Josh Brown, RSJ ‘98, is a sports reporter at the Waterloo Region Record.
You’ve spent a lot of your career as a sports reporter and more specifically covering hockey. When did you know you wanted to be a sports reporter?
My father was a reporter at the Hamilton Spectator for 42 years, so I grew up around the business. That’s where I got the bug for reporting. I started in news covering a lot of crime and general assignment stories. I’ve always been a sports fan, but I never set out to be a sports reporter. I was just happy to write about anything when I started.
How did you arrive at your current position?
I worked at the Toronto Star and Hamilton Spectator, did some TV hits for Global and helped create and run a hockey website called Faceoff.com before joining the Waterloo Region Record, the daily newspaper for Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.
Can you talk a little about what your day to day job looks like?
I’m pretty much self-assigned and cover all sports in Waterloo Region. My main beat is following the Kitchener Rangers, a hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League. I write breaking news, features, columns and game-day coverage for print and online. I’ve also created blogs, newsletters and videos on various sports topics.
What drew you to working for a local news outlet?
I saw – and still see – Waterloo Region as a vibrant and growing community. The paper has a strong reputation and a varied sports scene that includes the Rangers, two universities and a college, among other things. The Record also isn’t afraid to cover stories and events that go beyond its borders, which is appealing as a reporter.
What’s exciting about covering junior hockey and a team like the Kitchener Rangers?
The Rangers are like the Toronto Maple Leafs of the OHL. Every game is a near sellout (about 7,000) and fans love to dissect every shred of news surrounding the club. Knowing that people are passionate and care about my coverage is a big responsibility and motivates me. Covering players as teenagers and watching them develop into NHL stars is also exciting. Mostly, I just love the build up on game day – the stillness at the rink hours before puck drop, the buzz as supporters trickle in, the roar of the crowd and getting all the post-game reaction.
What’s the most challenging part of your job and what’s your favourite part of your job?
The rush to meet deadline remains a wonderful and terrifying feeling. But telling compelling stories, interviewing people I would never meet in my life outside of work and, sometimes, making a real difference are other perks. Every day is different at a newspaper and it’s a big reason why I wanted to be a reporter. Working nights and weekends from September to May is tough with a family.
What story are you most proud of working on?
A feature story on a star football player who got caught up in gangs, selling drugs and an attempted murder only to reinvent himself as one of Canada’s top mixed martial artists was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in sports writing in 2011 and stands out. I’ve also had the privilege of covering three Olympic Games in Beijing, Vancouver and Sochi.
But some of the most rewarding stories are about regular athletes that few know. I always say the best stories must pass the fridge test – those are the ones that get clipped out of the paper and hung on the family refrigerator. If someone goes to that much trouble, it’s a good one.
What’s one of your favourite memories from j-school?
Working night and day at the Eyeopener and Ryersonian. Making close friends in class and residence, who I still see regularly. Eating a George Dog (Ernie’s rival) outside Jorgenson Hall, playing for the Rogers Cup (a journalism student road hockey championship), heading to the Ram in the Rye for a beverage after putting the paper to bed and that feeling you get when you’re on an important story.
Any memorable RSJ professors during your time at Ryerson?
Retired professor Don Gibb was a funny and smart teacher whose support and belief helped me grow as a writer, reporter and person.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
When looking for a job, shoot for the top but don’t be afraid to work at smaller media outlets across Canada in the beginning, even if it’s just for a few months. It’s a great way to see the country before life sets in. You’ll also get to do everything – write for all sections, shoot photos and videos, edit, layout the paper, manage the website and build your portfolio. Having that kind of arsenal will make you more valuable when looking for your dream job.
Also, show don’t tell. Try not to say “talk about” in interviews, just ask questions. Don’t use “worst nightmare” in a lede. Pitch stories to editors. Be kind to the people you interview. Never assume.
Grads at Work is a series of profiles of RSJ alums. If you know of a notable grad you’d like to see featured, send us an email at email@example.com.