Gazette journalist, David Johnston, gives a lecture at Dawson

By Carl Perks

Open to all that populate Dawson, yet solely attended by the college’s own Plant writers and editors, a lecture was given last Thursday by David Johnston, a reporter for the Montreal Gazette, in the amphitheatre (4C.1). 

The hour-long talk began around mid-day ,when Johnston stood up from his chair before what organiser Paul Serralheiro qualified as a disappointingly small audience, and wrote the word “serendipity” on the board. As a seasoned veteran of the field of journalism, the reporter shared his insight on the importance of chance in the ascension of the ladder that is the news industry.

‘‘The word ‘serendipity’ takes its roots from the word Serendib…’’ he said, rubbing the letters P-I-T-Y off of the board and scribbling in a lower-cased B, ‘‘which used to be the name that mariners gave to Sri Lanka.’’ He went on to explain that a British novelist once wrote tales about Serendib in which a handful of travelers hit a joyful streak of luck once they ventured onto that island.

The serendipity introduction masterfully waltzed the students into the main topic of the lecture: ‘‘[The serendipity story] is what captivated me the most,’’ Bianca Brais, third semester Cin/Vid/Com student and News editor for The Plant, said. ‘‘It was interesting the way that all the stories were wrapped around that one word.’’

Johnston managed to link almost all of his points on the career of a journalist and news-writing itself to chance encounters and accidental marvels. The rest of the discussion breezed through with tips on how to hopefully multiply the instances of career-related serendipity and different angles on approaching news stories, including practical suggestions on how to balance narrative and expository writing.

With almost 30 years of journalism under his belt, Johnston easily qualifies for the lecture to student journalists, and, as Serralheiro put it, ‘‘[Johnston] is very versatile as a reporter, he writes everything except for maybe arts.’’

Johnston is currently a reporter for the 450 and 819 area codes (off-island suburbs and cottage country), where The Gazette sells 25% of their papers on weekdays and one third on Saturdays.


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