Big-wig reporters and ‘baby journos’ descended upon Calgary for NASH81

Two of our journalists exploring Calgary before NASH81
Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief

Just after New Year’s Day, five staff members from The Martlet made their way to Calgary to attend NASH81: Refine, the annual Canadian student journalism conference. This year, NASH was hosted by The Gauntlet, the University of Calgary’s student newspaper.

The four-day conference saw hundreds of student journalists from across Canada come together to network with their peers and with the 54 journalists who came from across North America to speak at NASH.

NASH81 began on Jan. 3 with a dinner that included mushroom soup served from a kettle and a keynote speech by Connie Walker, host of the CBC podcast Missing & Murdered.

Afterwards, the ‘baby journos’ made their way to a meet and greet at Bottlescrew Bill’s — a bar that  went by many different names (Bottomfeeder Bill’s, Bornagain Bill’s, Bell Bottom Barney’s…you get the idea) over the course of the conference as it became a running joke to mispronounce the pub’s name.

Day two of the conference included sessions such as “Podcasting 101” with Meg Wilcox, an assistant professor at Mount Royal University, and “Not-so-scary science reporting” with Vanessa Hvartin, a reporter from Postmedia. There were also roundtable discussions for many different sections of the paper, allowing beat writers and section editors to commiserate and share their knowledge.

That night, the second keynote speech of the conference took place. The speech was hosted by Katie Jensen and Vicky Mochama, co-founders of Vocal Fry Studios. Their Toronto-based podcast studio seeks to push the Canadian podcast industry to be more supportive, inclusive, and innovative.

Building meaningful relationships with sources (rather than treating them as ATMs dispensing information) was a valuable lesson that came up in many of the sessions

The next day was just as busy. Day three included sessions such as “The art of freelance pitching and dealing with %*#$&!* [sic] editors” with David Beers, founding editor of the Tyee, and “Monitoring and investigating hate groups” with Alheli Picazo and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. There were also many interesting panels including “Activism and objectivity in journalism,” and “Staying safe while reporting on hate.”

At dinner on day three, Susanne Craig, a New York Times investigative journalist, gave the final keynote speech. Craig has been reporting on Donald Trump and his shady financial missteps. Craig got her start at the conference’s host paper, the Gauntlet. She told NASH81 attendees about her hard-hitting days in student journalism and how sleuthing around to uncover the truth about their university president’s poor parking habits was the beginning of a career in investigative reporting. She was one of the journalists that took part in an 18-month investigation of Trump’s tax fraud and the fortune given to him from his father. She’s spoken to him many times on the phone and shared with the crowd some of the threats he made about tarnishing the Times’ reputation on Twitter.

The John H. McDonald Awards for Excellence in Student Journalism, known as “the Johnnies”, also took place on day three. Awards ranged from best Arts & Culture Writing to best Diversity Reporting, to Photo of the Year to Student Journalist of the Year. In a well-deserved win, the Fulcrum, the University of Ottawa’s student newspaper, took home the Student Publication of the Year award after they broke the story about their student union embezzling money. Samantha McCabe from UBC’s the Ubyssey won Student Journalist of the Year for her investigative reporting on the experience of victims of sexualized violence on the UBC campus.

NASH81 attendees then met at a bar called Trolly 5 for an after party.  Young journalists line danced to pop songs — the DJ refused to play country — and someone even climbed onto a table to boogie. Swaying to Drake songs in their business casual attire, the nerdy group was a sight to behold.

Building meaningful relationships with sources (rather than treating them as ATMs dispensing information) was a valuable lesson that came up in many of the sessions, from Walker and Beers to Travis Lupick, who spoke about reporting on Vancouver’s opioid crisis.

The Martlet had a wonderful weekend exploring Calgary, making connections with other student newspapers from across Canada, and learning from the amazing speakers at NASH 81. We are looking forward to sharing what we learned with you and the rest of the UVic journalism community.