The journalism program began life in 1965 as a Vancouver City College course. I was one of about 20 students who entered the program in 1968. Nick Russell (pictured right) was our instructor. Those of us who hoped to make careers in journalism appreciated the fact he had been a working reporter who plied his craft at newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and the Canadian Press.
I dropped out during the first semester. After I ran out of savings, I discovered there was a weekly newspaper editor in Smithers, British Columbia crazy enough to hire me, sight unseen, as a full-time reporter. The fact I had no experience didn’t seem to bother this editor, Gary White. He read some of my clippings from the college paper and decided to take a chance. I stayed with the Interior News for two years before moving on to the big-time as a staff reporter for the Citizen in Prince George, British Columbia.
Nick Russell didn’t seem to mind that I dropped out. He, bless his heart, referred to me as a “graduate,” rationalizing no doubt that any of his students who left the program early to work in the business had already acquired some of the tools they needed to survive. About a dozen of my classmates also left the program during or immediately after the first year. Two of them landed jobs at the Columbian in New Westminster.
Some students made it all the way to the end of the two-year program. After earning her diploma, Jean Sorensen (pictured next to me) worked at newspapers and magazines in British Columbia, went back to university to complete a degree in criminology, and now is a busy Vancouver-based freelancer, specializing in business, forestry, finance, technology and legal writing. You can find her on LinkedIn by clicking HERE.
Judie Steeves (next to Jean) also worked at newspapers in various parts of British Columbia before returning to her native Kelowna, where she spent 20 years writing columns for the Capital News. She now works as a freelancer, specializing in outdoors, agricultural, environmental, and food and wine writing. You can find her on LinkedIn by clicking HERE.
As for Nick Russell, the mentor who inspired many of us to go into journalism rather than do something more lucrative but perhaps less satisfying with our lives, he is now retired in Victoria. Retired, that is, in the sense he no longer teaches journalism. After 25 years with the Vancouver City College program (which moved to the Langara College campus in 1970), he spent 15 years teaching journalism at the University of Regina. In 1998, he returned to British Columbia. He has written a few books, restored a few historic homes, won a few awards, and been a pillar of the heritage preservation community in B.C.’s capital. You can read about his book on Victoria’s storied architectural history, Glorious Victorians: 150 Years – 150 Houses, by clicking HERE.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 Brian Brennan - Writer