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Book Club: Ann Rauhala’s “The Lucky Ones”

The Lucky Ones book cover
Book cover of “The Lucky Ones: Our Stories of Adopting Children from China.”

By Jaclyn Mika (RSJ ’08)

Many of our talented alumni and faculty have stretched their writing muscles beyond journalism into the realms of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The RSJ Book Club is an occasional series created to highlight these works. If you know of a notable grad you’d like to see featured, send us an email at office.journalism@ryerson.ca.

Ann Rauhala is Associate Professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism and Teaching Chair for the Faculty of Communication and Design.

Prior to joining the RSJ faculty, she worked at The Globe and Mail as a copy editor, assignment editor, beat reporter, foreign editor and featured columnist; made documentaries for CBC’s The National Magazine, was senior editor of Counter Spin, and an editor at the Toronto Star.

In 2008, she edited The Lucky Ones: Our Stories of Adopting Children from China. The Lucky Ones is a collection of memoirs from families who adopted Chinese-born girls from China, including Rauhala’s own piece about adopting her daughter.

Below is a Q/A with the author:

 

Ann Rauhala photo
Photo courtesy Ann Rauhala

What made you want to tell these stories?

I saw a gap and I wanted to commemorate our adoption.The shelves were stocked with how-to manuals and travel tomes but held little that told meaningful personal stories or addressed the wide range of reasons why people adopted from China. A literary agent told me I should write about just my own family, but, as an editor and journalist, I was more interested in capturing many perspectives. Regular moms might have knitted sweaters or made a scrapbook, but I’m an editor, so I did what I knew best to try to celebrate this event in our lives.

What surprised you the most during the process of gathering these stories and putting them together?

The generosity and commitment of the contributing writers was inspiring. No one was paid for their writing and any proceeds were going to charity. All were willing to share what adoption meant to them, to bare their fears, to speak of their losses. Some of those essays still make me tearful when I read them.

What was your process like completing the book/how long did it take?

It took longer than I expected because it wasn’t easy to manage with classes to teach and young kids at home. And oh, yes, I was doing an MA then, too. From the moment the idea came to me to the book publication was about five years. I felt guilty about how long it took until I realized that the time span meant I was able to find an older adoptee of 16 or so to write herself.

What were some of the challenges of telling these stories?

For me, the main challenge was to set and sustain a readable tone – to be frank without being brutal or emotional without being maudlin. The circumstances of the girls’ births and abandonments were often heart-breaking as were the reasons why some parents were adopting. Also, while several contributors were professional writers, not all were, so the level of editing needed was unpredictable.

This may seem trivial but the final layer of editing wasn’t done digitally. I had to plough through manually and then enter individual changes on a master document. That was a challenge.

Why do you think it’s important for people to read these stories?

I hope people will consider that raising kids, however they come into your lives, means taking risks, accepting difference and embracing change. The adoption expanded our world view and dramatically enriched our lives. Of course, kids’ll do that.

Why was it important for you to tell them?

I wanted to commemorate her arrival. It’s hard to put into words but … my daughter is not an exotic toy or an adorable pet or a flattering accessory. She was a baby born in difficult circumstances who deserved every chance to thrive – like all babies. Economics and politics coalesced so that we got the opportunity to raise her. Like any parent, I cannot imagine life without her – well, the kitchen would be tidier and life would involve fewer loads of laundry.

What has changed since you wrote this book?

A lot. China has dramatically reduced the number of children being adopted internationally so the past exodus of tens of thousands of children will remain an anomaly. Loosening of the one-child policy, increased domestic adoption in China, new restrictions on who is allowed to adopt – all these have changed the situation.

But another change worth noting is the increased availability of DNA testing.  With that advance, families may be more easily able to find blood relatives, maybe even siblings.

What was writing your own story of adopting your daughter like?  

To be honest, it was easy. I wanted some levity in the book and so I assigned myself a light and breezy topic- naming her. I’d been a columnist at The Globe and Mail long enough that I had found a ‘voice’ suitable for less sober subjects.

What is her reaction to it now that she’s older?

She still hasn’t read it, to my knowledge, though many of her friends have. However, she seems tickled by the idea. When she’s in bookstores with desktop search engines, she’ll search for it and leave it on the screen. So, yeah, if you are in Chapters and The Lucky Ones pops up on the screen, you’ll know she has struck again. That’s her on the cover.

What has your favourite reader reaction been?

Our daughter’s friend, also an adoptee from China, at age 12 read the chapter I wrote and told me she thought it was funny.

What is the main message that you hope people take away from the book?

Adoption isn’t a poor second choice. It can be an amazing path. Not one of us OWNS our children, biological or not. We are simply lucky enough to raise them. They are “ours” and not “ours”.  Oddly enough, my daughter is so much more like me in personality and temperament than her brother, our biological son. She and I have different talents, tastes – and hair colour– but no one can tell us apart on the phone.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become an author?

Prepare for rejection and do not take it personally. Also, everyone, even a professional editor, can benefit from a skilled editor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
News

Teacher Feature

By Nicole Brumley (RSJ ’19), Daniela Olariu (RSJ ’18) and Jaclyn Mika (RSJ ’08)

At the Ryerson School of Journalism, we believe that learning is lifelong pursuit. We talked to five RSJ alumni about their journey from the newsroom to the head of the classroom.

 

Rob Malich photo
Photo courtesy Rob Malich.

Rob Malich
Secondary school teacher
Cardinal Leger Secondary School
Brampton, Ontario

 Rob Malich got into journalism by accident. He had always wanted to be a teacher but while at Laurier, doing an undergraduate degree in history, he started writing for student publications. When he graduated, he applied to three teacher’s colleges, plus Ryerson and Carleton for their journalism graduate programs. Ryerson was the only program that offered him a spot that year.

Malich landed a summer internship at the Toronto Star when he graduated in 1994. He covered sports like CFL football and junior hockey and freelanced for the following three years before moving to a PR position with the Canadian Football League. He worked in media relations with the Toronto Argonauts, B.C. Lions and helped with the Ottawa Renegades expansion before returning to his first love, teaching, in 2003.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

A typical workday runs from 8:22 in the morning to 2:25 in the afternoon. There are four periods in the day – three 75-minute classes, plus one prep period, as well as a 40 minute lunch. My prep period was Period 1 this past semester, which is when I try to get all the work ready for my classes that day.

Sometimes (once or twice a week), I will get an on-call for half a period, which means I have to cover a class for a teacher who is absent. My period 2 class was Grade 10 Civics, my period 3 class was Grade 12 Politics, and my Period 4 class was Grade 11 Law. I had an exceptional year in terms of the quality of the students and their behaviour.  It has been one of the most enjoyable years of my career. I stay after school for an hour or so each day to continue my prep work or do some marking, which I generally do not like to take home, and then I pick up my son from school in Toronto. I also run Student Vote at the school, which is done in conjunction with any elections that may take place.

When did you decide to become a teacher?

I initially decided I wanted to become a teacher when I was in high school myself.  I generally enjoyed school, was a good student and athlete, and I just thought I had the personality, temperament and ability to do the job one day. I also liked the rhythm of the school year, the hours, the combination of academics and athletics, and the summers off to pursue other activities like travelling or a part-time job. I’ve always believed in a balanced lifestyle, and teaching seems to be the perfect job for that way of life.

To be honest, my foray into journalism really happened as a second option. While at Laurier, I began writing for the student newspaper, and since I knew at that time that getting into teachers college would be difficult, I thought journalism could be a viable alternative. Had I not gotten into Ryerson’s journalism grad program that year, I would have probably gone for my Masters at Laurier, and then re-applied to different teachers college programs the following year. But I don’t regret the way it turned out at all.  The two years at Ryerson were a couple of the best years of my life, full of great memories and great people.

How did your journalism degree and what you learned while being at j-school prepare you for your current career? What do you use from what you learned here in your teaching?

My journalism degree helped me in my current job tremendously, especially in regards to the subjects I teach, such as politics, law and history. The value placed on thorough research and the use of proper sources is very important in these subject areas, and even more so in today’s turbulent media environment. The increasing influence of social media and the availability of information from all areas has created a potential bonanza for today’s students, but also a potential minefield. I feel it is my job as a teacher to help them navigate through this, to determine what is legitimate and what is “fake” news, and to defend traditional media against the onslaught of conspiracy theorists and opportunistic politicians.

The journalistic principles I was taught at Ryerson and the respect I gained for the people in the profession have carried over into the classroom. Like teaching, journalism is not something that anybody can do, although that type of mentality seems to be prevalent in the online world. I sometimes ask my students, “Who would you want operating on you if you had a broken leg, me or a professionally-trained surgeon?”  The response is obvious, so then I ask “Who do you believe when it comes to climate change, professional scientists or random people with opinions on the weather?”, or “Who do you believe when reading an article about terrorism, professional journalists or some random guy in his parents’ basement?”. As teachers, I believe we need to be vigilant in making these distinctions, or else you could end up with things like measles outbreaks or mass killings against targeted groups of people.

What has been one of your biggest accomplishments since leaving j-school?

Since leaving journalism school, I believe I have lived a very fulfilling life.  I have a tremendous family, live in a great part of Toronto (Bloor West Village) surrounded by excellent neighbours and friends, and work with terrific colleagues at my teaching job, where we can joke around with each other and nobody takes offence. I’m not sure if these qualify as accomplishments per se, but they are what I am most proud of, and I wake up satisfied and happy every day. I have also travelled extensively since my time at Ryerson and seen much of the country and the world, and am able to bring a certain perspective to students that I believe is important.

In terms of work, I have been a teacher at Cardinal Leger for the past 16 years. I finally earned my teaching degree from Queen’s University in 2003, but prior to that, I worked in journalism-related jobs for many years. I graduated from Ryerson in 1994 and earned the top print journalism award, which helped me get an internship in the sports department of the Toronto Star that summer. I stayed at the Star for three years, where I was one of their regular freelance contributors and covered sports like CFL football and junior hockey. In 1997, I moved over to the PR field and started working in the Canadian Football League. I worked in media relations with the Toronto Argonauts from 1997-99, the B.C. Lions in 2000-01, and I helped with the start-up of the expansion Ottawa Renegades in 2002, just before entering teacher’s college in Kingston that fall. Fortunately, I was able to earn two Grey Cup rings (they gave them out to staff as well) with Toronto in 1997 and B.C. in 2000. I sometimes bring them into my class to show off to the students.

When it comes to school accomplishments, what I am most proud of is when students come back to see me and talk about their accomplishments. Whether it’s getting into law school, or making a professional sports team, or even serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, to know you had some sort of impact on their lives and to see they’ve become successful in their chosen path is very rewarding.

What are some of the challenges you faced trying to find a career after graduation?

After graduation, I was lucky to get an immediate internship at the Toronto Star in the summer of 1994, but finding full-time work after that became difficult. I worked part-time at the paper and did other freelance work for magazines and websites (which were then an exciting, new thing) until 1997, when I joined the Argos in the media relations department. I was offered a full-time job as a sportswriter in Thunder Bay in the fall of 1994, but decided against it because I wanted to stay in Toronto and hopefully work my way into a full-time gig at the Star. In the end, this never happened, and after three years of waiting, I decided to move on to the CFL. In hindsight, from a print journalism career perspective, this was probably a mistake and I should have taken the Thunder Bay job.

I would tell aspiring journalists not to do what I did and travel if necessary to better your career. But from a life experience perspective, I do not regret it. Aside from teaching, I also have a great passion for football and particularly the Canadian Football League, and the people I met and the stories I could tell from my time in the league are experiences I will never forget. Working with the different types of personalities in the football world and the media world also helped me tremendously in managing the different personalities in the classroom.

What advice would you give to current journalism students?

My advice to current journalism students is to stay positive and keep an open mind, but be practical at the same time. Understand your own personal situation, both financially and in terms of your peace of mind, and keep your options open. It was a difficult, transitional time for the industry when I was in the program a generation ago, and I assume it is even more difficult today.  However, I believe a journalism degree is more important today than it was in my time, and the benefits of having one are enormous. Maybe not financially, because well paying-jobs in the industry seem to be few and far between, but from a “we need some intelligent people out there leading us” perspective. As I mentioned before, there is so much misinformation and potentially dangerous ideas floating around out there these days that those who know better, such as graduates of Ryerson’s Journalism program, need to step up and take control of the situation, no matter what the job may be. Whether that means working in traditional media, having a strong (and hopefully lucrative) online presence, working in government, teaching in school, or landing a job in any industry. The practical knowledge and overall perspective one develops from having been in this program should be put to good use.

 

Kaitlyn Hanson photo
Photo courtesy Kaitlyn Hanson

Kaitlyn Hanson
Middle school teacher
Millarville, Alberta

After graduating from the Ryerson School of Journalism (RSJ) in 2007, Kaitlyn Hanson left Toronto to work at CBC London in the U.K. As she and one of her co-workers were about to enjoy their separate weekend plans, they got a phone call that put everything on pause. A suspected car bombing had been foiled at a London nightclub.

Hanson said watching her co-worker cancel extensive plans to cover the unfolding terrorism story helped put the demanding nature of the job into perspective. She continued working in journalism for a few years internationally in various positions before deciding on a change of pace.

Now, leading her middle school classroom in Alberta, we spoke to Hanson about her career journey after leaving the RSJ.

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

There’s this old saying that teachers create more teachers and the kids of teachers often go on to become teachers. Both of my parents are retired but were teachers. I was always in a house that was a teacher house. I had teachers around me all the time. Both of my parents had teachers’ schedules, which means that the year is very busy but we all had the summers together. So growing up, that was very normal. When I was little, I really thought I would just grow up and become a teacher because that’s what the adults in my world did.

Then when I was in Grade 9, we went to take-your-kid-to-work day and it did not make sense for me to go to work with either of my parents because my mom was my teacher and my dad was a principal of a school that was very close by. My parents made an arrangement to send me with a family friend to one of the local news channels, which later became the Global channel. And that was my take-your-kid-to-work day. I had never considered journalism and I had a really interesting day. I got to see all kinds of stuff and I left with a very strong idea that, OK maybe television journalism is what I want to do.

If you had asked me that summer going into first-year, “What do you want to do?” I would have told you very confidently that I wanted to work on air in a newsroom. Specifically, I would have probably said that my dream job would have been a morning talk show. News and current affairs was 100 percent where my heart and my brain were, and I was very excited about that. I knew that I wanted broadcast stream right away.

When did you decide to become a teacher?

I had been hired by a web content agency out of Manchester. They needed entry-level writers to write website news and the pay was kind of medium, but it was a job in England. None of my friends had full-time writing gigs so I took the job. Within a year, I was in an editorial role there. I worked for them in an editorial capacity, writing, and managing teams of writers for three years.

When that got to a stage where I wanted to make a change, an opportunity became available. They were opening an offshoot of their company in Australia. They were looking for somebody to run editorial as a startup. And I was like: “Oh, I could do that. That’s great.”

So, I did that. I went over to Australia and I was there for two years. But right before I left to go from the U.K. to Australia, I revisited the idea of teaching. I wasn’t sure if it was time for me to go home yet or not. I even started to fill out an application to do a post degree in education studies. I filled it out and then I never sent it. I just didn’t feel ready to send it.

While I was in Australia, we had a family emergency and I suddenly had to come home for a couple of weeks to support my parents. While I was at home, I was really re-evaluating: How far away did I want to be from home? Was newsroom work really something that I was passionate about? My job had started to feel very corporate and I wasn’t loving how much time I was spending in the office. It just sort of felt like I had done what I had come to do and there wasn’t much more room for growth there.

While I was at home with my parents, I found my application to go to teachers college that I had never sent. And I was like: “Oh, maybe this is the universe saying this is something you really should seriously revisit.”

By November of 2012, I moved back to Canada and made the decision that I was going to go back to school.

How did your journalism degree and what you learned while being at j-school prepare you for your current career? What do you use from what you learned here in your teaching?

Oh, so much. In terms of my own skills, I would say a hundred per cent of what I learned at Ryerson is relevant to what I do in my classroom.

What I really appreciated too, was that Ryerson was so collaborative. Especially in broadcast stream, which is where I spent the bulk of my learning time. That’s where my passion was when I was there. In the same way, teaching is very collaborative. I work [with a] teaching team. I have a teaching partner. We put together curriculum and design every day for our students in a way that enables us to make quick decisions. We have to think on our feet. We have to meet deadlines in many ways. There’s a lot of similarities.

Grade 6 students in Alberta all write standardized tests in May and June. One of the things that Grade 6 students are tested on is their ability to write functionally and they are presented with a whole bunch of information that they have to turn into a newspaper article. So, I made a news writing unit and taught my Grade 6 students Ryerson-style writing but for twelve-year-old’s. It’s not exactly the same but that’s where my ideas come from. Next year, what I’d really like to do with my older Grade 7 and 8 students is a podcasting unit.

Which of your j-school profs inspired you as a teacher?

Gary Gould was amazing. Suanne Kelman was in equal measures terrifying and inspiring and really pushed for high expectations, good writing and sound management of yourself and others.

I am so aware now when I write my report card comments. I remember Suanne went on and on and on about the passive voice. All I can hear in my head every time I write anything is Suanne reminding me to avoid the passive voice.

I remember Gary Gould every time I wear burnt orange. He wanted everybody to wear burnt orange because it looks good on camera. I have an orange sweater and every time I wear my orange sweater I think of Gary Gould.

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

My roommate from second year is also a teacher. She lives in Bellville, Ontario and she’s a substitute teacher. We were best friends from orientation. We did everything together. It’s really funny because she found that teaching was her calling before I did and she went back to school and then I did the same. Then we had our kids around the same time. Our sons are one day apart, which is quite cute because we were really good friends from that time.

What has been one of your biggest accomplishments since leaving j-school? 

Being able to turn the work that I was doing in university into a career that let me travel. I’m really proud of that. That obviously wasn’t going to be my forever path because I don’t think it’s in our nature to be nomadic forever, it’s not in mine.

While I was working overseas, I was able to pay off my debt. I didn’t make a ton of money, but I didn’t lose money by doing that. And that was great. I also think being able to transfer the skills into a career that I’m equally passionate about is an accomplishment. Journalism is part of my life in big and small ways every day.

What would your first-year self think of where you are now?

I think I’d be very proud of where I am now and I think I came into teaching at the right time. I was so afraid that if I went into teaching without having other experiences, I would always wonder what those other experiences would have been like. I feel like my past wouldn’t have been everybody’s past. But for me, it was the only way that I could live my life without having regrets.

What advice would you give to current journalism students?

Keep an open mind about what possibilities exist. I know that when I was finishing up at Ryerson, it was very competitive. People started getting hired from their internships and people started getting hired right away to do all kinds of stuff.

I remember feeling really envious of the people who knew what was going to happen next because I didn’t know. As I’ve gotten older and have had different experiences, I’ve become OK with the idea that you don’t have to know right away.

 

Anne Vis photo
Photo courtesy of Anne Vis.

Anne Vis
Secondary school teacher
Cardinal Leger Secondary School
Brampton, Ontario

After getting laid off from a corporate communications job, one of Anne Vis’ friends suggested that she would make a good high school teacher. After some thought, she applied to teacher’s college and has spent the last 14 years as a Catholic high school teacher, 13 of them at the same school.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

As a teacher, my days are highly regimented. The day officially starts at 8:22 a.m. with the national anthem, prayer/reflection and then the first period. As we can all probably recall from our own memories of high school, bells signal the beginning and end of each period, lunch and dismissal at 2:25 p.m. Each day is quite hectic with lesson preparations and interactions with students, parents, administrators and collaboration with other teachers. I also spend time on my extracurricular commitments. While I do normally leave work by 3 p.m. each day, I spend at least 1-2 hours marking each night. English teachers always have a lot of marking!

When did you decide to become a teacher?

I worked as a newspaper reporter for six years, most of that time at a small independent (then) daily in Brockville, ON, called the Recorder and Times. I decided to make the jump to corporate communications in Ottawa and worked at Corel Corporation for four years (Having a journalism degree and some experience working in the industry opened the door for me to get a job in communications). After Corel was acquired and taken private, my job was eliminated and I was laid off. I wasn’t really interested in returning to journalism or continuing in communications. A good friend of mine suggested that I would be a good high school teacher. I thought a lot about it and decided to apply to teacher’s college. I’ve always enjoyed spending time with teenagers, unlike most people, and I was motivated to give my time and effort to something more important than corporate image and shareholder value (in my opinion!).

What would your first-year self think of where you are now?

I think my first-year self would be proud of where I’ve ended up. Teaching is as rewarding a career as journalism and it’s a good fit for my personality – more than journalism ever was. At first, it felt strange to be the one leading a classroom, but that’s true for any new teacher. I was able to quickly adjust to the responsibility.

How did your journalism degree and what you learned while being at j-school prepare you for your current career?

I learned a lot while studying journalism at Ryerson, especially during my time working on the Ryersonian. In addition to developing my writing skills, I overcame my inherent shyness and learned how to comfortably speak to virtually anyone while researching stories. Also, I was fortunate to take the Radio Doc course with Stuart McLean. This semester, in my Grade 12 (university) English course, we studied the Finding Cleo podcast by CBC’s Connie Walker. I was able to share my experiences in Stuart McLean’s class with my students.

Which of your j-school profs inspired you as a teacher?

Hands down my favourite professor was Don Gibb. Truthfully, he was many students’ favourite professor! He is so likeable! But, more importantly, the advice he shared in his classes helped me immensely in my journalism career. I consider Don Gibb to be a mentor as a teacher too. He was so honest and forthright with his students and I tend to be that way as well. He went above and beyond to help all of his students, which I admire and try to emulate.

What has been one of your biggest accomplishments since leaving j-school?

I have to say one of my biggest accomplishments has nothing to do with my career! I took up running again in my late 30s and was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which I completed in 2009. That accomplishment is near the top of my bucket list. Finishing any full marathon is difficult, especially Boston.

What are some of the challenges you faced trying to find a career after graduation?

It was difficult to find work as a newspaper reporter when I graduated in 1994 (and still harde now, I’m sure). It became clear that I was going to have to move away from home, the GTA, which was not my preference. I lived in Fort Frances, ON, for nearly one year and worked at the newspaper there. I wasn’t happy living so far away from my family. Don Gibb was the person who helped me make an introduction to the editors at the Brockville newspaper and I was able to get a job there.

What advice would you give to current journalism students?

I always have high school students who ask me for advice about pursuing a career in journalism. I’m not sure if I am qualified to give this advice since I’ve been out of the industry for so long. But I have watched what has happened to the industry with a keen interest. It seems to me that anyone pursuing a career in journalism today must be open to the idea of freelancing and specializing in a specific area. This is very different from my own career path in journalism. When I ask my students where they get their news from, increasingly I hear them speak of blogs and podcasts. I believe that as long as new journalists are willing to evolve as technology develops and embrace the new vehicles of storytelling, there will be jobs for them.

Dragana Kovacevic photo
Photo courtesy of Dragana Kovacevic.

 

Dragana Kovacevic
Assistant Editor
Digital lifestyle team
Corus

Dragana Kovacevic is an assistant editor with the digital lifestyle team at Corus Entertainment. When she graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism (RSJ) in 2007, she landed a job with the Discovery Channel and soon became one of their producers. During her last two years at Discovery, Kovacevic decided to pursue a teaching degree. Although she isn’t currently in the classroom, she says teaching and working with youth is still a path she wants to follow.

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

It was pretty open-ended. I think I wanted to first understand what the field included. A lot of that is tied to my early experiences growing up. I came from the former Yugoslavia. They had a civil war there so I realized there, as well, that different sides would withhold information, release information, and that shaped my understanding of what that sharing of information meant. My dad used to work at a radio station there. I’m half Croatian, half Serbian.

We moved to Canada in 1993 but the war was happening into the late 80s-90s so it basically meant that the country, as it was known then – the former Yugoslavia – split into Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia [and Montenegro]. That left an impression on me.

3) What made you want to be a teacher? 

Even at Ryerson, it was something that I considered. I kind of always saw myself as a high-school teacher and I grew up in a household of educators. It was imprinted on me that education has transformative powers. My grandma was the first person in her family to graduate and she went on to get a Masters; she was a teacher as well and so was my granddad. I tutored throughout high school and a little bit throughout university. It’s something that I enjoyed. I enjoy working with youth.

[I pursued my teaching degree] after I had spent some time working at the Discovery Channel here in Canada. It was something that I had in the back of my mind as something that I would like to pursue. I had a son when I was just at the end of my second year at Ryerson. By that point, my son was old enough and self-sufficient so that I could take the time to pursue it. I decided to try to get my package and application ready and then send it in and see what happened. I got in and made the decision to go and pursue it.

I was teaching until this opportunity [at Chorus] came along. I was teaching in an LTO (long-term occasional) position. LTO is basically like a contract position for a set amount of time. It can be extended but, essentially, you are replacing the permanent teacher. It is something that all teachers aspire for and it usually doesn’t happen this quickly. Usually, a teacher would be on the supply circuit for some time until they have enough experience or until the right opportunity presents itself where they can step into the classroom.

I was in that position until February and then the permanent teacher came back.

4) What would your first-year self think of where you are now?

So many things have changed. I’ve had my son since then. The media industry itself is in huge shifts right now. I think if anything, I would be surprised in some ways, but in some ways, I’ve always sort of believed that you have to be agile. It’s definitely not how I projected my life in first-year, but that sense of being adaptable and agile is something that stayed [with me].

You can study and prepare all you want but each experience is its own beast. The thing that drew me into teaching in the first place was that your work matters and you definitely have the ability to make a positive impact on somebody. You get to work with these wonderful students who are in such an exciting part of their life and that energy is something that draws me in. Even though I’m working [at Chorus], I can definitely see myself maybe tutoring on the side. That’s something I still very much want to maintain.

What do you think the RSJ experience offers that you can’t get anywhere else? 

I can say so many things. I think the professors that I had when we were there, like Suanne Kelman, who was my radio professor … I love her, she’s fantastic. She left a huge life-changing imprint on me.

The second thing is that it was rigorous. They had high expectations and they really force you to be critical and to push yourself. To think in new ways, to be open-minded, to never kind of take things as given – that has definitely helped me tremendously in teaching. To not rush to fill in space and let the person that you’re speaking with tell their story without rushing to interrupt them with your story, which has helped me in teaching because sometimes students just need to be heard.

Which of your j-school profs inspired you as a teacher?

I had my son at the end of [my] second year, and obviously, it is a huge life-changing situation. I took a year off to spend that critical period with him when he was an infant and then went back the following year. There was a lot of apprehension just because it is such a demanding and rigorous program, and a lot of things were happening in my life at that point in time. [Suanne Kelman] recognized that I needed support and she took the initiative, reached out, and allowed me to recognize that it’s OK to ask for support if I need it.

That left a huge impression on me and I followed her advice. I think it made a huge difference in where I am now.

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

I would say my fondest memory is actually having my son see me graduate (the convocation was in June 2008, when he was 4). I think that the wonderfully supportive journalism professors I had were a huge part of my ability to walk across that podium, and that definitely did inform my personal teaching practice.

What advice would you give to current journalism students?

Make as many connections as you can. Be willing to work very hard. And I would say to remain flexible and recognize where there are opportunities or where you can create the opportunities and go in that direction. Especially, something that we’re being taught now as teachers is that we are not preparing students for a specific profession down the road – we don’t know what that is going to look like because so many jobs aren’t even created yet that will exist at that time. The biggest thing that we are taught to teach is that flexibility, agility and certain characteristics like perseverance and growth mindset. Those are the things that you want to take away with you.

 

Ashley Goodbrand photo
Photo courtesy of Ashley Goodbrand.

Ashley Goodbrand
Intermediate teacher
St. Sebastian Catholic Elementary School
London, Ont

After graduating from the RSJ in 2008, Ashely Goodbrand called up her former internship newsroom at CTV and boldly insisted on being hired. Her first phone call wasn’t successful, but her second one was.

Goodbrand got her foot in the door at CTV as a news secretary and soon worked as a chase producer, in production assistant roles and as a video producer. After a few years, her career took an unlikely turn when she decided to pursue teaching in London, Ont. Now, as an occasional teacher in the London District Catholic School Board, Goodbrand is finding ways to spread her love for media in the classroom.

When did you decide to become a teacher? 

I always enjoyed being a student and, to be honest, I didn’t expect to be a teacher. I was into writing and I didn’t expect when I was younger that I would end up in this profession. But, I’m so happy that I am now.

I feel like I’m making such a big difference in these kids’ lives. I’m in a low income area in London and sometimes school is really the only stable thing in their lives. With my background [in media] I bring a lot of that into the classroom. Last year for the Olympics, the kids had to do an Olympics broadcast. I’ve done Rick Mercer style rants with them. I show them how to edit using iMovie.  By the end of the assignment or even midway through the assignment, they’ll be using terminology that I would have used that CTV.

What would your first-year self think of where you are now?

In first year, I was coming from a very small town. I’m from a very small town called Erieau and moving to the big city of Toronto was shock enough. I had Don Gibb, amazing man, teaching news reporting 101 and we were thrown into the fire. We would get our story idea in the morning and had to run out, do all the interviews, type it up and submit it by 6 p.m. Teaching was definitely not on my radar at that point in time. I was probably thinking I would write for a magazine or something like that.

How did your journalism degree and what you learned while being at j-school prepare you for your current career?

You have to be ready all the time. It’s not necessarily that a story is breaking, but there’s always interruptions or a student having an off day or you’re always trying to figure out another strategy. As a teacher you’re constantly learning. You’re always learning and there’s a constant desire to learn more new things.

What do you think the RSJ experience offers that you can’t get anywhere else? 

I raved about the journalism program to everyone. I found that it was just so personal. You were at a university but it was so personal. Part of that was the program but it was the professors too. They were not just professors, they were people who had been in the industry or are currently in the industry. I found that that experience was amazing. You weren’t just a number in a room. Everything was very hands-on and you were thrown right into it … I think sometimes that’s the best way to learn. I love how true the program was to real life like working in the industry. I just loved the program and it was a great four years.

Which j-school profs left an impact on you/inspired you as a teacher?

Suanne Kelman. I loved that woman. I remember we were doing a radio doc class and I was struggling so much to come up with a topic. My topic was kind of off the wall … I was actually engaged at the time and I was really into the show Sex and the City and I wanted to do something like: “Oh, what would it be like if I were single.” [Suanne] guided me so much on that. Suanne was just great.

What has been one of your biggest accomplishments since leaving j-school? 

Definitely becoming a permanent teacher. There was a lot of uncertainty in the teaching profession when I was in it. When I was in school, my friends and I were thinking we’re going to graduate and it’s going to be like seven or eight years before we get permanent. And it ended up only being three. But I’ve always been a humble person and just making a kid smile or laugh, that is just everything to me some days. You just have to look for the little things in life.

Last year, I started a media club at my school and the kids were amazing. We were doing monthly broadcasts and updating everybody on news around the school. That school never had something like that before. Out of that club, we applied for a video contest in London, Ont. We didn’t get the top prize, but we did get honorable mention and we got to go to the awards ceremony. They played the video and so that was really cool. If the kids laugh and have a good day, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

 

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

 

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News

Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

The Ryerson School of Journalism was delighted to celebrate with the graduating Class of 2019 during convocation on June 13, 2019. We wish you all the best with the adventures that lie ahead!

 

 

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News

Declan Keogh wins Ryerson’s Gold Medal for FCAD

Janice Neil, Declan Keogh and Adrian Ma at convocation
Janice Neil, Declan Keogh and Adrian Ma at convocation

By Latoya Powell (RSJ ’21)

A few years after dropping out of high school to join Vancouver-based punk band, UnFun, Declan Keogh and his bandmates got into a serious car accident during their 2013 tour. In Indiana, a young driver hit them head on, severely damaging both vehicles.

“There was a huge eight-foot flame [coming out of the van] and everyone was freaking out,” Keogh recalled in a recent interview.

Five people were in the van at the time of the accident. Keogh and two bandmates were hospitalized.

The driver of the other car died at the scene.

“It caused us to reassess what we were doing with our lives,” Keogh said. “That’s when I realized that I wanted to go to school.”

Keogh said he was, initially, uncertain about whether he would succeed at Ryerson University, but he was determined to make the most of the opportunity.

He didn’t need to worry.

He not only graduated from the four-year School of Journalism program on June 13, 2019, he was awarded a top honour –  the Gold Medal at the convocation ceremony. The Gold Medal is awarded to one graduating student per faculty for distinguished academic achievement and involvement in the community.

“I didn’t expect that much of myself, because I dropped out of high school,” Keogh said, adding that it was “nice to be recognized” for his hard work.

“I’m older than most of the students, so when I came, I was ready to learn,” said Keogh,

who was admitted as a mature student at age 25.

“I really wanted to be the best that I could—and prove to myself that I could, because I wasn’t sure.”

Since starting the journalism program in 2015, Keogh has won multiple awards. In the past year, he has won the 2018 Newstalk 1010 Award for outstanding journalistic abilities, the 2018 Toronto Star award for the best investigative piece and he placed second in the Emerge Media Awards, as part of the work produced by RSJ’s 2018 Hong Kong 360 course.  

“(Keogh) is an accomplished investigative journalist who uses his lived experiences to pursue stories about marginalized and at-risk communities to shed light in areas that others would otherwise ignore,” said Janice Neil, Chair of Ryerson’s School of Journalism, during convocation.

In her nomination letter, Neil said Keogh’s reporting highlighted social issues that needed more public awareness, such as his articles for Now Toronto covering the opioid crisis, and the effect his work has already had.

“When he covered HIV, he wanted a story that had an impact: he made the courageous decision to write about his own experience with someone’s non-disclosure of their status and he, essentially, came out as bisexual,” Neil said in her nomination letter. “He still gets emails from readers saying they had no idea about how HIV non-disclosure is treated in Canada.”

Last winter, Keogh turned down more prestigious opportunities to pursue an investigative journalism project about First Nations communities in southern Ontario.

“To me, that reflects a selfless dedication to doing journalism that makes a difference,” instructor Kevin MacLean said in his nomination letter.

eogh is now working as a reporter and researcher for the Institute for Investigative Journalism, a joint effort between Canadian journalism schools and media organizations to give students hands-on training. It conducts large-scale, journalistic investigations in areas of Canada where investigative resources are scarce.

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News

‘Broadview’ aims to broaden horizons of new and current readers

Staff at the Broadview magazine launch party.
From left to right: Sarah Watt, Celina Gallardo (RSJ ’19), Laurie Myles, Kirsten MacDonell, Sharon Doran, Patricia Ingold, Carol Moskot, Jocelyn Bell (RSJ ’00), Emma Prestwich (RSJ ’13), Elena Gritzan (RSJ ’16), Caley Moore, Ronit Novak, Will Pearson, Kristy Woudstra (RSJ ’99), Amy van den Berg (RSJ ’18). Photo credit: Nick Wons.

By Jaclyn Mika (RSJ ’08)

The United Church Observer has changed its name to Broadview and dramatically redesigned its magazine and website in a bid to draw new readers and increase subscriptions.

“Stories that we were doing were going viral,” said editor and publisher Jocelyn Bell in a recent interview. “Online is interesting because people don’t necessarily see the brand name of the publication when they’re clicking on the story. People like the content; they just need to get past the name.”

The magazine has served Christian audiences in Canada for the past 190 years and it is currently the oldest continuously published magazine in North America.

But two years ago, after the Presbyterian Record closed and with circulation declining, the magazine took a deep look into its finances and circulation numbers. According to its forecasts, if nothing changed, 2024 would be the last year the United Church Observer would publish.

“Nothing quite like having news like that to spur you to some creative thinking,” said Jocelyn Bell, RSJ ’00.  “What took over was a vision for something new, something different, something that would try to reach for a wider audience.”

That vision included a name change to something more inclusive.

So, a few weeks ago, The United Church Observer became Broadview. The idea for the name was sparked by the office’s proximity to Broadview subway station, but it represents the magazine’s commitment to its core “pillars”: spirituality, ethical living and social justice.

“It was harder than naming a baby and I have done that once,” Bell said. “I am happy that we landed with Broadview. I think it really works. It feels like it’s been around for a while even though it hasn’t.”

The name change was accompanied by a website and magazine redesign. The content will remain familiar to

May 2019 issue of Broadview magazine
May 2019 issue of Broadview magazine

current subscribers with the first two-thirds of the magazine devoted to spirituality, social justice and ethical living. The back third will contain stories about the United Church and parish news.

“We have the same number of pages dedicated to United Church coverage, which is important to our current readers,” Bell said.

The main content change will be a broadening of the perspectives in general interest stories.

“Let’s say we have an article about empathy.  In the past, we would have gone to a United Church person or minister to talk about this, but now we will be a bit more ecumenical,” Bell said, which may mean quoting someone from another Christian denomination, or speaking to a rabbi or an imam.

“We can pull from a little bit of a wider scope of people when we want that faith perspective,” Bell said. “Still Christian, but a wider perspective.”

In the fall, Broadview will launch a marketing campaign to attract new subscribers and build a sustainable subscription base. The magazine is already available on newsstands where it hasn’t traditionally been found. Broadview can now be purchased in Indigo book stores and some Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Marts.

But the Broadview team has also worked hard to ensure current subscribers are not sacrificed for new ones. It is the fourth name change in the publication’s history and these changes were  never popular initially. When The United Church Observer name was originally adopted, it was so unpopular that a meeting of United Church leaders was called to debate whether that should be scrapped.

“We did a lot of work communicating to our subscribers and our donors and other stakeholders in the lead up [to the launch],” Bell said. “That was pretty successful because there was really only one person who said: ‘What is this?’ and that’s a person who winters in Arizona.”

So far, efforts to maintain the United Church subscriber base seem to be paying off.

“Not all the numbers are in yet, but I know from talking to our circulation team that they’re not getting a ton of cancels,” Bell said.  “It’s been a surprise that people are so enthusiastic. They’re asking us for 20 copies so that they can do a promotional event in their church or community. They’re jumping on board. That’s been really nice.”

Bell said, however, that there are still challenges ahead.

“Trying to find that new audience that’s out there, that we’ve identified in our market research, but actually finding them so that we can tell them about this and get them excited…that will definitely be a challenge,” Bell said.

But she is excited to watch plans for Broadview unfold and to address and issues that emerge.

“We’ve got the first issue out. People think they know the look and feel, but the next cover is going to be quite different and it’s going to look really beautiful in a different way,” Bell said.

The Muriel Duncan Observer Internship

She said The Muriel Duncan Observer Internship, which many former RSJ students have received, will remain. The paid internship runs for 12 weeks during the summer and Bell said she regards maintaining it as a personal mission because a paid internship gave her a start in journalism before she landed her first “real” job.

“For me, there’s a value, and an importance, and a meaning in helping a young person have a valuable work experience,” Bell said. “It’s such a thrill to see them go on to another job and to a career in journalism and do really well.”

Past interns have had cover-page bylines and the chance to travel for a story. Bell said the enthusiasm, different perspectives and new ideas “lifts everyone up here.”

“We live on ideas,” Bell said. “We can’t put out a magazine without great ideas.”

 

 

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News

Michalyshyn’s work allowed journalists to do their work ‘better’

Photo of Betty Michalyshyn
Photo courtesy of Cherri Campbell

By: Jaclyn Mika (RSJ ’08)

Since 2009, the Betty Michalyshyn Memorial Scholarship has celebrated RSJ students who produce outstanding academic achievement in cultural journalism or critical writing on the arts.

It seems a fitting tribute to a woman who is remembered for her kindness and efforts to champion Canadian film, television and the arts.

“She was the kindest, sweetest, biggest-hearted person I ever knew. She was the epitome of class. She brightened up any room with her smile,” said Cherri Campbell, a friend of Michalyshyn’s and executive assistant at Serendipity Point Films.

That kindness, and her passion for Canadian arts and culture, was evident in in her work as a publicist, trying to get journalists to consider the Canadian content she was promoting.

“She really made people feel that she cared about them. She made their jobs easier by supplying what they

Photo of Betty Michalyshyn
Photo courtesy of Cherri Campbell

needed, whether that was photography or access to the right person or background information. She was unfailingly helpful and unfailingly good-natured,” said Pauline Couture, President of PCA, who spearheaded the efforts to establish the award. “Journalism is, in some respects, an adversarial profession, but the information-gathering part of it is also collaborative. You need sources to collaborate with you and she was an unfailingly collaborative person.”

Couture said she wanted to establish this award after Michalyshyn died in 2005, at age 51, because of the contribution she made in changing the perception in Canadian media that Canadian films, television and art were inferior, particularly to American products.

“It was very uphill to get the media to look at your product and take it seriously. There were very few…champions of Canadian talent,” Couture said. “Without Betty, who would actually be in the trenches, phoning journalists, bringing things to their attention, providing them with pictures, providing them with access to movie stars for interviews, and framing things in a way that was interesting and would get their attention, I think it would have been much harder. She made a big contribution breaking through to Canadian journalists to get them to pay attention to our own cultural product.”

It may seem a little odd to establish a scholarship “on the other side of the fence,” said Couture, but Michalyshyn “was all about enabling journalists to do their jobs better.”

At the time, Couture did not see any similar opportunities for young journalists interested in Canadian arts and culture.

Photo of Betty Michalyshyn
Photo courtesy of Cherri Campbell

“I saw a parallel between what Betty had done for me as a client, having Canadian cultural programs to promote, and awakening interest in Canadian journalists in that subject matter,” Couture said. “I thought that this award could do the same thing.”

The scholarship was funded by Michalyshyn’s family, friends and CTV colleagues. It remains the only one at the Ryerson School of Journalism to specifically reward cultural or arts journalism.

“Winning the Betty Michalyshyn Memorial Scholarship empowered me to keep doing what I was doing—learning about Canadian culture and thinking about what stories needed to be told and how to actually tell them,” said Patricia Karounos, who won the scholarship in 2016 and is now an editorial assistant at ELLE Magazine. “It really reinforced that arts/cultural reporting has a value, both at Ryerson and in the broader community within Canada.  It’s easy to overlook our own cultural creation in favour of bigger, buzzier foreign creation. In that vein, it’s important that we celebrate Canadian arts and culture, but also evaluate with a critical eye so that it’s upheld to the highest standards.”

Kate Spencer, who won the scholarship in 2012, said the financial support provided by the award meant she could focus better on classes. She said  it was “very affirming and encouraging” to be recognized “as having skill and talent in a type of journalism that meant a lot to me.”

Spencer is now a content writer for the Canadian Red Cross and freelances as a writer and editor with a focus on arts and culture.

“Arts and cultural reporting in Canada are important because we live in a country with a rich and diverse artistic landscape, and our role as journalists is to acknowledge, celebrate and examine that output,” Spencer said. “Some of my favourite writing is in the arts and cultural scene because there’s so much scope for creativity when writing about the creative.”

Couture said she thinks Michalyshyn would have been proud that a scholarship in her name was helping students.

“She was extremely humble and modest. Like a lot of women, she undervalued herself. She didn’t promote herself, ever. She was always promoting other people,” Couture said. “I think she would have been deeply moved to see that she has this legacy of wave after wave of young people taking an interest in Canadian culture.”

To date, about  $10,000 has been given to 10 students to reward them for their work in Canadian arts and cultural writing, and to encourage them to pursue their interest in it.

Michalyshyn is still missed by those who knew her.

“Betty was my publicist on several shows. She was one of the most amazing publicists I ever worked with and she was an absolute doll,” said film producer Mary Young Leckie. “I cried a little seeing her picture. I loved that woman.”

“Betty was an idealist. A true believer in the importance of homegrown cultural content. She  was a tireless promoter of Canadian-made television dramas,” said producer and executive Robert Lantos. “We first worked closely together on the prime time series, Mount Royal, which I produced for CTV in 1986/7. “Always elegantly attired  and soft spoken, she was a generous fountain of ideas and initiatives. Her most memorable quality was her kindness toward everyone. In the years I knew her, I never once heard her utter a negative word about anyone. I miss her.”

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News

Janice Neil re-appointed as RSJ Chair

Janice Neil Associate chair

Janice Neil has been re-appointed for a second, three-year term as Chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism.

“As the journalism industry continues to evolve, I have confidence that under Janice’s continued leadership the School will be on the leading edge of shaping the future of this industry,” said Charles Falzon, Dean of FCAD.

Neil was appointed as Chair in 2016 and has overseen a number of new initiatives in this role, including the launch of journalism’s first short-term intensive course to Hong Kong, the Digital Innovation Challenge and an annual high school journalism conference. 

“I’m so proud of our outstanding staff and facultytheir dedication to teaching excellence and delivering an innovative, digitally-focused curriculum for undergrads and graduates. Our focus on students, on teaching excellence, and entrepreneurial initiatives keeps us moving forward,” said Neil.

Neil joined the RSJ faculty in 2007. Before becoming Chair, she served as Undergraduate Program Director and Associate Chair. During her time at Ryerson, Neil also served as Editor-In-Chief of the Canadian Journalism Project (J-Source), leading 15 educators, scholars and journalists in the production of research and commentary on the state of the profession in Canada.

Prior to joining RSJ, Neil previously worked for 23 years as a reporter, editor, writer, host, and producer for radio and television, holding key role for CBC’s Metro Morning, TVO, CBC TV and Radio and the CBC’s London Bureau. 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Events

Marsha Barber’s Poetry Book Launch Party

Marsha Barber’s Poetry Book Launch Party

Come celebrate Marsha Barber’s latest poetry collection “Love You to Pieces.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Catalyst

Rogers Communications Centre, 80 Gould street

Marsha Barber’s poetry has won awards in Canada and internationally. Her work has appeared in such periodicals as the Literary Review of Canada, The Walrus, The Antigonish Review, FreeFall, The New Quarterly and The Prairie Journal. Marsha has also served as chair of the judging committee for the League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Award. Her work as a journalist and documentary-maker has influenced her language, imagery and themes.

RSVP: events.journalism@ryerson.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Events

Atkinson 2019: We Become the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Atkinson 2019

Atkinson 2019: We Become the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Indigenous Realities in Media Today

Anishinaabe comedian/writer/media maker Ryan McMahon takes audiences deep into the making of the hit podcast series, Thunder Bay.

In this talk, McMahon articulates the nuances of Indigenous storytelling, and how powerful partnerships with Indigenous creatives, communities, and Nations can change the discourse in mainstream media.

Thursday, April 4

11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

RCC 103, The Venn

Rogers Communications Centre, 80 Gould street

The Atkinson Lecture is made possible by an Atkinson Charitable Foundation endowment in honour of former Toronto Star publisher Joseph E. Atkinson.

 

 

 

 

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News

Thanks mom! Graduating students thank the people who supported them during their time at RSJ.

 

No graduate makes it to the finish line of their degree without someone to thank for their unwavering support. The RSJ Class of 2019 thanks those who supported them most during their time at the school.

 

Video By Gary Gould and Sally Goldberg Powell

 

 

 

 

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