Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Back in 1982, the employment situation for journalism grads was abysmal. I had sent résumés to every small newspaper across Ontario with no luck. Then, one day I found an ad in the Globe & Mail. A publisher was seeking someone for the position of news editor at a start-up paper in a small town in Saskatchewan. So again, I sent in a résumé and got a call a few weeks later. We did a phone interview, and they immediately offered me my first professional journalism job.
I spent the next nine months working in Coronach, population 1,000, at the Borderland Reporter. The newsroom consisted of myself –– I did all the news writing/photography/layout –– and a salesperson. Coming from Toronto, it was a real eye-opener living and working in rural Saskatchewan. I gained an appreciation of how the railways and agriculture are the lifeblood of so many communities.
After nine months, I had enough and moved to The Battlefords. There I worked at the Battleford Telegraph as a reporter/photographer.
A year later, I decided to return to Ontario. Eventually, I covered a meeting dealing with a proposed covered stadium at Downsview Airport. (The stadium was ultimately built, however not before moving downtown and being christened SkyDome.) Residents were concerned about the plans which they felt would affect their neighbourhood.
I shopped the piece around, and The Canadian Jewish News decided to print it. The news editor let me know that they generally did not accept cold-call articles and that she was interested in hiring me as a freelance reporter. I eventually started filling in for reporters in the office. One day, a reporter called the editor and resigned. The editor called me into his office and asked me if I would like the job. That was 37 years ago, in 1984.
In 1989, the news editor (a different person than the one who hired me) left. I applied and immediately moved into the position. In 1998, The Canadian Jewish News decided to launch a website, and I added Web Editor to my resume. For 16 years, I maintained it, and was heavily involved in its redesign.
Over the years, I met with and interviewed many fascinating people, including former prime minister Joe Clark. Once I even had the opportunity to go up in a glider. However, the best part of my journalism experience was living in Saskatchewan for two years and seeing Canadian life from a different vantage point.
My working career continued until 2014, when The Canadian Jewish News restructured my position. While I was there, though, I made a difference in the daily operation of the newspaper, filling in for the editor in his absence and assigning stories to staff and freelance reporters. I also worked in production, helping layout and design the paper every week. I also continued to maintain the paper’s website.
Looking back on my days at Sheridan, some key moments were interviewing Don Shields, president of the college and having the story appear in the Oakville Beaver. This piece was my first to appear in a newspaper, and it was a significant accomplishment. On the lighter side, going to the Niagara Beer and Wine Festival was just fun. The entire Journalism faculty was outstanding, and its head, Ben Rose, demanded nothing less than perfection and pushed us hard. Years later, I was in the unusual position where I became Ben’s editor at The CJN.
What advice would I offer students today? I saw many of my fellow Journalism grads settle for jobs outside of their profession when they could not get jobs close to home. College is to help a student get a job in their chosen profession, not to find one down the street. So, don’t settle for anything outside your field, no matter where you have to relocate. Also, don’t expect top dollar and a comfy office when you graduate. Start at the bottom of your field and learn everything you can. Graduation is not the end but the beginning of your basic education, starting once you enter the workplace. I often found it helpful to listen and learn everything I could from those who worked in the profession.
Now in retirement, I enjoy reading mystery and science fiction, investing in the stock market and playing computer games. I also run my website, jelijo.com and serve as editor for my fraternal lodge’s monthly newsletter and website.