What did you originally see yourself doing when you first enrolled in journalism school?

I went to j-school because I love to write. I was mostly interested in culture, food, people, and of course, NBA basketball. I always pictured myself writing lengthy feature articles for a magazine like Sports Illustrated. But I didn’t realize that during first-year reporting class, I’d be scared to even approach people to do streeters.

How did that vision change as the years went by?

I fell in love with radio. It’s just soothing to hear a great story while in the car, or with earphones on during a commute — it’s so intimate. It’s true what they say, audio is the most visual medium.

What was your first job in the industry?

I was an intern at CBC’s Metro Morning during fourth year. To be honest, I barely listened to the show before I started there. But I got the opportunity to pitch, chase and produce stories. It was the first time I felt like I belonged in the industry.

How did you arrive at your current position?

My good friend and fellow j-schooler, Albert Leung, approached me one day with an idea to do a show about student life. We pitched it to the CBC, and now we’re making history. He’s the host, and I’m the producer of the CBC’s first ever original podcast series — it’s called Campus!

Can you name one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a journalist?

Freelancing is a tough world, especially when you’re starting out. Without establishing a reputation, no one knows you exist. And it makes you question your abilities. But I learned that it’s about putting yourself out there. Be proactive, and don’t take it too hard when you get shot down.

How has your journalism degree helped you?

The degree itself actually didn’t do much. It didn’t set me apart from the next person. And it certainly didn’t make my mom happy. But the journalism school experience was a necessity. You learn your likes and dislikes in the field, your strengths and weaknesses. And there are no shortcuts to being really good at this.

What’s one of your favourite memories from j-school?

I miss those late nights in the editing suite with friends trying to push out a story. We would just laugh deliriously all night because we were desperate for sleep. It’s those moments that make you miss j-school.

What advice would you give to current journalism students?

It’s never too early to gain that experience. I know, it sounds cliché. But honestly, I started too late. I graduated and realized I didn’t have enough credible clips or published pieces to put together a decent job application. And that’s when you start kicking yourself. It’s not a good position to be in.

Grads at Work is an occasional series of profiles of RSJ alums. If you know of a notable grad you’d like to see featured, send us an email at office.journalism@ryerson.ca.

Campus: If you know of anyone with a life-changing story that happened during university or college, please share it with CBC Campus at campus@cbc.ca.

September 23, 2015

Interview by Leah Hansen

Eric Van sitting in front of his computer

Eric Van
Associate producer, CBC’s Campus podcast