Alumni Q&A: Print Journalist Mitch Mackay

 

“Adventure” is Mitch Mackay’s middle name. Well, maybe it isn’t. This Sheridan print journalism graduate (’07) took a page out of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary and went on an adventure unlike any other. A winter trek through a desolate Mongolian town and a brief turn as a Chinese soap opera actor after, he found himself honing his writing skills at Sheridan. Today, he works at CBC Newsworld as an associate producer. Here he tells his story to TRAVIS.

Mitch Mackay hanging out in Mongolia

Mitch Mackay hanging out in Mongolia

TRAVIS: First of all, and feel free to correct my pronunciation, Odriin mend Mitch!

MITCH MACKAY: Ondriin mend?

TRAVIS: That was “Good afternoon, Mitch” in Mongolian… at least I think it was.

MM: Wow, that was way back in 2004 and I’ve had a lot to drink between then and now, so I don’t remember how to say that stuff anymore. As you can probably guess, there aren’t a lot of Mongolian people I converse with in Toronto [laughs].

TRAVIS: Is it much like riding a bike, speaking Mongolian?

MM: No, I guess not… [laughs] it doesn’t come back to me. I never had to speak much Mongolian when I was there. I worked for an English language paper there and I freelanced, so I didn’t write in Mongolian. Whenever I had to interview a Mongolian, I would get a translator. But I learned how to say “beer”… I haven’t forgotten that.

TRAVIS: You spent some time there before attending Sheridan working for the Mongol Messenger.  Let’s hear your best story from your time there.

MM: I was commissioned at one point to go and do a travel log for a tourist-y type thing for adventure tourists. They asked me to go to Lake Huvsgul and they gave me a really crappy budget. I had next to no money to do this and they were like, ‘We want you to go here, we want you to write about it so that we can put it in this adventure travel magazine to advertise coming to Mongolia to have fun.’ …They also sent me there when tourists don’t go there, which is the start of the winter. So I’m supposed to go write about this place that is pretty barren, there’s no one around, so that was also kind of confusing…

TRAVIS: A profile on you on the Sheridan website reads that you were once a “part-time actor” in Chinese soap operas. Huh?

MM: [laughs] Well, part-time is a bit of a weasel word. I was like a stand-in or actor in the background. I was recruited to get off a 19th century steamship. I was a 19th century gentleman in the background of some sort of reuniting Chinese love scene at the port at Shanghai.

TRAVIS: How would you say those experiences influenced your experience at Sheridan?

MM: Mainly, the decision to go to Mongolia was heavily influenced by The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson… So, I went and tried to do something like that and have the same sort of experience. And then when I came back I wasn’t really a refined print journalist, so to speak.  Colleges are better known for preparing you in a more technical or practical sense than a university. So, I guess I went to Sheridan to try and hone in some of those things that I had learned on the road trying to write. Sheridan certainly helped me to do that and how to better understand what news is and why we have it.

TRAVIS: What, if any, advantages do you feel you had when you entered the work force having graduated from this program?

MM: I was given the opportunity at Sheridan to be a leader… When I came to Sheridan, I really wanted to be a journalist. I really wanted to learn how to write.  So, I found myself confident. More and more, I started taking on roles being the leader, taking on the role of making decisions. You have to start having more confidence in yourself in order to succeed, no matter what it is you want to do and if your school can do that for you, if it can help teach you to have more confidence in what you’re doing, you’ll probably be a lot better off.

 

text by jillianremulla

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