Veteran reporter Mike Howell advises Langara journalism students to get back to the basics of reporting and stay true to their ethics to succeed in the news industry.
Howell has spent his professional life in journalism. After nine years at the Richmond News, Howell landed what he thought was his dream job at the Vancouver Sun. He soon realized being a news “gofer” at a major outlet was not for him. He returned to community news as a columnist at the Vancouver Courier.
In his 14 years at the Courier, Howell had not once been assigned a story. He accomplished this by always having story ideas to pitch to his editors, and he advised journalism students to do the same.
“Come up with the own story ideas that you want to do, so when you go somewhere, you work somewhere, you’re doing what you want to do. Not what somebody is assigning you to do,” he said.
Howell told students the key to being a good journalist is something simple yet not easy to do in the personnel-strapped industry, namely to get out of the newsroom. Howell built his network by going to minor crime scenes, traffic accidents, press conferences and coffee with officials and experts, while always maintaining a professional distance.
With graduates facing a shrinking and changing news industry, Howell advised students to put their worries aside and focus on opportunities right in front of them. Students need to write on a range of different topics and be proactive in seeking out and creating their own opportunities.
After decades as a reporter, Howell is still excited about the work he sees as a privilege to be able to do, “I’ve been doing this a long time and I still tell people, I always say it beats working.”