Aaron Chatha is a graduate of Mount Royal and now works as a reporter with Metro Calgary.
My first work experience was Cold Lake (Alta.) working for The Sun newspaper up there. It was just an internship, so I was a reporter but the day before I got up there the editor quit and so did the only other reporter. So for about a month it was just me which is a pretty intense, but pretty cool way to start off the internship.
Me and a couple friends started a magazine about geek culture in Calgary. We were a bunch of geeks anyways. We regularly went to the comic store and played video games so we decided to see if we could make something out of it. I think we lasted four issues, so it wasn’t exactly a success but we put out a thousand issues so it was pretty cool. And we got some free games out of it, so that was pretty cool too.
When you get a real job in journalism, you realize that [school] babysits you a lot. The deadlines pick up, you write four stories per day and you just have to learn to be a lot more self directed.
Keep your cool. It’s really easy to get stressed out while you’re in school, but once you get to the real world, you pick up the skills to stay calm.
You learn pretty quickly to let stuff just slide off your back and keep going. A lot of it is contacting people you know within the industry or through school and asking them for advice on where to start.
It was either a journalist or a comedian, and I actually had the opportunity to do both. I moved to Toronto a few years ago and got a full time job with OMNI TV. While I was there I got into a program at Second City so I did comedy improv in the evenings and journalism during the day.
My strong suit starting off was having a strong writer’s voice. I enjoyed writing, and I enjoyed arts and entertainment because it had a looser feel to it, so I could give it a voice — rather than crime, for example, where you want to remain very impartial and straightforward.
Time management is my biggest learned skill. As a student I just sort of messed around, waited till the deadline, quickly wrote something. When you have a daily deadline you quickly learn to be ahead of stuff, to set up stories and then shift gears very easily whenever there’s breaking news.
The biggest advice that I would give to myself or to anyone is to take it easy and to have fun. There is a lot of stress put on you through school and trying to build a portfolio and get a job, but pick something that you enjoy doing and pursue it.
This past year at Metro I’ve written about how Alberta film hasn’t been supported very well by any of the governments. You build enough of these stories and you start to get the word out. Then they made a big funding announcement.
To see change happen and know that you’ve reported on it and helped take it to this place — that’s really rewarding.
One of the coolest things I’ve done was the investigation into school district policies regarding bullying and discrimination against transgender students. We took our findings to the Alberta government and as a result, the education minister mandated that every school district create a set of guidelines and submit them for approval.
You can make big change and small change. That’s the most rewarding part of being a journalist.
You’re not always changing the world, sometimes it’s just cool if you make somebody’s day.
As told to Holly Maller. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
Editor: Tyler Ryan | firstname.lastname@example.org