New resource in the J-school: “Angela or angel?”

Photo: Kheira Morellon

Photo: Kheira Morellon

When facing journalism’s exacting standards, students can now get advice from someone who knows them well: Angela Mombourquette, the J-School’s new writing coach.

Mombourquette is an award-winning freelance writer and has taught journalism at King’s since 2015. She’s worked as a television producer, columnist and editor since graduating with an undergraduate degree in radio and television arts from Ryerson University in the early 90s. She is also the author of 25 Years of 22 Minutes: An Unauthorized Oral History of This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

Meagan Campbell, a fourth-year journalism student, believes everyone should take advantage of Mombourquette’s coaching.

“I emailed Angela on a Friday and she literally made time on the weekend to create a word document with high quality, low stakes feedback,” said Campbell.

“Honestly, it’s like, ‘Should I call her Angela or Angel?’”

Tim Currie, the director of the School of Journalism, said they created the position to help students get their writing up to a publishable state. In the past, students often had to turn to the Dalhousie Writing Centre when they needed extra help.

“I don’t think the students got the exact help they were looking for when they went to the Dalhousie Writing Centre, because it’s more academic-focused and they were getting help writing academic-style essays, but in many cases, we were looking for the type of plain language writing in journalism that we teach,” said Currie.

Campbell was one of those students who used to go to the writing centre, which she said was helpful, but it’s great to have somebody who works specifically in journalism.

According to Campbell, Mombourquette is also the perfect degree of harsh.

“When editing, we’re told to you know, ‘kill our darlings,’ and Angela is not a darling killer. But, she can prompt you to make the necessary kills yourself.”

That’s where Mombourquette is aiming – she hopes to be less intimidating than getting advice directly from your instructor.

“I think one of the big benefits of this job for students is that I’m not the person marking their assignments and I can give them no pressure feedback that said, ‘Here’s what I think could help you,’” she said.

“I’m not doing their assignments for them, but I’ll help them with suggestions on ways they can improve their writing in general.”

Ryerson didn’t have a writing coach while Mombourquette was there, but she would have loved to have that additional kind of push.

The journalism instructors also benefit from having a writing coach around, Currie said, because they often don’t have enough time to provide students with the level of feedback they’d like.

“Some of the faculty members as well, they’re doing in many cases line-by-line edits of student work in order to publish it, and in many cases they’re editing many, many drafts,” said Currie.

“So, when you have a number of students in a workshop, I think the students and even the faculty themselves were saying they can’t spend the time they would like in order to help students with some writing issues that they may have.”

So far, Mombourquette has had a few instructors refer students to her for extra feedback. Overall, she’s had about half of her time slots filled and seen students from a variety of levels in the journalism school. The main issue most students have is unlearning the habits of academic writing.

The journalism school is treating the writing coach position as a pilot project; the contract is only for one academic year and the school is waiting to hear from students before deciding whether or not to continue offering the coaching. The funding for the job currently comes from a variety of accounts, with one chunk coming from the director’s account, which is used to pay for costs that come up during the year.

To meet with Mombourquette, students can email her, call her or sign up for a meeting time on the shared Google Doc.