How has your journalism degree helped you?
I want to distinguish between having a degree in a journalism and having an education in journalism. I don’t know yet if the actual degree is useful to me, but the education has been beneficial. Specifically, learning how to master that process of taking a complicated idea and whittling it down to its fundamental truths and then developing the confidence to shout it from the rooftops.
What have you done since graduating? How’d you land your current job?
After graduation, I spent the summer doing the CBC News Joan Donaldson Scholarship, which is essentially a four-month paid internship. I was placed at three different units/stations at CBC and just had an incredible time. Having gone through that competitive application process, my supervisors expected more of me than if I was just a regular intern so I was duly challenged every day and given lots of opportunities. I worked at the CBC’s parliamentary bureau, reported local news in Ottawa, and researched for investigative stories at Marketplace. I must have done something right — one of the executive producers in Ottawa called me shortly after I had moved back to Toronto to offer me my investigative-reporting gig.
What’s working for the CBC like?
Not that I’m biased (ah, perhaps a bit), but CBC is at the vanguard of Canadian journalism. And to get to be part of that is kind of surreal, actually. And it’s interesting to work for a public broadcaster because we’re bound by a specific set of standards and practices in carrying out our mandate to represent the interests of all Canadians. We take the time to debate questions of journalism ethics, think about where a story might fit into the greater Canadian landscape and then use those discussions to lead our coverage. It’s pretty cool to be able to do that amidst the frenzy of 24-hour news cycle. The only shortcoming is the corporation is gargantuan, so sometimes it’s easy to feel like just a small cog in the machine.
What attracted you to journalism in the first place? And why broadcast?
This is a tricky question. I never actually wanted to go into journalism — it sort of happened serendipitously while I was contemplating simultaneous careers in law and film/theatre. But I did recognize the importance of media in shaping society. An informed electorate is necessary to keep power in check and increase overall standards of living. I’ve always cared about social justice issues and am motivated by a need to positively impact the world—journalism became the vehicle through which I get to do so. And working in broadcast is just residual from my film/theatre aspirations.
Any fun memories from j-school?
The most fun memories are of broadcast assignments because of their sheer collaborative nature. I think when you get a bunch of talented journalists-to-be together to work on a project, magic happens (and when those personalities collide, chaos). I have the most vivid memories of late nights and all-nighters in the Mac Lab, editing RUTV newscasts or the final-year documentary and watching silly YouTube videos and live-tweeting our caffeinated plights. I am very lucky to share those memories with groups of brilliant people and close friends.
Do you have any regrets about majoring in journalism? Anything you would have done differently?
I don’t know if it’s right to speak of regrets when everything thus far has lead me to a really good place this early in my career. Having said that, if I could do-over the last four or five years, I wouldn’t have done a degree in journalism right out of high school. I think I would have benefited from an education in economics or politics first — just to build my knowledge and specialize in an area before seeking to inform others about it. You don’t need a journalism degree to become a journalist and I think we fail society when we have legions of fresh j-grads with no expertise in any other area suddenly tasked with shaping public opinion — and I include myself in that group.
What advice would you give current journalism students?
A few things:
1) Develop good relationships with your professors. Seek out advice and mentorship beyond the classrooms and Eaton Lecture Theatre. We studied from the some of the industry’s best and they will be the ones who help you land your first jobs.
2) Carve out niches for yourselves. You will be invaluable in the workforce if you have specialized knowledge that your peers don’t.
3) Most importantly, have passion. Remind yourselves why you decided to study journalism and what you hope to contribute to the world once you’ve graduated. Harness those thoughts and use them as the driving force behind everything you do. People will sense that in you and gravitate towards you and want you as part of their team. Future employers will recognize that passion and you’ll find that few doors will stay closed to you.