Canadian University Press: National Journalism Conference


Fredericton from the hotel. (Ariele Kehler/The Quill)

I was fortunate enough to be selected to go to the Canadian University Press (CUP) NASH Conference from January 4th to 8th. I missed the first few days of classes, but ultimately, the experience I got was well worth having to now read The Iliad in two days. For example, I got to know some really cool people from different schools, overcame my absolute terror of solo travel, and caught SO. MANY. POKEMON. Seriously, the amount of water types and starters (plus evolutions) around my hotel and the convention centre was crazy.

The theme of NASH79 was ‘Start Up’. All the lecture sessions, workshops, and panels were full of information on how to start a career after your degree. Key lessons, not just for journalism but for any career path: be respectful of your subject, don’t be afraid to work hard, and start from the bottom and work your way up. These tips can start to be applied over the course of a university career. Another very important ‘golden rule’ I learned was “don’t pee in the pool”. James Keast, editor-in-chief of Exclaim! Magazine, told us that the field is a small one, and word gets around. If you do something stupid to antagonize someone, you could very easily get blacklisted. His example was a friend who was a drummer in a well-known Halifax-based band who allowed a younger band to open at a concert. The drummer thought he would help the younger guys out in getting their start on the scene, and then overheard their lead singer talking shit about the drummer’s band outside the venue. The drummer went on to become a booking agent in Halifax, and has prevented the younger guy’s band from booking any shows in Halifax – 19 years later, there is still bad blood there. The moral of the story is: stay professional!

One thing I wish that I had done differently is how I came off to the other journalists. I am rather introverted, so I kept primarily to myself. After a room mix-up, I was given a room to myself – two king sized beds and absolute control of the television sounds wonderful (and it was), but it didn’t help me make friends purely by being forced to share a space. For most of the conference, I was too shy to approach the large groups that came together. It was rather intimidating to see that papers had sent up to seven (!!!) reporters, whereas The Quill was only able to send one. Travel to the East coast is expensive, friends. At dinner on the first night, two reporters from Ryerson’s The Eyeopener came to sit with my lonely self, and brought with them panelist Patrick McGuire, who is the Head of Content for Vice Canada. He was really cool to talk to, had some great insights about how to get started in a post-university career, and introduced me to a game he plays with his partner: What emotion is Kim Kardashian feeling? (It’s funny because she ALWAYS has the same expression.)

On the last night, I formed a Prairie Coalition with three other papers at the dinner table: two reporters from The NAIT Nugget, three from The Sheaf at University of Saskatchewan, and two from The Augustana Medium from the Augustana campus of the University of Alberta in Camrose. You’d think that dinner at a journalism conference would be spent talking about layouts, content, and InDesign techniques, but ours centered primarily on memes and exclaiming over how the larger papers were so successful while ours were, well, not. I heard so many bad puns, and I loved every moment of it.