StFX alumni and current Blue Jays Reporter talks breaking into the industry and Bautista!
Bowen Assman interviewed Gregor Chisholm on October 11 2018. Gregor is a 2005 StFX HKIN alumnus, graduate of Ryerson University in journalism, and is currently entering into his ninth season as a Blue Jays reporter for MLB.com.
* * *
BA: How’s it going? Are you on vacation now that the Blue Jays season is done?
GC: Yes, kind of, until the offseason, as they are searching for a new manager right now, so I am still doing some stuff, but for the most part, nothing really happens until the World Series is done. Then things will pick up, with trades and free agency. But, normally October is really slow if the team you are covering isn’t in the postseason. But it is a little bit busier this year because of the search for a new manager, but I get a couple weeks off to rest and recharge.
BA: So, you were originally a sports reporter for The Xaverian Weekly back in University, and you also worked with The U. Did you always see yourself working within sports?
GC: I did actually, I took a weird route to get there, but even when I went to school at StFX, I mean I grew up in St. John New Brunswick, so I kind of even knew when I was in grade two that I wanted to go into sports journalism, But I did not want to move to Toronto right away. I had some ties to Antigonish as my Dad was originally from there, and my grandparents lived there. I used to go to basketball games there as a kid, so I always kind of liked StFX. I figured that I would go and get my undergrad at StFX, and then eventually go to Ryerson, as it had a post-grad journalism program, so I figured that I would do it the postgrad route instead of straight out of high school. But yes, when I went to StFX, I kind of figured that I would be going to journalism school after StFX. That is why I got involved with The Xaverian Weekly for a couple years. I did two years as a sports editor there, then did some freelance stuff in the Maritimes, and did the StFX student union stuff with The U for two years as well. VP communications one year, then I was president my last year.
BA: What kind of freelance did you do?
GC: One of the big ones I got was kind of really random. When I was a sports editor, I think I was in my second year, the World Junior Hockey Championships were actually in Halifax (2003). Randomly enough, Team Canada did part of its training camp at StFX.
GC: Ya, it was kind of crazy, the World Juniors were really big, but it was before they were only going to the NHL cities, so some of the smaller cities got it at that time, and Halifax got it that year, so the juniors did some of their training camp at StFX but it was during Christmas break, and all of the students were gone, I was gone too. But, randomly, I figured there was a chance, because they did their training camp there, that I randomly applied for a media credential through The Xaverian Weekly, I put all my The Xaverian Weekly contact down for it and they approved my media pass, so I was able to get a media pass for the entire tournament. I went to Halifax on boxing day and I knew some people who lived there so I stayed with them, for ten days, or however long the tournament was. But through the tournament was where I was able to do some freelance stuff. I’m from New Brunswick, so I was able to sell some stores to the Telegraph Journal in New Brunswick. The stories were random, as they had a linesman who was in the tournament who was from just outside of St. John so I did a story on him. There was a coach from UNB who was involved in the tournament so I did a story on him and then I did a couple for local publications in Nova Scotia. So that’s how I started and through those contacts I occasionally, like when UNB came to play StFX, I would write a story for the Telegraph Journal, just like when the playoffs were going on for hockey and basketball, they would want stuff, so I did The Xaverian Weekly stuff, along with freelance stuff on the side.
BA: Would you say that was your ‘foot in the door’ moment?
GC: I think so, like with the World Juniors, I was more of a basketball and baseball guy then a hockey guy, but I was still a pretty big hockey fan too, but I guess that was kind of when I thought for sure, with what I decided what I wanted to do as I always kind of knew, but this was reassuring when I went to that (World Juniors) and just saw how everything worked. It was cool because you were in the same media room as all the big guys from TSN, like Bob Mckenzie, and everyone was beside you so it was cool to see that. I mostly observed because I didn’t have a ton of work to do, unlike some people who had daily assignments, I just had the freelance stuff so, a lot of it I used as an opportunity to see behind the scenes of how it all works. That freelance stuff might have played a bit of role in me getting into Ryerson in the first place, but The Xaverian Weekly stuff helped, The Students Union stuff helped, it was kind of all a part of the journey.
BA: Cool. It must have been awesome to see Bob McKenzie!
GC: Yes! It was! Actually, when I moved to Toronto and Ryerson, that was actually my first journalism job, at TSN. So it was cool, a few years after my first experience, I was working and I had a low level job at the time and working in the ‘pit’ behind the bankers and SportsCentre, so it was cool to go from one extreme three years before it, to actually working for TSN.
BA: How important do you think it is to have alumni reaching levels, like you are, in the sports industry and how can it potentially impact future Xaverians?
GC: Yes, it is interesting. I think one of the cool things is that, well StFX is not known as a journalism school and there was not any journalism classes when I was there, so it was definitely a weird route to take for me to get to where I am, but it certainly goes to show that well, my time at StFX was four of the most fun years I have ever had as it was a lot of what I turned into and because of that school, my experiences with The Xaverian Weekly and the Students Union, and with StFX, you can do so many things hands-on, compared to a much bigger school or city, where you do not get the same opportunities. So, to get exposed to that early on and having so many responsibilities is a big reason. I have no regrets. It ended up costing me a bit more money to do the two-degree route, instead of going into it (journalism) right out of high school so I have no regrets at all. Even people who go to StFX for something that they aren’t exactly planning to do. Like I took Human Kinetics but I knew all along that I wasn’t going to do anything with that program, but the lifestyle and through experiencing so many different things at StFX, I learned more doing that kind of stuff and the journalism jobs after then I did at Ryerson. When anybody asks me where I went to school, I always say StFX. I never really mention Ryerson unless I am talking to a journalist who might know about their program. StFX is always the one that I refer back to.
BA: It is obviously tough, being in a small school, and not located near any professional sports teams, as you went to Ryerson to continue your education, but how tough was it for you to break into the industry?
GC: I did get some lucky breaks along the way. That is kind of how you have to do it to a certain extent. My resume from the StFX days really helped me get some of the opportunities because I did have a lot of experience at that point. Then, Ryerson played a role as initially I got in to TSN through an internship with the school, and then after my internship was over in three months that’s when they kept me on after that and I got hired by them. That was my first journalism job. This industry obviously, especially in the last number of years has taken a pretty big hit. It is even harder now than when I broke in. I broke in just before some of the walls started crashing down a little bit, in terms of job opportunities. For me, I always knew Toronto, for me I am a Maritimer and I always try to go back as much as I can but I always figured that Toronto would always be where I would end up. Because back home, obviously, unless you are covering the university sports or the Quebec Major Junior League (QMJHL) there is not many things to cover out there. Toronto were the teams I grew up watching and rooting for and I always figured that to do what I wanted to do would always have to be here (in Toronto). Especially because I was not much of a hockey guy as I wanted to do Raptors or Blue Jays. I didn’t really want to do Calgary Flames or something like that so that really narrowed it down kind of in terms of knowing where I would end up being. Toronto is where so many of those opportunities are, and it’s the mecca of Canada for all the sports.
BA: What was your most exciting moment during your years as a Blue Jays reporter?
GC: Well, you start looking at it a bit differently when you are a reporter for sure. I used to be a big Jays fan and I certainly would not describe myself as a fan anymore as you get to know things on a different level and see behind the curtain. You get to know all of the players and what they are really like as well as the front office and executives. You get to see that part of it and you view things differently, but even so I would still say the game in 2015 with Jose Bautista, the bat flip game (Game 5 ALDS) was still the most incredible thing that I have been around. I just finished my eighth season doing Jays full time and I did a couple seasons part time before that but that was by far the craziest event for sure. For one, to be there for the first playoff series since 1993 and the environment was pretty cool, but the events leading up to the home run was pretty incredible. Russell Martin threw a ball off of a player’s bat minutes before and there was chaos in the building and everyone was upset with the umpires, and for a while there I thought there was no way we were getting out of there without some sort of riot breaking out. Then five/ten minutes later it got even crazier when Bautista hit his home run. So, just this frantic style, game and atmosphere and just trying to come up with a game story and multiple articles after that was pretty crazy. There was even a moment in the press box where pretty much every reporter was trying to figure out what was going on. There was just so much confusion during that inning and people were throwing stuff on the field, it was crazy! So, just to be there for that was crazy, even though it does not really matter to me anymore whether or not the Jays win or lose, you like to see good baseball, but I don’t care certainly not as much as I did when I was a fan. So it wasn’t the winning part of it, it was the whole playoffs in general where you couldn’t beat that atmosphere.
BA: Do you have any other plans within the industry, or do you like where you are at right now?
GC: I don’t know! That is a big question to be honest with you. I got this opportunity a lot younger than most people do and I am pretty grateful for that it does make me think: What’s next? A lot of times when these guys get into these beat jobs where you are covering a team full time, and a lot of the ones I have worked beside have been doing it for 35 years. It can be that this is what they do for the rest of their life. On one hand I could see myself doing that as I still really enjoy it, but on the other hand, I don’t know if 15 years from now, or even 10, if I would want to do as much travelling as I do now. There might be something that comes after this but I don’t really know what it is, as to be honest with you my entire life leading up to Toronto has been trying to get a job like this, and I was twenty seven when I got hired by MLB, and I have been with them ever since so we will see how it plays out!