What I learned from working at the Edmonton Sun!

As you, my blog readers know, I worked at the Edmonton Sun over the summer as a freelance reporter. I was lucky enough to basically work five days a week (so I like to think I was actually a staff reporter ;)) and over the months got a number of opportunities to report on breaking news, homicides, community events, softer pieces, and highlighting ordinary people who did extraordinary things. I had a great time, I received a ton of great industry experience, and I met some great people — both newsroom co-workers as well as other reporters, camera people, and people I interviewed!

Here are a few things that sum up what I learned working at the Sun:

  • The industry is changing. Multi-platform skills are a must.
    I won’t be the first to have written that the industry is changing and that one reporter having to do multiple tasks in order to deliver the story through multiple platforms is the new reality. As a print reporter this summer, I still had to file online versions of the story for the website, I had to e-mail or call in quotes, I had to shoot my own pictures on some occasions and on top of that I had to shoot video for video packages for the Sun’s website. This included doing my own stand-ups (and mastering the good ol’ tripod). Heading into working for the paper I didn’t really know just how many videos or how many stand-ups I’d be doing. The answer: a lot. As I’m in school for TV Broadcasting, I was fine with shooting video and doing stand-ups. In fact I enjoyed doing it (although I’ll admit at times multitasking was stressful). But I very quickly became comfortable with the process and I adapted very quickly. This is something reporters need to understand. You have to adapt. You have to be okay with dipping your feet into multimedia tasks that you might not think is part of the job description but the reality is that it is part of the job description now. I know that QMI Agency (which the Sun is under) is really pushing for their print reporters to produce video content for the website (new job postings now include “shooting video” and “multimedia” in their qualifications/requirements descriptions). I also read that the big boss man who took over the Journal envisions multimedia and video as part of the former-Canwest paper’s future. Beyond that, many reporters are now being encouraged to tweet. Live-tweet news conferences, tweet to engage readers, tweet to generate story ideas or find sources. I mean, more so than just tweet even — just really embracing new media and the Internet to add to the success of your story at the end of the day. And that goes for not just print but the radio and television industry too. I saw more and more local reporters getting on Twitter this summer and not just signing up and leaving their accounts sitting — but really using it in relation to that day’s stories. Videos, the Internet, tweeting, that’s just how things are now and those going into the industry need to really embrace it if they’re going to be successful. So I must thank my time at the Sun for really opening my eyes to this new reality (although I knew that was the case before, even our J-School teachers at MacEwan warned us of the upcoming new media/multi-journalist trends). I think I go back to NAIT now with a better grasp of doing stand-ups and the understanding that you really need to be v-e-r-s-a-t-i-l-e! Sell yourself as the person who can do it all because that will get you the job.

  • It doesn’t matter what medium it is, it’s still all about telling a story.
    I know some people who look at working in print as having no relation to the work that is done in the television news industry. That is wrong. Whether you are working at a newspaper or a television station, you’re all going to the same press conferences, you’re all trying to get in touch with the same family of the same person who might have just been murdered or died in an accident (sorry if that sounds insensitive), you’re all doing coverage on the same festivals — you’re all working to tell a story, and to tell it by a deadline. Wherever I went to cover news throughout the summer, there were reporters from CTV, there were reporters from Global, there were reporters from radio stations. While it’s delivered in different mediums, (so yes there are different aspects that reporters in print and reporters in TV or radio have to cover) — the process is still the same — getting out to those places, interviewing those people, and getting what you need to to write that story.

  • You have to be able to write.
    Tacking onto the above, I have to say that no matter which medium, in order to tell that story — you have to be able to write. I have been a strong advocate and a firm believer of that since before I entered into the Journalism program at MacEwan years ago and my summer writing for the Sun only reaffirmed that belief. You can’t tell a good television story if you’re a poor writer. I guess “you have to be able to write” can even boil down to “you have to be able to tell a story.” I believe I went into working at the Sun with a strong grasp of how to write a news story and I believe I leave with an even better understanding thanks to the number of stories I had to write and the number of opportunities I had to try out different kinds of writing. I thank my editors for allowing me to be a little more creative for certain stories as opposed to just the super hard news-to-the-point kind of leads to stories. I also thank my editors for giving me tips on how to improve my writing (and my photography) but I’m also very proud to say that nearly every article I wrote for the Sun this summer remained unchanged as it made its way through the slot and onto the actual paper. Yes there were Canadian Press style things that were tweaked here and there (words that should not have been capitalized, the spelling out or shortening of things like ‘kilometre’, etc.), but the stories ultimately remained as my story, written my way. *pats self on back*

  • A positive attitude goes a long way!
    I really can’t stress this enough. Working with a positive attitude — smiling — being agreeable and optimistic, those traits really make or break your working environment. I found that my summer working really flew by and I credit that to the fact that I had fun every day! Even if some days the stories weren’t front page news, or even near-front-page-news, approaching the stories and the people you interview with just as much respect or as much importance as with front-page-news-stories, goes a long way. If you think that the story you’re assigned that day is crap, then it’s going to be crap, and your day is going to be crap — so why do that? Also — little conversations with your co-workers and the people who sit by you, really add to the day. Saying good morning, good bye, and asking how people’s weekends were — also go a long way :) It is safe to say that I didn’t just make co-workers during my time in the newsroom, I made friends! And along with just the personal happiness you’ll get by going to work being positive — the future benefits are there too. I’m not scared or worried to ask my editor for a reference letter, or to be listed as a reference, for any job I may apply for in the future — and all because I had fun at work. P.S. Have a Fun Shirt Day in the newsroom! It’s tons of fun!

  • Good working relationships are key.
    In this industry journalists and media relations people have to work together — a lot. Maintaining a positive, working relationship with each other is so, so, so important. I felt that had I not approached the media relations people I worked with with a positive — and understanding — attitude, then they would not have been as receptive (or just friendly) in helping me with stories I was working on. If a media relations person doesn’t get back to you as quickly as you want them to — that sucks yes, but don’t take it out on them. Sometimes their “as soon as possible” calling you back — could very well be the entire day. Who knows what is going on on their end. Be understanding! Also realize sometimes throwing a story and interview requests onto them may be completely out of left field and they aren’t prepared for it so they will need time to gather information or gather the people who can talk to you. Maybe some media relations people also suck at giving you good quotes — if they are the person who are speaking on behalf of a story. I say take what you can get and be happy you’re getting it. Of course that’s not always the case. I am lucky that I never encountered any person who was an absolute horror to me. In fact I am lucky that I never encountered anyone who was even remotely horrible. So in that sense it was pretty easy for me to be positive and understanding and maintain those good relationships that are key — maybe I’ll be singing a different tune when I do encounter the media spokesperson from hell but to date that hasn’t happened so I’m grateful for that! ;)

I’m sure there are more enlightening things that I picked up over the course of the summer but at the moment of writing this post nothing else is really coming to mind. Should have made notes throughout the summer ;)

But as a side note, as those are the more serious/journalisty things I learned – here are some lesser serious and non-journalisty things I learned: Having a Quiznos and a pho place SUPER close to the newsroom means you will eat there a LOT. Edmonton offers many a Monster Burger and Monster Burgers are best eaten shared! No matter how well you think you know the city, YOU WILL GET LOST! Working at a newspaper will make you read the news and watch the news a whole lot more than not working at one. It can be tempting to the take elevator up and down 3 floors but hurrah! Taking the stairs each day can keep you semi-fit! Press conferences with food are always a better press conference than one without… ;) And more ! But I don’t want to dig into my memory to figure out more points, lol.

All in all I am super stoked that I got the opportunity to work so many shifts at the Sun this summer and I am so grateful for all of the experience that I’ve received and I’m looking forward to heading back to NAIT for my last leg of Television Broadcasting and I’m looking forward to what opportunities will come in the future! Do I see myself back at the Sun sometime in my future? If they’ll have me back, I definitely wouldn’t rule it out, but for now I’d like to focus on the television/broadcasty side of journalism! :)



  • Great post Linda! You mentioned how stressful it is to do multi-platform work; any tips? At the Canadian they are also encouraging us to do video, but with a two-person newsroom (which will be one in a few weeks) it seems like there is no time to get it all done.


  • Steven says:

    This is a very good blog you have posted, especially for people who are seeking to become a news reporter as well. If any, this can apply to my field as well, being able to develop a sense of professionalism in literature and speech. I also agree with you that we are required to develop good relationships with our peers and have a positive attitude.

    Good Job, I’m proud of you! :D

  • Hi Linda

    This is Shane Tebby’s mom. You came out to report on August 19th on the beating that happened to my son. Thank-you fro being there.

    Wanted to sent you best wishes on your futher adventures in journalism!!

    take care and thank-you again

    Valerie Tebby

  • Linda Hoang says:

    Hi Laurie! Thanks :) Well depending on the stories you have to make the call on whether you want to rely solely on the audio from the video camera/the camera’s microphone to capture what your interviews are saying or whether you want to double up and use your camera’s mic as well as your own separate recorder. For the most part I doubled up and did both (but that’s where the stress part comes in because your literally juggling a camera, an external camera mic and then your recorder –so in that case forget about writing down anything on a notepad). The more I did the more I realized there’s a system in it that makes it easier. For example I know my video editor Nathan doesn’t particularly want to go through 20 minutes of a person talking to find the sound bite to use — but I knew that in some cases I would want to interview a person for a longer period of time for more details for the print story so what I would often do is interview that person using my recorder/notepad first and then afterwards just asking them to re-hash a couple points to the video afterwards. Or sometimes I would save the obvious sound-bite questions for the end of the interview where I would say Okay hold On I’d like to get these answers on camera. So little things like that, depending on the story/the situation. There was one story I went to where I was doubling up doing video and using my recorder but because of that I wasn’t able to use my notepad and write down key quotes but that story I really needed to have quotes in ASAP for an online version so it proved really difficult because I had to go through the video mic and my recorder immediately after searching for the key quotes when the video mic and recorder’s audio wasn’t the best to begin with so that process was probably stretched out a lot longer than it should have been had I just been a reporter there with my notepad writing down the key quotes as they come.

    Anyway I guess in a two-person newsroom especially then it would be all about time management and knowing what you want out of the story. The actual shooting of the video doesn’t add much more to how long you would spend out at a story save for if you are doing a stand up in the video you’d probably hang out a little longer than you would normally because you’d have to come up with a couple lines summarizing the story. Also what I wrote/voiced over in terms of video for the website, it’s really not the same style I would write for both the print version and also for the kind of TV reports I’d be doing in school. The things I’d say would be a lot more generalized — which is suitable for a quick online video hit but definitely not as thorough or in the same style as print and actual television newscasts. (Maybe that will change in the future — if you have a chance look for some of David Akin’s online web videos for the Ottawa Sun. They are VERY what-you’d-likely-see-on-a-TV-newscast style and you’ll see immediately how it contrasts from the videos I did. But he has an extensive TV background so that’s probably why that is ;) I don’t doubt that would be the style that the Suns start going for though especially with Sun TV coming).

    On top of that you guys would probably have to edit your own video then too right? So I don’t know, that’s a whole different ballpark. Had I been asked to edit my own video I would have known how because I edit on the side and also I got taught various editing during school but for reporters in newsrooms expected to edit video when they’ve never touched editing software before I can imagine it would be a shock at first. (I imagine if QMI is pushing for everyone to do video then they would or will eventually have someone training newsrooms – especially smaller newsrooms – how to edit and how to follow the video formats). I think it’ll be quite a transitional period but you guys should be able to adapt as I said it got stressful at times doing the multi-platform work but positive, can-do attitude and your willingness to learn and your willingness to do it will go a long way I think. It might seem like, as you said there is no time to get it all done but once you guys do start incorporating it then you start making time. It’s like when people look at daunting schedules where they have to go to school for 8 hours but also have to juggle a job and extracurricular or something — you always moan and groan saying I won’t have any free time! I won’t have time to balance all of this. But 9 times out of 10 you’re able to do it, you just have to adjust.

    PHEW long winded answer which I’m not sure was that helpful? LOL Let me know if that helps a little bit.

  • Linda Hoang says:

    Hi Valerie!

    I sent you this message separately but then I realized I CAN do individual replies on here, LOL.

    It was really great meeting you and I’m glad I had the opportunity to share part of your story and Shane’s story to the public.
    Hopefully it (and the other media coverage) helps in the end. Thank you for being so receptive to the media as well!

    And also, great to see you are a Lady Gaga fan! The concert was a blast.

    Thanks again Valerie and it was great meeting you.


  • Linda Hoang says:

    Hey Steven thanks for the comment! Yeah I think being positive and maintaing good relationships can carry through with any profession :) Thanks for reading!

  • Heather says:

    I’m really glad that you learned a lot from your time there! The city can be so big at times so I’m glad that I’m not the only one who gets lost!

    But I’m totally stoked to hear about your second year at NAIT! 8D Keep going! You can do it! :)

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