employment

A farewell letter to the Province (but not journalism)

UPDATE 05/15/17: As most of you have heard, my union did us a solid and successfully negotiated a new contract that included several jobs being saved, including mine. I’m thankful to be back at work and have been so appreciative of the support that’s poured in over the last two months, both from friends and strangers. I’ve since returned to work and am trying to leave the rough times in the past. But the sentiment behind this letter still stands.

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PREVIOUSLY 03/27/17: The following post was written on March 23 as a way to mentally prepare myself for what I knew would be a difficult day. Then I spent the weekend crying, laughing, editing and trying to cut my word count (couldn’t do it, no surprise) and it’s been incredibly therapeutic.

This isn’t an invite to a pity party, just some nice things I want to share about a newsroom I fell in love with. Enjoy. (5:00 MIN. READ)

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If you’re reading this, it means I’ve been laid off from my job – more specifically, my dream job as a reporter with The Province (and Vancouver Sun). Sigh.

For the last month, my brain’s been wracked by equal parts disbelief, uneasy hope I might survive the cuts, and just plain old sadness. My diet’s mostly consisted of consolation beers and way too much sugar.

On Friday, after almost five years of reporting on Vancouver and British Columbia for Postmedia, I was officially laid off, alongside several other respected, talented colleagues. April 7 is our last day. I guess it’s almost a rite of passage in journalism.

The tsunami wave of support that we’ve received has been incredibly overwhelming and I don’t even know how to say thank you to the countless people – many of which were total strangers – who’ve shared a kind word. But thank you.


Hey! There’s me on the left next to one of my best friends, Tyler Orton, scrumming with Marcie Moriarty of the SPCA in June 2013. (RIC ERNST/PNG)


There’s many reasons to be sad – and most of them are obvious because, duh, journalism – but there’s a large part of me that is sad because this isn’t how I imagined leaving The Province. This newsroom was it for me. I thought I’d have the chance to tell more stories and notch more bylines under the Province masthead before moving on.

The Province was and still is the scrappy little tabloid that could, which makes it the perfect home for a scrappy little reporter like me. This paper is the underdog; we punch well above our weight class. (That’s two too many clichés in one line. I’m sorry.)

We are a strange and rowdy bunch: often inappropriate, consistently hilarious. This is a fascinating, amazing collection of humans who have become my tribe, day in and day out. These are folks who happily took me under their wing and taught me to fly, even if my own wings weren’t quite strong enough yet.

Case in point: who else would let the youngest temp in the newsroom work city desk and assign about a dozen seasoned reporters? For an entire month? That’s like letting the newest patient run the asylum.

Somehow no one was fired, no one was sued, and the paper still made it to print with no empty holes or filler text. Phew. (And then they asked me to do it on a regular basis!)


In 2012, I was The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund reporter. The campaign has been running since 1918. (MARK VAN MANEN / PNG)


I was invited to sit in on news meetings and not just that, they laughed when I cracked jokes and they didn’t fire me when I sassed senior editors. They liked me! So much that they kept me for almost five years after I first stepped foot into 200 Granville St. as a summer intern.

Last year’s merger with the Vancouver Sun, which was met with trepidation on my part, also introduced me to new colleagues I now call my friends. For another two weeks, I’ll be lucky enough to work with an amazing combined team, one that will likely never again be assembled in the same newsroom, with all the same pieces.

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Thank you to every mentor I’ve ever had. When I received my layoff notice on Friday, I thought of each editor and instructor that took a chance on me, put in a good word, served as a reference, and then I felt my heart sank, as if I’d let them down somehow. I always want to make you proud.

I am eternally grateful that Shannon Miller and Ros Guggi told me, “We like you but you just don’t have enough daily experience; get some and then come back” at my first interview in 2010 when I was still a student. That lit a fire in me and it’s what earned me that second, more successful interview.

I’m grateful to every editor I’ve ever served under in the newsroom. But particularly David Carrigg who, even when I approached his desk once near tears over some trivial matter, never shied away as city editor but always offered a comforting word of advice and self-deprecating humour (which I can relate to).

I’m grateful to Wayne Moriarty, Fabian Dawson, and Paul Chapman, who have always supported, protected, and championed our rag-tag bunch of journalists. Thank you for making The Province such a wonderful name to stand behind each and every day.


Here in this photo, we see Stephanie Ip, a not-so-rich Asian girl, interviewing Chelsea from the 2014 locally filmed reality series Ultra Rich Asian Girls. (ARLEN REDEKOP / PNG)


A hearty Wayne’s World “We’re not worthy!” to talented colleagues and desk mates who became my friends and cheerleaders and who I’m convinced are some of the most interesting people in the world. Thank you for letting me into your lives and allowing me to hold your babies and attend your weddings.

Of course, a shoutout to the Province intern class of 2012. Jeff is now a Wolf of Wall Street, Justin’s the best at ranking anything and everything, and Larissa will always be the best case scenario of what happens when you tweet at a stranger.

These were people who saw potential in me and fostered it, then pushed me to pursue it myself. I was challenged by my editors, my colleagues, competing media outlets, and our loyal subscribers. I learned to stand up for myself, and in turn, stand up for our readers and the stories that matter.


Here’s sweet baby face intern Steph from 2012.


That’s the part I hope you’ll remember: JOURNALISM MATTERS. Yes, many of us lost our dream jobs last week but I know this isn’t about me. In the end, it’s our readers and journalism that suffer. I’m just lucky I had the honour of writing these stories for you – both the serious and the absurd – here at The Province and then the Vancouver Sun for as long as I did.

As for what’s next, I’ll finish out my two weeks here and then take a bit of a vacation somewhere warm to detox these unemployment beers, get some much-needed sun, and maybe stop slouching now that the weight of impending layoffs is off my shoulders.

Don’t get me wrong: this is a farewell (for now) to The Province but hopefully not journalism. My scrappy little newsie heart still loves talking to strangers, asking all sorts of questions, sharing important stories, and delivering the news of the day.

If that sounds like someone your newsroom might want to take on, send me your news tips.

You can contact Stephanie by email at info@stephanieip.ca or on Twitter at @stephanie_ip.


Here’s our Province newsroom just before the Great Merger of 2016.

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(Re)design.

Finally! A new look and a cleaner set-up for my website… It feels like a breath of fresh air, doesn’t it? While I don’t post as regularly as I once did, it’s still nice to have a go-to home online where I can link all my social networks together, and post the odd blog here and there.

Feel free to take a look through my print, video, and photo portfolios. I haven’t added any new content, but did clean up each of those pages so they are easier to browse. You can also check out the contact page for different ways to connect.

Until then!

A lesson in appreciating life

On Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT and opened fire on innocent teachers and children.

Like everyone else, I watched with horror as details about the shooting began surfacing. I felt like I was going to throw up just trying to imagine what these families’ lives would be like. Then offshoot conversations began stemming from the main story.

Spiralling conversations

Journalism ethics were called into question as some media outlets began interviewing surviving children on air. Commentators called on politicians to re-examine the American “right to bear arms” and on President Barack Obama to take action. Health advocates criticized the ease of access with which an individual can purchase a firearm but not receive mental health care.

There were a lot of thoughts and emotions flying around online, in newspapers, and on television – but all I could think of was something I had seen tweeted by Chris Jones, a writer for Esquire and a columnist for ESPN.

Chris Jones, writer for Esquire and columnist for ESPN tweeted this on Friday, following the shooting in Newtown, CT.

Chris Jones, writer for Esquire and columnist for ESPN tweeted this on Friday, following the shooting in Newtown, CT.

I couldn’t figure out why this stuck with me. As a journalist, you’d think I’d be more concerned with finding out confirmed details and what the story really was.

But the story isn’t about what happened – the story is about what won’t happen.

From the perspective of children

I had considered social work and teaching before I pursued journalism full-time. When you’re around children, your perspective on everything changes. You stop looking at the world from your own eyes and you begin to understand how it looks from the perspective of someone who still believes in, well… everything.

Children have a curious way of looking at the world, at embracing the magic that still surrounds us everyday. Some people don’t give kids enough credit – they’re much wiser than their years would have you believe, and more creative than you might think possible. To kids, the entire world truly is a playground and everything is still a possibility.

Yesterday’s story isn’t about what happened in Newtown. The story is about what won’t happen.

Non-existent futures

The 20 children who had their lives traumatically cut short won’t even finish elementary school. They won’t conduct any awkward fundraisers where their parents do majority of the fundraising. No field trips, no bake sales.

No mini-graduation as they make the transition to high school. No AP Calculus, no detention after school, no prom and no graduation gown. No university applications, no scholarships, no first apartment in residence.

No first love, no meeting the parents. They won’t get down on one knee to ask their high-school sweetheart to marry them. They won’t say yes ecstatically. They won’t spend forever trying to figure out the seating plans at their wedding.

They won’t feel the knot in their stomach on the first day of a new job – their first real job after graduating from university. No promotion, no first big assignment at work. No performance reviews at work.

These kids won’t even make it to Christmas this year. Their parents are now going home to clear out their Christmas-present hiding spot. The children whose names are written on the gift tags are no longer around.

Sympathy

It pains my heart to think of everything that is happening to these families right now – but even more so to think of all the things that won’t be happening to them. It is an unimaginable pain and grief these parents will feel for a long time, if not forever, knowing they won’t see their child graduate, work, get married, become parents themselves.

I’m not yet a parent but as a human being, I still hurt. My heart aches when I think about all the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to see in my young life, things that these 20 kids will never understand. Then when I think of all the times I’ve complained about anything, any major challenge I’ve come across – fuck, even the small challenges I’ve come across – that pain turns to guilt.

Learning to live with appreciation

While gun laws and health care access might take some time to change, there are a few things we can do now to make sure these 20 children aren’t forgotten. We can’t bring them back but at the very least, we desperately need to learn from this horrific incident and treat it as a wake-up call.

Let this be a lesson in being better people, in taking better care of each other. Make sure we hug our parents a little tighter every time we do get to see them. Walk a little slower and breathe a little deeper. Drive more carefully along the scenic route. Pay more attention to the ones we love. Let this be the last time you ever feel ungrateful for anything. Stop complaining about the petty shit and start living our lives with appreciation.

Above all, keep playing, keep believing, keep loving, and keep trusting – the way that kids do.

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NEWTOWN SHOOTING | THE VICTIMS

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29; Teacher
Dawn Hochsprung, 47; School principal
Nancy Lanza, 52; Mother of gunman
Anne Marie Murphy, 52; Teacher
Lauren Rousseau, 30; Teacher
Mary Sherlach, 56; School psychologist
Victoria Soto, 27; Teacher

(Victims’ names sourced from The New York Times, www.nytimes.com.)

Featured photo courtesy of Getty Commons.

HBO’s Girls: The Voice of My Generation

“I’m like Tinkerbell, Finn. I need applause to live.”

That’s from an early episode of Glee wherein scene-stealer Rachel Berry explains her love affair with fame. While I’m nowhere near deserving of the attention that Lea Michele’s character receives – mostly because I’m not that talented of a singer – I can partially relate.

Pay Attention

I love attention. I crave it. I thrive on it. Who doesn’t? I’ll be honest in admitting I love talking about myself. But like any love-hate chase, I only want attention when it’s not there. When it’s being freely awarded to me, I get weirdly uncomfortable with being in the spotlight. So maybe that’s why I’ve become so attached to the new HBO series Girls. The first season’s finale aired Sunday and let me tell you… it’s a gooder.

Girls Just Want…

Before the NYC-based series premiered, I’d been really excited, having read some of the praise Lena Dunham had received for her previous work. Of course, the idea of a show that focuses on my demographic – 20-something not-quite-grown women trying to deal with post-collegiate life – appealed to my narcissistic side. It’s nice though, y’know, being scrutinized and yet, not having to really deal with any criticism.

Deal With It

Here’s a show that puts me and my friends in the spotlight but without forcing me to own up to my own stupid decisions and mistakes of being in my 20s. Dunham’s show draws from the personal experience of her own life and those around her and yes, while she lives in New York and that is drastically different from my life here in Vancouver, the human experience is still very much the same.

I face paralysing self-doubt whenever my work or writing is put on display. I struggle with my body image, embracing my ‘real’ curves but also wondering what it would take to lose a few pounds. The idea of allowing ourselves the love we think we deserve is also a constant theme. While I’m busy yelling at Hannah for allowing Adam to treat her as horribly as he does, I’m ignoring my own advice by continually being hung up on my own past relationships.


Taking A Cue

The show isn’t about me but I can relate to Dunham’s quirky quartet of heroines. I understand how it might not be attractive to admit that and no, not everyone can connect with the show’s seemingly far-fetched storylines but there’s an element of reality that rings true.

Sure, it might just be the selfish, self-involved side of me that loves Girls, but maybe watching the show religiously – and reading Vulture’s commentary on it – will finally make me realize how many unresolved issues I’ve avoided in my own life. Maybe when Hannah finally sorts out her life, I’ll take my cue and be inspired enough to deal with mine.

I Can Relate

In honour of my obsession with Girls, here are some of my favourite moments from the show’s first season. Be prepared to get to know me a little bit better. (I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good or bad either either…)

1. “I invented him.”
Let me tell you, Hannah. I know what you mean. I have definitely been there. I am probably still there.

2. “You are just naturally interesting.”
I have to remind myself all the time that I’m probably not as boring as I think I am.

3. “I just had this crazy realization…”
I won’t elaborate but… Shosh, I feel you, girl.

4. “You’re wearing a white dress.”
While I’ve never been sent home to change, I have been told that I am very bad at dressing appropriately for work. Sigh.

5. “Are you punking me?”
I never really know how to deal with attention either – see above post, obviously.

Photo Credit: Google Images.

Feature: Live@YVR

Last week, I was assigned to spend 24 hours at YVR with Jaeger Mah, winner of the airport’s Live@YVR contest. Sure, it sounds a little ridiculous to think spending a whole day at the airport constitutes news but it’s one of those rare assignments that are just plain fun for the heck of it. Plus, news isn’t always politics and crime — sometimes, it’s just sharing something with readers that they don’t get to experience themselves.

For the majority of my 24 hours, I hung out with Jaeger and his childhood friend Dallas, running around the airport, filming different people, places and plain ol’ cool things to do at YVR. I even got to hang out in the cockpit of an Airbus A330. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that. We saw the ins and outs of the airport, a lot of cool things going on that the public generally doesn’t get to see.

Anyway, Jaeger invited me to be in his video and I reluctantly agreed — I’m not exactly a broadcast kind of girl. Strangely enough, I enjoyed it even though I didn’t appear on camera once the whole year I was in journalism school. I usually stuck to being behind the camera. The video’s been posted and it’s a pretty fun clip. You can check it out below.

Now, a couple quick answers to some questions I’ve fielded. I’m sure Jaeger will appreciate these…

Is the guy legit?
Yes, Jaeger is legit. He’s funny, outgoing, carries himself well, is very comfortable on camera and just likes to kick back and grab a beer. A lot of people saw his original entry video and thought that he was a little too self-promoting and was trying a little too hard to sell himself. The point many miss is that the entire contest was about finding the right person to be YVR’s storyteller.

When Jaeger and I sat down for our interview, I asked him about this and he admits that the video is definitely a video resume of sorts. The thing people need to realize, however, is that Jaeger didn’t put on a persona when he appeared in his entry video. The friendly, very relaxed guy that you see is very much the same Jaeger in real life. You might wonder if I’m falling under the same spell Patrick Fugit experienced in Almost Famous. I thought maybe I was too. After all, Jaeger is quite charming — it’s how he won this contest. Later, I cracked a joke and his friend Dallas said, “You can come party with us in Port Alberni anyday.” Humour crosses boundaries and barriers and we connected over that. The fact that my type of humour seemed to be their kind of humour showed that we were operating on a different level than just the typical “media” relationship.

Did I ask Jaeger any uncomfortable questions? Some. Did we crack jokes that were “off the record?” A little. But the thing about balancing your relationships in this business is that you need to know where to draw the line. I didn’t give Jaeger any reason to mistrust me and he didn’t try to sell me any crap. It’s about straight-shootin’. I don’t doubt that having his good friend around at the same time probably helped him to feel more relaxed than if it had just been me and a him — a reporter and her interview subject.

While some of you still don’t believe me and are still convinced Jaeger probably tried to sell me a good story, you should know that he’s also wary himself. During our time together, he mentioned that his favourite people at the airport asked nothing of him, unlike others who try to slip in here and there a small detail they hope Jaeger will promote via the Live@YVR project.

Isn’t this just a promotional tool for the airport?
Yes and no. The goal of the project was to celebrate YVR’s 80th anniversary and to tell the world about all the great things YVR has to offer. That’s PR speak for promoting the airport so yes, in a way, it’s really just a promotional tactic to sell the airport. However, it’s not something the communications team is shy about. Spokeswoman Rebecca Catley told me the team loves the airport so why wouldn’t they want to show it off to the world? If businesses benefit from that, then that’s great too. The great thing is that from this one PR tactic, a whole slew of stories and an entire community has emerged to welcome the world’s prying eyes.

There are certain assignments that are arranged for Jaeger to cover (i.e. exploring the bag hall to see where your luggage goes, introducing Air China’s new businesses class cabins) and some are quite obviously promotional in nature. But through these assignments, Jaeger’s been able to dig up little stories here and there, details that give the airport character and flavour.

The night I was on assignment, Jaeger was assigned to cover Air China’s new business class cabins. While doing his interviews, he began to chat with David Solloway, Air China’s senior advisor Canada, about a ton of other things. Solloway’s whole family is in aviation, a long legacy of pilots and airline professionals. I didn’t catch the whole story but Jaeger is hoping to go back and share more of Solloway’s story. Catley, the YVR spokeswoman I mentioned earlier, shared a story with me about how her dad is able to recognize a plane’s engine just by the distant sound of rumbling. It’s histories like these that Jaeger’s been trying to share with the world.

So whether you think living at the airport for 80 days is weird, cool or just a corporate sales tactic, don’t shun Jaeger because of it. He’s a cool guy with some big dreams and an interesting way of sharing stories. I highly recommend you follow his blog over the second half of his YVR residency and see what else there is to explore at YVR.

Here’s a couple of my favourite shots from the 24-hour adventure.


Jaeger Mah looks out the window of his Fairmont YVR hotel room. Photo by Stephanie Ip.


Jaeger Mah sits in the cockpit of an Airbus A330. Photo by Stephanie Ip.


Jaeger Mah chats with Air China’s senior advisor Canada David Solloway about
the brand new business class cabins on an Airbus A330. Photo by Stephanie Ip.


Jaeger Mah steals a quick bite to eat in between shooting segments for CNN. Photo by Stephanie Ip.

Featured Photo: I caught a quick catnap in the terminal while on my 24-hour assignment. Photo by, yes, me.

First Listen: Greyson Chance – “Unfriend You”

Before I got into journalism full-time, I spent years working with youth outreach programs. High school wasn’t that long ago for me and even when I was in high school, I felt a bit like an old soul. At the time, everything was a big deal and when something went wrong, it seemed like the end of the world. While I know that’s not the case, that’s something we only understand in retrospect.

Anyway, one of the joys of working with kids and youth is being able to see the potential within each person even before they realize it themselves. I’m a big believer in giving young people opportunities to grow and learn, to cultivate talents and strengths long before they’re ready to do so. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you encourage it, the more it’ll take shape. So that’s my explanation for why Greyson Chance caught my eye.

“Paparazzi”

Greyson Chance first caught international attention for a Youtube clip of him covering Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at a festival. First off, this kid has legit talent. There’s something about him that is just absolutely natural. It’s true that you can practice, practice and PRACTICE playing the piano and singing but there is a certain quality to this kid that is undoubtedly born from within. I’ve worked with kids his age for years and to see this 13-year-old just completely own the performance is ridiculously fun to watch. Pay attention at 3:00. You don’t just learn how to do that.

The Bieber Treatment

I don’t want to paint them all with the same brush but at the same time, there’s no other way to describe it. Greyson Chance got The Bieber Treatment. What’s The Bieber Treatment, you might ask? It’s simple. It’s like a coming-of-age party of sorts. Young star releases their first music video with a somewhat decent music video concept, shiny production and execution, covered with the safest possible parental guidance rating.

“Unfriend You”

1. Concept. The music video concept is good. It’s adorable. He likes a girl who likes someone else. But now he’s going to pick himself up, carry on and “unfriend” her. Sounds dorky but that’s the day and age we live in. (How many times have you introduced youself and followed it up with, “Oh, I’m so-and-so on Twitter”? Never? I don’t believe you.)

2. Production/Execution. Is there money being thrown into this music video? For sure. You can tell it’s well done. The problem is… really? You had to slick it up that much? The problem with shiny packaging is that it makes me question the actual quality of the product. It’s distracting, really.

3. Parental Guidance. This is my favourite part. I can’t get over it! They’re so adorable! His ex-girlfriend does nothing you wouldn’t do in front of her parents (that we can tell, anyway). Greyson goes to a totally radical party where obviously underaged teens are drinking Coca-Cola and some unknown company’s sponsored fruit drink. Don’t forget the dance circle! Not that they can dance… but it’s cute to watch them try. THEN PING PONG! Like, real ping pong and not just beer pong! I can appreciate that. And the grand finale? Totally harmless but awesome TP’ing of the ex-girlfriend’s house. NICE.

Growing Up and Moving On

Don’t get me wrong. I know I sound a little sarcastic but I legitimately want to see this kid do well. He’s got real talent and he seems to not buy into the Bieber Experience just yet. No fancy footwork, no fancy over-production… just a kid, a piano and one hell of a voice. Maybe if he keeps getting opportunities thrown his way, he’ll be able to become much more than just another Youtube-breakout-MTV-teeny-bopper sensation. He could have an honest, long-term career. Now wouldn’t that be a nice change from everything else in today’s music industry?

P.S. “You’re beautiful and crazy too / Maybe that’s why I fell into you.” OH, GIRL.

P.P.S. I totally would’ve had a crush on him if we had been the same age. No joke. Army jacket? Chucks? Totally clean-cut fun? I’m in.