebel or stands for revolution in a very general sense.

“I think that’s part of the reason it’s so popular. You can access it on a whole load of different levels.”

Mr McGuire said some images, such as the Obama “Hope” poster of the 2008 presidential campaign or the CND logo, can be widely used and recognised, but Che is unique.

“There probably are equivalents in the digital world in terms of how things get appropriated but it wouldn’t be that kind of image,” he said. “I think that kind of image is probably synonymous with a particular time because it references how it was made and that’s changed a lot. 

“I think images like the Che Guevera one have more latitude in them to be used in different ways. I’m not sure that flags quite have that. I think it’s very difficult for flags if used in designs to not, on some level, sort of relate to nationalism. There’s taboos around how you display flags and it can have different meanings in different contexts – it’s more difficult. People do use flags but they’re not going to have the same latitude within them to be adapted.”

If almost anyone’s face can become “revolutionary” Che Guevara, what should the public make of their political messages? Are the politicians actually rebels?

“You’re always encouraging people to dissect what they’re seeing,” said Mr McGuire. “People are very media literate and they understand what Photoshop is and that images can be put together in all sorts of interesting ways. Don’t take anything at face value and assume someone somewhere has manipulated the image you’re looking at. Ask questions about why that might be or what that might be saying.

“Particularly when things are on T-shirts people do understand it’s not official messaging as such.

“I think people understand that they’re made up in terms of what they’re saying – kind of like a moment in time.”

  1. Mr Fitzpatrick said he re-copyrighted the image according to his website and a posted comment. An attempt was made to contact him but Tomorrow received no reply.
  2. University profile page for Rutherford, his only name.
  3. LinkedIn profile page for Mr McGuire.

We the people: Oklahoma Primaries, Super Tuesday

If politics is about people, who are the people politicians are fighting to represent?

Tomorrow sent reporters from the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication1 in the US state of Oklahoma to find the people while polls were open for “Super Tuesday”.

A total of 13 states and one territory held primaries on March 1 for the Democratic and Republican parties to choose their presidential candidates. As with We The People for the 2015 UK general election, we asked no political questions and did not confirm if citizens had voted in the primaries.

These are some of the people who make up America.

11.15am – John Teal (JT), in Norman, Oklahoma

JT lived an athletic life while growing up in Wichita Falls, Texas, before he moved to Norman. And that was when everything changed for him. 

From the time he was able to walk, he was involved in all different sports in Texas. His freshman year of high school, when he moved to Oklahoma, his athletic lifestyle took a turn for the worse until he found a direction in life he credits to a multi-national health and sports supplement firm, Herbalife.

“I just got involved with the wrong crowd, the people I was hanging out with,” he said. “Something I learned in Herbalife, but it’s really true now that I look back, is that you’re a product of the five people you spend the most time with. The people I got involved with were not good in school, not making good decisions in their life. I just got involved with that crowd and finally my junior year I realised that I didn’t want to be that. I wanted to get back into sports and get back into being more healthy.”

The 20-year-old now spends his time working at a nutrition shop and as a fitness coach to help people reach their goals of living a healthier lifestyle.

“Currently my day is usually very, very simple. I work as a personal wellness coach, meaning that really all I do all day is I try and find and continue helping people looking to lose weight or simply get into the best health and shape of their life.

“Every morning I get up at 4am and I’m in the gym by 5am and I do my workout and after I leave the gym I come straight here to Nubody.2 I am pretty much here working all day, helping clients, working the nutrition club, making shakes and teas, networking with people, and really trying to continue to build my independent business of helping people with their health and their goals.”

He thanks an old friend of his for introducing him to the supplements company in his sophomore year of college. JT ended up quitting his job and withdrew from school to work full-time for Herbalife. He said once he dedicated his life to them, he never looked back.

“Herbalife changed my entire life, it changed my way of thinking, it changed my actions throughout the day, it changed the way I interact with people and it has taught me so much about how to be a leader, how to be a better person, a better business owner, and it really just changed my entire moral and thought process.”

12.34pm – Michelle Gates

Michelle Gates worked in the healthcare field for more than two decades before she decided to act on the desire to start her own business in the culinary industry.

“I just reached burnout, so I did a career change,” said Michelle, who works at Hurts Donuts,3 in Norman.

Michelle worked in the radiology department for numerous hospitals, performing MRIs and CAT scans. She worked in the radiology business for 25 years before her work took a toll on her.

“Just the grind of it everyday,” she said. “Not everybody makes it. It takes a toll on you when you see sick people everyday and people that are hurt everyday and people that die everyday. It just takes a toll on you. Sometimes, it’s just time for a change.”

After working for so many years she still recalls the life changing moments she witnessed.

“The first time you see a child die you realise how precious life is. And that death doesn’t know an age,“ said Michelle.

[Tweet ““The first time you see a child die you realise how precious life is.””]When Michelle decided to make a career change she decided to pursue the idea of becoming a pastry chef. She turned her baking hobby into a “lifestyle”. 

“It is just something I have always done on the side,” she added.

Michelle is now pursuing a career in the culinary industry but is also working at the donut shop to pay the bills.

12.56pm – Tobin Vigil

Before Tobin Vigil can even remember, he has always had an interest in bicycles. Now at 42 years old he owns Buchanan Bicycles4 and has competed in competitions cycling between 50 and 100 miles in a single day. But all of his personal accomplishments aren’t the ones that fulfil him the most – it is other people’s accomplishments.

“I’ve seen it change a lot of peoples lives,” he said. “Actually a good friend of mine, who is a doctor, when he first came in here he was like 300 pounds. And now he is triathlete, ultra-marathon runner, and just a completely different person. It was really awesome to watch that transformation.

“For him, to completely change his lifestyle and he’s happier and healthier. We’ve done that over and over and over we have watched that happen many times over, and it’s really, really cool.” 

2.05pm – Brooke Charbonneau

Brooke Charbonneau

Brooke Charbonneau works in a postcard and stationary shop. Photo by Savannah Hurst.

Brooke Charbonneau graduated in December with a degree in environmental studies and is holding down two jobs as well being an independent contractor for the university and applying to posts with state governments.

The 22-year-old in Norman said she enjoys selling stationary and postcards – sometimes a lost art.

“There’s a lot of regulars that come in that are pretty extraordinary people,” she said.

“I think I prefer writing letters to people rather than texting them – I think it’s putting in extra time. Like texting takes two seconds but writing a letter and thinking about what you’re going to write takes a lot more time.

“Talking to people face to face or writing letters, for me, I think I would prefer that to a two-second email.”

She added: “I mean, honestly it’s really hard to pick a favourite card just because I think all of them are pretty funny and they are very individualised and very stylistic.”


4.30pm – Shay Awosiyan

At just the young age of 14, Shay Awosiyan, moved from Nigeria to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, with his single mother.

Shay is a student at the University of Oklahoma (OU) and faces multiple obstacles each day that most students at OU don’t face.

“Americans’ ignorance – no offence to Americans – but they think if you don’t speak proper English they think you’re a dumb ass. That’s what Americans think, you don’t speak proper English then you are most likely not as smart as them. So they tell you to speak to you slower, they treat you differently. But it’s all good, it’s what Americans are,” said Shay.

He said he still deals with it everyday, but now he doesn’t let others’ comments get to him. After years of hearing criticism of his strong Nigerian accent, he decided to put it all behind him, move forward and shy away from the negativity.

“I got tired of defending myself and having to prove myself. So I think I decided to be me,” said Shay. 

Shay Awosiyan

Shay Awosiyan, 21, a student at Oklahoma University, moved from Nigeria to Broken Arrow in the state at the age of 14. Photo by Shea Smith.

He continues to be strong and work hard, but he admitted to dealing with hardship.

“America is not as dangerous [as Nigeria]. But mentally, America will drain you and break you down. Physically, I’m all good, but mentally it’s just … it’s not because I’m weak.”

[Tweet “”Mentally, America will drain you and break you down. Physically, I’m all good, but mentally it’s …””]After attending OU for almost four years, Shay is only a few months away from graduating and sees it as an accomplishment for his mother as much as himself.

Although Shay only met his father once, he doesn’t believe he would be any different if he would have had his father in his life. He credits his achievements to his mother and thanks her for playing both roles in his life. To him, “blood doesn’t mean you are family”.

He plans to continue living his life the way he has been, and accomplishing his number one goal: “Money is good, being rich, being famous is good. All this flashy stuff, driving a nice car, having a nice house, it’s all nice but when it comes down to it, it’s just make my mom proud. That’s all I want.”

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.


No relevant issues on principles 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 or 10.

3. Independence and accountability: Firms mentioned as places of employment by interviewees are included as part of accuracy and completeness, but no financial incentive was passed to reporters or Tomorrow for this piece.
5. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the complacent: There have been repeated commentaries about why individuals are voting for particular candidates in the United States. The reporting and editorials did not ask who the people were or their stories. Tomorrow continues to argue that some reporters must continue to go in a different direction from the majority to challenge the complacency of media outlets, of politicians and of the public.
9. Observe and Engage: While this reporting is observational and without comment, reporters did engage with the public and remain happy to meet with readers digitally or in person to discuss coverage.
11. Promote responsible debate and mediation: What issues does this reporting raise? How should journalism – not commentary – respond to elections?

  1. Journalism school website.
  2. Facebook page for the Nubody Nutrition, in Norman.
  3. Facebook page for the outlet.
  4. Website for Buchanan Bicycles.

#Artpoli: Canadian federal election 2015

Tomorrow welcomed residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia, to work with artist in residence Jason Skinner to tell voters and politicians what issues matter most in the Canadian federal election.

Rather than politicians talking to media, we let art do the talking with collages from magazines and comics glued to polystyrene sheets.

Hosted by Cafe Cempoal Calavera Negra1 on Agricola Street and co-owner Chris Cookson, Tomorrow made a Saturday morning of art and politics in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Mr Cookson joked that, “I always judge a country by where I would like to get arrested” but expressed his own election issue as a desire “that the votes of everybody get counted and everybody votes”.

Jason said: “I think an event where a small group of community members share their political views is a greater representation of Canada, which I believe is a collection of communities. And that’s what’s often forgotten about in the Canadian federal election when we are selecting our local representative, not a leader.”

Cutting politics


Jason Skinner prepares to welcome voters to make their Saturday morning collages.


Jason Skinner uses a collage process for his art for Tomorrow and worked with voters in Halifax for #artpoli.


Saturday morning at Cafe Cempoal Calavera Negra preparing collages on the Canadian federal election.


Artist in residence Jason Skinner prepares his first collage for #artpoli.

Abstract votes

These two works are by a voter who asked for their name to be withheld as government employees are not permitted to comment on politics.

Their first work, “Layered forward” is described as, “we are not paying attention to the key issues that have impact on life”.


“Layered forward” by an anonymous resident of Halifax.

And in this second work, which was easily the largest piece of the day, the voter said, “people are at the table but they’re backwards in their thinking”.


“Backward thinking” by a Halifax resident who wished to remain anonymous because of her employment at #artpoli.

Heather Mac, 36, who works for the Nova Scotia Health Authority on mental health, offered this untitled work about what matters to her in the Canadian federal election.


An untitled work by Heather Mac


Andrew Hare, 44, works at St Mary’s University and titled his collage “Change doesn’t have to be dramatic”.

He explained: “It can be smooth. I think there are small changes that make things better. The squares get an earthquake but they’re on an upward trajectory so things are getting better.”

Andrew Hare

Andrew Hare shows his “Change doesn’t need to be dramatic” collage at #artpoli.


“Change doesn’t need to be dramatic” by Andrew Hare.


Carmel O’Keefe, 51, teaches at Dalhousie University, and said her work was titled “A wolf with a bond”.

She described a politics that is “tyrannical with his dollar” and like a dog with a bone, in this case, the bone is money.

She said: “I feel we are being held prisoner for our thoughts and our emotions in the name of profits. So our thoughts in the entire infrastructure of research and in our hearts because of the child care and educational slaughter of programmes and the confines of profit.”


Carmel O’Keefe with her “A wolf with a bond” at #artpoli.


“A wolf with a bond” by Carmel O’Keefe.

Jobs jobs jobs

Artist and receptionist Tori Fleming, 24, titled her collage “Let’s make the economy sexy again”.

She explained: “I know many people who don’t have a job and the quality jobs are not there. I would like to see more effort put into getting people actual jobs that last longer than a summer.”


“Let’s make the economy sexy again” by Tori Fleming at #artpoli.

Journalism as art

As cohost with Jason, I created these two works, one about the differences between Canada and the United States and issues of open expression and privacy, and the other about how eyewitness news and observing brings choice and helps community.


A second collage by Tomorrow reporter Tristan Stewart-Robertson on the differences between the US and Canada and thoughts and privacy.


“Eyewitness transparency” by Tomorrow reporter Tristan Stewart-Robertson for #artpoli.

Issues as art

Jason Skinner, after completing his two works, concluded: “I think the event went well – I couldn’t be happier: making art with strangers, sharing opinions with strangers, learning from strangers, who in the end are not strangers anymore.


Artist in residence Jason Skinner’s first collage for #artpoli.


Artist in residence Jason Skinner’s second collage for #artpoli

Thanks to everyone who participated in the morning, but the election is far from over. Got an issue you want to raise through art? Get in touch by any platform and we’ll add reaction.

  1. Visit the cafe’s Facebook page for more information.

Data politics: Do web trackers win votes?

Exclusive Tomorrow investigation examines 1,113 trackers used by 163 political parties and candidates around globe

Tracking, by Jason Skinner

Tracking, by artist in residence Jason Skinner. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

Political party and campaign websites are tracking voters with up to 52 different pieces of code, a Tomorrow investigation has found.

Some countries show huge variation between the largest parties as each compiles information on visitors or tracks them around the internet.

Green parties have more than other parties combined in Canada, Chile, Brazil and England and Wales, while Labour parties top lists in Scotland, Australia and New Zealand for use of trackers, which are facilitated by cookies and other coding.

A crowded United States presidential race is using almost 300 trackers between them, with an additional 272 coming from some of the biggest Super PACs (political action committees) as campaigns get more sophisticated.

And in Canada, currently in the midst of a national election campaign, the official website of the prime minister loads more trackers, many of them from advertising and marketing firms, than the other G8 leaders combined.

Even world bodies show significant differences, from the United Nations using just two trackers to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) deploying up to 21 when you load their website.

Major spy agencies already being scrutinised for their surveillance of personal data, officially use no trackers or two at most.

Diego Naranjo, advocacy manger with the European Digital Rights (EDRi),1 said: “Regardless of people understanding or not what cookies are and how they function, people do not have a real choice rather than press ‘accept’ if they want to continue accessing a website.

“Politicians and anyone else using tools to count visitors should use tools which do not allow them to identify individuals.”

And former chief electoral officer of Canada, Jean-Pierre Kingsley,2 said the use of data may need to be reviewed after the election.

But political watchers in the US said no campaign could do without technology and none would “unilaterally disarm”.

Tomorrow used privacy browser extension Ghostery3 to examine 163 political websites across 25 countries, as well as another 70 from international organisations, banks and news media.

The free extension allows visitors to see how much tracking code is found on any website you use, and switch them off.

Trackers serve a variety of functions, from counting the number of hits to a site, to enabling social media plug-ins for comment sections, to following the public around the web, allowing advertising to be targeted and re-targeted to them based on their browser history.

Almost all websites – including Tomorrow – employ at least one basic analytics tool to count visitors. And some sites can load ads or trackers via linked accounts, such as YouTube videos, outwith the control of the sites themselves.

But how many are needed on political websites? How is data being used and how aware are voters? And is new technology the only way for smaller or opposition parties to get to voters?

Top 10 political parties for number of trackers

  1. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), India – 26
  2. Australian Labor Party – 25
  3. Tied: Green Party of Canada / Green Party of England and Wales – 22
  4. Eesti Reformierakond, Estonia – 21
  5. Tied: Movimiento Ciudadano, Mexico / Fratelli d’Italia (FdI), Italy – 19
  6. Republican National Committee – 18
  7. Scottish Labour Party -17
  8. Tied: Scelta Civica (SC), Italy / Propuesta Republicana, Argentina / Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan / Welsh Labour Party – 16
  9. Accion Democratica, Venezuela – 15
  10. Partido Verde, Brazil – 14

View the Google Spreadsheet HERE or click the icon below to download a zip file of the spreadsheet and all 314 screen grabs

Download spreadsheet and screen grabs of website trackers

Ian Koski, adjunct professor at George Washington University’s graduate school of political management teaching digital strategy,4 said most campaigns will use the technology to get a second chance to reach voters once they’ve clicked elsewhere.

“The use of internet technology is now ubiquitous,” he told Tomorrow by phone. “You have to do it, no matter what race you’re running here in the United States and increasingly internationally. It depends very much on internet penetration, broadband penetration and people’s comfort level. Here in the US though, digital is an absolutely fundamental part of just about every electoral campaign.

“What you do with it though could be anywhere on a pretty wide scale.

“The reality is, though, that no-one’s going to unilaterally disarm and not employ the types of re-marketing technologies and targeting technologies that could be what allows them to reach the right number of volunteers or donors or voters to win their election.”

Select a link below for more detail or continue reading

Canadian politics

US politics

UK politics






In almost all the countries surveyed, the main political parties or those with legislative or executive power, do not have the most trackers on their websites. It is usually opposition and in particular smaller parties deploying the technology.

While left-wing parties lead the field in many countries such as Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and Israel, conservative parties are top in France, Argentina and Turkey.

In only four countries surveyed are the parties currently in government using the most trackers, in Estonia, Wales, Turkey and Tunisia. Germany and Nigeria are the only countries with equal use across all examined homepages, with German parties using just one each.

Other nations show less developed deployment of trackers, with just one between three main parties in Kenya, for example.

Union websites, banks, world sporting bodies and others all use varying numbers of trackers on their homepages. Most official government websites have just one or two pieces of tracking code. Spying agencies such as MI5, the NSA and the CIA – who have been embroiled in controversy over the extent of their high-tech surveillance – have none or one.

But the number of trackers on political websites is minuscule compared to those used by the media, with several approaching or beyond 100 different trackers. Some sites have so many that they drag the loading of pages for several seconds with developers increasingly being aware of so-called “bloat” on site design.

Tomorrow only considered website homepages, which can show significant variation in the number of trackers from visit to visit and differ even more within a site, such as individual news article pages.

Ghostery, whose press representative declined to comment for this story, details about 2,000 trackers in existence, breaking down broadly as:

  • advertising – a tracker that shows you ads
  • analytics – one which counts visits and general location, browser and other information for websites
  • beacons – single-pixel, clear images used to watch behaviour, known as “attribution measurement”; they are also used to determine if someone has opened and seen an email you’ve sent
  • widget – these can range from “share” buttons or comments sections

Some cookies have been found with duration periods of almost 8,000 years compared to an average of one or two, with a quarter of websites not offering notice of use of them and more than half not seeking prior consent of the user, according to EDRi.

While European legislation requires websites notify users about the use of cookies and consent to their use,5 rules vary around the globe with many sites assuming consent based on use. Most privacy rules will apply to certain uses of information, such as medical records, or rely on self-regulation across an industry or within individual organisations.

In the other direction, data is being pushed to not only help media publishers gain income from clicks and site visits, but also as law enforcement experiment with “predictive policing”. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton recently declared that using data to calculate potential locations, victims or perpetrators of crime, was the “wave of the future” and already a reality.6

EDRi warned that unless someone is using Ghostery, Privacy Badger, Disconnect or other browser plug-ins, there is no way to know if you are being tracked.

Seth Ulinski, a senior analyst covering advertising and marketing technology at US-based TBR (Technology Business Research, Inc)7 explained there were a number of types of data collection, tracking and functions.

“If you’re a publisher,” he told Tomorrow by phone, “you’re really looking to monetise your audience. Creating content takes work and good content doesn’t just grow on trees – people need to produce it, it’s a business.

[Tweet “”Good content doesn’t just grow on trees – people need to produce it, it’s a business.””]”News sites, other media owners, publishers, etc, having a better understanding of their audience allows them to then go to advertisers and say, ‘Hey, now we can prepackage different audience segments and deliver more value to you versus you’re going to buy a run of site and target everybody who comes to our site’.”

Dr Jason Turner, lecturer in advertising at the Dundee Business School at the University of Abertay,8 said everyone was “obsessed with measurability” and advertisers want to reach customers as directly as possible.

“Re-targeting has proved to be a useful online strategy and will continue to grow, targeting browsers based on their identity and specific buying behaviours,” he explained. “The advertising content on websites will continue to be re-marketing across social media channels to connect and re-connect to existing and potential purchasers alike.

“However, advertisers cannot lose sight of the fact that relevant and engaging content is integral to successful digital campaigns, whether that is through consumers driving the advertising content or the advert being integrated in an appropriate way into a consumers social identity and social timeline.”

A web user can be an advertising target based on being part of a market segment or based on their interests from surfing the web, whether they have signed up to a particular service or just by their search engine history. But if web users don’t feel content is relevant, they will switch off, Dr Turner insisted.

Mr Ulinski said that while industry bodies such as Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) explain how re-marketing or re-targeting work, the other side of the argument is that trackers shouldn’t be used at all.

“It is a high-wire act as far as giving people notice and choice but not to the detriment of being able to analyse and do all the smart marketing that advertisers are looking to do,” he continued.

“So far the industry has done a pretty good job of self governing. But as far as do consumers understand? I think they know a lot more now than they did maybe three years ago, particularly with something like re-marketing or re-targeting. They might not get all of the mechanics behind it, but I think at that level people definitely have a better understanding as far as why things are going on.”

As the level of awareness increases, so does the number of people switching on ad blockers. Ad blocking software is estimated will cost $22 billion US dollars to publishers this year, with a report by PageFair claiming 198 million people worldwide are now using such tools. That number is up 41 per cent in a year and more ad blocking possibilities are on the way.9

So how much responsibility lies with a website publisher, such as a political party or candidate, and how much with the voter or web user?

Ian Koski, at George Washington University, said trackers don’t exist in isolation in political campaigns and the question is how digital technology broadly is used. And while internet users should be paying attention to such issues, many don’t care.

They assume that the bounds of their privacy are being tested and most of the time it’s for convenience,” he said. “It’s tough to limit that, tough to regulate that. Privacy is a difficult line to walk.

[Tweet ““The bounds of their privacy are being tested and most of the time it’s for convenience.””]“How you use those platforms, how they link together, how they talk to each other, how your Facebook followers are pushed to join your email lists and how your email subscribers are pushed to take other actions. That’s really where the digital space has moved.

“It’s not necessarily just about inventing a new platform or getting on a new social media site – it’s about coordinating all of those investments and tactics and leveraging them for actual electoral outcomes. It’s the strategy that’s getting more refined and what we’re seeing is websites that are coded in a more sophisticated way to take advantage of those strategies, that work together.”

Mr Ulinski said as more people move to mobile devices, which don’t easily support third-party cookies and trackers, the identity of the devices themselves will be more important.

Instead of a line of code or ‘cookie’ being stored on the consumer’s computer, a non-personally identifiable (non-PII) device ID is assigned and saved on ad tech platform of the publisher, advertiser, or agency,” he explained. The trackers used on desktops will decrease as new options rise.

With technology inevitably moving so quickly and the ability to reach voters changing constantly, can legislation keep up? Should it?

Diego Naranjo with EDRi said legislation usually follows what society needs, but what society needs to do is “adjust law and reality as soon as possible”.

ABC News website

Screen grab of ABC News, loading up to 122 trackers, more than any other of 313 sites surveyed.

“In an era when technology has gone far from what most people would expect only a few years ago, we need to develop policies which tackle these new issues around technology in the best way possible,” he told Tomorrow by email. “In particular in the field of privacy this means having policies which are effective, suitable for the technologies that exist and that may develop in the future, and be long-lasting policies.

“We are living in a crucial time for privacy not only for our generations but for those to come. The way we define privacy now will define how private we will be allowed to be in the future.”

But Jean-Pierre Kingsley said society and governments could only react if a problem was proven to exist. Comparing it to allowing smoking in public places or driving regulations, he said bluntly that people die before rules change to adjust to new realities.

We let people smoke all over the place and then we have to try to find out how do we cut that back,” he said. “It’s like the telephone: we find out we’re killing more people by letting drivers talk or text on the phone while they’re driving than we are with alcohol and then we say, ‘Okay that’s a problem we have to solve’.”

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Update August 28, 2015: Alliance Party of Northern Ireland was missed out and has now been added to the spreadsheet and total.


No relevant issues on principles 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 or 10.

3. Independence and accountability: Tomorrow publishes its Google Analytics data regularly and we remain open to any and all questions about how we use trackers and plug-ins.
6. A duty to openness: This feature and the spreadsheet analysis includes this website as we must be open about our own use of trackers, even as we examine their use by others.
8. Be a safe harbour for the public and staff: Tomorrow is looking to upgrade to https and at switching from Google Analytics in the coming months to Piwik so we maintain more direct control over collected statistics about site visits, thereby meeting the requirements of this principle.
11. Promote responsible debate and mediation: How many trackers are enough? Which ones are appropriate? Should political parties use them differently from businesses? Is more transparency required? Or education of the public?

  1. European Digital Rights, which uses no trackers.
  2. Archived Elections Canada page on Mr Kingsley, no trackers deployed.
  3. Headquartered in the US, Ghostery shows three trackers on its homepage.
  4. Ian Koski’s GWU profile page, with three trackers.
  5. European Commission details on cookies – with one tracker.
  6. New York Times video of the speech, with two trackers
  7. Profile page Seth Ulinski, with 1 tracker
  8. Profile page of Dr Jason Turner, with five trackers.
  9. PageFair report available here, with 19 trackers