I will never forget my first day of journalism school ~ which was the second day of classes in September 1975 at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Toronto.
Now, Ryerson is a University and the two-year postgraduate journalism diploma course I was embarking upon ~ for students with university degrees ~ would be an M.A. degree program.
A “beginning story” for the end of the year…
I had just spent several weeks as an in-patient at The Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto ~ now the Clarke site of the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health a.k.a. CAMH.
Learning by doing and re-doing…
Many of us need a little practice and I certainly did. Lots. It took me 25 years to find the right person and re-marry. I need to do a great deal of changing, healing, learning and evolving. (But that’s another story.)
Ryerson, in 1975, was one of perhaps three of the best Canadian journalism schools. In my mind, the only school because it was in Toronto, media centre of the country, besides being and the best-known and most well regarded Toronto-based school of journalism. Everything was here in terms of print, television and radio. Toronto was the centre of Canada’s world for me. It was my home.
Also as a Polytechnic Institute in 1975 and since its inception in 1852, it had a blend of the practical and the academic that suited me. I am not “an academic.” I learn best by doing. I had been “doing journalism” since 1969, as a student at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in the Applied Communications Program and professionally since 1971 first and only once for The Canadian Jewish News (it was the lead story on the front page in September 1971) and The KingstonWhig Standard (from 1971-1975). I was one of the founding editors of the Seneca College newspaper, The Senca. (A rather odd name, I know. But back in 1969-70, we thought it clever. Though to be honest, in retrospect, it has always sounded to me like an early brand of instant decaffeinated coffee.) As well, I worked as a theatre and film critic and as entertainment editor at the Queen’s University student newspaper, The Queen’s Journal from 1971-1974.
However, in Toronto, I knew I needed contacts and more experience. To get a job in the Toronto press, I needed a Toronto journalism education. After four years in Kingston at Queen’s, I was home again and I had to get serious about my dream of working on a daily newspaper.
A life of burps and bumps…
My psychiatric sojourn at the Clarke, one of many, was just a little burp in my plans. As was my broken marriage. I was discharged from The Clarke with a new diagnosis (Manic Depression ~ not Schizophrenia) and a then-new prescription drug treatment to take Lithium Carbonate ~ to treat my disorder and not just its symptoms, to “keep me down” and not psychotic ~ now “manic.” I was ready to begin to my life, again. I was full of hope and excitement.
I remember making an appointment with the head of the School of Journalism at Ryerson ~ J. Douglas MacFarlane. When I was ushered into his office on the second floor of the Gerrard Street building that also housed Ryerson’s Drama Department ~ and still does ~ I was met by a tall, stern, bespectacled gentleman who looked to me to be rather seasoned ~ and strong. (Later, I learned he was one of the leading newspaper editors in the country ~ a veritable legend and the former editor-in-chief of the storied and defunct The Toronto Telegram. After it closed down in 1971, he became chair of Ryerson’s Journalism School.)
He asked me why I was there on the second day of classes.
To be continued…