A passion for politics and journalism
Meagan Fitzpatrick, Artsci’02, is one of the rising stars of CBC’s national political affairs reporting, and all because she dared to ask a previous employer for her own desk
Early in her career, Meagan Fitzpatrick had a job as the Ottawa reporter for Dose, a free daily newspaper owned by Canwest Global Communications. “They wanted me to work from home, but I was living at my parents’ house, so I really didn’t think that would be the best idea,” she recalls.
On a whim, Meagan asked if there was a vacant desk she could use at one of Canwest’s offices, either at the Ottawa Citizen – where she’d worked prior to joining Dose – or at CanWest’s Parliamentary bureau in downtown Ottawa. By chance, there was an empty desk at the bureau, and so Meagan began hanging her hat there.
“When CanWest eventually pulled the plug on Dose, I was let go, but I got hired during the same conversation because CanWest’s Parliamentary bureau took me on,” says Meagan. From there, it was on to the CBC in early 2011. “That’s why I say if I hadn’t asked for a desk, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“I now advise young grads: Never be afraid to ask for anything, because the worst you can be told is ‘No.’ It never hurts to ask.”
Meagan, who majored in political studies at Queen’s, joined the CBC as an online writer. However, last fall she began filling in for a colleague on maternity leave and was given a broader set of tasks that included live TV reporting and calling in to various local CBC radio shows across the country to give a weekly Ottawa report.
“I jumped at the chance [to work on all three platforms]. I think you should seize whatever opportunities come along. Challenge yourself,” she says.
Meagan flourished in her new roles. And why not? She’s no stranger to trying new challenges that lead her in new directions.
She recalls that it was a summer internship at the Alumni Review in 2001 that motivated her to consider journalism as a career. “It made me think, ‘I can do this [writing and reporting work] full time,” she says.
That realization prompted her to enrol in the Master of Arts program in journalism at Western University, where she specialized in television.
Her most recent challenge has been working at CBC’s Hong Kong “pocket bureau,” as a correspondent for three months earlier this year – “a dream come true for me,” she says.
While she’s a political reporter here in Canada, in Hong Kong she got to write about a diverse range of topics. “China is one of the most dynamic places in the world right now, and Hong Kong is considered a gateway to China. Canada’s relationship with China is developing in many ways. It’s important for us to be here.”
While she’s always thrilled to work overseas and hopes to land more such gigs, Meagan’s local assignments are anything but dull. She loves working on Parliament Hill, where she sometimes dons high heels for Parliamentary scrums. When she does, it’s hard to miss her. “I’m six feet tall, and if my shoes have three-inch heels, so be it,” she says with a laugh.
As a Parliamentary Press Gallery reporter, Meagan has already had some memorable assignments. She covered the Ottawa visits of Barack Obama and newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middleton. And she went on a whirlwind European trip with Prime Minister Stephen Harper – “four countries in four days.”
Among the major events Meagan has reported on was the death of New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton, who had been her “date” for the 2010 Press Gallery dinner – to which reporters bring MPs as their dates. She later wrote extensively about the NDP’s subsequent leadership campaign and covered the convention at which Tom Mulcair was chosen as the party’s new leader.
Meagan is passionate both about politics and journalism. “There’s a lot of camaraderie on Parliament Hill and among the reporters. That’s another reason I love my job.”
A key reason Meagan wanted to work at the CBC was to learn more about online news, which she believes is journalism’s future. “For example, Twitter is a great way to find out what the competition is saying. It’s also a way to interact with our audience. It changes the way a journalist reports. I’ll tweet from a news conference, telling the news as it happens. I’m definitely on the pro-Twitter side.”