Dawn Cuthbertson, RSJ ’04, National Managing Editor, features, Global News
What did you originally see yourself doing when you first enrolled in journalism school?
I didn’t have a vision, to be honest. I knew I wanted to be a journalist since Grade 11 and I was thrilled to be in the program. It was stiff competition to get in so first year was intimidating. I didn’t want to flunk out.
How did that vision change as the years went by?
When it came time to pick a stream after second year, I thought I wanted to be a magazine writer. I applied to that stream, but didn’t get in. My journalism professors thought I was a better fit for the newspaper stream, and as it turns out, they were right.
Thinking back to your first year self, how do you think they would react to where you are now?
I hope first-year me would be impressed. Over the years I’ve managed to get a variety of experience in different roles. I’ve been a travel writer, a finance and homepage editor, a tablet producer and now I’m a managing editor with a great team of talented reporters at Global News. I get a lot of joy from helping my team shape a story and seeing it get traction with readers.
What do you think the RSJ experience offers that you can’t get anywhere else?
Hands-on, applied experience. I like how they get you outside doing streeters in the first week of school.
What have you done since graduating/how did you arrive at your current position?
I started out working in newspapers. I was at The Observer in my hometown of Sarnia, Ont., and I did a summer internship at the Windsor Star after I graduated. From there, I moved to The Kingston Whig-Standard. I switched to online journalism in 2008. I worked at MSN.ca, AOL.ca/Huffington Post Canada, the Toronto Star and Global News. I am currently on maternity leave with my daughter, Rooney. At Global, I am a national managing editor of feature news.
How has your journalism degree and what you learned in school prepared you for your current career?
Always triple check the spelling of someone’s name. My first-year reporting professor, Don Gibb, gave me a 0 on an assignment because I got a last name wrong. We had been in court that day and I asked the defendant’s lawyer to spell his client’s last name for me. He got it wrong, and so did I. I remember holding back tears as I got the assignment back. I learned a valuable lesson that day. I haven’t gotten a name wrong since.
Can you talk about one of the biggest:
1) accomplishments you’ve made?
Going to Tanzania with Ryerson professor Ann Rauhala to volunteer with Journalists for Human Rights in 2015. Ann was a great support to me during my last two years of university, and has been a mentor since. I was honoured when she asked me to go with her. Teaching alongside her was a thrill.
2) challenges you’ve faced as a journalist?
Sometimes, staying in the business is hard. I’m a news editor and let’s face it, the last few years have been rough on many journalists. A lot of days the news can be bleak, so it’s important to take good care of yourself and reach out for help if you’re finding the 24-hour news cycle overwhelming.
What’s one of your favourite memories from j-school?
Graduation day. I loved walking across the stage to receive my degree. My mother was bawling in the crowd.
Any memorable RSJ professors during your time at Ryerson?
Don Gibb and Ann Rauhala.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
You haven’t picked an easy profession, but man, is it ever thrilling.