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From Concordia to the CBC: how alum Simon Nakonechny got the journalism skills to succeed

The graduate diploma program set this Montreal video-journalist up with top newsroom tools
February 26, 2019
By Jasmin Legatos

Simon Nakonechny, GrDip 16, already had one foot in the journalism world when he decided to pursue a graduate diploma at Concordia.

“At 24, I had had an idea for a radio documentary called Highway Number One. I decide to pitch it to CBC Ideas and to my surprise it got approved. I found I had a sort of affinity for doing radio documentary,” Nakonechny says.

Simon Nakonechny Simon Nakonechny is a video-journalist at CBC Montreal. | Photo: Courtesy CBC

The Swift Current, Sask., native, who has an undergraduate degree in jazz performance, worked in film, sold art and helped save a historic theatre in his hometown, grew up listening to and watching CBC. “It was our window onto the world.”

After his first successful pitch, Nakonechny went on to work on other documentaries for the national broadcaster, as well as segments for CBC programs like C’est la Vie and Homerun.

But despite his real-world journalism experience and proven storytelling chops, Nakonechny felt the grad diploma would provide him with the tools he needed to make it as a reporter. “It gave me the skills I needed to work in the newsroom.”

Learning how to put together a television package, getting acquainted with journalism law and figuring out when to use a term like asylum-seeker and refugee are all lessons the have served him well post-university. “The classes were very practical and tailored to reality,” he says.

While in the program, Nakonechny received the Sportsnet Diploma Scholarship in Journalism as well as the Susan Carson Award, which he said helped ease some of the financial and emotional burden that came with his decision to go back to school.

“When I applied to the Sportsnet Scholarships, I was a 35-year-old graduate student with a spouse and a one-year-old. It was a tough time for our family,” Nakonechny wrote in a letter thanking the donors. “Their generosity made a difference in my life; I felt grateful,” he adds.

Abe Hefter’s radio news class Nakonechny (centre with glasses) with his fellow graduate diploma classmates in Abe Hefter’s radio news class. | Photo: Courtesy of Simon Nakonechny

The support Nakonechny received has paid dividends, not only for him but for the greater good. Since joining CBC Montreal in the fall of 2016, Nakonechny has covered everything from the G7 protests in Quebec City to the 2018 provincial election.

He reported the personal stories of Haitian asylum-seekers who crossed into Canada from the United States in the summer of 2017, and looked at the impact of the devastating 2017 Montreal spring floods. His follow-up to that story, One Year After the Flood, earned him a 2019 Canadian Screen Award nomination. “It was a tremendous honour and quite unexpected.”

Exercising Hearts and Minds: Feb. 28, 2019

Simon Nakonechny hosts Exercising Hearts and Minds, a conversation about brain health, with Claudine Gauthier, assistant professor in Concordia’s Department of Physics, on Feb. 28, 2019. The event is part of the This is Concordia. Now speaker series presented in partnership with Thinking Out Loud.

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