“..We need a change in our society, we need more access to better jobs, we need more people working, period..”
By her own admission, Rubina Ahmed-Haq has her fingers in “all different types of media.” This young and spirited South Asian journalist is a regular contributor on CBC Steven and Chris, writes a weekly column on RateSupermarket.ca, is a much-loved appearance on Roger’s South Asian Focus TV as a financial expert, and is the finance editor at CondoLife Magazine in Toronto. She also boasts a sterling career background in her ten years of journalism. ABC, CBC, and even BBC World Service—she’s been there and done that all. She shares the experience with Generation Next.
Following her education in sociology at York University, Rubina got a PG Diploma in journalism from Humber College to improve her job prospects in the field and joined a station that is now Omni. Her deep interest in international and particularly South Asian politics led her to work for ABC News in Pakistan.
“That experience was great because I met a lot of people working in that part of the world that I would never have access to,” she says.
Following ABC, she returned to Canada and joined back the station she was previously working with, but the longing to work outside Canada still remained. She joined BBC World Service, rubbing shoulders with some of the best journalists in the world.
Rubina curiously explains the different experiences of working in Pakistan and the UK. Whereas her stint in Pakistan had all the demands that are made of journalists associated with any Western media, it came with some issues peculiar to the particular culture.
“Because I am a Pakistani, people sometimes did not take me seriously. I found that really frustrating because working in Canada I never had that problem. When I tried to interview politicians or somebody who was important in a company, they did not take you seriously because there was more of a feeling that a woman shouldn’t be asking these questions,” says Rubina.
In England she faced the opposite scenario. People were eager to help her out as she was a guest in that country.
As exciting as her experience might have been in Pakistan and England, Rubina’s switch to financial journalism was a sweet marriage of luck and circumstances. She had been working for CBC for some years since her return from England when she switched to CP24. And in the very first year of her tenure at the channel there was a huge market crash. As it would happen, the person handling this area for the channel quit abruptly. Rubina seized the opportunity and offered to fill in the role.
“That catapulted me into business and I never turned back,” she says with joy.
She started doing business reporting exclusively and later eased into a freelance role, which she tremendously enjoys. “I realized that being a reporter is not always the easiest thing to do but being a business reporter reporting for a number of different publications or TV stations is a lot better for me,” she says.
Rubina’s love of television has as much to do with the excitement and dynamism of the medium as with her vibrant, outgoing personality. She loves being in front of the camera, connecting to viewers and sharing her personality, which might not come across in print. Moreover, print presents other problems—writer’s block or finding an interesting enough peg to present a story—that TV doesn’t.
She also feels that her ordinary, middle-class background makes her more accessible to and popular with viewers. “I don’t come with a lot of money, had a very normal middle-class upbringing and have a middle-class life right now. I think people like to hear stories from people that are just like them,” she says. The fact that a lot of South Asian women interested in finance and economy can approach her gives her much satisfaction.
Her observation of the Canadian media makes Rubina hopeful for potential South Asian journalists. “There are more South Asians on television than ever before,” she says and feels this is so because of the community’s natural draw towards journalism, telling stories and going into the heart of the matter. The one important advice she has for young aspiring South Asian journalist is for them to find out someone whom they admire, get in touch with them (through email, phone) and seek their advice. She herself receives lots of calls from people asking for guidance and is always willing to offer her advice.
As a young journalist, Rubina is only too aware of the role of social media in disseminating news. “If you’re not connected as a journalist in social media, you are doing yourself a disservice because when something happens around the world, Twitter is the number one place where I go.” She acknowledges the role of newspapers and the traditional television news telecast, but encourages everyone to be on every social channel possible and to actually be actively available on it so others can reach them.
It was perhaps her love of social media that took Rubina to work in the social media department of TD Bank. The short stint that she spent there helped deepen her understanding of the banking sector. However, the corporate world wasn’t the most attractive of fields to be in for her.
“I didn’t like the corporate world. As a journalist you will probably agree, there is a need for me to always speak my mind and be as honest to what I feel about issues.”
Closely linked to her liking of social media is her commitment to blogging. She blogs regularly and uses the blog as her landing page, where people interested in her work can find out more about her, her publications and schedule. She allocates a chunk of time every day to update her blog so that it stays current.
Rubina considers herself a liberal journalist and empathises strongly with the young Occupy Movement protestors across the world. She also feels some of the youth participating in these movements is misrepresented because of a few bad elements.
She says, “The core of what they’re trying to do is what we need. We need a change in our society, we need more access to better jobs, we need more people working, period. I wouldn’t say I’d go down and sit with them to support them, but I absolutely understand their frustration and do feel they have a right to voice their opinion for as long as it takes to bring change for good.”
Regarding the movement’s relevance in Canada, she feels the movement in this country is validated by the growing disparities between the super-rich and the middle class. Besides that, some Canadian banks too participated in the US housing crisis and as such people have the right to demand answers of them, she thinks.
Being in the thick of financial journalism, Rubina feels that the Canadian government is taking some steps to keep the economy on track. She mentions measures like raising the interest rates slightly, revising the mortgage rules that would help ensure that people who can actually afford a home get it. At the same time, she observes, like in any capitalist economy, it’s not the government, but big corporations, that eventually control the prices.
What is her view of the constant war between conservative and liberal media outlets?
She feels it is actually a reflection of how people feel in society. “Depending on how you raise your voice, you are put in the conservative or liberal camps and the same goes for the media,” she says.
Although she considers herself liberal, she isn’t closed to writing for a conservative magazine as she feels there is greater need to share ideas and understand different viewpoints. The gap between the two sides is widening, she thinks, because of growing frustration in the society.
At the same time, she advises readers and viewers to not blindly follow or believe any particular publication or media outlet, but to access as many avenues as they can to arrive at an informed judgment.
The fact that Rubina Ahmed-Haq really enjoys her current profile is proven when one hears about her future plans. She wants to continue writing on business and personal finance.
Her next big goal?
“To publish my book that talks about easy ways for people to save money.”
By Bhaswati Ghosh