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Students Meet Editors Working in Media and Publishing at CES Event

Apr. 20, 2023
Professional editors Jessica Johnson, Pia Singhal and Aaliyah Dasoo spoke with students at a panel organized by Vic’s Creative Expression and Society program.

Professional editors Jessica Johnson, Pia Singhal and Aaliyah Dasoo spoke with students at a panel organized by Vic’s Creative Expression and Society program.

By Joe Howell

“We usually focus on making art, or on the end product,” said Maria Cichosz, an assistant professor of literature and creative writing who teaches in Vic’s Creative Expression and Society program (CES) and is also director of the Victoria College Writing Centre, a student resource in the Registrar’s Office. “Often, we don’t think about the long intermediary process.” She was introducing a recent Vic event that offered students the chance to meet with professional editors at various stages of their careers, in order to better understand the work editors do and how to become one—or how to approach an editor as a writer.

“One of the goals of the Creative Expression and Society program is to encourage students to make connections between their creative work and the broader social contexts in which it happens,” said Cichosz. “CES is a bridge between society and the arts, and events like this one embody that ethos to the fullest.”

Students filled a classroom at Emmanuel College to hear from the three panellists: Aaliyah Dasoo, an assistant editor at Canadian business news outlet The Logic; Jessica Johnson, who has held senior editorial roles at various magazines and newspapers and was most recently editor-in-chief of The Walrus; and Pia Singhal, an acquiring editor with Toronto-based book publisher ECW Press.

The speakers shared their professional journeys with the audience, before candidly discussing various aspects of their careers during the extensive Q&A session. The trio touched on topics like work-life balance, how to pitch a freelance story and which digital skills aspiring editors should focus on. Much of the conversation revolved around how young people can break into media and publishing.

“You have to keep trying things, and be creative with the paths you’re willing to take to get there,” said Singhal. “I felt like it was never going to happen.” Johnson agreed: “You have to make it up yourself—there’s no linear path,” she said. “When I talk about it now it probably sounds like I knew what I was doing, but I never did.”

While the panel concurred there is no blueprint to success, they encouraged students to cut their teeth at campus newspapers. “Journalism has always been a profession you learn on the job,” said Johnson.

Ultimately, a career in editing is akin to an individual piece of writing, suggested Singhal. “If you work on something long enough, it’s going to be great—you will get there eventually!”

“It was fantastic to see so many students take the opportunity to get an inside look at the lives of editors and the important work they do. They asked thoughtful, hard-hitting questions and left feeling inspired and challenged by the conversation,” said Cichosz after the event. “Panels like this are unique mentoring and networking opportunities that push students to think about next steps in their own journeys as they explore potential career paths.”

Victoria College’s Creative Expression and Society program is currently offered as a minor to all U of T students. Adam Sol, an award-winning poet and the program’s coordinator, said the department hopes to soon expand that with an option for a major. “Students no longer see genre as siloed in the same way we once did—they’re designing the album artwork for the music they created from the poems they wrote. They're doing all of that, and we want to build a program that can help support their thinking on those subjects.”

Victoria University’s historic Defy Gravity fundraising campaign is raising funds to support our popular Creative Expression in Society academic program to grow from a minor to a major program. Click here to donate today.

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