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Rights + Justice

Hurrah! Tyee Reporter Katie Hyslop Celebrates 10-Year Tyeeversary

She’s covered education, youth and housing issues for a decade now, and we’re lucky to have her.

Olamide Olaniyan 29 Sep 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Olamide Olaniyan is associate editor at The Tyee. Reach him here.

According to Tyee reporter Katie Hyslop — an unshakeable force on the education, youth and housing issues beat in B.C. who has inspired numerous journalists, including this one — the story of how she and The Tyee found each other 10 years ago is one of luck.

“Not to downplay my own reporting abilities, but it really was a matter of right place, right time for me to get hired as a part-time education reporter back in September 2010,” Hyslop tells me.

Tyee founding editor David Beers noticed her right away in his first-year feature writing class at the University of British Columbia’s School of Journalism in 2009. “Her grit and commitment to social justice was very apparent,” he recalls.

“I loved how practical yet tenacious she seemed to be, as she worked on a major project about poverty in Hazelton, B.C. And I certainly noted that she went to work at Megaphone magazine,” Beers said. “We’d be lucky to have Katie as a reporter, I knew.”

The reporter, born and raised in St. John’s, N.L., had worked at Megaphone and the Globe and Mail during her degree and had just wrapped up an internship at CBC’s The Current when Beers sent her an email offering her a part-time position covering education. She accepted.

Since she received that email, “I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to report alongside some of my favourite journalists in Canada, with guidance from seasoned editors who helped me become a better reporter and a better writer,” Hyslop said.

Starting on a 10-month contract a decade ago, she is now a full-time Tyee staff reporter. She’s grateful for Tyee readers for all their help in making that happen.

“Knowing there are people who are not only reading The Tyee but sharing and championing our work — and even donating monthly when times are tight — is incredibly validating. It’s not an exaggeration to say I would not be here if it wasn’t for our readers,” Hyslop said.

Her reporting on education and youth used to be mostly focused on covering the details of B.C. public education and the battles between the B.C. government, the teachers’ union and the Vancouver School Board.

But over the years her beat has expanded to include stories about kids and youth in the provincial child welfare system, youth homelessness, racism in schools and youth LGBTQ2S+ issues, she said.

“The Tyee is a rare publication where the social justice lens I put on my reporting isn’t viewed as a liability or schtick: it’s just how we operate. But nuance is also valued, which is really important for our credibility,” Hyslop said.

As editor Beers put it, “A Katie Hyslop story refuses to sensationalize or oversimplify — and yet the stakes are clear and very, very important. It’s really hard to pull off over and over again. I’m amazed at her sensitivity and stamina.”

As a reporter, Hyslop has been invited into several Indigenous spaces, which she finds humbling.

“Prior to moving to this province I had no concept of what it meant to be a settler on stolen lands, so to be able to participate in a bush university program with Dene elders in the Northwest Territories, visit an abandoned Haida village and burial ground on Haida Gwaii, or sit in a meeting of Métis youth in and from care talking about what it’s like to be a young person in B.C., has been an honour.

“I know that word [honour] gets overused, but no one had to let me into these places, no one had to talk to me, especially considering the bad history and present-day experience of Indigenous people with white journalists and outlets,” Hyslop said. “But they did, and I’m very grateful for it.”

582px version of KatieHyslopRafting.jpg
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Above: Katie Hyslop on a rafting trip with youth down the Bulkley River for a story about the future of megaprojects in BC’s northwest Interior. Below: Hyslop tries her hand at firearms training during a reporting trip to the Northwest Territories for a story about the Dechinta Bush University. Photos submitted.

Editor-in-chief Robyn Smith, who’s known Hyslop for much of her time at The Tyee, said Hyslop embodies social justice and cares deeply about what she covers. “She’s constantly reminding me of who and what matters — who deserves a voice, and what deserves a story.

“She is also most hilariously deadpan. I can’t imagine The Tyee without her.”

Hyslop is a model of how to do journalism, Beers said. “She cares so much. Works so hard. Never complains. Does not countenance bullshit. From anyone. She is fair and oh so careful with the facts. And she’s just a lot of fun to have around.”

While her years on the beat have taken Hyslop through various governments and elections, and her stories have taken us through the multi-layered issues affecting kids and youth in B.C., much has unfortunately remained the same.

“Income assistance and disability rates, as well as minimum wage, are far too low to live on, especially if you’ve got kids. Family-sized rental housing is rare and obscenely expensive. Child poverty rates remain stubbornly stuck at one in five kids, while consistently two-thirds of the kids in care identify as Indigenous. Youth in care remain more likely to end up in jail, homeless or dying young than their peers living with their parents, and they’re much less likely to graduate high school,” Hyslop said.

“There are also adults with power in this province who are more interested in vocally opposing supports for trans and queer kids, as well as Black, Indigenous and otherwise racialized kids, than they are in seeing them thrive. Kids and youth are at the front of the climate movement, but many adults with power to make change are more interested in dismissing them as naive than seriously considering what they have to say.”

Despite these challenges, we know that kids and youth in B.C. will always have a relentless supporter in Hyslop — and we’re not the only ones who think so. She’s been invited to share insights at policy gatherings and has been shouted out on social media so many times.

In 2019, she received the “Champion of Child and Youth Rights Award” from the child advocacy group First Call, and from the stage at the gala she gave a rousing speech on what it’ll take to solve the many issues that youth are facing. (Hint: It involves listening to youth.)

“I’ll always remember the First Call gala, where Katie accepted an award recognizing her work in front of a big group of youth who’d gone through the foster-care system,” said Smith. “After her acceptance speech about why all of us should be listening more to those youth, a chant started to break out among them: ‘Katie for prez! Katie for prez!’

“President of what, we’ll never know, but it was a great moment. I realized that Katie had earned their trust and raised their voices, and it meant a lot to them. That’s huge.”

This decade-long adventure might have started with a stroke of luck, but given the breadth of her work and the impact it’s had, I think that Katie Hyslop and The Tyee were destined for each other. Here’s to 10 more years.  [Tyee]

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