RJAA 2019 Headliners: Ryerson’s Journalism Alumni who have made their mark
As this year’s RSJ headliners, Dianne Buckner and Andrea Baillie look back at their time at the Ryerson School of Journalism, they remember nothing but fond memories of the support and guidance they received as young journalists.
For Buckner, she said learning the news basics, how the most important facts goes first, and the “news pyramid”, are skills she learned while in the classroom.
“I developed my critical thinking at Ryerson, and being able to know what exactly is the headline comes is very useful when I'm pitching stories to The National,” said Buckner.
Headliners, awarded annually by the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association, are given to alumni who have made noteworthy contributions in their field, and who are an encouragement to RSJ students to aim high to achieve their potential.
With her love for writing, Buckner said j-school was an environment where she felt the excitement of chasing of stories, interviewing people, and hearing about their situations and perspectives.
Buckner graduated Ryerson’s Journalism program expecting to work in print, but she discovered that she had a passion for television after working part-time as a news writer for CityPulse Tonight.
Since then Buckner has hosted for CTV on the popular program Live It Up!, where she travelled across Canada covering consumer stories. For decades she has fronted television programs at the CBC and CTV, having reported stories related to business as a multi-platform journalist, and was at the forefront in launching Dragons’ Den in 2006, which she now hosts.
“I probably use more of the skills I learned at Ryerson than I even realize,” said Buckner. “It was a great foundation for my career.”
A 1995 graduate of Ryerson’s journalism program, the other Headliner, Andrea Baillie, is the editor-in-chief at The Canadian Press, the first woman to head up editorial operations at the national wire service.
Baillie said her broadcast instructor at Ryerson, Suanne Kelman, took her under her wing while she was a struggling journalist.
“I don't think I would have finished the program if it wasn't for Suanne...she could see I was struggling and took an interest and supported me.”
Baillie said Kelman’s hands-on approach to teaching, coupled with her experience in the industry, and her nurturing guidance made Kelman a terrific mentor.
But Baillie said it’s the mistakes she made in the j-school classroom that taught her the most about the profession.
“Ryerson taught me how to be a good interviewer, how to write and edit. But to be honest, I probably learned the most from some of the mistakes I made during the program, when I was figuring out how to be a reporter -- those are lessons that stay with you.
With experience in the newsroom, and the hands-on learning at j-school, she said that Ryerson taught her how to get a job, managing to land two internships that helped her get started in the industry.
Prior to earning the top editorial position, Bailie spent 4 ½ years as CP’s managing editor, where she was part of the award-winning coverage of major breaking news events, including the Humboldt bus crash and the Fort McMurray wildfires.
As advice for young j-schoolers who hope to become successful journalists in the future, Buckner said being smart, lucky, and hungry for success will lead to a dynamic and fulfilling journalistic career.
“Journalism is a competitive and dynamic business, so it's definitely challenging - but in my opinion, that's also what makes it so exciting and rewarding!” said Buckner.
As for Baillie, she says any experience is a learning experience, and that with passion and drive young journalists can find a place in the industry.
“My advice would be to keep an open mind -- you may get a job that's not exactly what you're looking for, but you learn something from every experience (and some of what you learn is unexpected),” she said.