Why I left the daily grind of news

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

It has been seven months since I signed off from Global News. More specifically, that’s how long it’s been since I filed my last report, stepping away from the work I’ve known and loved for the last 17 years. While my departure took many I know by surprise, the truth is it’s been in the works since about 2017. I’ve known since then that it was time for a change.

A purpose-driven life

2017 was a pivotal year for me. Amidst some major shifts in my family, I spent the entire year soul-searching: what was my purpose? I knew there was so much more to me than the 6 o’clock news. Almost daily, I seemed to be wrestling with a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo: the routine of just going to work and filing stories. 2017 was also the year I stepped into a leadership role with the Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ), the nonprofit organization I helped re-launch and still lead today. Between the deeply meaningful work of the CABJ, a growing hunger for a different kind of storytelling, family upheaval and a desire to know God more, 2017 became a year of purpose and self-discovery.

I read a host of books that year, though none more impactful than The Purpose Driven Life, which really helped set me on the course I’m still on today. There’s something deeply profound about slowing down, resisting the urge to just fulfill the destiny others have charted for you and pursue purpose. For me, it marked a big shift: away from the life I was told I was meant to live to the one I’m actively pursuing today.

Passion meets purpose

The year 2020 started with me stepping well outside of my comfort zone and really embracing the work of advocacy. Alongside CJOC, the CABJ released our ‘Calls to Action‘. We spent months working on this document, tweaking and re-writing it, going back and forth between the two teams. I remember when we finally settled on the current version and, in early January, set a date for it’s release.

I was terrified.

I remember praying (HARD) in those days, waiting for some grand sign from God that we should or should not move ahead. I felt like my career was on the line and that sharing this document could bring it to an end. I specifically remember praying one morning and feeling, very deeply, like God was saying to me, “what are you waiting for? I brought you to this point. The time is now.” When we released the document, the response on social media was swift and very supportive. However, it wasn’t the same from my employer at the time: I didn’t receive any response. In fact, none of the major media outlets we sent the document to responded. Immediately, and despite the assurances I knew I was sensing from God, I thought my career was over.

But the murder of a Black man outside a Cup Foods convenience store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, changed everything.

Suddenly, every media organization wanted to talk about race and racism. Black journalists began sharing their stories of race and racism in the newsroom – in Canadian newsrooms – on social media and in interviews. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen in my career. For the CABJ, it meant our workload increased overnight: we were being called on by news leaders across the country who wanted to talk about the very same document they’d ignored at the beginning of the year…the same document I was almost too scared to release. Even now, things haven’t slowed down for the organization. We relaunched our membership, built four national programs, co-hosted our first conference – the list goes on. As we prepare to head into 2022, we’re focused now on internal structure, ensuring the necessary framework is in place for a new generation of CABJ leaders to step in. It’s deeply rewarding work, the kind some might call purpose-driven.

Time for a change

I’ve always loved the work of nonprofits. I’ve volunteered in various roles across Canada because I love that kind of community engagement. Deep down inside, I always wondered whether it was possible to do that kind of purpose-driven work for a living. At the time, I was still very much into news, moving to different cities and provinces before settling in BC in 2014. However, by 2021, I just knew it was time for a change: there was just this…internal inkling that something had shifted.

I remember sitting up one night in March of last year in our home office, writing in my journal. My entries are deep reflections that often become prayers and that night was no exception. I remember writing, and saying to God, that I felt like it was time for a change. The next morning, I woke up to a note in my LinkedIn inbox. A former colleague of mine was leaving his communications job at a local charity. He reached out to me, wondering whether or not I was interested in applying for it. Fastest answer to prayer ever.

Seven months into my new role at that charity here in Vancouver and I couldn’t be happier. I get to mix media and advocacy for a living, all while still pursuing my passions on the side, which include continuing to lead the CABJ. The change of pace has been welcome for a number of reasons. And working in a new industry continues to deepen my understanding of race and racism in Canada, how it manifests and how to address it (but we’ll save that for another blog post!).

For that entire time, this blog sat dormant. But I think this year marks a shift for the blog, too. One of the things I love to do is to share my knowledge and experience to help others. After all, it was a desire to help other female Black journalists that led me to the CABJ in the first place. I’m hoping to now use Black Girl Reporting to help young journalists just starting out in need of some advice on how to navigate the newsroom

This is important to me: I’m sure I

have the experience and perspective (and the heart!) to help make the journeys a little bit easier for someone else. You can catch the ‘Navigating the Newsroom’ posts the first Monday of every month.

My prayer for you in 2022 is that whatever might be holding you back from stepping into your purpose finally gives way. The world needs your voice/ideas/advocacy more than you know. Don’t let anything hold you back.

Stay tuned.

A change of heart

I used to think vision boards were a waste of time. How could a glorified arts and crafts project really help you stay focused on your future (cynical, I know)?

Despite my best efforts, the first thing that came under siege for me this year was my focus. The challenges came out of nowhere. Some storms in life brew on the horizon and, even though we try to ignore them, they come to pass (been there, done that, writing the book—literally). There are other storms in life you simply don’t foresee. The ones that hit when everything is going well and you’re doing everything right.

I can honestly say that, in February, I was doing everything right…but so much went wrong. There were many days I found myself speechless. One morning I woke up to pray, but there were no words. Some days it was just about getting through.

A young girl I used to mentor asked me if I’d come with her to an all-girls Valentine’s Day party. I thought the plan was just to eat chocolate-dipped fruit and paint our nails. I didn’t realize making vision boards was also on the agenda. I went because I care a lot about this young girl and I wanted to be there for her: to spend time with her, see how she was doing and just to support her. So, when it came time to make these vision boards, I put aside my cynicism and jumped in.

As I made the board, my mind wasn’t consumed with thoughts of the various situations percolating around me, for a change. The only thing on my mind was my vision. In that moment, everything else seemed like a distraction. For a few hours that night, everything came back into focus. Cutting and pasting images representing my short and long term dreams lifted my spirits. It was a different kind of self-love.

My vision board is now posted on the cork board in the room I pray in every morning. It’s the first thing I see: a visual reminder of where I’m going. I’m going to get there regardless of what I see happening around me. I whisper a prayer over every part of the vision board daily.

The storms haven’t yet passed, but I can see to the other side of them. I’m working on looking at things more through eyes of faith. It’s the kind of vision you need to stay focused. And if it takes glue sticks and some old magazines to help me do that, then so be it.

The last ten years

The end of 2019 marks the end of a year and a decade…which is kind of a big deal when you stop to think about it. I began reminiscing over the last decade: where I was when it started and where I am now. So much has changed…

I started working for the CBC in 2010, marking my first on-air gig for one of the major Canadian broadcasters. I was both timid and terrified, having just relocated from Toronto to St. John’s for the job. Fast forward ten years and I’m amazed at how much my confidence has grown. I’m not an extrovert (I just play one on TV), so believe me when I say my confidence has never been this high…though, if history is any indication, it can only increase.

Of course, this kind of reflection leads to a narrowing down of the key lessons that have carried me through these past ten years. I’m sharing them now because I’ll need them for the journey ahead.

Don’t give up. It’s impossible to navigate the ups and downs of life a quitter. Race and gender aside, this industry isn’t an easy one to survive. I’ve been laid off, had to move across the country for work and had to volunteer or work freelance for five years before I could land my first casual gig. I don’t know where I’d be now had I given up (or had people given up on me…but that’s for another post).

Sacrifice is part of the journey. I’ve had to move away from my Toronto family and I’ve worked nearly every weekend for the past ten years. For anything we want to achieve that’s worth pursuing it always means we have to give something up in the short-term. It’s always worth it in the end, I’ve learned.

Have work, will travel. I still meet a lot of interns who say they don’t want to leave their home city to pursue opportunities. Leaving Toronto was tough, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d probably have done it sooner if I knew how much good leaving the city would have done for my career. I still encourage young journalists to explore opportunities outside of their home cities. Be warned: it will be tough. Leaving Toronto meant my first real encounter with racism. However, the trade-off was personal and professional growth. The transformation came when I stepped outside of my comfort zone.

Be consistent. Over the course of this decade, I was consistently inconsistent. I started blogging but didn’t always do it monthly, I took up running but still don’t do it regularly. Consistency is key to success. Think of any great person and there’s something in their life they do consistently: be it training, sticking to their values, delivering on time, praying–regardless of what it is, they do it well because they’re consistent. I think consistency is about a personal commitment we make to ourselves without compromise, with an eye to the kind of personal betterment that impacts the lives of others.

The best-laid plans

A few years ago, I remember going to speak at a school and the teacher telling me her students were stressed out. They were in grade 10 and many of them were already dealing with the pressure of what to do and where to go next: what university to apply to (university, not college. Never college), what program to study, their career path. Their teacher told me the pressure they were feeling was driven by both external and internal forces.

I’m grateful for parents who were always supportive of my decision to pursue a job in journalism–which is kind of a big deal when you consider I was raised by two hard-working immigrant parents. They were both willing to look beyond the popular options of accountant, doctor and lawyer to see there was a storyteller in me. However, that didn’t stop me from applying unnecessary pressure on myself to perform. I had my one, three, five and ten year plans all worked out…

…but those plans never seem to take into account one oft-overlooked fact: life happens. My plan didn’t factor in multiple moves across the country or layoffs or delays–the unforeseen things that *seemed* to slow me down. Eventually, I learned I didn’t have to have it all figured out–no one does. Anyone who says they do have it all figured out is lying to you (and themselves, for that matter).

My faith also helps me cope with the ups and downs, valleys and peaks. Knowing God’s plans for me are–and have always been–good means I don’t have to worry (Jer. 29:11). The delays and disappointments become opportunities to grow and gain perspective. It’s what I tell students now when we talk about life after school: it’s about the journey, not the destination. So, I’m rejecting perfectionism for processing, because this process I’m going through is a beautiful thing, and choosing faith over fear so I don’t succumb to the pressure of thinking I need to have every step all figured out.

What sets your soul on fire

Have you ever been on a trip where the focus wasn’t so much on the destination, but on the journey? For me, that trip was Israel in February 2018. It was my first time in the country and it was amazing. There’s something invigorating about seeing all the places you’ve read about all your life: suddenly everything was alive in a way it had never been before.

But the trip wasn’t just about going to Israel. Rather, it was about everything I’d been through that lead to me being there. Up until late 2016, I’d spent nearly seven years searching for answers: what do I believe and why. I won’t get into the answers to those questions in this post. In the end, though, I returned to the faith of my childhood, but in a more meaningful way. This time, it was personal.

One of the key questions I grappled with as I moved into the next phase of my journey was purpose: why am I here? Why do I do what I do? What motivates me to get out of bed every morning? I remember taking part in a panel a few years ago and the question of purpose came up: why are you a journalist? One of the panelists (a journalist in Vancouver) said many people in news often talk about how much they love telling stories, they love meeting people, but, he said, the reason you’re in this business has to be–and likely is–deeper than that. The problem, he said, is we often don’t connect with that deeper meaning.

At the time, I remember feeling so offended by his response. How dare you criticize my shallow way of thinking, I thought. You don’t know me! Now, years later, I have to admit he was right.

I am still defining my why. The more I do the things that set my soul on fire, the clearer it becomes. The closer I get to my why, the less I care about money or status, the more my inner circle shrinks. The closer I get, the more I transform, becoming more of the person I want to be. The whole process is rather uncomfortable, but no less inspiring. The more I do the things that connect with that deeper sense of purpose, the more life comes into focus.

Disturb us Lord

While listening to a podcast this week about the art of leadership, Anita Gaffney, Executive Director of the Stratford Festival, spoke about a former artistic director she worked with who “couldn’t stand complacency.” While he wasn’t at all a religious man, Gaffney said his favourite prayer was ‘Disturb us Lord’–one I had to Google, as I’d never heard it before.

As I read it, it struck a chord.

Complacency is the enemy of progress. It is a very subtle state of being…one we easily slip into when we get to where we want to be–and that’s key. All of us want to get somewhere: to a certain position within our company, a city, we want to get married, we want to get rich. Time and time again, we’ve heard from thought leaders and pastors how getting what we want isn’t the key to fulfillment: you can get what you want and still feel unsatisfied. However, we often get what we want and settle into a comfort zone: another way to describe the state of being complacent.

Nadia CBC Calgary Flood
A shot from the makeshift set I anchored a newscast from during the Calgary floods in 2013. Hosting this show was WAY outside my comfort zone.

I (happily) left my comfort zone in 2010, when I left Toronto. It was, easily, the best decision I ever made. At the time, I thought the move marked the beginning of my professional journey. Eventually, I came to realize it was also the beginning of a deeply spiritual journey–a parallel journey. As much as I questioned my career–questions about the relevance of the stories we told, questions about race and representation in the industry–I also questioned my faith: what do I believe and why. I never would have asked those questions, never would have begun seeking, never would have found God and my purpose and passion, had I not stepped outside of my comfort zone.

I can honestly say I’ve been living outside of my comfort zone for almost a decade…and it’s the best place to be. I’m pursuing dreams that are bigger than me, trying new things and learning new things that challenge me to resist complacency daily. It isn’t comfortable–but it is invigorating. My hope and prayer is to always remain in this place: a constant state of growth, where the disturbances lead to fruitfulness (John 15:5 NIV).

Disturb us Lord

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

More than just a Masters.

I had absolutely no interest in pursuing my Master’s degree in 2006 when I graduated from the University of Guelph-Humber. I just wanted to work.

I’d already been volunteering at Rogers Television in Mississauga: first behind the scenes as a floor director, then on camera as a reporter (and then as an anchor and talk show host). I was hungry to get into news and a master’s degree seemed, at the time, like a waste of time. It would take another 10 years before the timing finally felt right. It was just a question of what to study.

A trusted mentor (one of my former news directors) told me not to bother pursuing a master’s of Journalism. “What’s for?!” she asked, pointing out I’d already spent over 10 years in the industry. She was right: there was no point…and my heart was telling me no. I looked at programs focusing on women’s issues and political science, but none of them really struck a chord–not because these weren’t worthy or noble areas of study, but because my heart was pulling me in another direction.

I’ve always enjoyed volunteering: at my local church growing up, at Rogers Television and with Junior Achievement in both Calgary and Vancouver. There’s nothing more rewarding than giving back to the community. I knew I wanted my masters to intersect with my passion…a passion that recently underwent a shift by way of my faith. 2017 was a transformational year, leading me deeper into my walk with God. Suddenly, this wasn’t about volunteering, but about serving: giving of myself to my church and community in response to the awesome things God was doing in my life.

That year, I decided to send a ‘thank you’ note to someone who’d helped me very early on in my career. While looking up his mailing address, I came across Trinity Western University and decided to check them out. That’s how I found their Masters of leadership program. Immediately, I knew it was the one: I knew it then, and on my first day of classes back in January 2018…and even now as I’m midway through course #4.

There is something about studying Transformational Servant Leadership–leading like Jesus–and applying those timeless principles to your work life. The journey, so far, has been character building and deeply challenging, forcing me to examine my actions and decisions through the lense of my faith. To boil this down: am I doing unto others as I would have them do unto me (Matt. 7:12 NIV)? The honest answer is no. I know I can do better.

And this is what my leadership journey is all about: doing better. My focus is on nonprofits (more about that project in a future post) and it intersects with journalism. My leadership studies are preparing me for this next phase in the journey. Once again, the intersection of life, work and faith.

The 6 Tips I share with every young woman I meet.

I don’t remember too many of the guest speakers who came to speak to my classmates and I when we were in high school. So, whenever I’m invited to a school, I seize the opportunity to give to them what I wished someone had given me: honest advice.

For the last couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at an all girls Catholic school in Vancouver. There’s something about speaking to a room full of smart, beautiful young girls: they’re at a critical stage when they need to hear nothing but support, encouragement and wisdom from the generation before them. My hope and prayer is to be one of those voices.

Life itself is full of ups and downs but, in this industry, the highs are high and the lows are low. Over the years, I’ve learned to enjoy the highs and survive the lows—but it hasn’t always been easy. Most of the students I speak to don’t plan on pursuing a career in journalism, but the principles I share with them are timeless and transcend the sector I’m in. I’ve boiled them down to my top 6 tips:

Be Good at Networking. Sometimes, it really is about who you know. Don’t be sleeping on that LinkedIn profile! Don’t ever let fear hold you back from introducing yourself to that person in the room who you think is at a level much higher than you! You never know who might be the divine connection to help you get from where you are now to where you need to be.

Be A Risk-taker. Step outside of your comfort zone. Do it early and do it often. So many people limit their success because they’re too afraid of the what if’s. Don’t be held back by a fear of the unknown.

Be Fearless. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Don’t shy away from change or challenge. Don’t dwell in mediocrity because you’re too afraid to go, to do or to be. Start something new. Do something no one else has done before…and do it boldly.

Be Focused. Most people don’t know this, but I begin my day with prayer. In this life, there are so many things thrown our way and I have no idea what tomorrow holds. My faith in God through Christ is my firm foundation: no matter how rough the storm, I know I will *always* come out better on the other side. Prayer keeps me focused on what matters: connecting me with my divine purpose and keeping me on the straight and narrow path.

Be Prepared for Setbacks. They are going to come—I can guarantee it. Something will be thrown your way and, if you aren’t ready for it, it could destabilize you. One of my favourite Bible verses is Romans 8:28: “all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” All things—even the bad things—work out for my good. I learned this lesson firsthand after I lost my job, but got a new one that I didn’t even go looking for: they came looking for me. So, have faith in God: your setbacks could be setting you up for success.

Be Your Biggest Investor. Your teachers will invest in you, your parents will pour into you…but make sure you are investing in yourself. Upgrade your skills by taking a few courses, go back to school for that degree, or take that much needed break you’ve been postponing (because resting is investing!). Spend the time, money and energy needed to ensure you’re the best you can be.