a peek inside the fishbowl

30 Jun, 2016

Cover story

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Publishing/writing/career stuff

Awhile back I posted a little something about my day job, specifically as it pertains to cover photos for our community newspaper. I don’t want to rehash the whole idea again but I did want to talk a bit about another recent cover and how it came about because, truly, it made me very happy to stray from the path and be able to do this.

First, some backstory. We designed a “selfie sign” to be used at our company booth at two community festivals… although to call it a selfie sign is a bit of a misnomer because it was a tad awkward for one person to hold while taking a photo of themselves. I jokingly referred to the process as taking an “assisted selfie” which seemed to amuse people. (Hey, I thought it was funny.)

The sign was designed to look like the cover of our paper. As much as I liked the idea, at first I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over with the crowd. It can be challenging to predict what will resonate with people, but as it turned out, I didn’t have to worry. We had lots of takers! There was a contest component, which helped. What’s more, we were able to take advantage of mob mentality. When people saw other people having their photos taken with the sign, they were more likely to stop and do it too. Sometimes there was even a lineup!

Also: the canine contingent was hilarious. Some needed bribing, as you can see, but we were prepared:

Canines at Westboro Fuse

I decided to select a few photos and publish them on the cover of the following issue. Normally we run the text of the cover story along the bottom third of the page, but we did away with the text because I wanted to squeeze in as many photos as we could. Also, some readers may have noticed we didn’t run captions to identify the people in the photos. That was deliberate. You might know some of those faces, you might not, but names are not the point here. We are those people. They are us.

Perhaps that’s a little abstract, but I thought it was cool.

I published some other photos on our website in a gallery format, which, I must confess, I’ve gone back to look at a few times because I like it so much. It is a real slice of time. And all those happy faces! I just love it.

I can’t honestly say that all of these people are from this part of Ottawa – writing about the residents of our ward is central to our mission –  but it’s still a wonderful reflection of our greater community.

Sidebar: A long time ago, in one of my first interviews for the newspaper, I got to chatting with the subject of my interview after the official part of our talk was done and the audio recorder was turned off. He told me that the first thing he does when he picks up the community newspaper is flip through it and look for familiar faces: Who do I know in the paper this week? This idea has always stayed with me. Not only do people like to see photos of themselves in the paper, but they like to see people they know. And wouldn’t it be good to get to know more people? Doesn’t this make our community better? This basic idea is behind a lot of the things I do at our little paper. After all, a community is ultimately about the people in it, and a community newspaper should be good at showcasing those people, don’t you think?

2 Responses to "Cover story"

1 | Claudette

June 30th, 2016 at 4:12 pm


Lovely! And I envy you your job! Also, Basset Hounds are my favorite. :)

2 | andrea tomkins

June 30th, 2016 at 4:26 pm


Thank you Claudette! I had a few VERY long days – over two weekends – with the sign but I think it was worth it in the end. I love all kinds of hounds. This one was a real darling.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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