The media landscape is shifting. Layoffs, cutbacks and uncertainty about the future have cast a shadow over much of the industry. In our new series, “Bylined: Women in Journalism,” we talk to notable women working in journalism to find out how to survive (and thrive) in the current climate. For this installment, we chatted with Scaachi Koul, Senior Writer at BuzzFeed Canada.
SDTC: What was your trajectory to get where you’re at now?
SK: I went to Ryerson for my BA in Journalism in 2008, right after high school. I did a few internships while I was in school—Rabble, The Huffington Post Canada—and then did an internship at Maclean’s when I graduated. After that, I got my first actual job at Hazlitt, where I started as associate editor and eventually became managing editor. Now, I’m BuzzFeed Canada‘s senior writer.
What was the best piece of advice given to you (in relation to your career)?
Just because someone is talking to you does not mean you owe them an answer. This is true of daily interactions, of fighting on the Internet with strangers, of having to justify your life or your choices. You don’t owe anyone shit. My old editor, Jordan Ginsberg, at Hazlitt, told me this a few weeks ago. It was like a shot in the arm.
What has changed in the industry over the last five years?
I am not very old so I’m probably not the best person to ask about how the industry has changed. It’s hard to answer this question because as time goes on, my privilege and power is increased so the things that I notice as shifting might not be shifting for everyone else.
Why did you initially want to get into journalism?
I have no other skills. It was this or professional grumbling.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer today?
Depends. If you’re not white, dealing with pretty constant racism is going to drive you fucking insane. If you’re a woman, it’s going to be dealing with garbage dudes in your newsrooms. Also, writers are inherently insane, so your brain is going to try to eat itself and tell you that you’re bad, all the time, forever.
What do you enjoy most?
Being done writing?
Are you afraid for the future of the industry? Or excited about how it’s changing?
I try not to think more than five minutes ahead in the future, but unless outlets make the choice to diversify in measurable and conscious ways, it will die.
Any tips for young women getting started in this field?
Try to find mentors in your field. They’ll help you feel like you’re not so alone when someone says or does something horrible near you.
What has been the best memory from your career thus far?
I sold my first book about a year ago to Doubleday Canada, which was great! Now I have to write it, which is bad.
How can we ask better questions of our sources?
A good interview is just a good conversation. And don’t ask a woman a question you wouldn’t ask a man.
What makes a great pitch?
Specificity, showing not telling, unique perspective, AND NOT A HOT TAKE.
You work every day on an online platform — does the pressure to generate traffic have an impact on your work?