“Keep our stories alive and most importantly, never pass up the opportunity to give back to your community.” – K. Solway
IKSOKAPI PROFILE: Kelsey Solway from Siksika Nation is making a name for herself as a journalist and was recently awarded the 2015 Rose Nolan Scholarship as she begins her fourth year in the Bachelor of Communication program at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Kelsey’s work has been published in The Calgary Journal, CTV2, and the Prairie Post. She recently returned from Yellowknife, N.W.T where she interned with CBC and reported and broadcasted with CBC Radio, CBC North and CBC Aboriginal. In addition to work and being a student, she also spends a great deal of time giving back to the her community. She was one of the main organizers for a Flood Relief Benefit concert headlined by Corb Lund and Ian Tyson for the Siksika Nation, which raised $34,000.
Occupation: Journalism student in the Bachelor of Communications program at Mount Royal University
Iksokapi Magazine: Why did you choose journalism as your career path?
Kelsey Solway: “Well I knew I wasn’t going to be a beauty queen or a scientist so I thought I would write about them! Plus I am really pwi’napsii. (Just kidding…not really)
Initially I wanted to go into agriculture management but last minute I applied into journalism because I really enjoyed writing and video editing. I remember in grade six we were learning how to write news articles and we all had to write an article about the Terry Fox Run at my elementary school.
Just learning how to format a story and how it is organized really caught my attention and I did so well in it that my teacher read it to the whole class and said that it was the best article in the class. I beat out all the smart kids in my class and since then I’ve been living off that high.” (haha)
IM: What do you enjoy about the industry?
KS: “I’ve always been more of a listener than a talker and there is something powerful and rewarding about telling someone else’s story. Being able to use writing as a way to convey emotion is one of the hardest things to do. I love how people can be affected by a story, good or bad because that means that my writing has sparked emotion and feeling, which is what I enjoy most about this job.”
IM: What have been the challenges you faced as a journalist?
KS: “It’s really hard for me to write something, then forget about it and focus on something different. But I think sometimes it’s a good thing. I am just a writer but at the end of the day if I could help someone beyond what I write about them in a media outlet than it makes all the stress and action worth it. Sometimes I am able to just help someone by telling their story which is very rewarding.”
IM: Which story to date that you have covered is the most memorable and why?
KS: “At CBC North I was the lead reporter on the Northwest Territories wildfire coverage. The NWT wildfire situation is totally unique compared to any other province or territory in the country and the whole territory depends on that information. The days were long and exhausting keeping up with updates, air quality, road closures and learning different regions of the territories and the communities in them and making sure the updates were there for CBC’s Northbeat and Igalaaq, the TV news hours along for regional news on CBC Radio and CBC North online.
At the end of my work experience I was able to tour a wildfire that was over 320,000 hectares in size via helicopter and interview frontliner fire crews who were fighting the fire. It was an expereience I will never forget.”
IM: How do you prepare for interviews?
KS: “I am a big procrastinator but I learned early that interviews guide themselves. It’s a conversation and being too prompt or sticking to a script really isn’t my style. I also do some research before I do an interview, either on the person or the subject. Google has saved my life more than once.”
IM: Who has been your most interesting interviewee?
KS: “At CBC North I interviewed a lady by the name of Cheryl Fennell, she made seal skin cuffs, headbands and accessories. Tanya Tagaq famously wore her seal skin cuffs at the 2014 Polaris Prize and since then they have been the centre of controversy and attention.
But talking to her and seeing how passionate she was about perserving Inuit tradtions like seal hunting is something as a journalist that I loved. She did not hold back and you could really tell that her craft what what made her unqiue and why it connected her to her culture. Plus being able to actually try on the seal skin accessories was really cool too!”
IM: Who would you like to interview and what would you ask first?
KS: “Good question. I would love to sit down with Crowfoot. My goodness what a converstation that would be! We always hear about the leader he was, but to really understand his character and what he valued as a person is something I’ve always wondered. Plus it would really be something else to hear what he thought of our world today and the Blackfoot people.”
IM: What are your plans after graduation?
“I would love to return to CBC full time as a reporter. But life happens and maybe God chooses a different path for me! I’m open to anything that doesn’t require waitressing. I hope to use my experience and degree to help people who need it most. That’s where I want to be.”
IM: What advice do you have for others who seek a career a journalism?
KS: “I worked damn hard to be where I am today and in this profession, you can’t just expect opportunity to fall into your lap. Get out of your comfort zone and trust your instinct. Never be afraid to ask questions and always try your best to tell the truth. Keep our stories alive and most importantly, never pass up the opportunity to give back to your community. Remember that someone looks up to you and do your best to not let them down.”
(Photos provided by K. Solway)