7/18/2013 1:32:29 PM
A passion for writing and sharing inspiring stories is what drew Danielle Higdon of Baie Verte to the field of journalism. As editor of Edmonton Woman Magazine she is putting her exceptional talent to good use.
Danielle entered the journalism program at College of the North Atlantic (CNA) directly out of high school, and since graduating from the program in 2009 has had the opportunity to help people share their stories with the world. She has met and interviewed many inspirational, influential, and exceptional people and has held numerous positions in the in the journalism and communications field – all of which lead to her current position as an editor.
“I have had a passion for writing since I was old enough to hold a pen, but was never certain the best way to utilize it,” said Danielle. “I've also always had a passion for hearing people's stories. I read a lot and was always drawn to memoirs and autobiographies.”
So when Danielle read about the journalism program at CNA, she felt it would be a great way to use her flair for writing to help people share their stories. She chose CNA as it was the only school in the province to offer a journalism program that featured hands-on, realistic training.
“I liked that as a student I would be involved in the production of the campus newspaper, updating the Troubadour website, and even putting together a radio show. Those opportunities drew me to CNA, as opposed to other schools where the majority of my learning would have taken place sitting in a classroom desk.”
While Danielle was always interested in current events and what was happening in the world, she says the program was an eye-opening experience for her.
“It really exposed me to the fine details of journalism, and provided insight into what a career in the field would be like day-to-day. I learned about the importance of meeting deadlines, overcame my anxiety about conducting face-to-face interviews, and was taught how to fine-tune many other necessary skills for the industry, like layout and design, photography, and website maintenance.”
The smaller class size in the program was also beneficial to Danielle.
“What I appreciated most about the instructors at CNA was that they took the time to get to know each individual students’ strengths and areas for improvement. This is made possible by the smaller class sizes at CNA. The learning environment was a very personal one, and I always felt as though I could speak with my instructors one-on-one whenever I needed to review my performance and receive guidance.
“Also, the instructors were very realistic about the media industry. They emphasized the importance of hard work, professionalism, and attention to detail. All of which have been essential to the success I experienced after graduation.”
The facilities for the program also gave her a realistic experience of what a newsroom is like in the journalism industry.
“The facility was a wonderful learning environment. The newsroom featured up-do-date computers and it was so exciting to learn in a space that wasn't a typical classroom. It really felt like an actual newsroom that you would see at any credible publication, and being able to sit around a large table with classmates and discuss story ideas and plan story lists provided a very interactive feel,” said Danielle .
“For anyone looking to enter the journalism field, the program at CNA is the perfect place to start. It introduces you to all facets of journalism, including print media, radio, television, and internet journalism. It provides you with the freedom to hone your skills in the area that you are most interested in pursuing, for me it was print media, while still encouraging you push beyond your comfort zone and gain beneficial new experience. The communal approach to learning results in a close-knit group of classmates.”
Danielle received several scholarships while attending CNA, including the $1,500 VOCM Cares Foundation Memorial Scholarship, the Canadian Millennium Scholarship and the Kinsmen/Kinettes Scholarship.
“My most prized accolade however was winning the David C. Saxton Humanitarian Essay Competition in May 2009.”
The competition is held by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and participants write about a provided topic. In 2009 the topic was The Promotion of World Peace and Harmony: Who is Keeping the Peace?
“The December prior to that, my best friend, Pte. Justin Peter Jones had been killed in Afghanistan after an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near his armoured vehicle west of Kandahar City. I choose to write about his dedication to his country and it was an unbelievable honour to not only be recognized for my submission, but to commemorate his life and legacy with my essay.”
After graduating from the journalism program in 2009, Danielle worked on a six-month internship with the communications team at the provincial Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St. John's.
“During that internship, I was exposed to the opposite side of journalism. Instead of calling organizations for comments for stories I was now responding to media inquiries and because I already had insight into how the media operates, I realized I was able to provide concise information and respond to inquiries effectively.”
Inspired by learning about a new side of the media world, Danielle decided to return to post-secondary to gain the academic understanding needed to succeed in all areas of media relations. She transferred her credits from CNA to Memorial University, prepared to spend two years at the institution to complete her degree in communications. When a position became available that she couldn't decline, she felt work experience would be just as valuable, and decided to finish the degree via distance learning.
She was hired as the senior reporter and photographer for The Aurora newspaper in Labrador City, NL, where she worked for over a year.
“It was almost mind-boggling to me how fast opportunities began opening up for me,” said Danielle. “Through my experience as a community newspaper reporter, I was able to develop my interview and story writing skills. I also gained a thick skin under the wing of an excellent editor who returned my stories to me covered in red ink time and time again until I was able to write with fine point precision.”
From there, Danielle decided to leave the province in hopes of bigger and better career opportunities. After being in Edmonton, Alberta for less than two weeks she was hired as the assistant editor of Edmonton Woman Magazine, and has since been promoted to the editor position, all by age 24!
“I have been able to steer the creative direction of the magazine, write stories about inspirational local women that are having a huge impact on their communities, city, and the world, and I have seen my hard work pay off with positive feedback and a growing online following for the magazine.”
The job is very multi-faceted, and every day is different, which is what she loves about the position. And while the job requires a lot of work, it is always worthwhile to see the finished product once it hits the news stands.
Looking back at her time at CNA, she owes her success to how well the program prepared her.
“I don't think it would have been possible for me to perform in this position to the best of my ability without the experience and knowledge that CNA provided. In the two years that I spent in the CNA journalism program, I not only learned the fundamentals required to obtain employment in the industry, but I was reaffirmed that I had chosen the right career path and was inspired to keep moving forward and to do whatever it took to succeed. Without my college experience, that spark may have never been fanned and transformed into the flame it is today.”
For more information about CNA’s Journalism program visit www.cna.nl.ca.
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic