Multimedia at Conferation College
Provide a brief general introduction about yourself.
My name is Willow Fiddler. I am an Anishinaabe Oji-Cree from Sandy Lake First Nation. I have lived in Thunder Bay for about seven years now. I work as a video journalist for Aboriginal Peoples Television Network: National News. I have been doing that for almost two years.
What does your daily job entail?
My job as a video journalist involves reporting on news for the National News show. As a video journalist, I do more than just reporting. It involves doing everything really: producing, shoot my own footage, shoot my own interviews, write a script that goes with the news story, and edit it all myself. After all that, I package it all up then send it to Winnipeg, where the studio headquarters is.
What got you interested in your chosen career?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was in my 30s, I returned to Sandy Lake for four years. That is where I gained life experience, learning what it meant to live in a First Nation community, particularly a remote one. I gained a lot of valuable life experience and some of my work experience with the Chief, Council and Band Office Administrators. It was there I was given responsibilities as a Communications Coordinator. I focused on photographing community events because there was always community events happening in Sandy Lake, a lot of great things that show the community spirit there and I really wanted to be able to capture that with photography. I was given that chance to do that. That carried onto developing the community website. It was writing fun news stuff, community events, and keeping community members informed of what was happening. It was then I thought, “this is what I want to do, I want to do this for my community in different capacities for as long as I can." Since then it has taken me on an educational journey and now my career.
What has motivated you?
I live in Thunder Bay, but I think about home in Sandy Lake and all of Nishnawbe Aski Nation. All of that area is home to me. That whole area is a hidden gem that people outside of those communities don’t realize how dynamic we are, how spirited we are, and I always go back to the time I spent in Sandy Lake. When we do see images and stories about reserves on TV, we generally see the same things over and over again. We see the run down houses, the no running water, we see all these things that paint the picture on how much despair there is in these in these communities. While that is true, there is a lot of despair and trauma going, but First Nations people have this amazing way of uplifting and rising above all of that, and it makes me feel proud to be part of that and to be a part of my community. That is what motivates me, that is what pushes me. I was also taught I need to be a contributing member of my community. Even though I am not living in Sandy Lake at this time, I still consider myself to be a member of the community. I belong to Sandy Lake. I am a part of Sandy Lake. I always feel the need to contribute in some way, not just for myself, but for everyone there.
How did you get to where you are today (education background, challenges, funding, etc.)?
I never graduated high school; I do not have a high school diploma. I ended up getting pregnant with my daughter when I was in Grade 11, and I dropped out after that. I just never got back to it. However, I did not allow that to stop me from pursuing my education. I know every job nowadays requires a high school diploma, but I think there are ways on building your education, so you can enter the workforce and get started with your career.
After living in Sandy Lake for four years and knowing then it was journalism that I wanted to pursue, and that is how I wanted to contribute to my community, I came to Thunder Bay and I went back to college. I was able to get in without a high school diploma. Like I said there are options, I was able to get in as a mature student.
I did have funding challenges. When I first went to college, I was 19, and my daughter was a couple of years old. At that point, I didn’t know what kind of career I wanted. I just picked a program that was of interest to me. I did not end up finishing it, so that messed up my funding requirements. When I was finally ready to go back to college, 15 years later, I did have to do some part-time courses at the University to show I was committed to restarting my education again. Once I did that, I was able to apply for funding and get funding. I was accepted into the Multimedia Program at Confederation College in 2013. That was a three-year advanced program, and I felt that was something that covered most of the skills I was looking at developing: photography, website development, and that kind of thing. I wanted to strengthen my communications skills and put myself in a better position to get a job where I can use those skills.
During that program, I was successful at getting some bursaries and scholarships from Indspire. I had the opportunity to do my internship with Shaw Media, so I chose to go to Global TV in Vancouver, and that is where spent three months. It was during that time where I ran into a Video Journalist who works for APTN News. We were covering the same story, and she told me about this job opening in Thunder Bay with APTN: National News. I was just finishing up my program, and the timing was perfect. I applied, and I was successful at getting the job.
I did not anticipate I’d end up where I am now. I have always envisioned going back home and working for my community in a more direct capacity. I have taken a chance in entering this career on a national platform, and it comes with more responsibility. It’s been quite the experience and journey getting to where I am now.
I REALLY HOPE YOUTH CAN REALIZE HOW VALUABLE THEIR LIFE EXPERIENCES ARE, WHETHER THEY’RE GOOD OR BAD.
How do you keep developing your skills in your career?
I am fortunate enough to have this job where it allows me to develop those skills every day and receive new challenges. When I first started this work, I had to learn to use the video camera. I have never used a news camera before. I only used a digital camera. I am fortunate to have a job where I am given the space to be able to learn new things.
Working in news, I am constantly learning things from other people and how I can do a better job regarding reporting and journalism that is presented in a fair and respectful way for First Nation People because historically that hasn’t always been the case in the media. That has been the most significant thing. That just opens doors to learning opportunities in Journalism. I also learn from the different challenges and needs that all First Nation People in the area have. That’s how I approach my work is that I have things to learn from other people. I’m just open to that. That’s one of the most rewarding things about my job, and it’s a privilege really.
Any health or physical requirements in your career?
As a video journalist, I am required to carry all my equipment. I work alone, so physical strength is important. Since starting my job, I work out a little bit more now so that I can protect myself. In this job, I realized that taking care of myself is important. In news, there are days I have the same date deadlines. It’s a lot of stress, but I think it’s the same stress that a lot of journalists enjoy. I think back in college where you wait until the last minute then you get it done because you have a deadline. It’s kind of how news work, you have to get it done.
Along with that comes a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress. Learning how to manage that has been important in my job. I learned to control my mental health, emotional, spiritual, wellbeing on a daily basis. The stories I am covering are not always good stories; they are heartbreaking, tragic, and at times it is very overwhelming, and it’s constant. There is a big need to take care of yourself. Anyone who’s interested in journalism we are driven by our passion to tell these stories because we care. Be prepared for not only the physical part of it but the emotional and mental aspect of it all too.
Outside of work, what kind of things do you do to take care of yourself?
I have a strong network of family and friends that I rely on. Reaching out at times is difficult, sometimes you have to force yourself to reach out when you need to. Even on the job, I get to experience good things. There are times when I am not feeling great, feeling down about something and just need a pick me up, I would go over to Dennis Franklin Comrarty High School because I love that place. It just feels like home over there because you see students who are generally happy and there is the elder’s room where they make bannock and Klik. Sometimes all you need is a few minutes in an environment like that to reconnect and get back to yourself.
What are some things you like about your career?
I love my job. I really like being able to meet people and to hear their stories. It is just such an honour and privilege for people allow you to do that and trust you with things like that because a lot of it is personal. Everyday is different. Especially in the News world, things change minute by minute. It’s never boring. It’s exciting. It’s challenging. It’s an exciting time right now, for First Nations, we are starting to make some breakthroughs in mainstream media. There are a lot of great Indigenous journalists out there.
What do you still hope to achieve?
I hope to achieve that First Nation communities and people feel like they are getting a chance and their stories are being told and heard. Action can lead to change and change can happen, changes that are needed.
What would you like to share with the youth reading this?
I hope youth realize how valuable their life experiences are whether it’s been good or bad. At some point, it will help them. I know how valuable my life experiences are regarding my job. I have that insight from my home community that allows me to do a better job.
Also, I hope they don’t get too much pressure. Especially, when we are in high school, we start to get a lot of questions about what we want to do and what career we want. I just want to tell them not to feel that they have to know those things. I was in my 30s before I knew what it was that I wanted to do. My older brother is similar. He was in his late 30s before he went back to school to start his career. I think youth don’t need to feel the pressure to go to university or college if they do not know what to do or take, but rather use it as an opportunity to contribute to their community. Get some work experience on the community level perhaps, travel the world, and take any opportunity to go outside of the community for awhile. Take chances. Have faith. Persevere.