Daisy Xiong graduated from UBC Journalism in 2016 and currently works as a reporter at Richmond News. Here’s what she had to say about her time at the school and a diversity of internship experiences.
What’s your day to day like in your current role at Richmond News?
I’m currently a staff reporter and I report on all areas of interest — politics, business, arts, and I do inter-cultural reporting too. I’m the only Chinese-speaking reporter on our team now. In Richmond, which is very multicultural and has a large Chinese population, being a bilingual reporter helps build deeper connections to our community. I’m also freelancing for the New York Times and am a guest host for a Business In Vancouver podcast in Mandarin.
How did your time at UBC prepare you for your role?
Firstly, the Integrated Journalism course was really helpful. I got to do local reporting and that’s basically what I’m doing now. The course helped us understand how to pitch stories and find good stories, and the professors really helped us improve our writing and storytelling.
And the program helped me to get internships — I spent all my school vacation time interning for different news organizations, and found those experiences extremely valuable. I interned at Global TV, The Globe and Mail, and CBC’s The Current. These experiences helped me get CBC’s Joan Donaldson News Scholarship and work for CBC afterwards.
Usually, if you don’t have a lot of experience, it’s hard to get a full-time job in journalism. But because I already had these experiences, and because I’m am fluent in Chinese, I got a full-time job pretty soon after I graduated. Without journalism school, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. The professors were super supportive, especially Kathryn Gretsinger. She really helped me to build my confidence. Frances Bula also helped me a lot with my reporting, and other professors like Kirk LaPointe, the editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver.
What drew you to study at UBC Journalism?
I had always wanted to be a journalist, since I was young. I did my bachelor’s degree in Broadcast and Television Journalism in China. After I moved to Canada with my family, I wanted to continue pursuing my passion to become a journalist.
How did your experience at UBC relate to your undergraduate studies in broadcasting?
I think it definitely made my time at UBC Journalism much easier. English is not my first language, but I had the storytelling skills, and the ability to find stories. I think that’s sometimes more important than language skills. Four years of getting trained to be a journalist prepared me for my time at UBC, and that’s one of the reasons I sort of stood out. But even though I had a bachelor’s degree in journalism, it was in China, which is very different. So for me, it was necessary to get local experience.
What was your biggest highlight while at UBC Journalism?
CBC’s The Current was definitely a highlight. Working there made me see the highest quality of journalism. It’s a dream place for journalists to be. We talked about what journalism is and journalism ethics at work, which was amazing. I did three stories for the program, including one of my favourite pieces on child trafficking in China.
All the stories I did at school I was really happy with. I remember I cried for the first time during an interview because the interviewee’s story was so touching. The Joan Donaldson Scholarship was also a highlight, as was my final thesis and the International Reporting Program. It was a rare opportunity to do an international project, and to do research for stories abroad and work with local fixers. I was struggling at the time with all the assignments and deadlines, but when I look back, the experience and the growth were priceless.
I feel that people from UBC Journalism, we think more about journalism. We don’t just think about the daily work we do; we think about the industry, the future of it. We look at the bigger picture. I think that’s a very precious thing we got from UBC Journalism.
Do you have any advice for journalism students?
Sometimes I wish I had known how difficult the industry is when I was a student. Students should be prepared. It can be difficult, and if you don’t get something great right away, you might have to do some freelancing, casual and part-time work first. It doesn’t mean that you are not great. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep doing the good things you are doing and keep trying different opportunities. When I applied for a CBC internship for the first time, I never thought I would get it. But I did, and went back to CBC afterwards. You never know until you try it.
And another piece of advice is to always keep an open mind, which is essential to being a great journalist. Be open to the people, community or cultures that you might not be familiar with and tell their stories too.
When I was at school, I found some international students, they were struggling. But the fact that I come from a different culture, a different country, and I speak another language — that opens up so many opportunities. I hope to encourage people with different backgrounds and cultures who enter the industry to see this as an advantage, not a disadvantage. We always talk about diversity in the newsroom. We need reporters coming from different backgrounds to give a voice to different parts of society.