Summer Intern Farewell: Q&A with Spencer Livingstone

Friday, July 26, 2013

By Laura Tribe

This summer we have been privileged to have four amazing interns join us at CJFE. You have seen their great work adding interactive content to our website, and I assure you that they’ve been doing even more incredible work behind the scenes, helping us to organize, collaborate, strategize and plan for some exciting projects to come.

Although it seems far too early to say goodbye, the time has come for our team of interns to begin to leave us. Today marks the last day in the office for CJFE Outreach and Education Intern Spencer Livingstone, who has been working with us for the past two months.

As his last task before he leaves us, we asked him for one last blog post to reflect on his experiences at CJFE. Here is what he had to say:

What was your favourite part about working at CJFE?
My favourite part about working at CJFE this summer has been the sheer amount of responsibility that I have had. Even as an intern, I was given tasks that I wanted to do to the best of my abilities, simply because of their importance. Quite often my tasks bore significance, not only to the organization, but to other people as well. Within a week of starting work, I was writing a letter to the Turkish Ambassador to Canada, requesting that he review a case about an imprisoned journalist. Right away, and for the duration of my time at CJFE, I was given jobs that I could feel were important, and not simply things to keep me busy until my time was done; a refreshing quality for a summer internship.

What have you learned about free expression from working at CJFE?
I have learned how prevalent an issue it is in Canada. I knew that there were foreign countries where threats and government opposition was an occupational hazard for journalists, but I had no idea of the muzzling and access to information problems that happen within our own nation. I go to school in the U.S. and, when my friends ask me, I explain how much higher I think of the Canadian government than the American, mostly because Canada just feels much freer and more open than the U.S. does. But after a summer at CJFE, I am going back to school with a far different – and much more realistic – view of our government. With eight weeks of poring through every inch of this year’s Review of Free Expression in Canada under my belt, the amount that Canadians struggle with the government for free expression and freedom of the press is not lost on me.

What project that you worked on while you were here are you the most proud of?
I think the thing that I am most proud of from my time at CJFE is an article that I wrote early on about the then upcoming elections in Iran. Going into it, I had little knowledge of the subject. I researched it as much as I could, educated myself on the topic, and conducted an interview with an Iranian journalist living in Canada for his opinions, which was completely new territory for me. I also learned, with the help of Laura and some of the other interns, how to update the website and use HTML codes, which was another thing that I had never done before. So knowing that I started the project with essentially nothing, and being able to look at it online in its completed form – knowing all of the intermediary steps, some simple and some incredibly tedious – was a great feeling, and something that I am immensely proud of.

What are you up to next?
I’m heading back to Hamilton College in the fall, back to the small town of Clinton, New York, back to where they make fun of the Maple Leafs and laugh at my accent. It’s a liberal arts school without any required courses, so I get to branch out into a number of fascinating disciplines, which is pretty perfect for me given that I like to think of myself as somewhat of a budding polymath. I do have to choose a major by the end of the year though, and it’s looking like that will be Philosophy with a double minor in Anthropology and Comparative Literature. Psychology is always nagging at me though, as is English. And Physics…well I’ve got six months to choose. After that, who knows? Certainly not me…I’ll decide when I have to, and probably not a moment before that. I like to keep on my toes.

Anything else you want to add?
I think that pretty much covers it. I’d just like to thank Julie for giving me the opportunity, Amy for always being available for proofreading my posts and articles whenever I needed her, Laura for making sure that I never ran out of things to do (and laughing at my brutal jokes), Elena for always keeping me in a good mood and stopping me from getting lonely, the other interns for showing me the ropes, and the always smiling IFEX staff. Basically everybody…thank you everybody.