Magazines Canada Highlights Women in Publishing

Magazines Canada is proud to feature Melissa Shin as our first honouree. Melissa Shin joined the team in 2011 and is the editorial director of and Investment Executive, Canada’s leading publications for financial advisors. She is an award-winning journalist whose reporting has been cited in university syllabi, in textbooks and to national regulators. She is a graduate of the Schulich School of Business at York University. Learn more about Melissa below.

What ignited your passion for the publishing industry?
I’ve always been curious, and journalism allows me to ask all the questions I’d get in trouble for asking as a kid. I’m also someone who naturally tries to be helpful, and I find the educational type of journalism we do at and Investment Executive fulfilling. Journalism should make the inaccessible accessible, and I’m humbled to be contributing to that in a small way.

What do you love most about the business/financial media sector?
The people. Journalists attracted to the business and finance beat often really want to do this work – that’s especially true on the trade publishing side, where I am. This coverage area is not glamorous or easy to understand. But it can be highly rewarding: I’ve had my work cited by national regulators and in textbooks, and so have several of my colleagues. I’ve also found that understanding money and business is helpful for understanding the business of publishing. I can more easily grasp the challenges and opportunities facing my publications because I’m constantly in an economically oriented mindset. That’s helped me to become an effective newsroom manager.

What advice would you give to up and coming young women in the publishing industry ?
Find journalists you admire, follow their work, and figure out why you like their work — the captivating ledes? The in-depth, on-the-ground reporting? The gentle humour they sprinkle through a longform feature? Then work on carefully and gradually incorporating that mechanic into your own work. Too many new journalists try to do too much with their pieces before they’re truly comfortable with the basics of reporting and writing. Voice is earned, often painfully.

Take a chance and ask that journalist you admire if they’d spend 30 minutes with you in a virtual meeting. Many veteran journalists want to help the next generation. If they say yes, come prepared with questions, and then follow up afterward, explaining how you have or will incorporate their insights into your work. Send a thoughtfully written thank-you card.

People are sometimes told they need to be hardboiled to work in a newsroom. It’s OK to be nice, as long as you aren’t nice at the expense of your personal boundaries or wellbeing. I’ve built my career on being personable, accommodating and helpful. That said, I wish I could tell my younger self that not everyone will like you, no matter how hard you try. You’ll learn who those immovable people are pretty quickly. Invest your energy elsewhere.

If you could change one major aspect about the publishing industry with a snap of your finger, what would it be?
I’d love to find a scalable, sustainable business model for delivering high-quality news and analysis — a model that rewards truth over sensationalism. So many talented folks have left or been pushed out of journalism due to the challenges the industry faces in paying people properly and earning ongoing revenue. New folks aren’t receiving the mentorship and support they need because newsrooms are stretched thin. Editors and reporters must do more with less every year, which understandably can result in the type of mistakes that erode public trust. I’d love to work in journalism for the rest of my career, but I still have 30 years to go. Can we reimagine the journalism business model over that period? I hope so.

In your own words how do you feel women impact the publishing industry?
Women are the backbone of the publishing industry, but we’re rarely publishing leaders. Most of my colleagues have been women, but most of my bosses have been men. Statistics show we do a poor job of retaining and promoting women in journalism, never mind Indigenous women and women of colour. Female journalists face disproportionate online abuse.

I try to influence what I can influence, and I’ve seen many of my female peers do the same. Our publications cover an industry that’s still predominantly men, and I encourage our reporters to talk to at least one female source in each feature story. Sometimes we fall short, but we’re always trying. I try to run a respectful, collaborative newsroom where all team members can access fulfilling assignments and career opportunities. I also try to be sensitive to the challenges someone from a traditionally underrepresented group might face.

It’s never too early in your career to give back. I’ve been mentoring for more than 10 years — most recently for the National Media Awards Foundation’s BIPOC mentorship program — and I’ve learned a lot about myself and the journalism industry from the experience.