UBC Journalism multimedia project gives grads the skills to thrive in a changing journalism industry
Katelyn Verstraten was in the back of a delivery truck, hurtling through the Chinese countryside, when she had a realization.
“That’s when it really hit me,” says Verstraten, who receives a degree from the UBC Graduate School of Journalism on May 22. “I can do this journalism thing. I can tell these important stories.”
The 25-year-old had been up all night working on a story about food safety in China for UBC’s International Reporting Program. From the back of a truck delivering organic produce, she interviewed Chinese citizens concerned about the country’s suffocating air pollution and sky-high levels of chemicals in their food.
During her time in China, Verstraten conducted interviews, shot video, recorded audio, and snapped photos—exactly the kind of multimedia skills a journalist needs in an ever-changing media landscape.
She admits to “a few butterflies” the night before she hit the road, but any uncertainty disappeared the minute she started reporting.
“My training just took over,” says the Victoria, B.C. native, who worked with two classmates. “When I hopped into the truck a confidence just came over me. The school trains us so well – it really gives you the skills and experiences you need to be a journalist, not only now but for the future.”
Not easy being green in China
Just weeks before her graduation, “China’s Green Generation” was published by the Toronto Star. Featuring six stories and a dynamic multimedia website, the project explored various aspects of China’s environmental crisis and the individuals fighting to make a difference.
In China, people consume more agrochemicals and pesticides than any other nation and health officials warn it’s making people sick, Verstraten says. “The organic food movement may be new, but many young people see it is a potential solution to this important health issue.”
Click here or below for a gallery of images from the Green China project.
Other stories covered by Verstraten’s nine classmates, who reported in groups in various cities across China, range from toxic rivers to illegal dumpsites.
At UBC, she took classes with former New York Times Senior News and Documentary Producer David Rummel, 60 Minutes investigative journalist Peter Klein and CBC The National’s Duncan McCue. “I feel very lucky to have learned from some amazing journalists,” she says.
Verstraten leaves UBC with more than a Master’s Journalism degree, hands-on experience, technical skills and mentors. She also has a job.
At a time when articles about the death of journalism are being written on a daily basis, she secured a summer job with the Toronto Star even before she collected her degree.
Now based in Toronto, Verstraten is pleased to be working in a newsroom that lets her explore topics beyond Rob Ford’s latest escapades and Drake’s lint roller. “I love hard news, but I’m also getting the chance to get deeper into science and health stories, which are my true passion,” she says.
“Two years ago, if you told me I’d be working as a journalist, I don’t think I would have believed you,” Verstraten says.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend my last year-and-a-half—it completely exceeded my expectations,” she says of the program. “I’m just soaking everything in right now.”
Read more UBC Graduation stories here.
The China Generation Green project is the latest of a long line of multimedia projects by UBC Journalism students, including the Emmy Award winning e-waste documentary Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground; The Pain Project, which explored the global morphine shortage; and CUT, an investigation of illegal logging worldwide and Webby Award honoree.
Q&A with Prof. Peter Klein, Director of UBC’s Graduate School of Journalism, about the future of journalism and plans for a new Global Reporting Centre.