Journalists are just as talented as Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci. It just takes training to bring their natural ability for storytelling to the surface.
So says veteran Toronto journalist Steve Kowch, former CFRB program director and author of a new book “99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Making It Big In Media.”
After four decades of experience in radio and newspaper journalism, Kowch offered students at Centennial College useful advice Tuesday about the competitive world of media.
“You need to get into the business with a positive attitude. Positive beats out negative all the time,” Kowch said. “And I can tell you that seventy five per cent of people you will be working with are the most negative people you will ever have encountered. And that’s good news.”
Kowch started in the business as a 17-year-old office boy for The Montreal Star in 1968. He worked on the police beat with three other reporters who would sit around, drink coffee and complain about which of them would have to phone the police for stories.
Kowch boasted that he did their work instead and gained experience. He became connected with the community, police got to know him personally and pretty soon all his articles were being published on the front page.
By being positive and always believing in himself, he became a reporter within six months.
Over the years he has interviewed Pope John Paul and former prime minister Brian Mulroney just by walking up to them, while other journalists didn’t bother, thinking that they would be rejected. Kowch always assumed that people would want to talk to him which allowed him to hand in front page stories that no one else could get.
“If you don’t think of calling them, if you don’t believe that they’re going to talk to you; you’re absolutely right. Don’t pick up the phone, don’t go and see them, and you won’t get the story,” Kowch explained.
It was easy to surpass the negative people who always thought he was wasting his time trying to reach interviewees.
“Your job is to get the information,” Kowch explained. “You need to do everything you can to get ahead of everybody else to get that info. Believe me, when you have a positive attitude, it’s like Moses spreading the sea.”
With jobs in the media being cut severely across the country, and with the recession still looming it can be hard to stay positive. Older journalists have become discouraged with the amount of work they are now expected to juggle because of the changing technology, Kowch explained.
Yet, they easily forget how excited they were when they first started off, eager to accomplish the abundance of tasks they were given.
“When did it suddenly become a negative thing, ten years later?” Kowch questioned.
He explained that even though a career in the media can be tough, every journalist needs to remember why they got into this business in the first place- because they love what they do. By doing this, they will rise to the top.