When it comes to wrapping up a writing degree with a flourish, it’s hard to beat Jenessa Joy Klukas. Not only did Klukas finish the final year of her studies interning at the independent media outlet The Tyee as part of the Journalists for Human Rights’ Indigenous Reporters Program, she’s also been hired by the equally independent IndigiNews as their new education and child welfare reporter.

“Children, child welfare, education, Indigenous issues: these are the topics I’m passionate about and really enjoy writing about,” says Klukas. “Having those all in one position is basically my dream job.”

Of Xaxli’p and Métis descent, Klukas grew up on the land of the Haisla Nation in Kitimat before moving to Victoria and transferring into UVic’s writing department from nearby Camosun College. With a focus on creative nonfiction (CNF), Klukas found UVic a good fit for her aspirations.

“The CNF program did a great job in setting me up for success and gave me a lot of really useful tools: publishing, how to pitch, what editors expect,” she says, offering her praise for the department—and specifically the support of CNF professor Deborah Campbell.

“The faculty and staff were all very encouraging and helped me a lot in finding my confidence and voice . . . I really appreciated that,” she says. “But Deborah was incredibly helpful and gave so much advice.”

From intern to reporter

It was Campbell who encouraged Klukas to apply for the six-week Tyee internship, where she wrote a series of stories about the childcare industry. ”Early-childhood educators don’t get the support they need: it’s an under-developed topic in the media,” says Klukas, who also likes the idea of harnessing the power of the pen for positive change.

“As somebody who is Indigenous, the lack of diversity [in journalism] made me want to contribute my voice and make sure Indigenous stories are heard,” she says. “It’s nice to see the industry opening up—and I really do think it is what Canada needs right now.”

Big conversations, big stories

Given the social upheavals that coincided with her degree studies—reconciliation, COVID, the continuing climate crisis, the rise of recent social justice movements—Klukas feels like the world has definitely shifted since her first writing class.

“It does feel different . . . there are big conversations to be had with people you often don’t know,” she says. “The political and conversational climate is changing, especially in areas like social justice and reconciliation . . . in some ways for the better, I hope. It’s an interesting world to adapt to.”

With her IndigiNews beat covering Vancouver Island, Klukas gets to remain Victoria-based for now—another plus to an already ideal position. “IndigiNews has been on my radar for a while, as they’re a really great outlet,” she says.

Better still, when she applied, it turned out she was already on their radar: “They had already been reading my pieces at the Tyee.” None of this surprises writing professor Deborah Campbell. “Jenessa Joy’s engagement with challenging issues from an Indigenous perspective makes her an invaluable member of any news team,” she says.

Jenessa Joy Klukas (photos: Andrew Silbernagel)