2020 Visions

Kristen Holliday, a Langara journalism graduate. Photo from Kristen Holliday.

How last year’s j-school grads see the future of their business

By Kristian Trevena

A deadly global pandemic. Impeachment. A historical civil rights movement. Countless protests.

2020 was an eventful year, with a news cycle that never seemed to quit. In theory, it was an ideal time to be a graduating journalism student, with stories to tell and a rapt audience to hear, read and see those stories.

But when the economy shut down—just as the Class of 2020 was graduating—many of those would-be employers were put on life support. Layoffs spread like wildfire throughout the media landscape, and whatever newsrooms remained went remote.

Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, as the following three 2020 grads tell LJR:

Missy Johnson, Langara College

Employer: CBC British Columbia

Location: Vancouver

Missy Johnson, a diploma graduate of the Langara journalism program, had originally planned to intern at The Tyee. A few days into the internship, she got the call that the newsroom would be working from home.

“I felt almost hopeless, watching the world go up in flames. It was probably the most important time to be a journalist—and yet to see newsrooms getting shut down and seeing all these layoffs, it was genuinely heart-breaking.”

After balancing her internship with her part-time job at Shoppers Drug Mart, Johnson was able to get a fellowship with The Tyee over the summer through Journalism for Human Rights—a fellowship for Indigenous journalists—which allowed Johnson to work for the online news site for three months.

Johnson now works at CBC Radio, assisting with radio shows such as The Early Edition and On the Coast. She was also an associate producer for the podcast Pieces, a five-part series which explored Indigenous identity through a Métis lens.

Kristen Holliday, Langara College

Employer: Castanet Media

Location: Kamloops

Kristen Holliday, a graduate of the certificate journalism program at Langara, says that she had been taking note of potential job opportunities long before graduating, talking to instructors about getting good words put in, and even considered the possibility of moving to Victoria. She and a classmate had been shortlisted for a fellowship with The Globe and Mail.

As the months progressed and she wasn’t hearing back from internships or job applications, she began to worry. Luckily, Holliday was able to secure fellowships with both Black Press and the Vancouver Sun over the summer and fall of 2020, which allowed her to earn an income while getting valuable journalism experience.

One of the jobs Holliday applied for this past fall was for Castanet Media in Kelowna. She had discussed the possibility of moving away from Vancouver with her husband, Andrew—something the two had agreed on if she were to get hired. In January of this year, she started work at the online new site as a reporter covering the city hall and municipalities beat. 

Emily Fagan, University of Victoria

Employer: Freelancer

Location: Victoria

Emily Fagan, a graduate of the University of Victoria with a master’s degree in writing and minor in history, spent most of her time at school working at the school newspaper, first as a volunteer and later becoming editor-in-chief.

Fagan says that she had originally planned to get a job in journalism after school, but Covid-induced job cuts put a halt in that plan. “I wanted to and still intend to pursue a job in journalism, but a lot of the journalism jobs that existed had disappeared,” she says.

Once she realized the lack of staff jobs, Fagan decided to start freelancing for the first time—a challenge given reduced editorial budgets, though she says it’s become easier as she’s made connections and started getting some bylines. Along with freelancing, Fagan also acted as executive director for the B.C Humanist Association. She’s also the newsletter editor for Capital Daily.

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