She could have been a scientist.
But she made a different decision. And that choice has led a woman who grew up in a town of just over 400 people to the largest city in North America.
Meet Kaleigh Rogers of Hepworth, Ont., digital journalist for Vice’s Motherboard in New York City. Let your guard down, and the petite brunette will take you by surprise. She’s a hard-hitting journalist who cut her teeth on the Ontario provincial election trail, and now focuses on bringing Vice’s audience the latest scientific news from around the world.
“I get giddy sometimes when I’m covering science,” Rogers said. “We say ‘if it bleeds it leads,’ but science is the good news. There’s all these great things that are happening and you get to talk to these amazingly brilliant people.”
She could have been on the other side of the recording device too. In her last year of high school, Rogers had a decision to make between physics and English. She performed strongly in both subjects, but had to choose a direction for university. After receiving a slightly higher mark in English, she decided to enroll in that major at Western University.
While at Western, Rogers developed a love for fictional writing, but realized she had to make career decisions.
“I came to the realization partway through my undergrad that, oh yeah, you can’t really make money doing that,” she said. “So I thought I should try and find another job where I got to write.”
That realization led Rogers into the offices of the Western Gazette. While there, she fell in love with journalism. She learned about reporting through the coverage of student politics, and began her journey into online journalism.
“She was always finding new ways to do things online,” said Julian Uzielli, who worked with Rogers as an editor at the Gazette. “She was a great reporter, and definitely an innovator.”
After her undergraduate degree was complete, Rogers entered Western’s graduate journalism program to complete her education. There, she learned new social media techniques from then-professor Wayne MacPhail.
“It was great because there were a lot of practical useful exercises and perspectives at [journalism] school,” she said. “I took a lot away from that.”
After graduation, Rogers moved to the Toronto area, where she bounced between the CBC, Globe and Mail, and Toronto Star. After receiving nothing but short-term contracts for a time, she decided to expand her job search. Her partner had recently transplanted to New York to work for the Wall Street Journal, so she began applying to jobs in the Big Apple.
“I got the job the old fashioned way, I just applied to the job posting,” she said. “It was surprising because more and more it seems like inside baseball, you need to know somebody who knows somebody. But there’s hope still.”
She now reports on a daily basis for Motherboard’s American division. A cursory glance at her recent articles show a focus on science and technology, though Rogers does cover U.S. politics from time-to-time. She works at a faster pace than she ever did in Toronto, having now moved completely into the online sphere.
Rogers starts her day by looking through her sources to find a few quick stories, usually using Twitter, Reddit, and RSS feeds. She quickly reads the scientific research behind the story if necessary, and gets it up on the web by early afternoon. After that’s done, she finishes her day by chipping away at feature stories she has on the side.
“Sometimes it’s a little stressful to turn a story around in an hour that, at the Globe, I would have spent all day on,” she said. “I am getting better at it though, and it’s fun to move at that pace, especially when something is breaking. You’re able to do it right away and don’t have to wait at all.”
Occasionally Rogers does push for more time though. While working on a feature story on an alternative currency called “DogeCoin,” her editors pushed for her to publish before she felt the story was ready.
“I do have to fight back sometimes and say ‘wait, we can slow down once in a while,’” she said. “They respected me enough to give me more time, and everyone was much happier with the final product.”
Rogers credits her “old media,” experience for giving her the confidence to ask for more time when it’s needed. Most of her colleagues come from a strictly online background, giving her a different perspective on the digital media landscape.
She may be a long way from her hometown of Hepworth, but she’s settling in just fine in New York.
After all, what better city to practice online journalism than in a City That Never Sleeps?