My journalism instructor, Duncan McMonagle, announced last week that he’s retiring.
I feel very lucky to have had him teach me for my last year as a CreComm student and his last year as a teacher.
I learned a lot from Duncan. Below are some of the most important lessons.
1. “Says who?”
This drove me mad in first year-“says who?” scribbled on my page. Some things are common sense, public knowledge. Does everything have to be attributed to someone? Yup. Because not everything is common knowledge to everyone and journalists shouldn’t be inserting themselves into the story. Not attributing information is basically inserting yourself. Plus it gives more credibility to show it came from an authoritative source.
2. Watch for jarring transitions
I struggled with this a lot last year. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get how to make a story flow. I started to think it was impossible to make paragraphs flow together and almost gave up. But every assignment that I got back with the poor transitions marked up made me think harder and push myself to make the story flow. Now I can see where transitions don’t work in my own stories and have an idea how to fix them.
3. Ask tough questions
There were a few times in class students said they didn’t ask someone they were interviewing a question because they didn’t want to be rude or thought they’d get a negative response. To Duncan, that’s no excuse. When necessary, I’ve started asking some tough questions and it’s led me to work on a large investigative piece into what’s going on with homeless GLBTQ* youth in Winnipeg. Asking tough questions gets some pretty rude responses sometimes, but it also gets out really important information.
4. There’s a great story everywhere
Duncan sent us to Remembrance Day ceremonies, the law courts, out to speak with people who experienced WWII. We saw documentaries at Cinematheque and sat down with people we admired in Winnipeg to write personality profiles. I learned so much and had so many experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Pushing me out of my comfort zone was the best thing Duncan did for me.
I’m sad for future students that Duncan won’t be around to teach them these great lessons, but thankful I got the experience.