Every year, I speak to winners of Concordia’s journalism school awards as they’re presented at the Montreal Gazette offices. Today, the 2017 winner of the Susan Carson award, Josephine (Josie) Fomé.
I could write this long introduction about Josie Fomé and her history, but fortunately she’s already done that for a first-person photo essay on Concordia’s website.
In short, Fomé, 24, was born in Cameroon and grew up in Columbia, S.C. She studied at Dawson College and then did an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Human Relations.
“My very first job was as a cashier at my neighbourhood’s mom and pop grocery store, where I got paid waayy below minimum wage but also learned skills that still benefit me to this day,” she says. “After that, various work experiences have included camp counsellor, helpline phone operator, set up and take down of gyms at school, events assistant with Concordia’s Alumni department, receptionist, mail clerk, internship coordinator, etc. I’ve done so many temp jobs, some of my friends like to call me ‘Josie the temp.'”
Why did you decide to study journalism?
I wanted a platform to tell other people’s stories. I used to believe that I would be the “voice for the voiceless.” After spending a summer in Northern Uganda on an internship, I further realized that no one can tell someone else’s story (just like no one can tell my story). And thus my view shifted from wanting to be this “voice” — and automatically assuming that the speaker had no voice — to wanting to be (or provide) a platform where others could tell their own stories, with guidance. To be honest, I’m still fleshing that thought out and trying to figure out what that looks like in today’s journalistic frame.
What does journalism mean to you?
Journalism, to me, is the intersection where storytelling and accountability meets.
What kind of journalism would you like to do?
I’ve always had too many interests, and that has translated into what sort of journalism topic I would like to pursue. However, what has never changed is my love of and desire to travel. So no matter which form of journalism I end up doing, it will allow me to travel and get to know each corner of this globe a bit more intimately. Does this mean that I’ll be doing travel journalism? It could, but I’m open to so much more as well. When it comes to the platform used however — TV, radio, online — in this day and age, one must be ready and equipped to do it all.
What other interests do you have that you think you can apply to a career in journalism or a related field?
Some other interests of mine include social justice, specifically regarding immigration, mass incarceration, and the gender wage gap, and changing the negative perception the world has of the African continent.
How do you see the future of journalism?
Journalism is in a constant state of flux, to predict its future is nigh impossible (did our ancestors think journalism in its current form could be possible?); however, as long as there are people in power and organizations – be they major or minor – there will always be a need for someone to keep them accountable and transparent. Journalism isn’t dead, it’s merely transferring energy.
What have you been up to since receiving your award?
I went and got another award, CJAD 800 Gord Sinclair Radio Award for a radio documentary that I did on Archive Montreal. I completed my graduate diploma in Journalism and shortly after that, I flew to Northern Uganda to complete an internship. I worked with the local radio station by finding youth excelling in spite of their circumstances and inviting them for the monthly talk show the station hosted.