Journalism alumna forges her own path

Emma Gilchrist shares how journalism has changed for the better

Journalism alumna Emma Gilchrist.

Emma Gilchrist learned everything from how to write news stories and how to copy edit to how to lay out newspaper pages and how to think critically about the news.

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Alumna Emma Gilchrist, Bachelor of Applied Communication — Journalism, is the co-founder, editor-in-chief and executive director of The Narwhal, a non-profit online magazine that publishes in-depth and investigative journalism about Canada’s natural world. Through her work, she’s inspiring new journalists to make their mark on the world for the better.

While the future of journalism has been up for debate, Gilchrist is optimistic that budding journalists will still make their mark in the field, and she shares how journalism has evolved for the better.

“I think what’s happening in the independent media sector is really exciting and provides grads a wider variety of options than were available when I graduated. Diversity of media ownership is a good thing, and so is the rise of non-profit news models like The Narwhal,” Gilchrist says. “I think we’re seeing a reinvigoration of the relationship between the audience and journalists right now, which makes for news that’s more grounded in community concerns.”

Navigating the ever-changing media sector may seem daunting, but Gilchrist advises new journalists to leap at opportunities, learn about new platforms and technologies, and focus where they find their passions. She says her Mount Royal education prepared her for what came after graduation.

During her studies, she learned everything from how to write news stories and how to copy edit to how to lay out newspaper pages and how to think critically about the news, she recalls.

“My MRU education was super practical — we made a newspaper from scratch every week. We made TV broadcasts. We learned photography by doing photo assignments. I left Mount Royal well-prepared for a modern career in journalism,” Gilchrist says. That practical experience helped Gilchrist succeed in the evolving career landscape.

"I left Mount Royal well-prepared for a modern career in journalism."

Emma Gilchrist

“Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, think about what you're passionate about and then go out and do it. With the explosion of independent media happening in Canada and with email newsletter technologies, think about what’s missing, and then fill the gap,” she says.

Since The Narwhal’s formation in 2018, the publication has become one of the founding members of Press Forward, an association of independent news organizations.

“Press Forward represents some of the most promising success stories in the Canadian news industry right now. In 2020, our member newsrooms grew by an average of 40 per cent while many legacy newsrooms shrank. Most Press Forward newsrooms count audience revenue as one of their top sources of support, which shines a light forward for the industry as a whole,” Gilchrist explains.

Among Gilchrist’s many career successes, she highlights landing an interview with Harry Swain, who chaired the panel that reviewed the controversial Site C hydro dam in northeast B.C., as a stand-out moment during her time as a journalist.

“A video of that interview was viewed nearly two million times and Harry became a major voice in the debate over the project,” Gilchrist says.

In the future, Gilchrist shares that she’s excited to develop more leaders at The Narwhal and within the independent news sector more broadly, and to help encourage more collaboration between news organizations of all kinds.

“The thing I’m the most proud of is proving that a different business model for journalism is possible,” Gilchrist says. “It also brings me a lot of joy to create opportunities for up-and-coming journalists that didn’t exist when I graduated.”

In addition to receiving several awards for her journalistic work, Glichrist was also awarded the Horizon Award during Mount Royal’s 2015 Alumni Achievement Awards.

May 11, 2021