Host of Reset, WBEZ Chicago
Sasha-Ann Simons is the Host of Reset, WBEZ Chicago. This interview was conducted when she was the Race & Identity Reporter at WAMU 88.5 in Washingston, D.C.
What have you done since graduating?
I’ve been predominantly devoted to broadcast television. I interned and volunteered at a few of the local stations – and during fourth year scored a full-time on-air videographer gig at Rogers Television. Yes, that said “during.” So I juggled the two for a bit – and even had to book a vacation day to attend my graduation. I just couldn’t pass up my golden opportunity to dive into the working world. From there I landed a writing gig at CityTV, which helped mould me for a full-time producer job at Global Television.
How has your journalism degree helped you?
The folks I’ve come across over the years seem to be impressed with a journalism degree. It’s always been a great reaction when asked what I studied in school – especially when I add that I went to Ryerson. Let’s be clear, though. The actual degree still sits on a shelf in my house, a little dusty, and stuffed inside the envelope and plastic covering from graduation day. I have yet to be asked to present it. So it’s what I LEARNED in journalism school that has taken me this far. I got my thick skin, honed my people skills, and developed my eye for good video composition in j-school.
How did you move into communications?
I was ready to see what else I could tackle using this degree, and communications/PR is a natural transition for journalists. Potential employers saw great advantage in my knowledge and experience having studied and worked on the other end of the media spectrum. After a few interviews, I landed on my current position with the Government of Ontario. I won’t lie, there is a bit of a learning curve. But if you’re quick-thinking and a good strategist, the crossover is that much easier.
What’s your favourite memory of j-school?
Many of my favourite memories happened outside the classroom, when working on j-school projects ? like an online article and radio podcast in third year. We spent an entire Sunday at a group member’s home trying to record the podcast on her Mac notebook. The challenge was, of course, to make the audio sound as if we were inside an isolation booth … like the real world. Here’s what we came up with – and that was to place the laptop on a table, and drape our sweaters over our heads as we hovered over top and spoke into the computer’s microphone. This got us into some really awkward positions. But the audio was crisp and clear!
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
I’ve spoken to a number of students over the years, so I’m sure by now I sound like a broken record: get outside of the classroom and get to know people. Preferably people that you admire from journalism’s past or present. Be confident. Don’t be afraid to talk about your passion for the industry, and what your strengths are. They want to know what you’re good at. Then they’re going to want you to prove it … so you better be [ready]. These relationships will guide you toward the internships and jobs you desire.
It’s also in your best interest to have specialized knowledge about topics other than journalism. If, for example, cars, health, or politics are your “thing” — you’ll get further. No one likes a one-trick pony! And finally, remember this is a tough, ever-changing industry — one you really have to love in order for this to work.
Do you have any regrets about majoring in journalism?
None. I went after what I’ve been passionate about for a long time – TV and the news. As far as I see it, if I can get paid for doing something related to either of those things, it’s a win.