As a young high-school student, Jessica Singer was already passionate about discussing current affairs with her classmates.
By her second year at Western, she’d hit upon a way to combine that interest with her love of storytelling and reading – a career in journalism.
After being selected for a Joan Donaldson CBC News Scholarship, the Master of Media in Journalism and Communication (MMJC) student is on the cusp of fulfilling her dream.
Singer is one of 12 recipients of the scholarship from across the country. The award provides valuable hands-on, professional experience across multimedia and multi-platform news at the CBC. From May until August, each recipient will receive $600 a week, plus work-related travel costs, to test their mettle as journalists.
“During the four-month placement, I’m going to have the opportunity to work in radio, digital and multimedia platforms, which is very exciting,” said Singer. “I am also going to be working with the newsroom in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador — somewhere I’ve never travelled before. The thought of covering breaking news stories in a different province is very exciting to me.”
Singer said she felt some self-doubt during the highly competitive application process, but was supported and encouraged by her professors and friends in the MMJC program. In the end, she outshone her competitors.
Ever since the Grade 10 career quiz that clued her in to the journalism possibility, she’s been acquiring the necessary skills to succeed.
As an undergraduate student at Western she earned a BA in Media, Information & Technoculture (MIT). Both the MIT and the MMJC are offered by the Faculty of Information & Media Studies, so it was natural to move from one to the other.
And Singer gained extensive experience by working at Radio Western, the university’s campus-community radio station.
It was in the radio booth, producing live-to-air newscasts and longer-form podcasts, that she discovered her love of audio storytelling.
“There’s something about hearing someone tell a story that is compelling in a way that can’t be similarly captured in print,” she said. “I love using audio to bring audiences into the story.”
At the CBC, she she’ll have the chance to refine her storytelling skills before a national audience on radio and a variety of other mediums.
“I would love to become a better all-around journalist, and to become more confident in my skills and capabilities,” Singer said. “Journalism can be a very nerve-wracking field to dip your toes into – there’s a lot of skill building and learning that can only come from experience.”
It doesn’t hurt that part of getting that experience is the opportunity to explore the country, albeit virtually for now, and witness the diversity of communities across Canada. She will learn to tell the stories of those whose experiences differ from her own.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to travel Canada as much as I’d like, so being able to talk to people from different provinces and territories is something I am looking forward to,” Singer said.
As she embarks on this professional challenge, she admits she’s occasionally thought about pursuing career in public relations or corporate communications rather than journalism.
“But no matter what, journalism kept drawing me back in. I guess you could say I caught the journalism bug quite early, and so far, it hasn’t left my system.”
Due to current pandemic conditions, scholarship recipients will begin their placements remotely from home, with room to adjust if conditions improve.