Where a journalism degree can take you: Alex Cooke shares her path from King’s to CBC

Where a journalism degree can take you: Alex Cooke shares her path from King’s to CBC

Alex Cooke’s journalism career has required her to be adaptable. She’s worked in local radio, written stories for the Canadian Press and now uses her writing and radio skills in her role as a reporter/editor with CBC Nova Scotia. Many of those skills Alex developed over her young career, but she established her foundation at King’s.

“I think King’s is pretty good at teaching you the wide scope of what you can do,” says Alex. “In my workshops, I did newspaper, radio and web, and those are three different kinds of journalism. You can’t just take a web story and read that entire thing on the radio, for example, that would be terrible,” she says, laughing.

Alex studied at King’s from 2011 to 2016. Inside the classroom, she focused on journalism and took a few film courses. Outside the classroom, Alex and her friends would frequently get together and watch old movies. She also wrote a musical for the 2015 King’s Infringement Festival, a theatre festival organized annually by the King’s Theatrical Society that highlights student-created theatre.

“I think it’s good for anyone going to King’s to really branch out, meet as many people as possible, even if it has to be virtually, get involved with some societies. Because there’s a lot of fun things that happen on this small campus.”

In the fourth year of the Bachelor of Journalism (Hons) program, students complete three six-week workshops: Alex took the newspaper, radio and online workshops. For her it was this final year of journalism school that was the best of her years at King’s. The workshops teach students what it is like to collaborate in a professional environment—students spend the entire working day producing stories for The Signal, the news site run by the School of Journalism at King’s.

“We really had the opportunity to see how a real newsroom would operate,” says Alex. “We were working together, we were pitching stories, we would pick an editor to take charge for the week. It was really fun, and I think that definitely helped me prepare a lot for what I would end up doing later too.”

Students build on what they learned in the workshops with a three-week internship at an external media outlet. Alex interned at News 95.7, a talk radio station in Halifax. Not only did the internship go well, it led to her first journalism job—though it didn’t come right away. After graduating in the spring of 2016, Alex worked at a car dealership for a few months. In November, when a position opened up at News 95.7, Alex got the job.

“I find if you do a good job at your internships and really show up and ask a lot of questions, you leave a good impression, so I think that’s probably how I got it,” says Alex.

She worked at News 95.7 for a year and a half, producing an afternoon talk show. That meant working behind the scenes to make the show run smoothly—checking audio levels, helping to schedule guests and managing the phone lines.

In the spring of 2018, one of Alex’s friends from King’s told her she was leaving her job at the Canadian Press’s (CP) Atlantic bureau. She suggested Alex apply. Writing for a national publication would be a big change from her radio job, and Alex needed to demonstrate to CP that she was up for the challenge. She used some of her written stories from King’s in her portfolio, the CP liked what they read, and the job was hers.

Alex became the weekend reporter at the CP, writing stories about Atlantic Canada that were syndicated to publications across the country. She also got to put the skills she learned in the online and radio workshops to use, writing copy for radio as well.

After a year at the CP, a round of lay-offs found her looking for work once more. This time though, she had a lot more experience and industry contacts. After a couple of months spent freelancing, Alex landed a job as a reporter for CBC Nova Scotia in April of 2019, where she remains today. At CBC, Alex writes stories for the website and copy edits. She also does work for CBC Radio, including news reading and occasionally filing stories and booking guests. Her job requires her to use the skills she built throughout her career to date— skills she began developing at King’s.

In addition to working for CBC Nova Scotia, Alex occasionally works with King’s journalism students, lecturing the first-year journalism class on how to report breaking news. She also worked as a copy adviser for the online workshop last year.

As her own career shows, Alex says that journalists need to be able to report stories across multiple platforms and for different media outlets.

“Familiarize yourself with as many online news sources as you can,” says Alex. “Listen to the radio when you get the chance, tune in for your evening hour news and just pay attention to how they’re all different and how they present their stories differently.”

She has another tip for journalism students, too: don’t limit yourself.

“I really do a little bit of everything, and I think that is the case for a lot of people these days too,” says Alex. “It’s very hard to be one specific type of journalist right now. You really do need to know how to do everything.”

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