By Ania Bessonov, RSJ ’18
If there’s one memory alumni often recall about their time in Ryerson’s School of Journalism, it’s the practical and hands on experience they received, right from the start.
That is true for Paul Hunter from the CBC, Elizabeth Renzetti from the Globe and Mail, and Zuraidah Alman, from CTV, all chosen as this year’s Headliners to recognize exemplary journalism alumni.
“We were sent out almost immediately to actually be journalists,” said Renzetti (RSJ ‘88). “We weren’t just learning about it, we were actually practicing the craft.”
For Renzetti, that meant writing an obituary on the first day of her first year reporting class. “We were told to turn to the person next to us and write their obituary, which if you think about it, is kind of crazy and wonderful at the same.”
Hunter (RSJ ‘82) remembers his weekly TV lab in Jorgenson Hall where he volunteered to be a reporter countless weeks in a row while Alman (RSJ ‘93), fondly recalls editing audio with razor blades. “Yup, that was in the 90s, folks,” she said in her thank-you video for the Headliners award.
All that hands-on practice in class, meant they were prepared for the journalism industry, they said.
“When I got out in the real world, to realize that that’s the way it’s done out there was kind of mindblowing because it reaffirmed everything that Ryerson taught me,” said Hunter. “And affirmed for me that I made the right choice in going to Ryerson.”
Headliners, an award for alum who have “made a mark”, is awarded annually by the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association (RJAA).
Renzetti, who has been writing and reporting for the Globe and Mail since graduating, is currently a feature and op-ed writer. Her collection of essays, Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls was published earlier this year. A satirical novel, Based on a True Story, was published in 2014.
“I’m not sure I would have been a journalist, certainly not had the level of good fortune and success that I’ve had if I had not gone to the school,” she said.
Alman is anchors CTV News late-night Toronto newscast at 11:30pm. She’s a reporter, too, covering events from the widespread blackout in 2003, to Toronto’s turbulent political scene under Mayor Rob Ford and the Yonge Street van attack earlier this year.
“A great Ryerson professor, the late Stuart McLean, taught me how to listen, how to pick up on an interview subject’s subtle cues, peel back the layers to find the real story,” she said, adding that the fundamentals of journalism have not changed and she continues to use them to this day.
As a child, Hunter thought his career would take him to the moon, as an astronaut. Instead, his journalism career has taken him across Canada (Saskatoon, Ottawa, Toronto) and internationally, in London, and now Washington, where he is a correspondent for the CBC.
“One of the great things about this job is that every day you learn something new, every day you grow a little bit better, every day you learn ways to improve your storytelling and your interviewing and your journalism,” he said. “But it all begins with a foundation and that foundation for me is Ryerson. I’ve never forgotten that.”
Hunter’s Ryerson days stand out for another reason: he met his wife, Joy Malbon, in second year.
“We saw journalism the same way,” Hunter said. “We had the same goals and the same aspirations and we believed in the same things about journalism and the value of it and how ought to be told.”
“We believed all those things the same way so in a sense it’s no wonder we hit it off I guess, therefore every memory of Ryerson I have, as corny as it may sound, has Joy in it.”
Malbon, who is the Washington correspondent for CTV, was a Headliner two years ago.
While much has changed from the time all of the winners were studying journalism, Alman is still excited by the profession that is her calling.
“It’s an exciting time in journalism,” said Alman. With the help of the Internet and social media, “more people now are consuming information than any other time in history.”