With the school year beginning soon, I wanted to share with you my reflections on what I found most valuable during my four years at Ryerson for journalism.
First, I never thought I'd get into that school. My high school average wasn't remarkable and I heard around 10 percent of applicants to Rye High's J-school program got in. But thanks to an article I got published in The Toronto Star, I made it into the hallowed halls of Ryerson and I was all smiles that first day.
One of the main lessons I took from getting accepted into such an exclusive program is not to waste the opportunity. I rarely skipped classes (even the dreaded Media Law) and I dove into unfamiliar territory such as radio and TV production. I didn't want to get myopic and only pour my energy into print journalism; I wanted to see how my talent could extend beyond my comfort zone.
Related to the above, another key thing I learned is identifying your skills after you've dabbled in various platforms. I knew radio and TV wasn't for me; writing was my first passion, even before I came to J-school, and I doubled down on that bet. I took more magazine courses, freelanced for student papers and mainstream outlets, and read all I could about writing, journalism in Canada, pitching editors, etc.
What I also found valuable at Ryerson were my friendships, some of which still continue today, and some which shifted into more business relationships. The latter has proven extremely valuable thanks to the freelancing gigs I've landed with editors who were once my Ryerson mates. Admittedly, I'm not the most extroverted dude but I'm social enough to be friendly will all kinds of folks, and I kept updated on where my former Ryerson colleagues landed post-graduation.
Finally, when I worked at The Ryersonian newspaper the final year of the program, I found valuable the group dynamic of making something happen out of nothing. I had to assign articles, edit other sections' features, and collaborate with my colleagues on headlines, visuals, marketing. It was an excellent prep for my later work as editor of Digital Journal and artistic director of Toronto Poetry Slam. Working with teams isn't easy from the beginning; it takes open mindedness, strong listening skills, confidence and high-octane time management. And Ryerson gave me that in heaping portions.
A debate continues to rage in Canadian media on the value of journalism school and whether today's journalists need such a formal education. Learn from experience, not from professors, the argument goes. But I'll counter that position by stressing how my profs and classmates inspired me every week. Without guidance on what works as a lede, for example, I'd be making many more errors as I went (which some find crucial while I find it frustrating).
I'm curious what your education means to you. Let me know below or hit me up via Twitter @SilverbergDave
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Media criticism. Poetry. Theatre. Toronto. Technology. Travel. Sports. Why X-Files rocks.