Since graduating in 2009, Sifton has gained a wide variety of industry experience in both television and print. He now serves as the deputy news editor with Al Jazeera English in Doha, Qatar.
Sifton reflected on his time at UBC and how it prepared him for a career in journalism:
On his work experience:
After graduation, I worked on a documentary for ABC News, at Adbusters Magazine, and with the NBC News Channel during the Winter Olympics.
I currently work as a deputy news editor with Al Jazeera English. I arrived at Al Jazeera just as the protests in Egypt were kicking off. It’s obviously a very interesting time in the Middle East, and it was incredible to watch the Arab Spring unfold.
While at UBC, I interned at an English newspaper in Cairo and the UK Bureau of the CBC. The newspaper internship taught me how exciting it can be to work as a journalist in the Middle East. At the CBC, I learned the nuts and bolts of broadcast journalism.
On his experience at the J-school’s International Reporting Program:
I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in the International Reporting course. While investigating the spread of electronic waste from the West into the developing world, my team and I purchased hard drives at a market in Ghana. We hoped to show that sensitive information from people’s computers was lying unprotected in a foreign country.
At first, we purchased four hard drives and were excited to find personal photos and credit card information from people in Australia and the UK. We went back to the market, bought three more hard drives, tested them, and were completely shocked to find that one of them belonged to the American security company Northrop Grumman. They make missiles and fighter jets, and somehow they weren’t able to dispose of their confidential information safely.
The international reporting class teams returned to Vancouver from Ghana, India, and China. We turned our investigation into a documentary for PBS FRONTLINE/World. The discovery of the hard drive attracted significant attention to the documentary and the crime of sending e-waste abroad. A lot of media outlets interviewed us on our findings, and people were disgusted that we were sending our toxic trash abroad. We won several awards, but were surprised to be nominated for an Emmy and completely shocked when we won.
On UBC’s School of Journalism:
I would absolutely recommend the UBC School of Journalism to any aspiring journalist. If you enroll in the master’s program, you’ll learn the skills necessary to work in any media environment, whether it be print, online, television, documentary, or radio.
Most importantly, the professors are happy to mentor you. Through contacts and advice, they’ll help you get where you want to be as a journalist. I always wanted to work abroad in international news. I made this clear from day one, and all of my professors were happy to provide guidance and help me get here.
The program can be challenging at times, but toughing it out together with a small group of students – you’ll make strong friendships. It’s been great to see how far everyone has gone since graduation.