Monthly Archives

April 2016


Covering the Queen’s 90th Birthday in Windsor

This was by far the most fun and most tiring week I’ve had at the bureau.

Before I get to the Queen, I want to mention another great story we got to do on Tuesday. I had made a pitch to cover the unveiling of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph in Trafalgar Square. The original arch in the ancient UNESCO world heritage site city of Palmyra was destroyed by ISIS during their 10-month siege of the city which ended in March.

I wasn’t the only one with the idea.

When we showed up Tuesday morning, the square quickly filled with media. Having at least two people on site is great because (for example) as the organizers moved the media barricades forward one person could run up and claim a good spot while the other stayed with the gear and brought it up after.

I try to secure my employment future by taking as many cool photos of my colleagues as I can. That's a good strategy, right? Here's Thomas Daigle, our videojournalist. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

I attempt to secure future employment by taking lots of cool photos of my colleagues. That’s a good strategy, right? Here’s Thomas Daigle, our videojournalist, in front of the National Gallery and recreated Arch of Triumph. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

The day went well. I talked to lots of Syrians (from Aleppo, Latikia, Damascus and Palmyra) who were now living in London. The guy from Palmyra was who I wanted to talk to most – I found him on Facebook a few days before the unveiling and asked whether he was going. He wrote passionately about the arches:

“I’m happy to see Triumph arch again in London after six years of leaving my home city, Palmyra. I feel I regain part of my body again.  The Triumph arch represents the identity of Palmyrenes because we have to pass it when we go to our farms at sunrise and then we have to take some rest under it before going back to our homes at sunset. Thanks for London and all world to return our identity to us.”

I really wanted to interview this guy in person. He seemed perfect! A local who could connect with why this was important.  The only problem? He said he wasn’t going to be at the square the day the arches were unveiled.  The day I’d need to talk to him in person to get the news story.

Then I had a stroke of amazing luck. Somehow, on the day of the unveiling, in a sea of civilians and media people, I heard someone call my name.  It was the Palmyra guy! He recognized me from behind the barricades and called me over. He had cancelled everything last minute and decided to drive in to London from Uxbridge where he’s doing his PhD to see the unveiling. So I got to talk to him, and he was lovely.

Here he is! Obeid Obeid is originally from Palmyra, Syria but has lived abroad for the last six years. He's studying for his PhD in Engineering at Brunel University London. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Obeid Obeid is originally from Palmyra, Syria but has lived abroad for the last six years. He’s studying for his PhD in Engineering at Brunel University London. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Here’s the finished piece – Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch Recreated in Trafalar Square

The Queen’s 90th Birthday

Thursday, April 21st was the first of the Queen’s many birthdays this year. April 21 is her actual birthday, while traditionally monarch birthday celebrations are held in June. This June birthday tradition was started by King Edward VII, because he worried his November birthday might not have good weather.

Last week on said birthday the Queen turned 90 years old. Liz is breaking all traditions this past year. In fall 2015 she became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, having reigned 63 years. Now she’s the first monarch to make it into their 90s. Good for her. Go Liz!

Looking beautiful, I can say that my internship here at CBC London has been a success because, if nothing else, I got this great photo of the Queen. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Looking beautiful, I can say that my internship here at CBC London has been a success because, if nothing else, I got this great photo of the Queen. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

She’s also the source of much near-religious fervour throughout the country. They say that liking something is a consequence of its familiarity. If that’s true, maybe Liz’s long reign and life explains just how much people love the Queen. They’ve had a long time to get to know her. I’ve heard it over and over again that hers is the most documented life, ever.

The Queen looked so cute and happy the whole week. Here she is, greeting her subjects. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

The Queen looked so cute and happy the whole week. Here she is, greeting her subjects. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Our CBC team covered three days in Windsor: The Queen’s birthday eve, the day of her birthday, and the day after her birthday where she had President Obama over for lunch.


Felt pretty safe having my camera gear out with these guys around. No one is going to steal this guy’s phone booth. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Windsor Castle stayed open for tourists during the celebrations and there were lots of people coming and going, like this adorable family from Japan. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

I was there for birthday eve and her Majesty’s birthday.

One thing I learned from the experience was just how important logistics are. Lots of reporters, lots of gear, lots of people on the ground. I drove up with our team on day one, then took the train back, up and back again. It’s a nice train ride, about 40 minutes from Paddington station and £14 for a return ticket.

Here’s a glimpse of our behind-the-scenes media tent setup.


All the gear, all the time. Tents are essential. They protect the gear from potential rain. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Every so often all the correspondents for all the different networks’ live hits would line up at the same time, so you’d have this row of well-lit, beautiful people all talking to their cameras at once. Quite a sight. From left to right: CBC, ABC, BBC. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


We had a beautiful view of Windsor Castle from our media tent. Also note what Thom is standing on. Crucial for a better view! Real broadcasters never leave their boxes at home. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

My next two days were a fever dream framed by union jacks and filled with people dressed in all variations of Brittanica costumes singing ‘Happy Birthday Your Majesty.’


The benches in front of Windsor Castle along Castle Hill were a popular meeting point for all forms of monarchists and royalists. Spot anyone famous? (Hint: Gogglebox). (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Lovable Terry Hutt spent both April 20th and 21st outside Windsor Castle, waiting for a chance to say hi to the Queen (he did, by the way! I saw it on a Reuters feed) and talking to everyone who sat down with him. Glad to have met you, Terry! You’re a young 81. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Royal Mail workers and their families gathered outside the Royal Mail in Windsor on the day before the Queen’s birthday to wish her Majesty a happy birthday. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Schoolkids would burst out into ‘Happy Birthday Your Majesty’ as soon as you asked them. However, a lot of them spent their day hanging off the rails, wondering: “When does she get here?” (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


They should build these with eye holes. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


No wondering what country you’re in here. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


A tiny royal well-wisher along High Street waves his union jack while waiting for the Queen to pass by. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


I think I found a dorgi!!! Or at least a corgi. Any dog experts around? (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Team CBC on site at High Street in Windsor. Waiting around for the Queen and preparing for our hit. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


This girl looks how I felt. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

For my part, I helped haul gear, did whatever the correspondents needed me to do, found and arranged two interviews with Royal Watchers (people’s whose jobs it is to basically observe the monarchy and comment on their doings), ran around doing streeters with people in crazy costumes/cute children/a dog named Camilla, sent my photos with captions back to the CBC desk in Toronto, and freehand held an iPhone for a live hit while holding the iPhone in one hand, reflector in the other, and bracing myself between a rail and a tripod on a tiny media platform with about 20 people. We shall never speak of it again.

In other news: we learned Windsor is a bit of a signal dead spot for our Dejero and MiFi. We were fine once we got to our media spot at Windsor Castle though because we had a satellite dish.


Our Dejero was struggling to find a signal in the field, but once we got it back to the media tent and routed it through the satellite, it was fine. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Our technical wizard, Anjuli. She kept us up and running for all the events in Windsor! She’s also base camp. We can call her with any problems in the field. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Our super cool satellite dish on the roof. The petals come apart so it collapses into a very portable shape. Once you put it together though, you have to adjust it millimeter by milimeter until it locks onto our CBC satellite and makes a strong signal. Technology is so cool. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)


Our satellite was set up on the roof above our media tent. These tiny, narrow stairs were the only way up. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

The day of the Queen’s birthday she walked down from the castle and around the block into the town’s Guildhall where she was presented with a cake. On the way back she drove right past us in her roofless Rolls Royce and it was amazing because she was so close.


She was so close. I could have touched her… if my arm was really long. Driving along High Street in Windsor in a roofless Rolls Royce. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

After the birthday excitement was over, we needed to do some more logistical coordination. Half of our people and gear had to stay in Windsor to cover Obama’s visit the next day, and half our people and gear had to come home to London. This resulted in Pascal and I hauling an incredible amount of gear on the train, like little CBC sherpas.

All in all, a great week. My body was sore from hauling gear, but giddy that I got to shoot her Majesty. I mean, seriously, I got pretty lucky that my internship just happened to coincide with all this cool stuff. I’ve gotten to go out with the crew and do quite a bit of shooting and fieldwork. There’s also been a lot of opportunity to learn from the correspondents, cameramen and producers. All in all, a really great gig.

There are still two weeks left to go. I feel like this is probably the natural climax of my time here, but who knows? Here’s looking forward to two more great weeks with the CBC in London.

The Sunday Letter

The Sunday Letter

I just got back from having my mind blown at the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House on the Strand in London.

Holy crap. How is there so much good work out there? I was in such shock after spending two hours walking through both the east and west wings of the exhibition that I bought the £25 exhibition book, which I totally can’t fit into my suitcase, or my budget. So much good work, produced in the last year alone. It’s REALLY inspiring to see what everyone else is doing with photography. It also gives me hope that photojournalism isn’t the dying art some news people see it as.

Check out Kei Nomiyama’s enchanting bamboo forests, Canadian Kevin Frayer’s work with eagle hunters in Western China, Julien Mauve’s comedic and thoughtful Greetings from Mars series,the diaristic Indian train journeys by Tamina-Florentine Zuch and Iris d’Or winner Asghar Khamesh’s Fire of Hatred series about women and children destroyed by acid and violence are just some of the many amazing works on display.

You may have also noticed, this week I also decided to change the name of my regular Sunday feature to the Sunday Letter. This just seemed more in line with what I was doing – writing a little letter to you all every Sunday to check in and say what’s up – to share what I found interesting that week.  Sunday Sundries suited my alliteration ego, but I think the Sunday Letter is a better description.

I also updated my layout around. Still playing with some kinks, but what I like about this format is that it puts storytelling first. The focus is on content: words and pictures. Stories.

Speaking of good work: Prince. An amazing man and musician. I always respected how he seemed to be able to keep his private life private, despite his huge success. He was such an anomaly and such a talent. The world could have used him a lot longer. Here’s Miles Davis talking about Prince’s style, and this awesome first ever interview with Prince from when he was in high school.

Here’s some other great stuff from the internet this week:

That’s it from me, compadres. I hope you’re doing well. You’re gonna have an awesome week. Let me know how it’s going in the comments below.

p.s. And how could I forget? Beyoncé dropped Lemonade. The visual album is bringing the concept of albums back, and that makes me very happy.

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only



Vox Pops and Buckingham Palace

It was quieter in the newsroom this week, which worked out great for me since it afforded me a chance to practice a bit more with iNews, Avid, MOG, Aspire, and all the technical stuff that might seem second to practicing journalism, but actually is what journalists rely on to make their stories happen. I also learned how to contact the Toronto resource desk for help. Possibly my most important lesson this week.


Next week is the Queen’s birthday (90 years old! Way to go, Liz!), so the team has been preparing for how we’re going to cover that. There are civil wars, a migrant crisis, people working every day in poverty and looming food shortages throughout eastern African countries, but hey, people love a good birthday party, amirite? The coverage we produce in the bureau is a compromise between stories the correspondents pitch and want to be told, and what Toronto HQ tells us the audience wants covered.

In any case, we’re headed to Windsor so I was trying to find Canadians who might be living there and attending festivities who we could interview. This is where Facebook’s friends search filtering functions are a great boon to journalists! I searched for people whose hometowns were in Canada but were currently living in Windsor. From that I made contact with a few different families who’ll be attending the birthday festivities and might make good characters for a Canadian audience to relate to.


On Tuesday I went out with cameraman Ed to shoot a bunch of stock footage of Buckingham Palace to use for the Queen’s birthday as b-roll. This is where I learned the power of the amazing media pass. It’s really hard to film around Buckingham Palace. Even if you have a media pass, but a bit of Canadian charm and luck with police officers, we managed to score a perfect spot right by the gate of the palace during the changing of the guard. We celebrated afterwards with proper British fish and chips.


Friday was rainy, in typical London fashion, but me and intrepid cameraman Nick set out anyway to do a bunch of streeters about ‘Brexit’ (that’s the upcoming June referendum about whether or not Britain should exit the EU. The first official day of the campaign was on Friday). Fun fact: streeters in Britain are called “vox pops”. Despite the rain, it was great fun. I really love when they send me out with a cameraman. Because you get to act not only like a journalist, talking to people, but a bit like a producer as well (let’s get this shot! Did we get enough B roll?).  The streeters were used in Brexit coverage on CBC News Network and one of them even got put into Nahlah Ayed’s package for the National, so that was a bonus for me! Cut to me texting home to my grandparents, really excited that this small thing I did got included in the National.

Moving up the ladder, one tiny rung at a time!

I also pitched a story next week to do on my own about the recreation of Palmyra’s Triumphal  Arch happening in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday. Palmyra is an ancient city that was pretty much destroyed by a 10-month occupation by ISIS, and the Digital Institute of Archaeology is trying to save importance cultural sites throughout the middle east by scanning and databasing them so they can be reconstructed (essentially 3d printed). Whether or not I get to do it it looks like depends on whether or not I’m needed at the studio on Tuesday. It’s the day before we all pack up and head to Windsor for the Queen’s birthday so things might get a little crazy. Fingers crossed though!


As I mentioned in my Sunday Sundries, I found out I’ll be going to the Idomeni refugee camp in May with an NGO. And we’ll be staying in tents. One Medecins du Monde doctor interviewed by the BBC called the place “disgusting” and “unhygienic”, so it should be a really good time. I’m putting together some pitches for Idomeni right now, but do you have any ideas for what I should ask people living in Idomeni?

What do you want to know? Put your suggestions below!

p.s. WE GOT MARGARET ON INSTAGRAM!!! I can go back to Canada a happy intern.

The Sunday Letter

The Sunday Letter

One of the reasons I started this blog was that I wanted a place to share everything I was thinking about. It’s hard to know what you think about something until you write it down. As well as place that holds stories, photos and tales of tea and travel, I also share fun things I find on the Internet. Every Sunday I share a peek of what I’m reading, listening to, inspired by, and give an update about what’s going on in my life. These are my Sunday sundries.

Yes, you read right. It looks like in addition to doing work in Sarajevo my work with Photographers Without Borders and Project 1948 is also taking me to one of the front lines of the refugee crisis. Because of the recent Balkans route lockdown and subsequent EU restructuring of how they’re taking in migrants, we don’t know exactly what Idomeni will be in a month’s time when we arrive. It used to be little more than a train stop along the Greek/Macedonian border. Right now, it’s about 12,000 people living in wet, cold and muddy conditions. In a recent BBC interview, a doctor from Medecins du Monde called it “disgusting”, and told the BBC he informally suggests people leave the camp because it is so unhygienic.

This NGO project has really evolved since I got on board. Originally we were just working with youth in Sarajevo who’d grown up in the aftermath of war. We’ll still be spending time doing just that, but with Bosnia’s proximity to the current migrant crisis through the Balkans in Europe, it would be tone-deaf not to get involved in helping people going through a huge upheaval in the region. I look forward to doing whatever I can do be useful and tell stories from Idomeni. If you’d like to help the project that I’m involved in, please consider donating what you can. We’re bringing clean undergarments and food to the people there, plus we’ll be giving cameras and recorders so that people can tell their own stories.

Here are my favourite things from the internet this week:

That’s them! Wow. It’s a bit of a long list this week.

Before you go, please enjoy the new trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (I’m so excited!).

I’ll see you next week!

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only






The Sunday Letter

Sunday Sundries, Vol. 41: Late to the party

One of the reasons I started this blog was that I wanted a place to share everything I was thinking about. It’s hard to know what you think about something until you write it down. As well as place that holds stories, photos and tales of tea and travel, I also share fun things I find on the Internet. Every Sunday I share a peek of what I’m reading, listening to, inspired by, and give an update about what’s going on in my life. These are my Sunday sundries.

Oh noooo! My Sunday sundries! They’re a day late!!! What do I call them now – the Monday medleys? Thank you for your patience! I had so much fun going out around London this weekend after a great second week at my CBC internship that when I got home last night I made the moral call to watch The Adventures of Tintin and fall asleep rather than write. You know what though? It’s okay. Back on track.

Here’s what I found interesting on the Internet this week!

And that’s it for this week’s Sunday Monday sundries!

Thanks for tuning in. I always appreciate it.

Mel Hattie Signature 2016 - Final - Mel Only






Destinations England

Shooting a protest with really expensive cognac in my backpack


I knew my intern luck couldn’t last. I seemed to have caught the flu. Posters on the tube stating, “British flu season is longer than usual this year” mocked me.

Our bureau producer told me to stay home so I don’t infect the others. In a small office, maintaining everyone’s health is even more important.

I wandered out out of my building once to go to the post office and pick up my Biometric Residence Permit to go with my visa (yay). But other than that, just stayed in bed, read, took ibuprofen, ate bananas and drank tea.

I did do some research though. I was looking for experts we could interview on the Queen’s upcoming 90th birthday. I also watched All the Presidents Men and Spotlight back to back. That counts as work, right?


Back in action! Feeling a lot better, I practically skipped into the office.


The Panama Papers story had just broke so Thom and I headed over to the British parliament for some live hits to CBC News Network.

In between hits, we’re often outside, waiting around and answering emails until the next hit (roughly one per hour, unless it’s something really grabbing, then it might be more). So in the interim, finding coffee and washrooms is key. I heartily recommend the Flush app.

The area where we set our gear up across from parliament is called the Queen’s Walk. It’s also right next to St. Thomas’ Hospital. Perhaps that has some bearing on the characters we encountered that day.

During our second hit, I was facing towards parliament and the river when seemingly out of nowhere this man jumped off the street, into the frame (during our LIVE hit) and starting yelling that, “Everything is a lie”.

So, yes. That happened.

The heckler didn’t stay long. He kind of wandered off after five seconds of harassment, and Thom played it cool. When we watched the playback the network had actually filled that part of the screen with a graphic so you can’t even see the heckler that well. Yay.

Now during live hits, I watch the crowds like a bouncer. Move along, folks, move along.

A couple hours later, in between hits a middle-aged woman with a walker wearing this big blue face mask wanders over and stops maybe two feet away, staring at us.

She sees I’ve caught her eye. “I like listening to people.” She says. Very good. She was a bit odd, but nice. She told me that sometimes people tell her to go away and not bother them. She also told me, “Don’t let men get you down.” (very wise) and then after listening to Thom and I for a bit, gave a nice laugh and said, “I like your conversation! I found it quite funny.” And then she wandered back in to the ether.


Fun assignment this morning! This year is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and the Arts unit in Toronto has asked us to film a short segment of a walking tour taking place near the Globe.


So I meet the energetic Akhilesh Patel, one of the CBC’s freelance cameramen here. He’s also got loads of good stories, and freelances for Al Jazeera as well as a few other networks. He recommends I check out Sarandë when I head to Albania in May, if I can (passing along the knowledge to you – he says it’s beautiful!)

So Akhilesh and I shadow this tour guide. I also get lucky because there’s a couple Canadians on the tour, so I do some streeters with them and they’re great talkers. The sun comes out. It’s a good day.


That only takes a bit of the morning, so on the way back to the studio (we use black cabs here – the Hailo app is the way to go!) I get dropped off outside Buckingham Palace where Thom’s set up the gear to do live hits about the Canadian soprano who snuck her instruments in to the Queen’s Gallery for an illegal concert.

It’s raining sideways (but also sunny, at the same time) when I get there, so you have to wipe the camera lens as much as possible before starting your live hit. Unfortunately, the direction of the rain was right in to the camera so for viewers at home it looked like we were standing in a torrential downpour, instead of a heavy drizzle.


Shooting live with the weather is always interesting, whether you’re wiping the lens twenty seconds before you go live, or sherpa-ing the gear out of a shadowy spot into sunlight (or vice versa), you’re always checking the skies.


When we get back to the office, I work on some more transcriptions from Ethiopia and then help to find a security expert to speak to the case of the soprano (bureau producer Erin seems to know everyone and anyone you’d want to have speak on camera, but her usual security guy is out of town).

We find another security guy, and then I transcribe the audio from a phone interview Thom has with the soprano.

I spent the rest of the afternoon working on secret project that has me scouring the city for tree seeds.


This was a pretty quiet day, news-wise. Mostly just more Panama Papers “revelations”. Some of the headlines were ludicrous. Talking about the law firms “secret” transactions. Like, have you ever been to a law firm where client privacy wasn’t a priority? If not mandatory by law?

Panama is such a can of worms. Because most of what’s being ‘revealed’ in the press isn’t illegal. It’s just status quo for the super-rich. The attention it’s getting is more fuelled by people’s emotional response to money and their ideas of fairness, than anything legal. One of the law-firm founders, Ramon Fonseca, even said his company was hacked, and that’s how the files got leaked. For me personally, I’m more interested in how the papers got out than what they’ve revealed (so far, anyway).


I did my morning media analysis, checking in on our competitions’ foreign correspondents (Where are they? What stories are they doing?) and transcribed a couple more interviews Margaret did in Ethiopia.

It’s pretty amazing, what you can do with a team. For example, Margaret was interviewing two mothers who spoke Somali in a health clinic. The interview went:

Margaret – Translator 1 (English – ?) – Translator 2 (? – Somali) – Interviewee

So first Margaret’s question would go down the chain, then the woman’s response would come back up. It was pretty cool. Because we have to make sure what our translators on the ground say is correct, we have all their on-the-ground translations double-checked with another translator back in London.

I’m also trying to get Margaret on Instagram. We’ll see how that goes.


This was also a relatively quiet news day.


Nahlah asked me to do some research and create a timeline of nuclear detonations and missile launches from North Korea, as well as all the statements they’ve issued so far this year.


Right now in North Korea there’s a jailed 60-year-old Canadian pastor, Hyeon Soo Lim. He stands accused of trying to use religion to overthrow the atheistic North Korean regime. His punishment? Working 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, digging holes for the prison’s apple orchard.

There’s also an American student tourist-turned-prisoner who was arrested there and was sentenced in March to 15 years in prison for stealing a political banner from a staff area of the hotel he was staying at. It’s unclear yet what will happen to him.

And then there’s stories like this (from This American Life):

Kim Jong-Il loved movies – but hated all the movies made in North Korea. So he kidnapped a famous South Korean director and his ex-wife, a South Korean film star, locked them up in a villa in North Korea, and forced them to make movies for him. Nancy Updike tells the story. (21 minutes)

To paraphrase Mark Twain: Fiction has to make sense. Reality doesn’t.



On my weekends here I like to go for a long walk in a new part of the city and do errands.

I had just completed the very important task of picking up a rather expensive bottle of cognac (for my professor/journalist Puddicombe – prepaid by him – I’m just the messenger) from Berry Bros. and Rudd in the part of town I can’t afford – and was buying a SIM card when I heard the shouts.

And then the pig signs.

The anti-Cameron rally was upon me.


As luck would have it, I had my camera with me and I knew a rally of its size would be in the news, so I followed them down to Downing Street and took some photos. Then I sent a few of them to CBC News and they got added to their coverage of the protest. Woo!

Although it was a relatively peaceful protest, a few people got hauled off by police and part of me was concerned someone would knock my bag in such a way that Puddicombe’s expensive (i.e., I could not replace it) cognac would get smashed, and with it, my future journalism career. Luckily, both me and the cognac survived.