Since becoming a Senior Writer at Chatelaine in October 2015, Sarah Boesveld has written about many topics including the recent trial of former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi. We asked Sarah about her typical workday, where social media fits into her role and her advice for PR professionals.
Follow her @sarahboesveld.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work as a writer for Chatelaine?
I love working with the brilliant team editor-in-chief Lianne George has put together here. We gather every morning to “scrum,” which is a gathering to chat about the headlines and make sure we’re there on the stories that matter to our readers. I always leave it feeling energized and challenged, usually having had a belly laugh or five by 10:15 am. To be part of a really exciting chapter in the life of a nearly 100-year-old magazine — one that has meant a lot to generations of Canadian women — is a total reward. I grew up reading Chatelaine, so I’m still pinching myself.
How do you use social media?
Social media is the first place I look for news in the morning (though I still get the National Post and the Globe and Mail delivered to my door). Social is where you can eavesdrop on conversations (and take part in them), watch for themes and patterns in the zeitgeist, connect with colleagues, sources and readers. It’s essentially where life happens now (though not exclusively — y’all better look up from your phones now and again). I’m constantly scouring social for story ideas while using it to share and talk up the fine work of Chatelaine and my other journo peers.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually start it in the dog park (or take the pup for a run on a good day) and send some emails and check out Twitter/Facebook/Instagram before leaving the house. The aforementioned morning scrum is at 10am, and that’s where we’ll hash out my daily assignment, if I get one. If I get one of those, I’ll do the reporting required or the writing to make a post happen, and get that up online by afternoon. Magazines are big on planning ahead (a new discipline for me, having come from daily newspapers), so there’ll be some meetings, but I spend most of my time researching, interviewing and writing for pieces coming up in the magazine or on the site.
What advice do you have for PR people?
First I want to apologize to all the PR professionals whose emails I do not answer. I am very grateful for them and my radio silence is NOT personal! I’m either focused on my project or the idea or timing is not quite right for me or for Chatelaine. Timing and resources is always a big issue. I love engaging with PR folks who really get the direction Chatelaine is heading in and who really understand the scope of my writing at Chatelaine (hint, I do not write about products, but rather issues and ideas and interesting people). It’s also great if you’re mindful of a monthly magazine’s publishing schedule (for example, we’re already having lineup meetings for the October issue) and can gear pitches to the website or the book.
Favourite story you’ve ever worked on?
In December 2014, I flew to Winnipeg with National Post award-winning photographer Tyler Anderson and Noreen Ahmed-Ullah, Samira Mohyeddin and Jennifer Lee of Centennial College to meet a class of Indigenous high school girls. We wanted to hear what they had to say about the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and give them the tools and platform to tell their own stories, and feel empowered telling their own stories. The result was Silent No More – a project that told this story from a different angle and revealed all the ripple effects of this issue. I was so relieved and excited to hear these girls were proud of the hard work they put into this project. I still keep in touch with them.
Dream story that you’d love to work on?
This is a really hard question. But I can give you a big thematic cop-out answer! I’ve always loved journalism that provides compelling insight into our every day issues and experiences. That makes us think differently about the world we’re living in right now. So a dream would be to have the time and space and access to do something that really ticks those boxes. I would also love to write a big in-depth piece about the country music industry that would require I live in Nashville and hang out with all the songwriters and artists I admire.
First website you load in the morning?
Coffee or beer?