By Samuel Getachew
..Canada definitely needs more diverse voices, whether it’s women in top editing positions or visible minorities covering beats other than “South Asian issues.”
I still get confused looks when I tell South Asians I went into journalism. Most of them are probably thinking, ‘Why?’ or ‘Why didn’t you want to be a doctor?’
..internships (yes, even unpaid ones) are great to meet contacts, network and just hone in on your basic interviewing and writing skills.
Arti Patel, a 2011 graduate from RyersonUniversity currently serves as HuffPost Canada’s associate lifestyle editor. Generation Next caught up with the 23-year-old as she reflects on her exciting journey with the online paper. She also delves into her involvement in the making of a powerful documentary – Identity Denied – and finally, gives advice to young aspiring South Asians who may want to emulate such a unique career.
Arti – You are a recent graduate of Ryerson University in the journalism program. You have also interned in a number of news outlets. Why is internship still a great and important way to enter the work force?
I graduated in 2011 and throughout university I had the chance to volunteer and intern at several places in Toronto. For the most part, internships (yes, even unpaid ones) are great to meet contacts, network and just hone in on your basic interviewing and writing skills. I did have to manage my time, however, working part-time and keeping up with school work. Internships allow you to work one-on-one with editors and allow you to know if that particular job is still for you. And if you’re a young aspiring journalist, always have story ideas to pitch to your editors.
You are now the Associate Editor Lifestyle at the Huffington Post Canada. Tell us about the HuffPost Canada as well as your role in it?
The Huffington Post Canada launched in May 2011 — I’ve been working here for just over a year now. Like any newsroom, we’re a mix of voices, opinions, content and readers. As a new journalist, I feel lucky to be able to write, pitch, contribute and manage social media pages — something most newbies don’t get to do right away. I’ve had the opportunity to write stories about skin bleaching, AIDS in Canada and women in leadership — issues I’ve been passionate about for years.
According to the Globe and Mail – “HuffPost is successful in part because it has an existential certainty, unencumbered by the heritage that weighs down so many other news organizations”. What is your perspective on the success of the Huffington Post?
I think The Globe and Mail has it right. Even though we have AOL as an established media power as our backbone, The Huffington Post is redefining how the news is told every day. Do you care more about cute puppies or the Harper government? Well, chances are our readers care about both. We cover everything from hard-hitting issues to feature stories, but also let our readers explore trending news and videos.
The fact is that journalism jobs are becoming scarce in Canada. Why is it still a worthwhile profession to pursue for the many young people who may be thinking of going through what you might have gone through in 2007?
I may be young and inexperienced, but I still think this is a profession that will never die out. Sure, people may be buying fewer newspapers but this just means the way people get their news is different than it ever was before. We tweet, we watch vlogs, read articles online and even get our news on Facebook — this only means people going into journalism need to be more open minded about how news is being read. And if you actually love journalism, then I’d think you’d make something out of it. Start blogging, make your own videos, shoot your own content, volunteer and don’t think being a reporter only means working for a massive publication.
All throughout your university career, you have pursued journalism in such a practical way. Being the editor of the International Services for Students newsletter was one. How did that experience help you in your current position?
Working at International Services for Students at Ryerson gave me practical journalism skills: interviewing students, designing layout and experience in covering immigration-focused events. But for me, I’ve gotten a kick out of just talking to students. Most of them were new in Canada, so hearing them talking about their experiences in Toronto for the first time lead to some of my first pitches at internships.
Tell us about the documentary you partly helped produce – Identity Denied?
‘Identity Denied’ was my final fourth-year project where five of us set off to challenge Canada’s views on gay and lesbian refugees and their fight to stay in the country. My job was the researcher, which in less fancy terms meant making a lot of phone calls. I’ve had the chance to get in touch with individuals willing to share their story (after many backed out)– of their stories about the hardships of trying to find a queer identity in countries like Mexico or Iran for example, that didn’t recognize these identities to begin with.
To young South Asians who may want to emulate such a career in an ever changing journalism world, what advice would have you for them?
I still get confused looks when I tell South Asians I went into journalism. Most of them are probably thinking, ‘Why?’ or ‘Why didn’t you want to be a doctor?’ It took some time for me to convince my parents about a career in journalism. For anyone interested in it — stay interested and keep writing. This really is a job where you have to love what you do and try to make it better — as cliche as it sounds.Canada definitely needs more diverse voices, whether it’s women in top editing positions or visible minorities covering beats other than “South Asian issues.”