When she first entered Kwantlen’s Journalism Program in 2009, Surrey’s Hayley Woodin had no idea what she wanted out of her degree, so she decided to try everything.
Now in her third year, she’s pinpointed her passion: Conflict-zone reporting.
Woodin recently returned from Wainwright, Alta., where she lived on a military base for three weeks, playing the role of a journalist in a Canadian Forces’ large-scale military exercise.
While entirely fictional, the scenarios seemed all too real, taking place in more than 600 square kilometers of terrain, complete with half a dozen villages, hundreds of actors, thousands of soldiers, helicopters, tanks, bomb threats, and, of course, the media.
Woodin was a part of a newsroom that put together a 12-15 minute news program every night, as well as a newspaper every morning, covering what Canadian troops had done each day “overseas.”
The opportunity allowed her to experience life as a journalist working in a conflict zone, as well as what it’s like to be an embedded reporter, living with the troops.
“It was a phenomenal experience, unlike anything I’ve ever done,” said Woodin. “It tested me mentally and physically, and I’ve become a better journalist, and better person, because of that.
“And it was so much fun: Flying in helicopters, riding in LAVs (light armoured vehicles). A first-hand look at military operations.”
This was her second time taking part in the exercise, which hires journalists through Athabasca University to provide Canadian Forces a way to see how their actions could be portrayed through the media.
“Everything that could potentially happen in an actual conflict zone happens there, and we report on it,” said Woodin.
“It’s practical real-world training for us as journalists, but it also trains the troops in media relations. It’s a great learning opportunity for everyone involved.”