Award empowers student to take next step

Paul Mayne // Western NewsMaster of Media in Journalism & Communication student Angela McInnes will be heading to Toronto and Halifax this summer as the recipient of a Joan Donaldson CBC News Scholarship.

Angela McInnes, journalist, has finally arrived.

“It’s cool to know that not only am I’m going to be paid for my craft, but I can finally put that first,” said the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication student. “I’ve been juggling writing with school courses, working part-time, constantly asking myself, ‘What if this doesn’t work out? What if journalism is too harsh a field?’ Now I can finally be Angela, not the student, but ‘Angela the Journalist’ for the first time in my career. That’s really cool.”

Last month, the 28-year-old Londoner was named the recipient of the Joan Donaldson CBC News Scholarship. She is set to begin a four-month paid internship with the CBC in Toronto and Halifax this summer. The Donaldson Scholarship is set aside annually for eight journalism students from across Canada who show a genuine interest in the ideals and practice of public interest journalism.

And there are few individuals more prepared for the task than McInnes.

She worked multiple jobs after high school to prepare financially for university; earned her BA in English literature and Religious Studies at King’s University College; studied public relations at Fanshawe College; began unpaid communications internships and part-time jobs, once again; then back to Western for a Master of Media in Journalism & Communication.

“Everyone in our (Western) program is strong. I feel real lucky to have been selected for this,” said McInnes, who, after being recommended by FIMS lecturer Jeremy Copeland, initially had second thoughts. “I had to consider applying or not – and I almost didn’t. When you look at the past Donaldson scholars they are very impressive people, every single year. I’ve never done a news internship before. Did a communications internship, volunteer work, portfolio-building, but nothing news-related.”

Taking a chance on applying – and telling herself she’s fine if she gets it and fine if she didn’t – McInnes is thrilled she took the leap.

“I am anxious to start this (internship) and although there’s a lot of pressure, in others ways I’m very calm because I’m a little older than the other people. Thanks to that life experience, I’m not that afraid of this. I’m ready and excited to go,” she said, adding she’s at the point in her life where the hard work of her undergrad and postgrad world are finally jelling.

A highly respected senior journalist, Joan Donaldson was the founding head of CBC Newsworld responsible for the development and operation of the network. She came to Newsworld from CBC’s main network where she had developed a reputation for always having her finger on the pulse of Canada, delivering newsworthy stories from all over the country. Her career came to an abrupt halt in 1990 after an accident resulted in long-term brain damage. She died in 2006.

In 1999, Newsworld established the Joan Donaldson Scholarship for aspiring journalists. The $2,000 scholarship and four-month internship is awarded annually to eight promising journalism students.

Past Donaldson Scholars have contributed to CBC programs across the network and across the country with winners showcasing their abilities in chase production, field production and TV news writing. Many have gone on to earn permanent jobs as CBC journalists – on camera and behind-the-scenes.

McInnes developed her passion for local reporting by pitching and writing articles on issues pertaining to arts, business, heritage, mental health and social services in London. While at Western, she received the J.M. Penny Crosby Award for demonstrating outstanding potential as an investigative journalist and is currently a finalist for an Ontario Community Newspaper Award.

“I never would have thought all this would lead me to the CBC,” said McInnes. “But, like I said, I’m going with the flow. I’m nervous – but at the same time, I’m not. I’ve learned to trust myself and not listen to naysayers, and it’s been working out. As an English major, and the way my brain works, the medium of writing, the manipulation of words on the page, has always been the best way for me to express myself, better than any other form of communication.”

McInnes enters a field plagued by a growing wariness of journalists and journalism. But she remains steadfast in her choice. She said there needs to be more back-and-forth between the public and journalists to regain the trust that’d been lost.

“Because of the Information Age and social media, it’s about realizing everyone’s opinion is out there. What becomes the truth – and it may be a cop-out – is kind of subjective at this point,” she said. “I advocate for my profession. There needs to be more responsibility on both ends, to bridge the gap between understanding and misunderstanding. It’s a two-way street.

“There is a lot of anxiety, sure, but I want to work in this field and write about things I’m passionate about, tell stories I feel need to be told. Where am I going to do that? I’ll find it. I’m not worried. There are stories everywhere you go. I’m excited for the learning opportunity. I ready for this.”