Grade 10 students Caitlin McKelvie, left, and Brenley Strano were excited to start a new school newspaper at Mowat in February. With Caitlin as the editor and Brenley as the graphic designer, they have been experimenting with formats, mastheads and logos.

Journalism has long been an exciting profession because the latest topics are fluid and journalists have to keep on top of the changing landscape. They have to work diligently to get the news and present it to readers and viewers. But it’s become more difficult to find employment in the profession for the past few decades due to the loss of print and TV advertising to the internet. As the newspapers got thinner, so did the newsrooms. Our universities still have journalism degrees but it’s harder than ever to break into the field.

So Centennial News was delighted to discover that the Mowat newspaper has been revived by two enterprising young women, and several Mowat grads have been working in print and broadcast journalism. We hope you enjoy their stories.

Mowat grads in action

Jesse McLean

Jesse McLean has been on the Investigations team at the Toronto Star since 2010. Early in his career, he reported from conflict zones like Bahrain during the Arab Awakening. Now he’s the Deputy Editor of the team.

Jesse McLean, 35, is Deputy Editor on the Investigations team at the Toronto Star. He moved into the role at the beginning of the pandemic. “I’m kind of a player coach. I do a lot of reporting to help colleagues’ projects but mainly my job is editing and overseeing projects and trying to identify pitfalls before they arise,” he said.

He’s been on the Investigations team since 2010 and has done reports from conflict zones in Bahrain during the Arab awakening and from Nigeria when the schoolgirls were abducted. “It’s like there are different classes of stories,” he said. “There are ones that are memorable and important and you’re glad you worked on them, but they’re also emotionally heavy and draining.”

During his high school years at Mowat, Jesse wrote scripts, plays, songs, poetry and short stories, but couldn’t see himself writing non-fiction or journalism at that point. “I was more into performing arts and I went into journalism because I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.”

In his first year at Ryerson’s journalism program, he quickly fell in love with all the things that go into covering news. “You get paid to be impertinent, to be curious, and perseverance is rewarded,” he said. “It’s not how smart you are, not how well you did academically, it’s how resilient you are in tracking things down.”

He wrote for The Eyeopener at university and in the summer after third year, he got a job at the Sarnia Observer. His experience there helped him get into the Star’s Radio Room monitoring police radios during fourth year, then a summer internship, then a year-long internship, then a little bit of contract work, which turned into full-time at the Star in 2010.

Being an intern “was a wonderful gig for a young person because you got to cover the biggest stories going on in the city and the smallest,” he said. When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the city editor told Jesse they’d send him if he could figure out a way to get there. He contacted an aid organization, jumped on the same commercial flight and trucked into Port-au-Prince with them from the Dominican. “I arrived in Haiti eight days after the earthquake,” he said.

“I have a fun job. It’s hard, it’s demanding, it’s taxing, it’s exhausting, it’s pulled me away from some important moments in my life that I deeply regret, but at the same time I’m excited to go to work almost every day and I still get a lot of enjoyment out of my job.”

Jasmine Pazzano

Jasmine Pazzano held a variety of roles with Global News, starting as editorial assistant and working up to the investigative team. Last year she received an award from Amnesty International Canada for her work

From the time she was ten years old, Jasmine Pazzano knew she wanted to be a journalist. Fortunately, Mowat Collegiate had a popular student newspaper at the time called Misprints. Jasmine jumped in with both feet.

“The paper offered me the opportunity to be a journalist and writer while I went to highschool.” said Jasmine. “I think Mowat Misprints was cool because it had such a unique flavour—it was quirky, it was witty, it gave students an opportunity to become columnists,” she added.

Jasmine’s published Misprints stories helped pad her portfolio for admission to Ryerson’s journalism program. Her efforts paid off and she was accepted. “That was my dream program and it ended up being everything I wanted and more,” she recalled.

In her second year, Jasmine took a broadcast journalism course that sparked her interest in television work. “It was game over for me, I just thought it was so cool,” she laughed. “I loved the power of words, but incorporating my passion for photography, videography, producing and lighting—the intricacies of storytelling and multi-media—was very attractive to me.”

Jasmine, 31, traces her love of broadcast back to Mowat. “It wasn’t just Misprints that made me who I am, it was also being in the choir, being in the musicals. These were opportunities to perform and it really helped me come out of my shell.”

When Jasmine graduated from Ryerson, now called Toronto Metropolitan University, YouTube was becoming the big platform for video content. Recognizing this, she linked up with Toronto blogger, Amanda Cosco, who had a following as an Arts and Culture reporter. Soon after, the women launched their own YouTube channel. To help pay the bills, Jasmine also did videography and social media for a tech start-up.

But something bigger was waiting in the wings. Having done an internship at Global News two years earlier, Jasmine stayed in contact with one of their senior staff. In 2015, she was invited to work for the broadcaster.

For eight years Jasmine held a variety of roles with Global, starting as an editorial assistant and working up to the investigative team. Last year she received an award from Amnesty International Canada for her video on alleged human rights violations by Canadian corporations in international communities.

Jasmine is also proud of being the inaugural video journalist for Global Durham. “There was no stock footage, so I helped build the station from the ground up,” she explained. “I remember using my personal time to bundle it all together.” She worked hard to create a video library and establish contacts for the region.

Madison Wong

As part of her Digital Producer position at the Toronto Star, Madison Wong gets to cover a variety of different events across the city. In this photo, she’s at TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival)

Madison Wong is a 23-year-old Mowat grad who now works as a journalist at the Toronto Star. “I really like it because I always told myself that I wanted to do something versatile, I didn’t want to do the same thing every single day,” she said.

As a Digital Producer on the Social/Audience team, she is responsible for packaging the print and online stories for each of the social platforms. “We make videos to accompany those articles as another multimedia element,” Madison said. “We’ll post little breakdowns to make it more digestible for Instagram. Sometimes we’ll even go out to film and tell the story in a video format.” She also gets to write when a story is assigned or when she pitches a cool idea.

“I helped with the GTA food series,” she said. “That’s usually when I write. It’s a mix of many things but it’s a very exciting job. It’s really rewarding when you get to amplify a story from your community and you get to package the story and you see how well it does when you help deliver it to the audience.”

In high school, Madison knew her talents were in writing, editing and videography. The Mowat paper Misprints was there at the beginning of Grade 12, but was gone in the latter half of her final school year. When she told her media teacher, Mrs. Robin Andrews Morton, that she was thinking of a career in journalism, Mrs. Morton put her in touch with Centennial News and Madison wrote several articles for this paper in 2017.

After Mowat, Madison attended Ryerson (now TMU) for a Bachelor of Journalism. For anyone considering going there, she encourages participating in extracurriculars. She said she learned so much at the university paper The Eyeopener. She also wrote blog posts and did videos for RU Student Life.

After graduation from Ryerson in 2021, Madison got an unpaid school internship for six weeks with Global News in the Lifestyle News department. Her editor liked her and she fought for Madison to stay as a part-time freelancer. It was a paid position but there was no contract so Madison continued to look for permanent employment.

In June 2021, she got a job at the Star. It started as a contract position but became permanent  in January 2022. “Being young and entering the industry I felt a lot of pressure to work hard and show them ‘my worth’. But I think my worth spoke for itself and I’m lucky that they saw that and wanted to keep me on full-time,” she said.