Why did you chose to apply to the Ryerson School of Journalism program?
I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but I didn’t have the faintest idea how to go about becoming one. I was doing a master’s degree in sociology, and only really knew my cozy world of academics. Once I decided to apply to Ryerson, I quickly joined McMaster’s student paper The Silhouette to add some proper stories to my portfolio, which until then only contained angry letters to the editor of The Vancouver Sun and Globe and Mail. I had heard that Ryerson was a hands-on program that would put new journalists through their paces. It did exactly what it said on the tin.
What have you done since graduating from RSJ?
Once I graduated Ryerson, I knew my heart was in film and TV. That first year, I kept my options open and freelanced. My dad advised me not to say yes to the first full-time job that came my way, and for once, I listened. I took a part-time research job, while pitching and writing stories the rest of the time – personal essays, arts features, film reviews, travel stories. I knew magazine journalism would be a good fit for me, and to get more experience under my belt, I did an editorial internship at EnRoute magazine.
That placement enabled me to apply to more magazines, and I was soon hired as a staff writer at Realscreen. a trade mag that covers factual television and documentary. I had never envisioned working at an industry mag, but it was the best way to get under the skin of TV and docs and understand how things really work and, crucially, how they are funded.
In 2016, I left my role as news editor there to join Broadcast, a London-based weekly covering TV, as international editor.
How has your journalism degree helped you in your career?
It was immensely helpful when I started out, largely due to the work experience and contacts it provided. My school internship at The Globe and Mail – all thanks to the help of Peter Bakogeorge – was invaluable in getting my foot in the door with other publications. Also, a few courses were eye-opening in learning how to navigate the industry: first-year reporting with Ann Rauhala, literary journalism with Bill Reynolds, ethics and law with Ivor Shapiro. The rest I learned the hard way, on the job.
What’s it like working overseas, specifically in London?
You know when someone spins you around for an eternity and then lets go? That’s what moving to London felt like initially, and still feels like sometimes. Relocating is hard enough, but navigating a new job, culture and Brexit simultaneously upped the ante. That being said, if you get the chance to work outside Canada – do so, and come with an open mind. Covering television in the UK is endlessly fascinating, especially in the current political climate, and the fast-paced, demanding nature of my job – in which we publish a weekly print mag while juggling daily newsletters and traveling constantly – has made me a stronger journalist.
Any fond memories from during your time at Ryerson?
Definitely. Reporting on the spike in Valentine’s Day sales at the local sex shop for my first on-air story in broadcast journalism class (cringe); hosting ‘Film Friday’ on our weekly newscast; Bill’s literary journalism curriculum; getting to know my beat in Parkdale for first-year reporting – there are lots.
What advice do you have for current students?
Be mindful of your mental health. Journalism is stressful, and it can take a toll. Make striking a work-life balance a priority from the get-go.
Freelance as much as possible, and get started right away. Don’t wait till your instructor tells you you’re ready. What moves you? What are you passionate about? (Don’t say journalism.) Pitch stories on these topics, and pitch to everyone. Carve a niche for yourself and be the best person who’s writing about that thing.
Read contracts carefully. If you’re signing on for a full-time job, make sure you’re able to freelance if you want to.
Have confidence in yourself, and when that wavers, don’t give up. There’s room in this field for all types of journalists – loud ones, quiet ones, introverted ones, wild ones. Run your own race, and don’t be intimidated.