The Power of One Weekend: How four days in Edmonton changed my life

[Note: I wrote this around midnight in the Radisson Hotel, but due to internet complications was only able to publish it today on January 17 (Day 4). It was also originally titled “High on hope (and other legal things)”.]

It’s pretty much the end of Day 3 here at the Canadian University PressNational Conference in Edmonton, Alberta and right now I feel like my heart’s about to explode out of my chest. And it’s not just because I’ve had three cups of coffee today.

Just a few minutes ago, Adrienne Arsenault of CBC‘s The National finished her keynote speech. It was clear I wasn’t the old one who felt like it swelled my love for the Ceeb ever more, since it was given another standing ovation by everyone in attendance. (The first one was last night for Jan Wong.)

Yes, there has been a lot of discussion on the idea of print journalism dying, extensive layoffs in the industry and the low number of new jobs compared to the number of journalism graduates.

However, the conference’s title of ‘Natural Selection’ has made sure sessions keep inspiring attendees to pursue journalism beyond their student papers and realize a variety of different places to work. Many sessions and speaker topics have specifically dealt with how to become part of the ‘survival of the fittest’ and not as Monte Paulsen says “maggot meat”.

A few days ago, I had completely bought into the idea a career in journalism was pretty hopeless. Sure I had finished both my undergraduate degree and college diploma in journalism with lots of encouraging remarks from my professors, three internships and a decent collection of clippings. But I was feeling burnt out and the idea of working on a cruise ship for six months teaching surfing seemed like a much more fun way to spend my time. The day before my flight here I had even called up my old boss to talk about possibly return to my previous job as a teller.

Being here in Edmonton has changed everything.

After meeting with speakers, panelists and guests like Mathew Ingram, Jan Wong, Ing Wong-Ward, Jacques Poitras, Mike Barker, Matt Frehner, Monte Paulsen, Michael D’Souza, Donna Harker, Erin Millar, Jason A. Chiu and many others, I have a completely different idea of what the next stage of my life is going to be like. All of these individuals have had a profound impact on what I thought I could do, how well I could write and what kind of opportunities I could pursue immediately after graduation.

These individuals were willing to discuss story ideas, analyze clippings, answer questions, offer advice, share experiences and give incredible amounts of encouragement.

But for the most part, everyone has provided hope and reasons why I can still fight for a place in the world’s media landscape. Jan Wong and Ing Wong-Ward’s presence were especially helpful in showing me how other Chinese-Canadian women journalists can be incredibly successful while at the same time kicking down expectations and escaping from the cultural expectations of our parents.

And while my bank account is significantly smaller now (I paid nearly twice the amount in conference fees due to the non-CUP rate), there is no doubt the money I have spent has greatly increased my self-confidence, my overall journalism education and the starting opportunities for my professional career. For the first time in months, I’m actually excited about being in journalism again.

Just from now on, after my second cup I think I’m going to switch to decaf.


4 thoughts on “The Power of One Weekend: How four days in Edmonton changed my life

  1. Suzie Gardner

    So glad to hear you had such an amazing time at the CUP conference! I went to NASH 69 in Vancouver when I was working at Imprint, the University of Waterloo’s student newspaper. Definitely an inspiring, interesting, and super fun experience. Keep on fighting for your place in journalism, Karen! You have the confidence and the skills to go for it!

  2. Kat Eschner

    Hi Karen,
    It’s Kat who you met at NASH! I think you have my card somewhere.

    Why did you make the choice not to put your email on your card? Putting twitter instead was cool, but not something I’ve seen before. Have you found it effective for contacting people?

    I hope your trip back was as cool as mine was: there was almost no clouds much of the way, and we saw the sunrise over the prairies, then the afterglow of dawn on the Rockies, and then the coast!


  3. tevypilc

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time! How did you wind up attending?

    By the way, you have a new fan of your blog. Well done šŸ™‚

  4. I’m glad you found NASH so inspiring, but I think taking six months off to work on a cruise ship is a great idea. It’s not admitting defeat–think of what it’ll do for your memoirs! You could surely parlay it into plenty of great articles, not to mention a pretty rad time.

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