Our editorial leader Robyn Smith is departing next month after a decade at The Tyee. We wish her well!
As one door closes, another opens. We are pleased to announce that andrea bennett is the publication’s new managing editor, and that Jackie Wong is our new senior editor. They are familiar faces at the magazine. Wong has contributed many stories as a freelancer since 2006. And bennett has quickly become an integral member of the masthead over the last year as a senior editor.
bennett, a National Magazine Award-winning editor and writer, previously edited at Talonbooks and served as editor-in-chief of Maisonneuve magazine. Their book Like a Boy but Not a Boy has appeared on several book shortlists such as the CBC, Autostraddle and the American Library Association.
Wong is a former reporter for Tyee Solutions Society. She previously served as managing editor and workshop facilitator for Megaphone magazine, and as a staff writer for the now-defunct Westender urban weekly. Her career outside of journalism includes roles at SFU’s Community-Engaged Research Initiative and the hua foundation.
“I’m thrilled to join a marvelous team at The Tyee. They are so bright, admirable, funny, and just lovely human beings,” Wong said. “The industry itself can feel inhumane at times and The Tyee, to me, feels like a refreshing antidote to that.”
“I’m looking forward to working with Jackie!” bennett adds. “And basically, just continuing on with what I’ve been doing — I feel very lucky to be here.”
They’re joining the team as The Tyee continues to grow it readership and Builder support while publishing award-winning independent journalism.
Founding editor David Beers, who returns as editor-in-chief, said, “We are really fortunate to have two such stellar pros as andrea and Jackie in key positions. They bring valuable perspectives, strong editing skills and they’re wonderful colleagues.”
Last week, I sat down with bennett and Wong for a conversation. If you’d like to leave a nice welcome, a baking suggestion, or any information about the mysterious vanilla musk revival, please feel free to do so in the comment thread below.
The Tyee: Welcome andrea and Jackie! Could you tell us a little about yourselves?
andrea bennett: Thanks Ola! I’m really excited to be stepping into the managing editor role — especially with Jackie coming on as a senior editor! As for me: I’m a non-binary former bike mechanic with a penchant for baking and gardening. I love editing and also tend to write some features now and then, like this one about feral sheep on Lasqueti Island.
Jackie Wong: After prismatically slow-fading away from journalism for a time, I’m now fast-fading back in and it feels weird and great to be standing on the edge of what honestly feels like a bit of a vortex. The Tyee’s Slack channel alone, Ola!
Like many elder millennials “in the arts,” I’ve been working inside the murky late-capitalist Venn diagram of disparate, interconnected, and if-you-look-at-it-a-certain-way employable skills over the years. I’ve recently worked on strategic initiatives with SFU’s Community-Engaged Research Initiative, helping design, curate and facilitate some of their public programs and programs for graduate students. Prior to that, I worked on racial equity programming with hua foundation, as a managing editor and writing workshop facilitator for Megaphone, and as a staff writer for the now-out-of-print Westender urban weekly. I’ve edited cookbooks, book-length works of non-fiction, personal essays and journalism. Along the way, I had the privilege of teaching creative writing at UBC and more recently in SFU’s Semester in Dialogue program.
I’m excited to return to The Tyee in a new role. I’ve been involved with The Tyee in some capacity for almost half my life. Tyee co-founder and former publisher Michelle Hoar hired me as a student and youth outreach intern in 2005. At the time, The Tyee’s office in the Sun Tower building on Pender Street was down the hall from an old-fashioned in-building luncheonette where I would buy egg salad sandwiches. In the years since I’ve worked on various Tyee reporting projects, including writing a series on renter life in Vancouver, working as a housing reporter with the now-closed Tyee Solutions Society, and two series on B.C.’s overdose crisis supported by Am Johal and SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement.
Outside of work, I like to be outside near the water. I’m a parent to a hilarious four-year-old. I like cooking, music and comedy.
What can you tell us about your upcoming roles at The Tyee?
ab: In addition to continuing to edit and write, I’ll be working more closely with our home page editor and style guide head, Tara Campbell, and our social media manager, Sarah Krichel, as well as our fellowship and practicum student programs. I’ll also be handling our story lineups a few times a week — a task the editorial team tends to share.
JW: It’s an honour and a dream job for me to be working as a senior editor with The Tyee. In this role, I’ll work closely with staff writers and freelancers, assigning and editing their work. I’ll also be involved in community initiatives and special projects.
What drew you to the magazine?
ab: I’ve long admired The Tyee’s well-reported mix of news, features and essays — and its ability to establish itself as an independent online magazine so early in that ecosystem — but I’m going to answer your question a bit sideways. I first started doing some contract editing for The Tyee in early 2021, and knew I wanted to stick around and get more involved the more I worked with different reporters and editors and staff. It’s the most talented, competent, thorough, kind group of folks you could imagine. Just a very supportive team with a great atmosphere. I’m proud of the work we do — but also the way we do it.
JW: In the land before pandemic times and the decline of print media, I was the type of person who would pick up a copy of every alt weekly in any city I’d visit. I love independent media, its potential, its spirit of experimentation and its fierceness. I’ve always appreciated The Tyee’s embrace of the unconventional, and how its vision for journalism created needed space for more diverse approaches to reporting to take root.
The Tyee has been an important place for journalists to do expansive work that changes how we think about things. I learned so much from Meghan Mast’s 2015 series on how residential school survivors face their trauma and reclaim vital parts of themselves through everyday acts of care and resistance. I loved Chris Cheung’s recent Under the White Gaze newsletter and his award-winning essay, Blind Spots. These are examples of the nuanced, vital work that isn’t always afforded space in mainstream outlets.
Do you two know each other? I believe you might have met before.
ab: We do! I had the privilege of working with Jackie on pieces for Maisonneuve magazine when I edited there, and then we’ve interviewed each other about editing and parenting and life things a couple times now. The Tyee is super lucky Jackie’s joining our editorial team — what a catch. (No implication meant that Jackie is a fish, I just love puns, sorry, please feel free to give me the hook.)
JW: Yes! I’m so happy to work with andrea! I have been a long-time admirer and appreciator of andrea’s work. They edited my work in Maisonneuve — they are immensely skilled at this.
I continue to learn so much from andrea and their beautiful, generous, thoughtful way of being in the world. I’m grateful for our conversations and interviews, and I’m feeling very lucky to be able to work with andrea at The Tyee.
What is the role of editors in journalism today?
ab: In addition to helping ensure that pieces function well structurally, and at a line level, an editor’s job is also to make sure a writer has what they need in order to feel supported to do their job, and also that they’re asking the right questions to strengthen a piece. Is there any additional reporting that needs to be done? Is the reporting fair and thorough? Collectively it’s also an editorial team’s role to reflect on the magazine’s coverage in its totality and figure out what the magazine needs or wants to be doing more of, or what it could be doing better. (It’s also important to celebrate successes!)
JW: To listen carefully, and often simultaneously, to what communities and what writers and their publications are saying and doing. To work as a bridge between the wider community and the world of the publication, adjusting for and attuning to gaps and missed connections. And, on a day-to-day level, to apply a panoramic lens to the publication as a whole and use that to inform the work of writers on the ground, ensuring they are feeling supported and steady in a line of work that can be mired with uncertainty and flux.
What have you been obsessed with lately?
ab: Swimming. I’m currently training for a five-kilometre open water swim, in part as a way to manage symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder. I’ve also baked a lot during the pandemic. My list of recent bakes includes pistachio eclairs, samosas, an orange savarin cake, a tiramisu baked Alaska and a hazelnut-coffee cream Swiss roll.
Honestly, I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking about governmental COVID communications, COVID disinformation and the interplay between those two things. It’s distressing the extent to which COVID misinformation and disinformation has captured the imaginations of a certain segment of hippie-ish B.C. and conservative B.C. — and the extent to which it overlaps with the growing resurgence of white supremacist movements in North America.
JW: OK, in these years of social distancing, the one scent I’ve been consistently picking up on people is vanilla musk, possibly from the Body Shop? The thick unmistakable potency cuts across plexiglass, masks and space. The last time it was around me this frequently was when I was in high school in the mid- to late-90s. Two decades have passed full of citrus, herbs and leather, which to be honest I quite enjoyed. I am obsessed with the question of where all this new vanilla musk is coming from. Is it part of the ’90s revival? My friend Gwen and I have been texting about this, tracking our scent “sightings” across the city. I need to know!
Other pandemic-era excitements: my parasocial relationship with Feeling Asian podcast hosts Youngmi Mayer and Brian Park; the extraordinary talent of local drag supergroup the Darlings; being that apartment neighbour in the window who is seen bounding across their living room with Andrea Barber of A Few Fun Moves, a delightful, pandemic-born local fitness platform.
Who are you hoping to hear and learn from as you take on this role?
ab: There are queries I’d ask of writers now that I wouldn’t have known to have posed a year ago; part of that comes from being a transplant to B.C. and needing to learn more about sources and stories in a B.C. context.
At times I’ve learned when someone gets irked about something on Twitter, or says something really important or fascinating online, or through reading stories and analysis from other outlets, and at times I’ve learned from conversations we have internally about how we’ll approach coverage of certain stories or beats. And I think this is, in general, how I’ll keep learning.
In terms of who I’m hoping we’ll hear from — I’d love it if we ran more stories about queer life in B.C., and more great stories about food and food production, and more labour stories, and more stories that bring a disability justice lens.
JW: Broadly speaking, I’m hoping to hear from writers with more diverse lived experiences than are often seen in journalism. I’m keen to work at dismantling the whiteness that is replicated and baked into so much of this work.
I’m eager to find ways to shift our own relationships to work such that the practice of journalism is also a practice that is trauma-informed, emotionally safer for both journalists and their sources, and with more actionable understanding of people’s experiences of disability, neurodiversity, chronic health conditions, Indigeneity, race, gender and class.
I want to work at changing the culture of scarcity, ableism and overwork that burns so many people out or shuts them out of working as journalists or in magazine publishing altogether.
All of this is forever work. I’m committed to learning and moving the dial on these matters where I can, when I can, while I’m working with The Tyee.
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