At the turn of the new millennium, Sean Kavanagh was doing his best to make ends meet, eking out a living as a general contractor in the Lake of the Woods region.
He’d tried his hand at a number of careers, but didn’t find his true calling until 2001, when his wife suggested he let his nose for news lead him to more suitable employment.
“She said, ’You’re the only contractor on the lake who reads three newspapers a day, has the radio constantly tuned to the news station, and can’t wait to come home and watch the six o’clock news every night — maybe that’s where you should be directing your energy,’” Kavanagh recalls.
When the couple moved back home, Kavanagh applied for Red River College’s Creative Communications program, with an eye on entering the field of journalism as soon as he could. Within months, he was reading news reports on a local radio station, and — following work placements with the CBC — appearing on both radio and TV.
Though his passion for news gave him a bit of an edge, Kavanagh admits the program’s rapid pace took some getting used to, though it served him well once he began making his first forays into the field.
“CreComm is wonderful in many regards, but especially because they recreate the atmosphere that exists in professional life,” says Kavanagh, who’s now a TV and radio reporter for CBC News Winnipeg.
“In journalism, everything is very deadline-driven. My biggest recollection of the program was it did a great job of making you feel under pressure to perform, and to hand everything in on time … Your assignments really approximate the kind of assignments you’d get as a news reporter, and the same is true of the advertising and public relations streams.”
These days, Kavanagh covers all manner of stories — from politics to crime, disaster scenarios to “good news” pieces. He’s involved in all aspects of production — from pounding the pavement in search of interviews, to writing scripts and voicing and editing finished pieces.
Not surprisingly, Kavanagh describes journalism as a highly-competitive industry, one in which practitioners are striving constantly to come up with new stories, as well as new means by which to tell them. But despite all the pressures and deadlines and stress, the vocation also offers a number of perks — like the ability to always be “tuned in” to what’s going on.
“As a reporter, you are so closely connected to the community,” says Kavanagh. “Whether it’s through your BlackBerry, or your contacts, or the news outlets you read every morning or watch or listen to every night — you really do feel like you’ve got the inside track on what’s going on. And that, to me, is immensely satisfying.”
As Kavanagh points out, the news industry is constantly changing, but he says the CreComm program does an incredible job of keeping in step with new advances in technology. Even better, the program’s broad scope (which covers not just journalism, but also advertising, P.R. and broadcasting) ensures that graduates have a wide-reaching support base once they’re out in the workforce.
“In this city, CreComm grads are like a mafia,” he says. “They’re everywhere, in every institution, from government to private sector to non-profit organizations. The CreComm diploma is like your entry-way to talking to somebody, because it’s a shared experience — so they’re more likely to look on you favourably.”