When I worked in Kingston, Jordan was a fresh-faced new reporter determined to get to the bottom of every story and find the scandal (whether it existed or not). He was the exact type of employee a small paper needs – enthusiastic, smart, energetic, accurate and personable. So naturally, he was laid off. But, it wasn’t a sad thing for him – he was relieved. Here’s why.
Did you always want to be a newspaper reporter?
When I first arrived at j-school, I had my mind set on becoming a TV sports reporter. That changed during my second year when I got a taste of print. At that point, I was ready to be a newspaper reporter — an ink-stained wretch as someone once called it — although I had my sights set on some place like The Star, the Globe or the New York Times. After landing at the Whig, I started to like community news and being at a community newspaper. Newspapers just felt like home after a while and they still feel like home.
So, you were a young hotshot journalist doing awesome stuff at The Whig when the cuts started coming. Did you decide to leave on your own?
Yes and no. I had already made the decision to go back to school months before I formally asked for time off. There was only one or two people in the newsroom who knew I was returning to life as a student, so when I asked for a two-year leave of absence, I think I caught management by surprise. I put the request in just before I left for three weeks off in May 2009. I came back from hiking in Nepal and before my first shift back, I get a call from my editor saying, “We can do this over the phone or you can come in.” When he told me I was being laid off, I was a little shocked. I knew layoffs were likely coming, but I didn’t know when. At the same time, I was shocked at my luck. The last person to ask for a leave didn’t get one and decided to resign to pursue a teaching career. The first words out of my mouth were, “So I get severance, right?” I was ready to leave, but the paper just made life easier for me.
How long had you been formulating an escape plan?
I guess my escape plan began taking shape after certain people (the person who hired me, a diminuitive editor who tormented me) started leaving the paper. I had been thinking about going back to school to do a master’s degree — you know, open up options for future employment — for about a year and figured the time was right to make a bolt back to the classroom. It wasn’t like I wanted to leave, but there were enough signs that pointed to the exit door. With a little bit of prompting from close friends and family, I applied. Luckily enough, I got accepted to Queen’s and now I’m on the verge of finishing my degree.
What are you studying?
I’m doing my master’s of education and in the midst of thesis writing. My thesis is looking at what journalists think students need to know to become news literate. I know what you’re thinking — what the heck is “news literacy?” Think media literacy, but focused entirely on news, no advertising, no movies, no television sitcoms/dramas/soaps. The point of being news literate, or digital/information literate, is to help people sort good information from junk so they can come to their own conclusions. It wasn’t what I originally intended to research, but it’s been a great field to look. News literacy courses are springing up at universities and high schools in the U.S., but it isn’t done much in Canada. By the end of my thesis, which is currently eating up a lot of my free time, I hope to have a template for a Canadian version of the course.
What do you plan on doing with it when you graduate? Can you see yourself back in the media?
So, are you asking me this question because you’re offering me a job, or know someone who is? If so, I’ll ship over my resume pronto. I definitely see myself trying to land a job in the media after graduation, but I also could see myself teaching at a college. I have the course syllabus almost done, I have the slides for lectures and discussions, so all I really need is a classroom to teach in. Another option could be working with school boards to develop news literacy programs and act as the connection point that brings practising or retired journalists into the classroom to help with lessons. There are a lot of options, but the teaching route coupled with some freelancing on the side would be great. I can see that happening in Kingston, but I’m prepared to get up and move for work. I’ve done it before and as much as I would hate to leave a place I’ve come to call home, I would be willing to move again.
What do you most miss about daily newspapers? Least miss?
Well, I definitely don’t miss working weekends and late at night. Nor do I miss the internal politics that comes with an unhealthy work environment. What I miss are the the things I think anyone would miss: the camaraderie in the newsroom, the rush of the daily deadline, being the first person to find out a piece of information, running around a scene or the city trying to get every detail of a story and then crafting it for your readers, and the general noise of the newsroom — the chatter, the scanners, the television (when you have one) and the cries of torment from reporters and editors.I don’t get any of that in an academic environment. My deadlines are usually months in advance, most information I need is either available in papers online or in the library, which is not nearly as loud as a newsroom even when the undergrads invade it to do work. I still freelance and do my blog so I try to force myself to remember what it was like to be in a newsroom. I do miss it, but I like what I’m doing now. If I can combine the best of both worlds, then I’ll be one happy Press.