Katie Hyslop moved from St. John’s, Newfoundland to study journalism at UBC, and has been a household name in British Columbia education and social justice reporting ever since graduating in 2010. Hyslop writes regularly for The Tyee Solutions Society and is a news editor for Megaphone Magazine, Vancouver’s street paper.
Hyslop reflected on her UBC education and how it has prepared her for a career in journalism:
How did your journalism school experience help you transition into a career in journalism?
It helped that I got a job with one of my professors. But it also opened possibilities for me in avenues I had no previous experience in — like radio, and media that I had no idea existed before (street papers like Megaphone) — through some great internship experiences.
What is one of your most memorable experiences at the School of Journalism. What were the key lessons you learned? Skills you gained?
In my second year I did a TV project with three other women in my class, specifically a satire news take on a book about if you want to be really green, you should eat your pet when they die. Not only was it great video production experience (so. much. editing.) but it really hammered home that being a journalist sometimes means asking the uncomfortable questions, like: “What a lovely dog you have. Do you planning on eating her when she passes?”
What’s been the piece of journalism you’ve produced of which you’re most proud? Why? What was involved?
There’s not one piece of journalism of which I’m most proud. But I am really proud about the indigenous education and income reform series I’ve done for The Tyee Solutions Society, the non-profit arm of The Tyee website, some of which also appeared in Megaphone, Vancouver’s street paper. Each series took an issue that looms large in Canadian society, and instead of reporting what was going wrong — something journalists are really good at — we tried to find places where things were going right and why.
The indigenous education series in particular involved a lot of travelling to indigenous communities and urban centres, visiting schools, universities, and even a lodge in the bush of the Northwest Territories — and all of it was outside of my comfort zone as a reporter and as a non-indigenous Canadian. It was scary, but I learned a lot both professionally and personally. I probably owe that to all the mistakes I made in my thesis: (figuratively) parachuting into a small, struggling, mostly First Nations community to ask people what it was like to be poor. Almost everyone I met on that trip and subsequent trips in my career have been patient and giving with their time and stories when faced with my prying questions, and that’s made me braver, but hopefully more respectful, as a journalist.
What would be your advice to aspiring journalists considering UBC School of Journalism?
Don’t expect journalism school to make you a better journalist. UBC Journalism School provided me with the tools and the connections to move into a journalism career, but it’s experience — and failure — that hones your craft. And don’t freak out too much about your thesis, just get it done.