If there’s a clue to what shapes the kind of early success Lane Harrison and Leslie Amminson are having, it may be this: the journalism students both wanted to be writers and journalists as far back as they can remember, since they were kids. That clear-eyed determination, along with a passion for their work, has likely helped earn them the Joan Donaldson CBC News Scholarship, one of the most coveted scholarship opportunities available to aspiring journalists.
There’s excitement all around; this is the first time in several years that a King’s student has won a Donaldson Scholarship—and two students, at that. “These are prestigious placements,” Terra Tailleur, assistant professor and internship coordinator in the School of Journalism explains. “There are sixteen journalism schools eligible to submit, so there would have been dozens of very good candidates.” The scholarship offers a paid internship of four months with CBC News, that includes three five-week placements—two at the national broadcast centre in Toronto, along with one regional placement elsewhere in Canada. “Very few students are selected,” Tailleur adds. “For many it’s a gateway into regular work at the CBC.”
“They’ve both had newsroom experience and they’ll be able to meet the rigors of this kind of internship,” Tailleur says. “They’ve been published before. They understand what it means to put a work of journalism out into the world where you may face criticism.” She describes Harrison as a ‘newshound’; he loves the news and has a huge aptitude for it.
“And there’s the Gazette,” she adds, referring to the fact that Harrison is editor in chief of the Dalhousie Gazette. “It’s a huge job and has responsibility. If a student can take on a job like that, it says a lot about what they know about journalism and what they can handle.”
Amminson, Tailleur sees as “one of those soft-spoken people who has a powerful impact. In her time at King’s, she’s taken on huge topics like sexualized violence and done great work on them. This is part of what she’s recognized for.”
As Leslie Amminson describes it, she ‘put one foot in’ first. She’d done her undergraduate degree in English at Memorial University in St. John’s, Nfld., her hometown, and then came to King’s for the one-year Bachelor of Journalism. “I wanted to see if it would work for me—and it really did! I didn’t expect to be quite so enamored of the work.” She followed up with King’s Master of Journalism, though not before doing some freelance work in radio, developing well-received radio features for CBC Atlantic Voice. In her second semester, Amminson moved to Goose Bay, Nfld., working full time for CBC Labrador Morning. “It was a wonderful experience. I was blessed to have gotten to go up there and connect with people in the area. It was a small newsroom and I was thrown into the community.”
She was always going to be a writer, but journalism adds a richness that Amminson marvels at.
“Writing can feel solitary, but journalism feels connected. It’s a lovely balance of talking to people and coming back to your desk and writing about it, making something special out of it.” Asked what kind of pieces pull her in deeply, she’s particularly clear: “I get angry about injustice. I’m drawn to stories where I feel there is some harm being done and we need to look at why that’s happening… the things that aren’t being talked about enough.” In the end, it may well be radio that draws her. “Hearing people’s voices… it makes me feel there is a thread of connection in the world.”
Lane Harrison loves information—researching it, gathering it, writing it, sharing it. It’s likely what made the Toronto native and soon-to-be BJ(Hons) graduate the perfect news editor of the Dalhousie Gazette, a position he took in his third year. “I think I wrote for every issue in my second year and then I became news editor,” he says. Now, as editor-in-chief, Harrison’s helming the paper while balancing an intense final year. At the Gazette he’s facing the challenges all newspaper editors face today—how to stay relevant in such rapidly changing times. “We’re trying to meet people where they are, putting more stories on Instagram and other social media platforms,” he explains. Ever since he was a boy Harrison knew he was going to be a ‘newspaper writer’ and King’s, with its Foundation Year Program and Bachelor of Journalism (Honours), was an obvious fit. “I came from a small school where I had close relationships with my teachers and I wanted more of that. That, plus the university’s reputation, made King’s a powerful draw.”
Harrison hopes the Donaldson internship will offer him a deep dive into some of the aspects of the work he’s been introduced to at King’s. “I want to learn how broadcast news shows come together technically,” he enthuses, “and how editorial decisions are made while putting a show together.” Near the top of his list—a desire to become a better reporter. “I want to learn how to think about stories as national and how to take local stories and learn to make them matter to all Canadians.” As for what he hopes his work brings to others, “I get really excited to report on something people are passionate about, that I know nothing about. I hope that people walk away from my work with information they can use in their lives.”