Hilary Caton, RSJ ‘12, is a Communications Coordinator at CAMH.
This Q&A was conducted in Oct. 2020 when Hilary was a Communications Coordinator for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Can you talk a little bit about your role as Communications Coordinator for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)?
My role as a Communications Coordinator has evolved since I was hired. While I write patient stories of recovery and about the various patient programs that aid in their recovery, I’ve also been able to become a more well rounded communications person. Not only do I still carry out a journalist role, I’ve also dabbled in media relations as well as event planning. With the latter I’ve coordinated and executed a few successful provincial announcements that have taken place at CAMH including Let’s Talk Day.
What made you consider a career in communications?
I started to consider a career in communications, when I realized I wanted to expand and build on the skill set that I had developed after working roughly eight years in the journalism industry. I was also getting more and more interested in mental health, so I saw an opportunity to mesh my journalism skills and mental health awareness by working for Canada’s largest mental health organization.
What attracted you to working at CAMH?
I was first introduced to CAMH and their work when I was a community news reporter for Metroland Media. I had a growing interest in mental health and mental health supports in the city, and the position was interesting to me.
I wrote numerous articles about the various programs that were offered for those with a mental health illness and/or addiction. It was clear from the people I interviewed that they not only cared about the patients while they were seeking treatment but long after as well. It always showed. And I always thought to myself, if I ever moved to a communications career, this is the kind of organization I would want to work for because they stand for something and are making a difference.
How did you end up in your current position?
I applied on a whim! I was working for CTV News Toronto at the time and realized that online editorial work wasn’t the best fit for me, so when I saw the posting I thought ‘Why not!’
I always said if I ever went into a career in communications/public relations it would only be for a company that is doing some good in the world or is actively helping make life better for people.
CAMH does both. It was a win-win!
How does what you learned as a journalist help you in your current position?
It helps with everything! Although I work as a communications coordinator I still consider myself a journalist. I still apply all the tools I learned in j-school to my job now. From interviewing techniques to short-hand. It’s all still used in my daily work. It’s helped me be a great listener and a people person.
What is something that people misunderstand about your job?
I think what people misunderstand the most about my job is that because I’m a communications coordinator, I no longer “do journalism” and that’s not true. In fact, it’s the opposite, it’s why I was hired; to storytell and I do it every day. I still set up and conduct interviews, transcribe, write stories and even take my own photos. The only difference is I write for a mental health organization and not a newspaper or magazine.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Honestly, all the interesting people I get to meet and the stories they’re willing to share with me. It’s also my favourite part of journalism.
What’s one of your favourite memories from j-school?
My favourite memory was when I got my first assignment as a j-school student to go down to Yonge and Dundas Square where a protest was happening. We had to interview at least three protesters, come back to class and write an article.
It was the first time I had to cover a protest in the city and I was so nervous because I was such a shy person back then. It sounds nerve-wrecking, and it was! But it’s my favourite memory because it really pushed me outside of my comfort zone and gave me a real taste of what it would be like to be a journalist covering a protest in the city. Rejection and all!
In the end, doing that made it easier for me when covering issues for various newsrooms to go up to complete strangers, introduce myself and convince them to talk to me about the issue.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
Don’t underestimate the value of networking and being kind to your classmates or people you meet in the newsroom. The journalism world is a small one, we’re all separated by 6 degrees or less and if you leave a good impression it can open more doors.
A version of the RSJ newsletter misspelled Hilary Caton's name. The RSJ regrets the error.