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The Conversation Canada turns 5: Why we love our jobs

The Conversation Canada is celebrating its fifth anniversary. From a staff of five people back in 2017, we now have 11 full-time editors and publish in both English and French.

Our editorial team wanted to share their thoughts on our first five years.

Hannah Hoag, Deputy Editor | Energy + Environment Editor

I joined The Conversation Canada shortly after its launch in 2017, heading up the Energy and Environment desk. It was the year that climate change smacked the world head on. Devastating wildfires tore through British Columbia, floodwaters swamped Ontario and Quebec, record heat settled over the West and violent storms hammered the East. Five years ago scientists wouldn’t attribute a single bout of wild weather or a new record to human-caused climate change. Today they have begun calculating the likelihood of a disaster with and without its pressure. The unprecedented and stubborn heat dome that settled over British Columbia one year ago melted asphalt, baked the fruit harvest and killed hundreds of people. A wildfire destroyed the town of Lytton. Countless dairy cows, poultry and wild animals perished in the heat.

Hannah Hoag.

Within weeks scientists declared that that the extreme heat and its consequences were virtually impossible to have occurred without climate change. While the state of the planet has been especially troubling of late, I’m glad to be in the position to find the experts who can explain the what, why and how of the changing world, and the solutions, whether found in policy or technology, that will help turn things around.

Nehal El-Hadi, Science + Technology Editor

I became a science and environmental journalist because I was curious about how the world worked. Each day at The Conversation Canada, I encounter new ideas, research and knowledge. On any given day, I exchange messages and thoughts with an eclectic range of scholars: geographers, paleobotanists, veterinarians, criminologists, theoretical physicists, sociologists, disaster management specialists, astronomers, neurobiologists, archaeologists, bioethicists, evolutionary anthropologists … and the list goes on. The articles I work on run the gamut — at the moment, I am working on an article on prehistorical social hierarchies and another on the possibilities of time travel.

Nehal El-Hadi.

They are important stories, because as we understand more about the world around us, we gain an awareness about our place in it and how we affect and influence it. And working at The Conversation, I’ve developed extraordinary personal conversational skills. When dinner parties come back, I’m now chock-full of “Did you knows?” and “You’ll never believe!”

Vinita Srivastava, Host + Producer, Don’t Call Me Resilient | Senior Editor, Culture + Society

When I first started as Culture + Society Editor at The Conversation Canada, we were coming up to the government’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. We were sitting in our newsroom and debating whether we should acknowledge the celebration or instead talk about Canada’s history of genocide.

Vinita Srivastava.

Finally, we decided to publish stories about Canada 150 years into the future. Because that was one thing we could agree on. We’re only five years removed from that conversation. And I know that, at least in our little corner of the newsroom, things have really changed. As a team, we’ve learned how to collectively challenge that now 155-year-colonial project with rigorous analysis. We understand our responsibility and we have the best experts on our side to help us do it.

Martine Turenne, Rédactrice en chef, La Conversation Canada

Lorsque nous avons lancé La Conversation Canada, en décembre 2018, nous avons eu la chance de pouvoir bénéficier de tout le soutien, tant éditorial que logistique, du « grand frère », The Conversation Canada. Ce soutien s’est transformé en collaboration de tous les jours : nous échangeons des idées, nous partageons nos contenus, nous formons une seule et même équipe.

Martine Turenne.

Le résultat, très concret, est la présence sur nos sites respectifs d’articles produits par nos rédactions et traduits en français ou en anglais. Nous créons des ponts, nous faisons circuler le savoir entre les deux communautés linguistiques du pays. Nous avons produit ou échangé le contenu de plusieurs séries, comme celles sur les océans ou les vaccins et, tout récemment, le fleuve Saint-Laurent. Nos deux éditions sont de formidables lieux d’échange. Joyeux anniversaire — et très longue vie — à The Conversation Canada!

Haley Lewis, Culture + Society Editor

There’s a lot of work being done by researchers and academics across Canada that is so fascinating, groundbreaking and sometimes even revolutionary that people just aren’t hearing about it — whether that’s because it lives behind a paywall, or in a 40-page document, the average person just doesn’t have the time or knowledge to decipher.

Haley Lewis.

So it’s really exciting being able to help edit cool research into an accessible news article, and it’s even better working with researchers who are excited about this knowledge translation type work. Something that’s really interesting about our model is how everything is written by experts who research the area, eat, sleep and breathe it — what’s better than being able to navigate to a website that’s guaranteed to have that perspective when something newsworthy happens?

Patricia Nicholson, Health + Medicine Editor

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to reaffirm the importance of health research and expert knowledge. At its best, health reporting offers people the information they need to make health decisions for themselves and their family.

Patricia Nicholson.

Having spent the pandemic on the health desk at The Conversation Canada, I like to think that providing stories directly from researchers and health-care professionals — who were often writing about emerging knowledge or explaining complex biology in accessible terms — has helped a few people better understand one of the most significant news arcs of the past few years.

Lee-Anne Goodman Politics, Business & Economics Editor

In my five years editing politics and business stories for The Conversation Canada, I’ve developed a trait that is occasionally annoying to my loved ones. But it is directly tied to what I love best about the work: I learn something new every time I edit a story.

Lee-Anne Goodman.

I frequently ask out loud, sometimes even if no one’s listening, a question that always begins with: “Did you know that …?” I certainly asked the question back in the summer of 2019 after editing one of our more prescient stories: “Did you know there’s a strong chance Donald Trump might refuse to accept the results of the U.S. election if he loses?”

At a time when public trust in mainstream journalism is low, it’s been an honour to get stories out into the world that educate, inform and surprise based on facts, historical knowledge, expertise and scientific know-how. The stories Canadian academics produce for us are stories you won’t read anywhere else. So here’s to many more birthdays for The Conversation Canada.

Susannah Schmidt, Education + Arts Editor

As The Conversation Canada turns five, I am thinking about all the time spent discussing stories from readerly perspectives. But who are readers? What do they know and what are they seeking? For me, these are some of the journalistic, political and existential questions that a small and innovative news organization like The Conversation Canada is addressing with contributors in engaging and critical ways.

Susannah Schmidt.

It’s why I love our work together and am proud and grateful to be part of it. Thank you especially to readers, writers and colleagues with whom I’ve shared extensive discussions — from specific words in headlines to finding plain language for the curious matters and raw challenges of our times. Your dedication and quest is beautiful to me.

Mélissa Khadra, Cheffe de section en science, santé et environnement, La Conversation Canada

«Plus nous concentrons notre attention sur les merveilles et les réalités de l’univers qui nous entourent, moins nous aurons de goût pour la destruction». Cette citation, qui est tirée du livre Silent Spring, publié en 1962 par la biologiste et écologiste américaine Rachel Carson, reflétait, déjà à l’époque, l’importance d’instruire et d’informer. Assurer un accès universel à des informations fiables et à des preuves scientifiques est capital, surtout dans un contexte où la désinformation fait rage. Que ce soit face à l’urgence climatique ou à l’émergence de maladies infectieuses, il est essentiel d’accroître la confiance du grand public envers la science.

Mélissa Khadra.

Voilà la raison d’être du réseau global The Conversation, dont la mission est de permettre une meilleure compréhension de l'actualité et des sujets les plus complexes. J’ai la chance inestimable de pouvoir contribuer à cet objectif, tout en m'entourant d'humains allumés qui ont des choses à m'apprendre.

Lisa Varano, Audience Development Editor

As The Conversation Canada has grown over the past five years, so have the ways we connect with you. We started by launching our website in English in June 2017, followed by La Conversation Canada in French in December 2018, and have since expanded to many platforms: Audio, video and social. You can listen to 19 episodes of Don’t Call Me Resilient, our podcast about race and racism, and hundreds of narrated articles.

Lisa Varano.

You can also watch and participate in livestreamed events with academic experts, most recently ‘In Conversation With’ SSHRC-funded researchers. Stay connected with us on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok) and via our daily newsletter. Drop us a line any time with your thoughts or story ideas. There would be no conversation without you. Thank you.

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