Amber Shortt, School of Journalism '06, is the City assignment editor, housing and transportation, at the Toronto Star.
What did you originally see yourself doing when you first enrolled in journalism school? How did that change as time went by?
At some point in high school, as a bright-eyed, magazine-loving teen, I remember thinking I wanted to write articles for Cosmopolitan. Eventually in university I got the bug for news and thought I’d be a city reporter. But while I was doing a stint as the sports editor at The Ryersonian*, I found myself looking forward to story pitch meetings and production days more than I did reporting. I did a little reporting in my first year after graduation but switched into editing pretty quickly after that.
How did you end up in your current position?
After graduation, I did a summer reporting internship at the Edmonton Journal, then a bit of freelance. I applied for a copy editing job at a startup daily newspaper — a strange thing even in 2006 — in Windsor, Nova Scotia, and packed up my car and joined a small but enthusiastic team out east. It was a great experience, but unfortunately the paper only lasted a few months. From there I took a copy editing job at the Sarnia Observer, which also did production for the Chatham Daily News, and after about a year moved back to Toronto to work as a copy editor at Metro News, which had papers in six cities across Canada at the time. After a year, I became the night production editor, and two years later the news and business editor. I did that for three years, and during that time Metro expanded to 10 cities. Then in 2014, a new editor-in-chief started and she asked what I thought the paper needed. I said a features editor, and I would like to do it. A couple weeks later I had the job, which involved liaising with all the local reporting teams on bigger projects and overseeing Metro’s opinion section. The following year, I was hired by the Toronto Star, which is owned by the same parent company as Metro, to be the Life section assignment editor, and after a few years moved over to the breaking news team, and now I work as the assignment editor on the city section’s housing and transportation beats.
What's a typical day look like for you as city assignment editor for housing and transportation at the Toronto Star?
I usually start my day looking for story ideas, which often involves combing through real estate listings for anomalies or trends that could indicate a bigger issue in the housing market, such as oven-less condo units or streets filled with monster homes. The rest of the day is spent working with reporters to help see their stories through to completion, doing substantive and structural edits, line editing and headline writing.
What's your favourite part of your job?
Seeing readers respond to a story, and feeling that we’re helping inform a larger conversation around issues in the city.
Thinking back to your first year self, how do you think you would react to where you are now?
The Star was always in the lobby of the journalism building at [the university], so knowing that I work there now would be pretty cool to first-year me.
What's one of your favourite memories from j-school?
On the first day of my first-year reporting class, I was paired up with another student to write obituaries on each other. He’s still one of my best friends to this day.
Any memorable School of Journalism professors during your time at the university?
Don Gibb, my first-year reporting professor and assigner of the obits; and Shelley Robertson, who taught copy editing.
What advice would you give to current journalism students?
The industry is always changing and there’s no one way to get to where you want to be, so don’t be afraid to try something different.
*The name of the publication has since been changed as has the name of the university. You can read more about the philosophy behind this name change at Toronto Metropolitan University's Next Chapter.