After dropping out of university in my second year, I got it in my head that I wanted to be a writer. I had this silly idea that journalists had the power to create change. So with pen in hand, I set out to alter the course of history.
A lucky break gave me the opportunity to meet a producer for CBC radio who took a chance on a green reporter and gave me an impossible assignment. My job was to investigate a police investigation targeting the gay community in my hometown of London, Ontario. Turns out I did my job well. Too well for the local constabulary.
After six one-hour documentaries on the subject and a period of unprecedented harassment from the police, I was given the Hellman-Hammet award from the prestigious Human Rights Watch group in New York City.
The award is named after the famed American writers Lillian Hellman and Dashiel Hammett who left their estates in trust to be given as grants to writers around the world who have faced political persecution for their work, as they had in their own lives. I was the first journalist in Canada to ever win the award for work done inside the country and to date only one other Canadian writer has received the honour. Harassment of the media on this scale was previously unheard of in Canada and news of my award was published in the New York Times and around the world.
Naively, I thought that this initial success would mean I had my foot in the door as a serious journalist, but it turned out that if I wanted that door to open, I would have to kick it in.
After all was said and done, it seemed I was no further ahead. My colleagues needed to see proof that I wasn't a one hit wonder. It seemed like it was back to square one.
But playing on a hunch, I began research on a story of the first teenager to be killed in a Canadian prison. It was the lucky break I needed. The CBC's flagship program the fifth estate hired me to do a documentary investigation of the murder.
After completing only my first project with the team, I was promoted to Associate Producer and given a long-term contract with the show. After spending nearly two years with them and other departments of the current affairs desk, I left the CBC to embark on a freelance career as a writer.