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Celebrating 50 years of storytelling

Newsroom authorby Jon KuiperijApr 16, 2021
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The media landscape may look a lot different than it did when Sheridan first started teaching journalism in 1968, but one thing hasn’t changed: everybody loves a good story. And our graduates have certainly told a lot of great ones over the years.

As Sheridan celebrates a half-century of excellence in journalism education, we asked some of our notable alumni to reflect on what drew them to the industry, highlights of their career, and how the fundamental skills they learned at Sheridan still help them today.

Carly AgroCarly Agro (Journalism - New Media ’09)

Whether it’s been as a Sportsnet anchor, covering the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, filing rink-side reports for Hockey Night in Canada or traveling coast-to-coast to promote successes in amateur athletics, Carly has been fueled by a passion to share other people’s stories. “I fell in love with sports broadcasting by accident. I just really loved asking athletes questions and getting inside their heads, maybe because I’ve always been a competitive athlete myself so it just felt natural,” admits the former NCAA Division 1 and Sheridan Bruins women’s soccer player. “I genuinely love seeing how sports can bring people together and make them happy.”

Carly, whose fondest memories from Sheridan are working as a team to produce the weekly newscast ‘Newslink at 5’, is particularly proud of her 2019 Hockey Day in Canada feature about an eight-year-old boy with autism experiencing a live NHL game for the first time. “The Courage to Watch showed how important it is for the NHL and all sports venues to be sensory-inclusive so that fans with sensory sensitivities, such as autism, can still attend and enjoy live events,” she says. “It was rewarding in so many ways – mostly because I was able to bring attention to something so important, but also because I’ve spent a lot of time working with a charity that helps families with children with disabilities. This was a unique example of how I was able to use my role at Sportsnet and connection to the hockey community to make a difference for a special family.”

Teenaz JavatTeenaz Javat (Canadian Journalism for Internationally Trained Writers ’08)

After working for five years as a print journalist in India and Pakistan, Teenaz put her career on hold when she immigrated to Canada in 1997, spending the next eight years as a stay-at-home mom to her two children. She then joined Sheridan’s former Canadian Journalism for Internationally Trained Writers graduate certificate program to build a network of contacts and transition back into the field, and has worked as a senior writer at CBC since graduating from Sheridan in 2008.

“It’s a thrill to tell stories and make a living out of it,” says Teenaz, who was the lead researcher and producer for a 2010 CBC feature that won national and regional Adrienne Clarkson Awards for Diversity from the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada. “No award or cause comes close to the satisfaction I’ve gained working at my desk, in the middle of an almost-empty newsroom, telling the story of the pandemic one human being at a time.”

Stuart ThompsonStuart Thompson (Journalism – Print ’06)

Although he initially set out to write movie and music reviews, Stuart quickly realized there’s more than one way to tell a story. He worked as a multimedia editor at The Globe and Mail and as a graphics director at The Wall Street Journal before becoming the head of visual journalism for The New York Times’ Opinion section, co-creating an interactive look at every lie told by U.S. President Donald Trump that won the Gold Medal at the Society for News Design within his first year. “Our giant series on smartphone tracking, ‘One Nation, Tracked’, was an opportunity to do all the things I enjoy: holding the pen on the main stories, interviewing the subjects, analyzing the data, creating the visualizations, coding the interactives and traveling the country to report in-person,” he says. “I also recently wrote about QAnon after following a couple of online conspiracy groups. I found this weird online audio chatroom where members talked about their beliefs. It was really a one-of-a-kind personal glimpse into lives of QAnon followers.”

While his career has been anything but conventional, Stuart credits the fundamental journalism skills he learned at Sheridan for being foundational in his success. “Ever since I left Sheridan, journalism concepts like the ‘inverted pyramid’ have just been part of my DNA and I’ve never felt uneasy about shaping a story, approaching an interview subject or writing a lede,” he says. “I can’t quite express how important that’s been for my career. I entered Sheridan a high school graduate and left a lifelong journalist.”

Scott MeiklejohnScott Meiklejohn (Journalism - Print ’13)

Scott was hired directly out of Sheridan by The Weather Network, where he spent the next seven years as a producer creating content for television, digital and social media. “Producing live breaking news coverage of tornado warnings impacting communities across Canada, I would always feel it deeply resonate with my learnings of journalism ethics and particularly our loyalty to citizens. Those nights, often close to midnight as we’d cover storms in the Prairies, were exhilarating to produce and a privilege to be the leader of,” he says.

Scott now works as a content creator for ReCharge Payments, where he’s able to use his story-telling skills to work on the company’s blog, social media, video editing, podcast and website. “Sheridan gave me the tools to tell stories in an engaging and creative way,” he says. “It gave me the confidence I needed to be a creator.”

Bill JohnstonBill Johnston (Print Journalism 1970)

Bill joined Sheridan’s inaugural Journalism class because of the industry’s potential to deliver an unpredictable and adventurous career. That’s exactly what he got over the next five decades, beginning with tenures as a reporter, editor, publisher and freelance writer before he founded Saskatchewan’s Four-Town Journal in 1981. “Every edition I was part of, either working for someone else or myself, had its unique story and personality,” Johnston says. “The only thing they all had in common was that my unofficial slogan issued after each rolled off the press  —'Another miracle hits the streets!’ — applied to them all.”

Although Johnston broke many significant hard news stories over the years and spoke with four Canadian Prime Ministers, he lists a story he recently wrote about a 100-year-old woman among his career highlights. “I expected to do what is pro forma for that kind of event (“What’s your secret for living to 100?” and “How has the world changed…”) but when I entered the birthday party, I heard a very good three-person jazz trio entertaining the crowd,” he says. “The piano, it turned out, was being played by the centenarian for whom the party was being held. I then learned that she was born in Missouri, became a lounge pianist in Louisiana and was once a member of a very well-known band in the Cambridge, Ontario, area. It was a great and totally unexpected story.”

Lily MartinLily Martin (Journalism – Broadcast ’13)

Lily’s wide array of abilities have made her an asset to CBC’s foreign news bureau in London, England, where the field producer has created content for multiple platforms ever since graduating from Sheridan in 2013. “There have been a few occasions where I’ve been able to jump in and help with something outside of my job description, thanks to the technical skills Sheridan equipped me with. Having that really solid foundation has been so helpful,” she says.

“I’m really proud of a lot of the work our bureau does. We’re a small but mighty team responsible for a large region,” adds Lily, who works primarily in London but has also gone on assignment to Uganda, Sri Lanka, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Zimbabwe, Turkey, South Africa and throughout much of Europe. “I think we’ve done some excellent reporting in the UK on stories like Brexit and the Royal Family, and being able to play a large role in our Meghan and Harry wedding coverage was a very nice change of pace from the stories we are often required to cover. In general, the most rewarding days are when you meet someone who trusts you with their words and their story and you’re able to bring that to Canadians. It’s a real privilege.”

Taylor LoganTaylor Logan (Journalism ’19)

It hasn’t taken Taylor long to make the type of impact on the world that she hoped to achieve through a career in journalism. “One of my first articles that was first published during my 2019 internship at CBC was about my roommate and I trying to be more eco-friendly by growing our own food on our small apartment balcony. Putting my work out to such a public platform was an experience; receiving hate emails, death threats and genuinely positive reactions was like whiplash,” Taylor says. “My article was one of the most popular on the site that day, and it influenced radio shows such as Metro Morning to do pieces on gardening in small spaces.”

Following her internship, Taylor became an editorial assistant at CBC News Network and now works there as an associate producer, securing guests to pre-interview and feature on their news shows. “In the midst of last summer’s Black Life Matter protests, I was told to book someone who was at a fairly large protest in Seattle. At the time, we were mostly booking the police side of the story, and I wanted to switch up the narrative a bit so I booked a protester,” she recalls. “She sent video of her getting hit by a flash bomb in the middle of what was a completely peaceful protest. Seeing the danger these people put themselves through to protect Black lives was incredibly heart-wrenching, and I’m glad I was able to get this side of the story out to the public.” 

Matt IngramMatt Ingram (Journalism - New Media ’14)

A willingness to do whatever it takes helped Matt quickly climb the industry ladder to become a reporter and videojournalist with CHCH TV, a role he’s held for the past two years. He began his career as an intern reporter on the Toronto Sun’s city desk, then was an online writer for CBC Sports and an intern reporter-editor for the Canadian Press before transitioning into television as a broadcast writer for CTV News Channel. After feeling the desire to move on-camera, Matt left his family in Toronto to move to Sudbury, where his experience reporting for CTV Northern News helped him land his role at CHCH. “I remember taking my Sheridan professors up on an opportunity to cover a press conference in Toronto where I was the only student, surrounded by reporters I usually saw on TV,” he says. “I didn’t have to go, but my professors had underscored the importance of getting experience in the field, and that first professional press conference became a very important moment in my development.”

A firm believer in journalism’s important role as a check on power in a democratic society, Matt has been proud to be one of the frontline news gatherers trusted to get the truth and report it to viewers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “People often approach us in the field or send messages thanking us for covering this massive international story through a local lens,” he says. “Like so many journalists, being immersed in the stories of the death and the loss weighs on me and affords me a feeling of reverence for the work. It’s just too important a moment in history for anything but strong journalism.” 

Kara WaglandKara Wagland (Journalism – New Media ’09)

Considering that Kara has been an anchor and reporter for TSN Sportscentre since 2014, it’s hard to believe that pursuing a career in journalism never even occurred to her until after she’d earned her Criminal Justice degree at the University of Guelph. “Post-graduation, I pivoted and had to decide what my new career would be,” she says. “I took some interviews in public relations and advertising before finally settling on journalism when a Workopolis search of 100 jobs that interested me returned 99 that required a journalism background. I applied to Sheridan’s post-grad program and fell in love with on-air work.”

Kara, who cut her broadcasting teeth as a volunteer host/reporter and then as a weekend sports host for CTV Kitchener during the four years she worked as an editorial assistant for Sportscentre, hosted TSN’s live coverage when news broke that legendary former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay had been killed in a plane crash in 2017. “I will never forget that day because it was such a sink-or-swim situation, finding out that one of my sports idols had died tragically and immediately having to steer a breaking news-style show that lasted three commercial-free hours,” she recalls. “Talk about a roller coaster of emotions. And at the end, I can sincerely say that I believe I did the story and our viewers justice.”

Ryan BoltonRyan Bolton (Journalism - Print ’09)

As a professional writer and photographer, Ryan has traveled to five continents and dozens of countries to blend his passions for human rights and storytelling. “I’ve always wanted to tell stories that no one else was telling,” says Ryan. “One of the most memorable experiences of my career was when I was just starting out in Africa, working as a journalist trainer in a Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugee camp when the United Nations was suspending support to the refugees. Those stories, and working with the young journalists telling their stories, have always stayed with me.”

So have Ryan’s memories of Sheridan, where he met people that remain among his best friends to this day. “Sheridan opened up a brilliant network of creatives to me,” says Ryan, whose clients over the years have included Apple, Red Bull, Spotify, Lexus, Intrepid Travel, Universal Music, the JUNO Awards and the Red Cross. “The opportunity to run Sheridan’s student magazine, TRAVIS, changed my future forever. Sheridan helped carve out my path and provided the right mentors and creative support along the way.”

Ryan KellyRyan Kelly (Journalism - Print ’05)

Ryan followed his love for sports into a 12-year tenure as the Marketing and Information Co-ordinator for Sheridan Athletics, but working in various capacities at his alma mater has unearthed another passion: the institution itself. “I fell in love with Sheridan when I first came here as a student,” says Ryan, who was also a marketing specialist for Sheridan’s Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT) before settling into his current role as Alumni Co-ordinator of Engagement. “To be able to tell such a wide range of stories about students and grads has been and continues to be the most rewarding part of my career.”

He’s also still learning from Sheridan’s Journalism program nearly two decades later. “Being close to the program as a staff member enables to still have touch points with it and see the direction it and the industry are heading,” Ryan says. “That has really helped me recognize the need to adapt to the changing landscape and constantly evolve and grow my skillset.” 

Meg ClarkMeg Clark (Journalism - Print ’13)

Meg has applied her journalism skills in various media and communications roles, ranging from helping the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada fulfill the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses to covering the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers as the Oilers Entertainment Group’s Co-ordinator of Web & Mobile. “Growing up, sports was always a part of my identity,” says Meg, now a Communications Advisor for the Edmonton Police Service. “Seeing other women break down the gender barrier in the sports industry is something I’ve always admired. Finding myself in a similar position — being a woman and working in a professional sports setting — was something I took great pride in. Even now, working in what has traditionally been seen as a male-dominated industry, I feel as though I am continuing to blaze that trail.”

Regardless of the role she has worked in, Meg has always made sure to be flexible when deciding how to approach a story, a skill she says she learned at Sheridan. “One of my biggest takeaways from Sheridan that I’ve used every day in my career is to never be set in your way with a story,” she says. “Have an angle, but be open-minded to change it or come at it a different way, because you never know where a story is going to take you.”

Brian BileskiBrian Bileski (Journalism – New Media ’01)

Brian has worked with elite athletes ever since he graduated from Sheridan, beginning with helping Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment launch Leafs TV (now Leafs Nation Network) and NBA TV Canada. His career as a media producer and brand marketer also includes supervising production of a digital lounge for Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, producing TSN’s ScoreGolf and directing content partnerships and content development for CCMC Sports.

“Working at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and being part of a production team that won a Canadian Screen Award for our work in the digital space was an amazing experience,” says Brian, who is now the executive director of content marketing and consumer engagement agency Refuel Canada. “Sheridan taught me that it’s important to come to the set prepared and ready to work hard, no matter what is asked of you. Be creative and find a way to prove that you have some game to showcase.”

Meron GaudetMeron Gaudet (Journalism – Broadcast ’13)

Not much about Meron’s career is according to script, and that’s exactly the way she likes it. “When I discovered that there were so many fascinating and important true stories out there, I realized I could make a career out of bringing those stories to the masses,” says Meron, who pivoted to long-format, non-scripted storytelling after working several years as an entertainment freelancer for clients such as MTV Canada, VICE Canada and the Juno Awards. “Entertainment is one of the most effective and powerful ways to bring positive change to the world.”

Meron currently uses the creative, research and communication skills she acquired at Sheridan to work with top production and streaming companies like HGTV, Paramount+, Funny or Die and Amazon Studios. “The biggest thing I took from Sheridan that has helped me in my career is the importance of knowing how to properly fact-check as well as understanding the laws and ethics of journalism,” she says. “No matter how entertaining the project I’m working on is, the ethics of journalism also apply to unscripted content.”

Michael McKinnon and Judy McKinnonJudy and Michael McKinnon (Journalism 1994)

Ask Judy (née Rathwell) or Michael about their biggest takeaway from Sheridan and you’ll get the same answer: meeting each other. But the McKinnons, who married five years after first crossing paths in Journalism class and now have two sons, have also used the skills they acquired to enjoy fulfilling careers — something they weren’t always sure they’d be able to do as writers. “I studied creative writing in university, but I really didn’t feel that was going to lead to anything,” says Michael. “I then thought journalism could be interesting, but I was unprepared for how much I loved it right from the start. I’ve learned a lot since then, but Sheridan was the spark.” Adds Judy, who was nearing the end of a three-year English program when she stumbled onto a Sheridan Journalism ad in her university newspaper: “I’m a naturally curious person, and being able to combine my love of writing with learning about new things seemed like a perfect fit.”

While Michael’s career featured stints as a reporter, editor, freelancer and professor (including teaching Journalism for five semesters at Sheridan) before his current role as associate director of Advancement Communications in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science, Judy has spent most of her career primarily covering the financial industry — first for nearly 22 years with the Toronto bureau of Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal, and now for Inspired Investor, an online magazine produced by Royal Bank of Canada’s Direct Investing division. At the Journal, she also had the occasional opportunity to mix pleasure with business, writing quirky features about backyard axe throwing and Canada’s top roller figure skater that both made the front page. “It was always exciting when Canadian features made the front page,” she says, “because it didn’t happen very often.”

John McGhie (Journalism – Print 1978)

When John first decided to pursue a career in journalism, he wasn’t quite sure what he was getting into. “I asked my high school guidance counsellor what I could go to college for with only Grade 10 math, and he said ‘Journalism.’ I said, ‘Great, I’ll take it… what is it?’” John recalls. “When he told me ‘newspaper reporting,’ I thought, why not, I like writing and I’m okay at English.”

John would go on to work in community newspapers for nearly 40 years, first as a sports writer, then a city editor before spending the bulk of his career as the managing editor of the Georgetown Independent & Free Press. “The most rewarding stories of my career came during my time in Georgetown when we started two in-paper campaigns to mobilize the public to fight two decisions we believed were wrong. One was by the Canadian Cancer Society to close its Georgetown office, which provided local patients with rides to Toronto, and the other was by the William Osler Health Network to close the obstetrics department at Georgetown Hospital,” says John, who also spent several years as a quality control editor for the Vancouver Sun and other PostMedia publications. “Our campaigns kept obstetrics open and led to the formation of the Cancer Assistance Services of Halton Hills.”

Amanda WeldonAmanda Weldon (Journalism – New Media ’16)

Amanda has never been one to wait for opportunity to knock. “We have so many platforms to tell stories on,” she says. “Why not start right now?” That’s exactly what she did after graduating with Honours from McMaster University with a double major in biology and environmental biology, promptly hosting a university radio show and creating her own blog to build a portfolio that would enable her to enter Sheridan’s Journalism – New Media program. “Honestly, seeing friends of mine in the field of journalism stirred up some envy for me,” Amanda says of her decision to pivot career paths. “This feeling became my North Star to pursue what I’d subconsciously been dreaming of all along.”

Amanda, who has worked as an on-air presenter for The Weather Network and as an in-game host for the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, is now a full-time entrepreneur producing content for AmandaWeldon.com — the personal lifestyle, beauty and travel blog she started as a student — and another business she’s building with her mentor, CityTV personality Frank Ferragine. “When you work in journalism, you have the opportunity to cover so many interesting projects,” she adds. “I’ve also found so much joy traveling internationally to create content for brands like The Weather Network, SunWing and Air Canada Vacations. It’s incredible being able to tell stories from around the world.”

Learn about Sheridan's Journalism diploma and Journalism - New Media graduate certificate programs.

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