Journalism training prepares you for both traditional and online media outlets, and you learn skills that you will be able to apply no matter where your career takes you.
The Journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown provided me with an open door to a 14-year career in radio broadcasting. I was a student of the college from 1999 till 2001 where I learned the basics of what I needed to know to not only have a successful career in print, but also radio. The same skills used in writing for paper are relevant in radio as well. The only difference is a solid, concise voice in which to tell a story instead of a pen to paper. Writing stories for radio is most always hard news, with an exception for kicker stories in radio or “lifestyle” stories as print journalists would say.
I am very fortunate to have had my training at such a unique and close-knit community at Holland College, where the instructors instructed, not dictated what to do. The choice of what you wanted to make of your time there was yours. And Charlottetown is a political hubbub of happenings along with an exquisite landscape from which to draw inspiration and ideas to help you along your journey.
Now I am a News Director and Morning Show Co-host in Leduc, Alberta. Leduc is a city just south of Edmonton. It’s a great city where I can cover council; yet get the hard-hitting news of the big city. I know I wouldn’t have been so successful in my journey without the program at Holland College. It’s a great learning experience, and it’s also family. I still keep in contact with most of the students in my program to this day. And I owe it all to Holland College. Feel free to shoot me a message with any questions you may have about the radio business at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are not enough good things I could say about my time studying journalism at Holland College.
I have always had a great appreciation and respect for the education I received from the program.
I felt then, as I do now, that the program prepared me to step into a newsroom as a reporter, ready to tackle assignments.
In the years since, in dealing with a host of young journalism school graduates, I’ve come to appreciate even more just how well Holland College prepares its journalism students for the real world.
After tours of duty a corporate communications officer, public relations director, and newspaper reporter and editor, I am now the news director at 95.9 Sun FM (Newcap Radio) in Miramichi, NB.
Along the way I’ve been a standing finalist for two Atlantic Community Newspaper Association awards and a silver medal winner at the Atlantic Journalism Awards.
But it all began at Holland College.
“The practical training I received opened the door for me and meant I was ready when luck and chance brought opportunity my way.”
Norma Lee recently retired from CBC. We look forward to seeing what new adventures await her.
Norma Lee MacLeod is a household name in the Maritimes as a broadcast journalist with an illustrious career at the CBC spanning three decades. Many Islanders still remember her earliest work, announcing the weather on CBC Charlottetown’s evening news. Since then she has worked as host, producer, and reporter for CBC News Nova Scotia and host of the national CBC Newsworld programs CBC Morning and Health Matters, as well as Maritime Magazine on CBC Radio One. She is currently the producer and host of the popular CBC Radio One phone-in show, Maritime Noon.
Norma Lee was the first winner of Holland College’s Hartwell Daley Journalism Award, and has since been recognized regionally with two Atlantic Journalism Awards and nationally with two Gemini Award nominations, one for best news anchor and one for best host/interviewer for Health Matters. She was honoured by Holland College Foundation as one of the recipients of its seventh annual Distinguished Alumni Awards.
Norma Lee frequently volunteers her time and talents for fundraising and outreach efforts in her community. In addition, she has excelled in martial arts, earning a third-degree black belt in karate. She competes regularly and is a frequent medalist in her sport.
I had always dreamed of being a college graduate. I just didn’t think I’d be doing it 31 years after I left high school. I guess living life got in the way for a bit.
After marriage and children, I kind of lucked into a job as a reporter at the Miramichi Leader when I turned 33. A month on the job and I was the first reporter on the ground covering the Burnt Church native fishing dispute. During my time with the paper, I covered a variety of stories and issues and met a lot of interesting people along the way. But my favourite thing to cover was court. I sat through a lot of interesting trials and sentence hearings, including murders, assaults, thefts and more. It was a beat that was never boring.
The longest case I covered lasted three years from start to finish including a five-month trial that led to the conviction of four men for theft and breach of trust. One of the men was a provincial court judge.
I won newspaper awards for my work, became an associate editor then editor. Then I went back to reporting for a daily paper and after a year my position was cut.
Now what? A career change? A move from Atlantic Canada?
I always wanted that piece of paper that said I was a journalist even though I had done the job of one for 14 years. So with the help of my first editor and now journalism instructor Rick McLean, I decided to make it happen.
I after undertaking a prior learning assessment and recognition process I was accepted into second year of the Journalism program at Holland College.
Walking into a room full of students in September 2014, most of them younger than my own children, was interesting but fun. I took the skills I knew and added to them. I learned the fine points of shooting and editing video, writing a script and doing a voice over.
Those skills helped me during an internship with CBC PEI, an internship that led to being hired to write for their online platform. Social media is a big part of engaging readers, and the skills I developed in the program helped with writing short and catchy paragraphs to draw the reader in.
It may sound strange, but obtaining this diploma makes me feel as if I truly am a journalist. And while it’s not the piece of paper that makes you a good reporter, it seems to add a bit of credibility to what you are doing on a daily basis.
I graduated from Mount Allison University with a double major in French literature and Canadian history. When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I moved to Bordeaux, France and taught English at a culinary and tourism school in a suburb called Talence.
While there, I submitted a column about my adventures in Bordeaux to my hometown newspaper, the Kings County Record. The editor at the time, Gisele McKnight, encouraged me to continue writing columns and said I had a nice way of telling a story.
When I returned to Canada, I moved into my parents’ basement, “living the dream”, working as a caterer at a local restaurant. In the midst of “living the dream”, I thought about how I could seriously pursue a career as a writer. I googled journalism schools, and up popped Holland College. I sent an email to request an information package and within the hour, instructor Rick MacLean called me at home.
We chatted for about an hour. He’d also gone to Mt. A, he’d also been taught by the two professors I loved, and he’d also spent time overseas. Essentially, he told me I was the perfect fit for their program because I had an undergraduate degree, I had life experience, and I knew I wanted to be a reporter.
There’s a big difference between me going into the program at 25 years old and going into the program right out of high school. All my assignments were handed in days, even weeks, before my classmates'.
After my first year, I was placed at the Kings County Record for four weeks of on the job training. My first day of work was a Monday, which was the Record’s deadline day (they publish weekly and the paper comes out Tuesday). So the editor, David Kelly, sent me to court, basically to keep me out of his hair. I sat through a day in court that had everything from impaired driving to a bail hearing for a man accused of raping a woman. Talk about going all in! I was hooked. After my four weeks, I was asked to stay on for the summer for a paid internship.
I returned to Holland College for my second year and by February, I had completed the program, which was great, since the Record was able to pay me as a freelancer. I went back to the Record for a second summer as a paid intern and after that contract was up, I received a call from news editor Murray Guy from the Times & Transcript. He had a job for me for a year contract. From there, a full-time job opened up at the Miramichi Leader and there’s no way I could say no.
Holland College was where I learned how to write. How to write for an editor, and how to tell a story.
The task seems daunting.
You’ve finally decided to pursue a career in Journalism, but there’s one more, huge job to complete; you have to choose a school.
It wasn’t easy when I faced the choice and it’s not easy today.
When I was looking for a journalism school, I was willing to go anywhere in Canada, and applied to several programs. While many looked good, it was my visit to Holland College that had me packing my bags and leaving Ontario for P.E.I.
Nowhere else in Canada offered such practical experience in a two-year package, enabling me to cover so different areas.”
Unlike many other journalism programs, Holland College had a class size of about 30 students for both years. While this alone was a good thing, it got better, in that there were two instructors. This meant I could always get the help I needed, when I needed it.
In university, I found getting time with a professor was difficult and often rushed. At Holland College, I got regular meetings in which I decided what would be covered, from rating skills to getting tips or advice. If I needed an extra session I just found an opening on a chart and put my initials down.
The other schools I visited always featured a visit to their computer labs. I was pleased to find the Journalism program at Holland College recreated a newsroom. That meant I got my own desk with my own computer, which meant no waiting for computer time and no heavy traffic when deadlines approached.
Speaking of equipment, the class also had laptops I could sign out, a couple of more powerful desktop computers to do layout and design work, as well as film and digital cameras.
After a couple months in my first year I was writing for our own community newspaper, The Surveyor. At other schools I was told I wouldn’t be able to write for some time. At Holland College, I wasn’t only writing right away, I was getting published.
Lots of other schools have papers, too, but many of them assign editors who remain in place for the year. Not at Holland College. Every student got to be editor, copy editor, reporter and photographer. We not only got the experience of writing, which added to our portfolios, we also got a taste of all the other skills that go into creating a newspaper. Holland College graduates can do it all, because they’ve done it all.
This is the key to the program: hands-on, practical experience. I didn’t want to have to go to lectures to be told how it’s done in the real world. I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to write term papers on interviewing; I wanted to go talk to real people about real issues to be written for a real paper.
Speaking of the real world, we got a taste of that not once, but twice outside the classroom. Again, other schools offered internships, but they were often held right before graduation and lasted about four weeks. In the spring of my first year I was sent to a daily newspaper to work for a month. Then, in the winter of my second year, I went to a weekly paper for six weeks.
The contacts I made during my first internship helped me land my first job and a couple of years later I was working beside these same reporters as a colleague.
And what was it like learning and working in Charlottetown? Many of my friends and family thought the small size would be a hindrance, but I knew better. As a student reporter, if I wanted to talk to the premier I could literally walk a few blocks down the street and knock on his door. And I did.
The same held true for many other sources I wanted for my stories. That’s something my counterparts back in Toronto couldn’t do.
Charlottetown may be small, but it had everything I needed as a reporter learning the ropes: city hall, provincial legislature, courts, urban/rural issues, arts and entertainment, sports, and a friendly population willing to help a student.
After completing the program in 1998, Roger, a native of Bowmanville, Ontario, worked at The Express in St. John’s, Nfld. He went on to become a legislative reporter for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal in Fredericton, a city hall reporter for the Peterborough Examiner and a copy editor for the Waterloo Region Record’s website. He was the news editor of the Guelph Mercury and managing editor of the Journal Pioneer in Summerside. On two separate occasions, he served as a Journalism instructor at Holland College. He’s currently a copy editor at the Hamilton Spectator.
Holland College gave me the tools and skills to become the journalist I am today. I am now managing editor of Metro Halifax. The journalism program teaches you all aspects of reporting, from court and politics, to sports and entertainment. And as an added bonus, for someone not from Prince Edward Island, I was able to do all of this while living in one of the most beautiful parts of our country.