Ask The Expert – Alyssa Hirose (Canada Wide Media)

October 2, 2020

What inspired you to start your career at Canada Wide Media?

When I was in school, creative writing was always my favourite class—it was the only course that I found myself genuinely excited to do my homework. Creative nonfiction was one of the genres that I focused on while getting my degree, and I scored a co-op internship at Vanmag and Western Living in my fourth year of school.

What was your first Industry job?

My internship! I did a four-month co-op at VM and WL. Fact-checking, sourcing, writing web stories, getting jackets thrown on me, making jokes about The Devil Wears Prada, you know.

What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?

Probably impostor syndrome. Especially in an industry notoriously difficult to get into, I struggled a lot wondering whether I deserved to be doing what I’m doing. Also, being a young-looking woman (brag alert, and shoutout to my Asian genes) means I’ve got to prove myself doubly. Gotta love the patriarchy. I think what helps me is remembering that at times, everyone feels like that. And that learning is my job—to interview people, do research, write what I find. Like hey, I’m the one asking the questions here. Literally.

If you were not in media – what industry would you work in?

I’ve always been a pretty artsy gal (I draw comics every day, check me out @hialyssacomics) so I’d probably go all-in on comic writing, children’s literature, or some form of comedy. My life goals have always really stressed out my parents.

What has been a highlight of your career?

Oh boy—that’s really tough to say. I love handling the Arts and Culture section of Vanmag and working to include events and people that really represent our vibrant and diverse city. There have been a few times that someone has contacted me after publication to tell me that they felt I’d really captured their work or art or passion, and those moments always make me feel proud of what I do. Also any time someone tells me something I wrote made them laugh. Little victories.

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone that wants to pursue a career like yours?

Say yes to every opportunity. I believe I’ve gotten to where I am today because I took on every assignment I could early in my career. I think if you have an attitude like, “Sure, I’ll write about tacos or umbrella stands or pilates or brutalist architecture!” that’s the best way to go. Believe in yourself. Google is your friend.

What are 2 things you wish others knew about your career?

It’s hard work that needs to be made more accessible. I got the job I have today because I could afford to go to university and do an internship while working another job. That’s certainly not the case for everyone, and though I don’t want to minimize my own hard work, it of course helps to be set up for success. In general, the media industry is still a ton of old white dudes, and it’s tough to elbow your way in without lots of resources and support.

Also, this is kind of a weird thing, but lots of people think that I get paid more if my stories get more clicks—that’s true for some freelancers and online publications, but not true for me. I do genuinely cover things that I’m interested in and think are important. So whether it’s a little community theatre musical or some fancy restaurant opening, if I’m covering it, I care! If I was in it for the money I’d just be a brain surgeon or something.