Revealing candid insights about my career journey in journalism
I share interview excerpts about leaving a plum news internship early, ditching the traditional pathway to success in Canadian media and more.
Hey y’all! Anita here. I’m taking a break over the holidays, so The Other Wave will return to your inbox on Jan. 9, 2022. 🎁
I was recently interviewed by Chantaie Allick, a writer, business strategist and former journalist who interned at The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star with me. We also completed our Master of Journalism degrees at Carleton University together from 2009 to 2011. Chantaie has a newsletter on Substack called Adventures in Storytelling, and profiled me as part of her “Storytellers I Admire” series.
I loved our wide-ranging conversation so much that I’m sharing select excerpts from the interview, which you can read in full here. Chantaie is a skilled interviewer who was able to go deep and surface my core principles and life philosophy, which form the foundation of my journalistic work.
This is the best (and most candid) interview about my 20-year career that I’ve ever given, so I hope you enjoy it.
On my initial understanding of the Canadian media landscape
I was raised in quite a traditional household. I read The Star; I got the paper every single day — the physical paper — all days of the week, and my family listened to 680 News and watched CTV News. So, I had this traditional framework of the places I'd want to work at eventually. When I went to j-school at Carleton [University] to do my master’s, they were even more traditional-minded. For them, it was CBC and The Globe and Mail. As the child of immigrants, I wasn't even aware that those were the [broadcaster] and the paper of record. I had no understanding of that. At Carleton, it was very clear that there were great outlets and then there were not-so-great ones. It was a binary understanding of the media ecosystem in Canada. And I bought into it.
On leaving a plum internship early and ditching the traditional pathway to success in Canadian journalism
Stuff that actually defines my career today, people were like, "Oh my gosh — gasp — this is not real journalism." So I left early, which was unheard of….I learned about audience engagement, analytics; I learned about internet culture and youth culture, which are hugely important to understand in this day and age with the rise of influencer culture, news entrepreneurship and doing things in a more innovative way. So, it really was a fantastic decision, and it changed the trajectory of my career forever because it was the first time I was not going down this traditional Canadian path. It took a lot of guts.
On finally feeling respected for my talent after moving to America
That time, two years in New York, were life changing beyond measure in the sense that it was the first time at the time as a woman of colour that I felt genuinely validated and seen. I got promoted really quickly, and people were just like, "She's smart." And I never had that experience at all at prior publications. Even though we were validated through getting The Globe and The Star internships — they were the best internships — it didn't feel like my work was valued. So that totally changed the game for me. And it was the first time I was promoted to a director position.
On intentionally organizing my life so that everything I do gives me joy
I honestly am the happiest in my career I have ever been. And there were moments where I was so unhappy, being totally straightforward. [Some] people are not even as responsive to the stuff I'm doing now compared to the big-name stuff that I was doing before, but I genuinely don't care, and I've never been able to say that before. It took a while to get to this point, but I've organized my life in a way that — seriously, everything I do gives me joy. And a central piece of joy is creating The Green Line. It's a culmination of my life's work….[All my work, from consulting to education to entrepreneurship,] feels almost cyclical and regenerative in a way, and it all informs this ultimate product that I'm creating.
On the power of storytelling
Oh man, stories are so essential. As a journalist, I've always known this, but I think I know this in an even deeper way as a human being who is very invested in creating a better world — or contributing to a better world and creating better outcomes for people — for the reason that it genuinely builds bridges. I know politicians say this, and [some] people say this as a throwaway, but I really mean this. And I mean this after living through the life experiences that I have. I was actually a very dogmatic, ideology-driven activist in my early 20s, and you probably actually met me during a time when I was still very much like that — just extremely rigid. Frankly, I just was really rooted in my own worldview and not really even willing necessarily to engage.
Then over time, especially in the last five years or so, in the process of meeting so many people through the work I do as a consultant — I've talked to people in Kentucky, I've talked to people in Greece — you just start to realize, through the stories that we share, there's a lot more commonality [between us] genuinely as human beings than there are differences. That's not to whitewash all the injustice that happens out there because I'm very firmly on the side of justice, but at the same time, I genuinely think the power of stories is creating understanding, and engaging people in a way that is bringing them along a journey as opposed to pedantically telling them facts or telling them, "You need to do this." So yeah, it's just really powerful. It's the best way for us to connect with each other.
On my love of philosophy and how it grounds me
There are philosophers who have given me a sense of understanding about the way the world works. Honestly, there's a consistency to the way people who have been successful move through the world — and I don't mean successful in the traditional sense. I mean truly living a life on your terms in a way that actually benefits the greater good. And there's a consistency across cultures across generations, dating back all the way to one of my favourite philosophers, Marcus Aurelius, who is a Roman philosopher king. There are just consistent things that come up about the way you conduct yourself and the way you move through the world that has given me so much solace and calm in the last several years. And those writings are amazing. To me, the greatest storytellers are ones who have things to say that illuminate the world and old truths in a way that is fresh and relevant in modern times. And these old truths continue to be relevant, especially now in this day and age [when] there's so much polarization and populism, and people are at each other's throats.
Read the full interview and then tell me: How do you define career success?
Paid opportunities: TGL Fellows and feature reporters
The Green Line is currently looking for a talented investigative and/or feature reporter based in Toronto who specializes in labour issues. We offer competitive freelance rates, and are interested in long-form pitches that tackle a systemic labour issue in the city through a solutions lens.
The Green Line is also hiring Business Development Innovation Fellows, as well as News Innovation Fellows who are interested in reporting on digital communities, e/sports and sneakers, especially through a Toronto lens. I’m prioritizing applicants who identify as being from underrepresented communities in Toronto, which in this context means people who don’t see themselves reflected in legacy local media.
If you want to learn more about either of these opportunities, feel free to contact me for more information. Or if you’re interested, please send me your resume, cover letter and links to three clips (multimedia is preferred for Fellows applicants and longform is preferred for labour-reporter applicants).
I want to belatedly shout out several supporters who I didn’t get to acknowledge earlier this year or last year. Thank you, Nathan Rudyk and Paul Brent, for your kind words about this edition of The Other Wave!
In my community
The Canadian Association of Journalists released its “Canadian Newsroom Diversity Survey” on Nov. 25. Described as Canada’s first representative survey of diversity in media, it collected data on 3,873 journalists working in 209 newsrooms across the country, from interns to newsroom leaders.
On a related note, The Hill Times reporter Mike Lapointe recently interviewed me about CAJ’s diversity survey for this article titled “Almost half of newsrooms entirely white.”
The results from the Meta (formerly Facebook) Sustainability Accelerator program are in! Twenty U.S.-based and BIPOC-led publishers collectively generated $6.3 million in customer lifetime value and more than 3,000 paying supporters in the past year. I’m a proud coach.
Cool stuff I like
Congrats to The Blackwood, a contemporary art gallery at the University of Toronto Mississauga, for winning Ontario Galleries’ 2021 Public Program award for “Running with Concepts: The Mediatic Edition”! As part of this program, I moderated “Journalism's Myth of Objectivity: Accountability, Embodiment, and Neutrality.”
One of my all-time favourite essays is “Solitude and Leadership” in The American Scholar by author and essayist William Deresiewicz who originally delivered it in a speech to freshmen at West Point. Like Joan Didion’s “On Self-Respect,” it’s an essay I revisit often.
UK actor Michael Sheen recently declared himself to be “a social enterprise, a not-for-profit actor” who will donate the majority of proceeds from his acting work to promote social causes. Hopefully, others will follow his lead on this great idea.
How you can support The Other Wave
My professional mission has always been to support the global movement towards more thoughtful, impactful news coverage, and all the ways that manifests. If The Other Wave gets you to think even a little differently about journalism, especially in Canada, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do. And if TOW gets you to take action and support Canadian media outlets — especially ones that strive to be innovative and inclusive — I will have exceeded my expectations.
If my values and goals resonate with you, please consider supporting fiercely independent media analysis that fills in gaps in coverage of the Canadian journalism landscape. How? Feel free to provide feedback, pass along resources, donate money or simply share this newsletter with your friends.