For Edmonton mayor, Don Iveson, being a former student journalist is a fond memory, even after switching to a career in politics.
Having begun his journey in the journalism field by first taking over his high school paper in Grade 11 at the Strathcona Composite High School, in Edmonton, Iveson has come a long way.
“There was always the romance of the student newspaper, and as goes in lots of comic books the reporter seemed [to have] a glorious role [of] part observer, part intervenor [and] always seeking justice,” he explained in an interview with The Press.
“I’d [be working] from the position of the observer, and that appealed to me at the time.”
Though Iveson found that it wasn’t in his interests to pursue journalism academically, he found himself volunteering for the University of Alberta’s campus paper, The Gateway, while studying for his political science degree.
Writing for the campus paper and gradually understanding the editorial side of things, he said, was formative and led to him becoming the managing editor at The Gateway.
Through his time at The Gateway, he explained, he came to know of the Canadian University Press (CUP) and decided to go to Toronto to do the fourth year of his degree through an exchange program and work for national student publication, Agent Magazine, as its Managing Editor.
“That was when I started to wander from the editorial side into the business side,” he said.
“Social entrepreneurship is what I was interested in, [like] these not-for-profit organizations that served student journalists in terms of giving them a place to practice their craft and serve the broader students in campus communities with coverage of issues, discussions and debate about issues through the day, local and global.”
Empowering and enabling such lively debates and discussions with good governance and good business practices are what piqued Iveson’s interest and eventually led him to taking on the role of the president at CUP.
“I started out from the perspective of the observer and the commenter, and [then] wanted to be a builder and a creator,” he said.
After finding his niche in student press as a business manager, he returned to Edmonton to work for The Gateway again as a business manager, and continued to work with the paper from 2002-2005.
It was in the year 2005, he said, that he decided to make the shift to communications strategy and government relations policies, and took a job of working for undergraduate students at the University of Alberta.
That switch led to his growing interest in community development, advocacy and making change, which eventually tugged him towards politics.
He was elected to Edmonton city council in 2007, and served two terms before successfully running for mayor last fall.
“You can’t draw a straight line, but I wouldn’t be sitting in a mayor’s office talking to you here, if I hadn’t had a lot of formative experiences and great friendships,” he said.
“Whether you end up working directly in the field [of journalism] or not – the ability to ask hard questions and to communicate clearly – if you can do those, you can work in a lot of different fields.”