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Q&A with Adventure Canada’s Walrus Fellows

Adventure Canada and The Walrus magazine share similar values—education, connection, and fact-based storytelling. In this Q&A feature, Amy van den Berg chats with Sean Young, two members of a fellowship program created by the valuable partnership between Adventure Canada and The Walrus.
Side by side amy van den berg sean young walrus fellows

© Jessie Brinkman Evans / Karen Longwell

Walrus Fellows Amy van den Berg and Sean Young

Each year, the Adventure Canada Fellowship employs one emerging journalist at The Walrus, providing them with editorial experience and an opportunity to build relationships and learn about long-form journalism and how a national publication is put together.

In 2018, Amy van den Berg, a graduate of Ryerson University's Master of Journalism program, became the first Adventure Canada-sponsored fellow, and spent six months at The Walrus office in Toronto. Most of the fellowship is fact-checking—an extremely important, but intricate process—but fellows also take part in story meetings, learn about the production process, and receive mentorship from the magazine's editorial team. After the fellowship, van den Berg went on to work as an Assistant Digital Editor at Broadview magazine, and then as Creative Writer at Adventure Canada.

Sean Young, who previously interned at CBC and has also studied journalism at Ryerson, is currently an Adventure Canada Fellow at The Walrus. Van den Berg and Young got together to talk about their Fellowship experiences as Young was wrapping up his six months at the magazine’s virtual office.

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AV: It’s so nice to meet you! So, how was your experience as a Walrus fellow?

SY: I've really enjoyed it. The team is very nurturing with new people, so I’ve been welcomed to the fold very quickly. And I’m not just saying this, but I've genuinely enjoyed fact-checking. This is the part of journalism that I've always liked: parsing apart a narrative, it’s like a puzzle.

I’ve enjoyed being able to go into these feature stories and pick them apart and find all those stats, find all those sources, verify all of them, and figure out all those weak spots. I find it has improved my journalism, and how I report on a story.


AV: I found that too. I’m always thinking of how I would fact-check what I’m writing.

SY: Exactly. It's made my writing in general a lot stronger.


AV: What are the main tasks that you've been doing?

SY: I'm mainly fact-checking. That's the majority of my work, but then I've also had the chance to shadow edit a piece or two. I alternately help with the pitch inbox and the letters to the editor that are submitted to The Walrus. I take part in story meetings, contributing ideas when I can, and just handling tasks that need doing.


AV: Tell me about some of your favourite stories that you've checked.

SY: I just finished checking a story that will be going in the January/February issue that was kind of a dream. It was a difficult check because it was really involved, but it was something that I've always been interested in. The piece was about the history of ghosts and processing grief, and I've always loved ghost stories and the paranormal.

Do not crop Walrus illustration by Megan Kyak Monteith grey

Illustration by Megan Kyak-Monteith

AV: That does sound interesting! What are some of the most important things you've learned in these six months?

SY: I learned about the importance of facts. If the facts are laid out simply, clearly, and in a precise narrative way, they can speak for themselves. I knew that a little bit from my journalism education at Ryerson, but after fact-checking, it’s become clear that it’s an important part of telling an effective story.

I’ve also learned about teamwork and cooperation. I loved watching how many hands go into a magazine story; the way the fact-checkers cooperate with the editors (and sometimes fight with them) and how copy editing has to layer over that editorial as well, it’s been really great to watch.


AV: Definitely, it takes so many moving pieces to make an issue come together, I loved seeing that too. When I was at The Walrus as a fellow a couple years ago, the editorial team would outline the upcoming issue on a wall. What has it been like starting your journalism career online?

SY: I feel like The Walrus moved into that digital space really well. Everyone is always checking in with each other, the conversations are so lively. It's also been great because people are actually scheduling in time to reach out and come together, so it's created a strong community.

Starting out from this standpoint has at times been tough because journalism is definitely in an interesting space right now, but then again journalism has been in a scary spot for a while and somehow journalists keep innovating.


AV: Any ideas on what you want to do after your fellowship?

SY: I hope to keep fact-checking! I think I've discovered that it's something that I really really love. But I would be happy in a space where I am working in story-telling with a team and tossing around ideas. No definite ideas yet, but I now know the type of team I would like to be working with after being at The Walrus.


AV: The best thing about The Walrus is that after the fellowship the team continues to be your support system. We all keep in contact and I can reach out anytime. That makes a huge difference as a freelancer.

SY: That's great to hear, because that's one of the scariest things about going out there.


AV: And did you get a chance to work on your own story during your fellowship?

SY: Yes, actually, I’m currently working on one. It's a bit of a memoir piece about my relationship to Prince Edward Island, where I grew up. It refers to Anne of Green Gables, of course. This has been a really good opportunity to write, especially writing from a first person perspective for the first time on such a large scale. It has been really interesting, especially when I'm making sure that my piece is fact-check tight! (laughs)


AV: Would you say memoir and personal essays interest you?

SY: Definitely. When I got into journalism it was the thing I was most interested in. I think the best piece of advice we got in journalism school was: "What kind of journalism do you actually take in? Whatever that is, chase that, or do that." I mostly take in memoir pieces, first-person pieces, explainers, and long-form stories when I want to go in-depth about odd topics. So I've realized well-reported first-person journalism has been a major thing that I want to work with.


AV: I can’t wait to read your story, and definitely keep in touch! Thank you for chatting, Sean.

SY: Thank you!


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This interview has been edited for clarity.

About the Author

Amy van den Berg

Amy van den Berg

Writer

About the Author:

Amy is a writer from Oakville, Ontario. She loves to travel and explore new places.

She has an undergrad in international development and a master's degree in journalism, and has lived in Banff, Alberta, and Newcastle, Australia (despite being an awful skiier and surfer).

You can find her published work in The Walrus, Broadview magazine, and This Magazine. Visit her website to learn more.