A 10-storey tower overlooks Yonge-Dundas Square, next to the campus of Ryerson University. The Citytv and OMNI Television home is in the heart of Toronto, mere steps away from the School of Journalism, where I was a third-year student. Its gigantic windows allow me to steal a glimpse of inside the studio. At the time, it was the closest I could get to the hustle and bustle.
That year, I had two interviews for summer internships. Both said I had a “ton of potential” but I had little idea of how to turn it into triumph. Though, they recognized the thirst, it was not enough to sway them to give me a gamble. With minimal experience, a placement was difficult to land — true of most twenty-somethings.
So, the summer of 2011 began with rejection. But the “no” stirred drive inside of me.
There was a third interview that year. It was with the inaugural Multimedia & Multiculturalism program. A telephone interview made me anxious but I was quickly put at ease, and soon became one of 21 participants selected from across the country.
A short time later, I was placed at OMNI News Ontario, which operates in the tower that anchors Yonge-Dundas Square. I was no longer the passerby with her nose pressed up against the window.
There, I was immediately immersed in the industry. On my second day, I was invited to attend the Canadian Journalism Foundation Awards Gala — an opportunity I otherwise would not have had. I sat with OMNI News and CityNews reporters that I would watch on TV as well as senior executives in OMNI News — thrilling, but equally, intimidating. Thrust into an industry event, with little experience, it was overwhelming, but an honour to be in the company of some of the country’s prized journalists.
Day-to-day, I would shadow OMNI News reporters (even Mandarin and Italian.) They fascinated me with their drive and passion for their work. There were stories of pressing concern to Canada’s visible minority communities, including Toronto’s move to ban shark fin, address discrimination in the city’s priority neighbourhoods and religious tension over weekly Muslim prayers at a middle school.
The reporters had unique access, which in some ways put a lingering fear to rest. I have, at times, felt dread that being Tamil-Canadian would become the defining aspect of who I am as a journalist. Here, I experienced a dramatic transformation. I began to look as ethnicity as an asset, as access to communities and as better understanding.
But no sooner did I defy South Asian stereotypes than during preparation for the 2011 International India Film Academy Awards. Not a Bollywood follower, I learned a ton about the industry and its key players in the weeks leading up to the awards.
It was a big year for OMNI Television as the official Canadian broadcast partner of the Indian film industry’s Oscars, hosted in Toronto. It was exhilarating to be engrossed in the commotion.
I was given access to the official Twitter account to post on behalf of the organization in the days leading up to the awards and behind the scenes Tweets on the day of.
I felt challenged by the duties I was given and when I was not, I pushed for more. Later, I was told they appreciated that I was proactive and asked for challenging work to prove my abilities. The experience was unlike the typical depiction of an intern. I was not there for coffee-runs but to learn and was treated like a valuable member of the team.
What started as a six-week internship was eventually extended into an entire summer interning with OMNI News.
Later, I asked to shadow the CityNews.ca newsroom and eventually, began to intern there, which stretched into December.
At CityNews.ca, I wrote local Toronto news. I reported on city hall, helped with the coverage of the death of NDP Leader Jack Layton and the Ontario election and reported on the Occupy Toronto protests, to name a few.
It was no easy feat. During the summer, I interned Monday to Friday and worked as a cashier on weekends. Once September hit, I was back in university full-time, as well as working part-time and interning part-time at CityNews.ca. But the experience granted me a sense of direction and a focus on my career.
It was an investment in my goals, not a sacrifice to achieve them.
Throughout it all, the hard-working Multimedia & Multiculturalism team provided support and mentorship, in addition to my colleagues at OMNI News and CityNews.ca.
The inaugural program provided me with an opportunity to intern in multiplatform newsrooms and gave me the confidence to run with the opportunity.
This year, I graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism, where I specialized in online and broadcast.
I have little idea where I am going but I will remember where I came from and why I came.