Tag Archives: journalism school

Concordia students get $650,000 out of a Rogers acquisition

Sportsnet records its president announcing its donation at Concordia University's journalism building on Wednesday.

Sportsnet records its president announcing its donation at Concordia University’s journalism building on Wednesday.

Concordia University journalism students will be getting a financial boost in the coming years thanks to a $650,000 donation from Rogers Sportsnet.

More than half of the donation will be used for scholarships for students over five years:

  • Six scholarships of $3,000 each to undergraduate students
  • Seven scholarships of $4,000 each to graduate diploma students
  • Two scholarships of $6,000 each to masters students
  • Two prizes of $8,500 each to students based on sports journalism portfolios

This works out to $75,000 a year, or $375,000 over the five years of the program. The rest of the money will be used for things like new equipment purchases and other stuff whose details haven’t been finalized, said Concordia journalism department chair Brian Gabrial.

Other than the $8,500 prizes listed above, the scholarships are not specifically sports-related.

Students and staff at Concordia celebrate their donation with Sportsnet president Scott Moore (third from left).

Students and staff at Concordia celebrate their donation with Sportsnet president Scott Moore (third from right).

The donation, the largest in the department’s history, was celebrated with a wine-and-hors-d’oeuvres event at Concordia’s journalism and communications building on the Loyola campus on Wednesday, with Concordia president Alan Shepard Sportsnet president Scott Moore in attendance.

But while this is great news for the university, it’s worth noting where this money is coming from. It’s not something Rogers is doing spontaneously out of the kindness of its heart, but rather a mandatory funding initiative linked to Rogers’s 2013 acquisition of The Score (which it turned into Sportsnet 360).

When the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the acquisition of the sports news television channel in 2013, it mandated that 10% of its purchase price (valued at $172 million) be spent on tangible benefits, or donations to programs and initiatives that benefit the broadcasting system as a whole. This is the CRTC’s way of mitigating the loss of diversity that comes from consolidation of ownership.

Rogers had originally proposed more than half of that going to something called the “Sportsnet Winter Games”, an annual amateur sports event. But the commission rejected that, saying it was worried that this would be self-serving. Instead, Rogers broke down the proposed benefits as follows:

  • $5 million for a Sportsnet Independent Production Fund
  • $5 million for a Canadian University Sports Initiative
  • $2.5 million for digital media produciton scholarships
  • $4.7 million for amateur independent sports production

Moore confirmed that the $650,000 donation to Concordia comes out of this tangible benefits package, which has to be paid out over five years. He said internal bureaucracy at Rogers, combined with some major distractions, caused them to get a slow start on this.

Gabrial credits Bob Babinski for helping get this done. Babinski worked with Moore at CBC Sports, and after Moore moved to Rogers Media, he hired Babinski to launch City Montreal. Moore said he called up Babinski and asked about Concordia’s journalism program, and then Sportsnet approached Concordia asking them to put together a proposal.

Moore referred to the donation as an “investment” in the future of journalism. That’s a nice sentiment, though the CRTC rules prevent any quid pro quo.

Other Sportsnet university initiatives include the Sportsnet U Recruited program. Its first recruit is Julian McKenzie, a Concordia journalism student, former sports editor at The Link and producer at CJLO 1690 AM. After the event, McKenzie had lunch with Moore.

A fake Concordian front page announcing the donation.

A fake Concordian front page announcing the donation.

Why aren’t journalism students interested in journalism?

Freelance writer Justin Ling, who tried journalism school but abandoned it, makes a point during a recent panel discussion hosted by the McGill Daily

Freelance writer Justin Ling, who tried journalism school but abandoned it, makes a point during a recent panel discussion hosted by the McGill Daily

A few weeks ago, I was invited by my alma mater The Link at Concordia to give a talk. The editor didn’t really care what it was about, she knew me and had invited other people from The Gazette to speak to her staff and contributors on various topics, so she figured I’d be good for just about any subject. I decided to focus on something I thought might be useful for student journalists: how to become an expert in something to increase your chances of getting hired or getting regular freelance work when you graduate.

I came in with the notes I’d scribbled onto a notepad during the metro ride over, and for about half an hour bumbled on about how good it is to become specialized, and how starting a blog and starting to write about something that isn’t getting mainstream media attention would be a great way to start that. It is, after all, how I became an expert on local media even though I started out having no contacts and no formal education in media analysis.

After lots of “umm, one more thing I wanted to mention” and other disjointed thoughts, I opened it up to questions. I got a couple of the pity questions the organizers plant so you don’t feel bad, and a couple of actual ones that I tried my best to answer. But of the 20 or so people present, I could tell by the way they were playing on their smartphones that there wasn’t much interest in what I was saying.

It’s okay. I won’t be auditioning for TED any time soon. I didn’t mind so much that I wasn’t the most riveting speaker they’d ever seen. But I was curious about these 20-somethings (or even 19- or 18-somethings). What were their plans after graduation? What kind of careers do they want to fashion for themselves? I tried to get an idea through a show of hands, but I couldn’t. I don’t know if it was because they were shy or because they didn’t know, or because their vision of the journalism industry was fundamentally different from mine. Without grilling them individually I wasn’t going to get an idea what these journalists of tomorrow were thinking of their future, or if they were thinking of it at all.

What bothered me wasn’t so much that they weren’t interested in me (I’m not terribly interesting, or at least I wasn’t that day), but that they weren’t interested in talking about their future as journalists. If they didn’t want to specialize, find beats to cover and become experts in their fields, just what exactly did they plan to do? Be the 100th applicant for that general-assignment TV reporter job that’s going to go to an industry veteran anyway? Coast on internships until their 30s? Find that mythical left-wing publication that has perfect ethics and yet is stable enough financially to pay its writers? Freelance for pennies for the few publications out there that pay but don’t require much effort? Or just leverage that journalism degree into a cushy PR job? I couldn’t figure it out.

What’s worse is that the students I saw that day are the involved ones. These are the ones who will show up at the office of a student newspaper on a Friday afternoon. Many of them applied for editorial positions at the paper (the deadline for candidacies was the same day I was speaking). When you look at Concordia’s journalism school as a whole, and I suspect many others like it, the situation looks even worse.

I want to be a travel writer for the New York Times

On Thursday, I didn’t have much to do, so I sat in the audience of a panel discussion, hosted by the McGill Daily as part of their student journalism week, about whether or not people looking to go into journalism should bother with journalism school (McGill, I should note, doesn’t have one.). Take a moment and imagine this question being asked of any other field, of people contemplating becoming doctors or engineers or teachers or bankers without getting educated in those fields first.

Justin Ling, a freelancer who writes for a variety of publications, told an anecdote of being in a journalism class and the teacher asking what types of journalists the students wanted to become. For most answers, only a few hands were raised. But when the teacher mentioned travel writing, those hands that had stayed down suddenly shot up. Ling pointed out in recalling this story that travel writing is essentially dead, replaced by wire stories or by stories written by people sitting at desks looking at tourism websites. It’s gone, just like the foreign correspondent and other dream jobs young journalists aspire to.

When I talk to young student journalists these days, they still aspire to these kinds of jobs (foreign correspondent and magazine feature writer are common dreams), though the good ones are realistic, knowing that the chances of them scoring such prestigious jobs are one in a million.

I don’t want to trample on any dreams here. Most journalism students are well aware, or at least they say they’re well aware, of the difficulties the industry is going through. They know they’ll have to make compromises once they enter the workforce, sacrificing the salary they would like, the location they would like to work in, or the exact type of job they would like to do. And the truth is that there actually are journalism jobs out there, if you look hard enough, if you’re willing to make those compromises and think outside the box.

But you get the impression that few of these future journalists are spending any time thinking outside that box while they’re in school. Journalism schools have to practically force some of their students to get published at some point during their three-year degrees. Many graduate having barely or never been published even in their student newspapers, but apparently expect a job to be waiting for them when they get that certificate.

I didn’t get my first paid freelance gig until a year after I was hired at The Gazette, so I’m not going to sit here and lecture university students on not getting a front-page Globe and Mail story in their first year. But I was actively involved in my student newspaper for three years before entering journalism school, and my being hired as an intern at The Gazette had a lot more to do with that than it did my grades in that magazine writing class. My application for that internship included five clippings of articles I’d written (and laid out and even taken photos for). It did not include a university transcript.

Experience > grades

You can’t practice medicine or law or even operate heavy machinery before getting an education and a licence. But you can practice journalism. While that fact kind of puts the very existence of journalism schools into doubt, it’s also a big opportunity for students to get started in their field before they’ve finished their education. And that’s an opportunity that, if you’re not taking advantage of it, someone else will.

This is why, when I talk to journalism students, I implore them to start doing journalism, to start covering stories that aren’t being covered. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a blog or a university paper or the New York Times magazine (though the latter would certainly be preferred over the former). It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a big name publication behind you. If you’re covering something that isn’t being covered, you’re not competing with the big guys for access.

Practicing the art not only allows you to get better at it, it shows to potential employers that you know how to do it. Writing for a university newspaper doesn’t bring in money, but it shows to that person hiring for that internship that you can meet deadlines, write to assigned word lengths and turn in readable copy in real-world situations. That’s always going to be an advantage.

Being an expert is an even bigger plus. Covering an industry or a topic regularly makes you familiar with it eventually, and turns you into an expert that can be relied upon by others. Knowing your stuff is a big part of being a successful journalist, and having a beat already established is a big plus in finding work.

The faster these young journalists realize this, the better off they’ll be in this industry that is already extremely difficult to succeed in.

I’m participating in a panel discussion hosted by the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada called Working in the Blogosphere: How to create and maintain a successful blog (spoiler alert: I have no secrets about how to make money directly from a blog). It’s Monday at 7pm at the Atwater Library, and it’s free. Hopefully I can impart some of this wisdom on the attendees, though many will be well past journalism-school age.

The journalists of tomorrow

Students of Concordia University's journalism graduate diploma program

Almost a month ago, The Gazette went through a yearly tradition of inviting journalism students into its office and handing out some awards (read: small bursaries) to those who have stood out among their peers.

This evening went on like others have before it, with the students being invited into the office and being served wine and cheese before some people they don’t know introduce other people they don’t know and hand out bursaries named after people they don’t know.

But there was a big difference this year: a new bursary, named after someone else they didn’t know.

Continue reading

The Link turns 30 with journalism conference

The Link, a Concordia student-run newspaper that I edited more than half a decade ago, celebrates 30 this year. The paper has a habit of celebrating every five years. I was there for the 20th anniversary, and again for the 25th. Turnover at universities means it’s usually a completely different group of people organizing each one.

As part of their 30th anniversary celebrations, The Link is playing host to a regional conference of Canadian University Press, hosting student newspapers from Quebec and Ontario (emphasis on the Ontario, since CUP is still a mostly English-dominated organization, even in its tiny Quebec chapter).

The conference, which goes Friday night to Sunday morning (but most activities of interest are on Saturday). It is hosted at Concordia’s downtown campus. It’s $7 for the general public to attend (according to the Facebook event page), and free for alumni of the paper.

The schedule is here (PDF). Speakers include:

Learning journalism with the McGill Daily

The McGill Daily, whose very name is both outdated and inaccurate, is spending this week opening its doors to outsiders who want to come in and learn about journalism.

Tonight, the paper welcomes visitors to show off how it produces a paper on deadline, but the big day is tomorrow (Thursday), where it will have workshops throughout the day along with Le Délit Français, TV McGill and CKUT radio. One is a panel talk which includes Cécile Gladel, Christophe Bergeron of Voir and La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé.

The full schedule is on the Daily’s website.

(Via Midnight Poutine)

Learn play-by-play from the pros*

Every year, Concordia University’s journalism department hosts a day of seminars from sports journalists, sponsored by Rogers Sportsnet.

This year’s lineup looks interesting, if only because of a panel called Life After the Expos, with Dave van Horne and Elliott Price. It will be followed by a play-by-play workshop, which also includes Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds.

Registration is free, and the event takes place at Loyola campus on Saturday, Nov. 7.

* Of course, the likelihood of anyone getting a job in sports journalism, much less as a play-by-play announcer, is just about zero in this media environment.

Those who can’t, research: Concordia MA in journalism studies

Concordia University is launching a two-year graduate program in journalism studies for fall 2009, and is currently accepting applications. Unlike its one-year graduate diploma, the MA program isn’t designed for students interested in pursuing a journalism career, but academics and mid-career journalists looking to research about journalism itself, and complete a research project (perhaps to find a business model that will bring back those 30% margins?).

Applications are due by April 30 (April 10 if you want to apply for scholarships)

Gazette honours Con U J-school kids

Earlier this week, The Gazette distributed awards in the form of bursaries to some Concordia University students who, one would assume, are worthy of their awards through some form of awesomeness.

I was surprised to recognize two of the names, since I’ve been pretty detached from my alma mater for three years now (long enough for everyone who was there to have gotten a degree and moved on).

A side note to these journalists-to-be: Set up blogs or other forms of personal websites so when people like me talk about you, we have something to link to. Remember, you are whatever Google says you are.

The winners are as follows:

Congrats. Now go back to contemplating how this whole industry is on a downward spiral of doom.

Welcome to the blogosphere

As part of Matt Forsythe‘s citizen journalism class at Concordia University, students are being asked to create their own niche blogs.

Though most are very basic (after all, they’re beginners), this has greatly boosted the size of the Montreal anglo blogosphere, which is good because I’m running out of blogs to profile.

Here are a few of the blogs that seem pretty interesting, and we hope they continue to grow: