When Eva Voinigescu looks back on her path to The Narwhal, the throughline becomes clear.
One of her earliest memories of engaging with environmental issues is making a documentary on chlorofluorocarbons and the hole in the ozone layer with two other girls in Grade 8. She recalls walking through the empty cornfields adjacent to her suburban Ottawa development and narrating into the camera as she tried to recreate scenes from the documentaries she had seen on TV. After getting tongue-tied one too many times, she shortened “chlorofluorocarbons” to “CFCs.”
At the time, it was just another school assignment. Now, looking back, she can see how fitting it is that she has ended up working in environmental journalism.
That documentary ended up winning a national student award, marking the beginning of a long line of accomplishments.
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Eva describes her professional experience as “part start-up, part newsroom, part non-profit.” She started her career as an account coordinator at an ad agency in Toronto before doing her master’s in journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. After graduating, she worked as a video producer at an advertising start-up, a communications specialist at a non-profit that funds scientific research and a freelance journalist, producer and audience consultant.
In her role as outreach manager, Eva will be liaising with partners and donors, as well as working on audience engagement to ensure The Narwhal continues to connect with readers in meaningful ways.
We got a chance to chat with Eva about the many hats she’s worn and the steps she’s taken to bring her to The Narwhal.
Why did you decide to work in journalism?
There wasn’t any one moment where the decision was clear, but I’m a pretty curious person and I like figuring things out. I’ve always been a really good student and really liked formal education, so I’ve always seen journalism as a way to be a student forever — you’re always learning new things.
I had a lot of exposure to media as a kid — my mom always had Scientific American magazines hanging around the house and my dad was obsessed with the BBC and CBC. But ironically, they weren’t too keen on me going to journalism school. They wanted me to do something more stable, like business or science. We moved to Canada from Romania when I was young, so it’s very much the immigrant story in that sense. So even though I applied to J-school for undergrad, I kind of chickened out and I did a bachelor of arts instead. At the time, I convinced myself that it was a good middle ground between what I wanted and what my parents wanted.
But after a couple of years, I still couldn’t shake the journalism bug and I’d also grown into myself more — the idea of talking to strangers didn’t scare me as much. So I went back and I did my master’s in journalism with a focus on science journalism and documentary.
How have you connected to nature throughout your life?
My family in Romania has farms and land in the countryside, so I’ve always liked to be in the garden, with the farm animals, and in open spaces. I definitely idealize the pastoral a bit too much.
I also read a couple of books a few years ago, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Waldman, that really changed the way I thought about the finite nature of our environment.
I didn’t really come to embrace spending time in nature until my 20s and it’s partially tied to those books. It’s also partially tied to the fact that my mom moved to the West Coast and I got to experience those more dramatic landscapes regularly, in a way that I didn’t growing up in the suburbs of Ottawa and the east end of Toronto.
What do you enjoy most about the job so far?
What I love about it so far is what a tight-knit team The Narwhal is. Having freelanced for the past three years, it’s so nice to have regular interactions with a community of people who are working toward the same goals and who are really smart and really passionate about the same things that I’m interested in. And not only that, but I think The Narwhal is really pushing the boundaries of independent journalism in Canada. They’re really challenging the old business model of journalism and working to make it sustainable again.
Having this strategic business-minded side of my brain, it’s really exciting to be working for an organization that is willing to take risks, try new things and figure things out as they go, rather than being stuck in the old way of thinking.
How does your background in science journalism influence your work at The Narwhal?
I think it makes a really good foundation for working at The Narwhal because even though a lot of what I’m working on is actually business focused — brand strategy, events, media and partner outreach — any business decisions we’re making have to be compatible with the bigger mission, which is to produce in-depth journalism about the natural world. My understanding of journalism, branding, technology, communications and relationship building all really help me in my role.
What does good journalism look like to you?
It’s a tough question to answer succinctly because there’s so much that goes into good journalism. But I think for me — and I think this is at the core of what The Narwhal does — good journalism provides context. It speaks to the complexity of a situation, even if that makes the takeaways less definitive. It respects the humanity of the people who are sharing their stories.
I think good journalism is also not dogmatic in how it’s practised. It’s flexible to changing as needed to address the moment we’re living in and to best serve people in the moment we’re living in. To not just serve principles, but to serve people.
What are three random things about you?
I went to journalism school in Chicago, so I’m a bit of a deep-dish snob. The best one I’ve had in Toronto is not at a restaurant. It’s the one my partner and I make at home and the secret ingredient is cornmeal. And that’s all I’ll say.
One of my first memories encountering wildlife is being charged by a ram at my great-aunt’s farm in Romania when I was four or five. The ram came at me and hit me in the stomach and it actually sent me flying, but luckily my bones weren’t broken.
I’m pretty obsessed with podcasts and I am a committed speed listener — I have to play them at double speed to get through them all. I really loved Bear 148, and I also produce a podcast about the energy transition in Alberta and Canada.
And since you’re here, we have a favour to ask. Our independent, ad-free journalism is made possible because the people who value our work also support it (did we mention our stories are free for all to read, not just those who can afford to pay?).
As a non-profit, reader-funded news organization, our goal isn’t to sell advertising or to please corporate bigwigs — it’s to bring evidence-based news and analysis to the surface for all Canadians. And at a time when most news organizations have been laying off reporters, we’ve hired eight journalists in less than a year.
Not only are we filling a void in environment coverage, but we’re also telling stories differently — by centring Indigenous voices, by building community and by doing it all as a people-powered, non-profit outlet supported by more than 2,200 members.
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