Jacqueline Nunes, RSJ '06, is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Nature United.
What did you originally see yourself doing when you first enrolled in journalism school?
Storytelling was my passion -- I wanted to tell long, fascinating and unexpected stories about issues and people. In j-school in the early 2000s, that meant specializing in magazine reporting, which was the path I followed right through to my first (and second and third) jobs after graduating.
How did that vision change as the years went by?
I stayed pretty focused on long-form storytelling while in j-school, with a few surprises along the way. (I didn't expect to love radio broadcasting.) In the magazine stream, I discovered that great stories required not just great writers but also committed, passionate and attentive editors. I found out that I loved that stage of creation -- working with writers to enhance precision and intrigue in their stories. For me, editing felt closer to the reader. As an editor, you spend a lot of time thinking about how stories will inform and engage your readers. That interest in and commitment to readers has carried through my career, even as I've left journalism.
What made you decide to get into the non-profit world?
I spent several years after j-school working in magazines (Maclean's, Chatelaine) before becoming burned out by the politics of working for publications owned by a mega corporation, which were exacerbated by the recession. Rounds and rounds of layoffs meant saying good-bye to my smartest and most committed colleagues (with the bonus of taking on their workloads and trying to maintain a high standard of work). It was demoralizing. Even before my time came and I was finally laid off, I'd started looking towards my other passions -- environmental conservation was central for me.
How did you make that transition?
I went back to school for a graduate degree in environmental studies. As I was defending my thesis, I applied for a job in donor communications at WWF-Canada, which I was hired for. The job involved writing proposals for major donors (interest/capacity to give donations of $10,000+) and corporate partnerships. My day-to-day was strategizing with the fundraising team about what projects would appeal to individuals and corporations, spending hours with our conservation scientists to understand and translate those projects into compelling narratives, and then writing the proposals that often resulted in a large donations for our work. It was challenging and gratifying. Now I work at Nature United, a Canadian non-profit affiliated with the world's largest conservation organization, leading our communications and marketing across Canada.
How has your journalism degree and what you learned in school prepared you for your current career?
It honed my craft. It taught me how to ask good, productive questions, which has served me well no matter whether I'm in meetings with global colleagues or writing a communications plan for a major conservation announcement. It taught me how to write clearly and persuasively. And it taught me how to recognize and tell good stories, which is a universal way of engaging people.
What is your favourite part of your current job?
Throughout my career, I've been fortunate to work with the smartest and most passionate people. It's intimidating at times!
Can you talk about one of your biggest accomplishments?
The foundation of everything we do at Nature United is long-term, committed partnerships, in particular with Indigenous communities. Environmental non-profits have not done this well in the past -- in many cases, these organizations benefited from and perpetuated colonialism. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we develop communications about work we're doing in partnership with Indigenous Peoples. I worked with our conservation team to develop internal guidelines and processes to ensure that our communications are based on the principles of respect, consent, authenticity and reciprocity. It's among the most important work I've ever done.
Thinking back to your first year self, how do you think they would react to where you are now?
My first-year self would be surprised for sure -- I thought journalism was a firm career path for me. But I'm thankful that the work I'm doing today is so deeply rooted in my values, and the organization I work for is making a difference.
Any memorable RSJ professors during your time at Ryerson?
I can't overemphasize how much I learned from my magazine professors -- not just the technical skills, but how to honour, protect and live up to the responsibility that journalists have in a democratic society. Ivor Shapiro, Bill Reynolds and Steven Trumper were just the best. I miss the hours (upon hours) I spent in their offices. I deeply miss Cynthia Brouse, who was this quiet force of nature in Canadian journalism. And of course, there was no introduction to journalism school like Don Gibb's first-year reporting class.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
Learning how to tell stories, how to write compellingly and persuasively, and how to engage with people will serve you well no matter where you end up. I'd go even further to say that it makes you a better citizen of this world. To be a good reporter, you have to be curious and driving, but you also have to be emphatic. Never lose sight of the humanity behind whatever issue or event you're reporting on.