Alumni profiles: how Rob Csernyik created his own path

Rob on a summer internship at the Edmonton Journal/Sun in May 2017.

In 2008, when Rob Csernyik graduated from Bishop’s, he did not plan to be a respected journalist sitting in Australia on a Zoom call with his alma mater fifteen years later. 

As a Bishop’s student, Rob contributed articles to The Campus and hosted a radio show called The Speakeasy. As an English major, he did consider journalism to be a possible path for him.  

But the plan as he finished his degree had been to open his own home decor store. He took on a minor in public policy and public administration and some business classes as electives. “I don’t think I had the necessary kind of curiosity to be a journalist when I was younger; I don’t think I wondered enough about how certain things worked,” he explains. 

After years of hard work, Rob did manage to open his store. And then, after a year in business, it failed. 

Rob on a work placement at The Globe and Mail in April 2017.

Rob decided to repurpose his skills to a new objective. “At that point, most of my experience had been in retail work, and I’d had my own small business, but there wasn’t a clear path into a different career. I figured that it was likely I would have to retrain,” he shares. He completed a second bachelor’s degree, in Journalism, and followed it with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction, both at the University of King’s College. 

During and after his studies, he worked for a time at Starbucks, sold a number of stories as a freelance writer, and completed internships at a few newspapers and magazines, including at The Globe and Mail. His various experiences gave him a unique set of skills to competently write about many different subjects: “I have taken business courses formally through university, but I also have the lived experience of being a retail entrepreneur. I’ve also worked in low wage jobs, which impacts the way I write about things like labour, wage inequality, salary and equality. So, I have a unique grouping of interests when it comes to business journalism, and they’re all informed by the different paths my life has taken.” 

He has now been a writer full-time for about two years. In 2022, he received the Michener-Deacon Fellowship to write an investigative piece exploring the link between gambling and suicide in Canada. The article will be the cover piece of the Walrus, a prestigious magazine publishing independent journalism, in early 2024. 

Rob Csernyik and Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, who presented the 2021-2022 Michener-Deacon Investigative Fellowship at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Ontario, on June 16, 2023.

Rob adds that he’s proud to have the opportunity to add to the conversation on a subject that is changing along with modern technologies, platforms, and an evolving culture in the world of gambling.  

He also recently became a contributing columnist for the Globe and Mail, publishing monthly in the Report on Business section. 

Rob’s advice for anyone who is considering a career in journalism and freelance writing is to “read very widely” across different publications to build an understanding of the types of stories they publish and their audiences, and then to “read widely in the genre that you’re most interested in.” He adds that one thing that helped him succeed was being diligent in looking for opportunities to write on issues he cared about. 

Rob and Kayla Webster (’08) have been friends since their first year at Bishop’s. She accompanied him to the Michener Award ceremony at Rideau Hall on June 16, 2023.

Lastly, he advises to reach out to people in the industry who write things that speak to you, or that interest you, and invite them for a coffee or to have a chat: “I’ve had a lot of people who’ve been kind enough to do that for me, so I also keep myself open to doing that for other people to pay it forward!” 

From the people met along the way who remain in his life, to the valuable experiences he got to try out, Bishop’s remains an important part of Rob: “I took entrepreneurship electives, in which we did consulting for small businesses, and eventually, I did go on to have my own business; I took the courses in writing and ended up becoming a professional writer; I got to try out certain things, and sort of see what I liked and what I didn’t. One of the great things about going to Bishop’s was that I had the chance to try out all those different things!” 

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