I’m both a journalist & a philosopher, & my work is better for it

Honing my love for storytelling has helped me see the world more clearly 

Cassidy credits her work in philosophy and reporting with helping her make sense of her experiences.
As I approach the end of my graduate coursework, I’ve been trying to find the words to define what my time as a philosophy student has taught me. 
 
This is my sixth year in the discipline. 
 
I’ve celebrated six first days of school, lounged through ten separate reading weeks, and endured eleven equally hectic exam periods. I’ve written tens of thousands of words in assignments, read hundreds of thousands of words in course readings, and spent countless hours trying to grapple with theories that discuss the nature of reality. 
 
Most of all, my experience as a philosopher has informed the way I tell stories. 
 
I was immediately drawn to philosophy as a first-year student. Students with a philosophy degree often achieve the highest scores on the LSAT, and I had high hopes of attending law school.
 
As my degree progressed, philosophy gave me the tools to address what it means to live in a meaningful way.
 
The works of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre taught me that I create the meaning of my own life through the projects I engage in. In studying endless renditions of Philippa Foote’s infamous trolley problem, I addressed whether it’s permissible to allow suffering to maximize utility.
 
The introduction of these ideas helped me to articulate how I grappled with the meaning of my life experiences and goals.  
 
These ideas helped me understand I’m responsible for making my life meaningful, my actions have consequences regardless of my decisions, and problems are worth deep engagement rather than surface-level evaluation. 
 
My decision to specialize in philosophy as an undergrad was well thought out, but my introduction to journalism was purely accidental.
 
I’d been working for an online magazine on campus when I partnered with our photographer and did a few interviews with attendees of a climate rally held by QBACC in September 2019. Together, we chatted with students about their climate change anxieties and steps they were taking to combat climate change. Although the published story was a simple reiteration of interviews we’d done with students, the pride I felt in my work ignited my love for storytelling. 
 
At this point, my desire to go to law school had been dwindling for a while, and I started entertaining the idea of pursuing a career as a journalist. 
 
In September 2020, I was lucky enough to be given a chance to develop these skills with The Journal. 
 
Since getting that initial first chance in my fifth year, I’ve poured my heart and soul into honing my ability to tell stories. 
 
I spent eight months immersed in COVID-19 reporting, where I told stories about how the pandemic shaped Queen’s and its student body. I was trusted in telling women’s stories who financed their university degrees by participating in sex work. I covered the appeal of the Student Choice Initiative, and highlighted the critical work done by students in advocating for the autonomy of student organizations.    
 
I also found a voice to tell parts of my own story and make better sense of how my past experiences inform the lived experiences I have today. 
 
As a graduate student with a foot in both the worlds of philosophy and journalism, I’m immersed in examining the impact of telling stories and the ways they shape our worldviews.
 
In philosophy, I examine how the structures that make up the world inform our experiences in it. Through reporting, I’m tasked with telling someone’s story and how they are impacted by current events. 
 
When I step back and examine the two different facets of my work, I see that the stories told in newspapers and the ideas communicated in academic journals both seek to communicate truth by probing us to ask deeper, more nuanced questions.  
 
In my current academic career, I’ve been analyzing how storytelling helps us understand the realities of others. Whether trying to reject a solipsistic worldview to effectively acknowledge other’s values or examining how storytelling itself influences our perceptions, it’s clear that the stories we tell seek to grapple with the way the world appears to us.
 
After this semester, I’ll be gearing up to write my thesis. 
 
In preparation, I’ve been finding myself at a crossroads. I want to pursue journalism as a career following my MA, and I’ve been anticipating my exit from academia for the last few months
 
On the other hand, in anticipation of telling more stories geared towards a public readership in news, I’m growing pre-emptively wistful for the academic environment that’s encouraged my deep dive into analyzing the world around me. 
 
This tension has been weighing on me for the last several months, but I think I’ve found a way to flourish in it. 
 
Two weeks ago, I read an essay by Iris Murdoch for a seminar where she claims, “philosophy, like newspapers, is both the guide and mirror of its age.” Murdoch was writing about how literature—in all its heterogeneous forms—demonstrates how the world shapes our experiences in unique ways. It’s apparent that through whatever work I end up doing, I’ll be able to explore the multiple layers and nuances that make up human experience.  
 
My experience as a philosophy student and as a journalist has played a monumental role in helping me make sense of everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve been through. I’m better off  learning how to engage with different ideas, perspectives, and narratives, and now I have the tools to help others do so as well. 
 
In short, I’m a better storyteller because I’m a philosopher and a journalist.
 
I’m excited to carry what I’ve learned forward, no matter where I end up.

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