The day Manitoban alumnus Ryan Stelter found out he had been nominated for the 2020 National Newspaper Awards (NNA), he woke up to an email from his boss congratulating him. Heart pounding, he checked the news release to see he was one of the finalists. Stelter had sent his work in “with a hope and a prayer,” knowing it was a long shot but also thinking, “why not?”
“I can’t ever get the award if I don’t put my name in it, right?” said Stelter. He applied and thought nothing of it until the announcement, and then his phone started “blowing up.”
The finalists for the awards were announced two weeks ago, with nominees from across the country in various categories.
Stelter, current managing editor of the Kenora Miner and former sports reporter and editor for the Manitoban, was nominated for the Claude Ryan Award for editorial writing, the first nomination that the Kenora Miner has ever received for the award, and the path leading to today began for Stelter at the University of Manitoba.
“I wanted to be a business guy at U of M,” he said. “I was going to do the whole Asper schtick and walk around in a suit but I figured out I can’t do math.” Stelter laughed, saying that he had always liked writing but never figured he could earn money from it.
After hearing that it was one way to get started, Stelter sent an email to the Manitoban and soon began volunteering.
“I was at the ’Toban I think for four years, almost my whole degree there.”
Stelter had a few internships during the summers, including one in Kenora, Ont. where he later got a full-time position and stayed for 18 months before getting a job opportunity with the Brandon Sun for sports writing. He stayed in Brandon, Man. for around seven months before being asked to head back to Kenora to manage the paper.
“I was like ‘what? That’s pretty crazy, I’m 24! I shouldn’t be managing a newspaper!’” said Stelter.
“They said they wanted me back, so then I came back in about May of 2020 and I’ve been here ever since and I couldn’t be happier about it.”
Regarding his past with the Manitoban, Stelter said that “The ’Toban was everything for me, really.”
Working at the newspaper, “you get experience writing and doing exactly what you would want to do at a ‘real-life paper.’” Stelter said it was “the closest thing you could get.”
“I met people of all different walks of life, people I didn’t think I would ever meet otherwise.”
“I was just this big dumb jock who could write who was hanging out with all these random people from all over,” Stelter said.
“The experience you get is just invaluable.”
“For me as a sports guy, I was sitting at five sports games every week just filing away and talking to players, working on my interviewing skills, working on my writing skills.”
“I see this award as a win for everybody. A win for Kenora, a win for northwest Ontario, and a win for the Manitoban, you know?”
“I hope one day they can talk about that I came from there, and I hope people can look at that and [think] ‘hey look, if this idiot can do it, anybody can do it.’”
“That’s the goal, right? We want to create and develop more journalists.”
For the future, Stelter is taking it “year by year.” He’s happy in Kenora, and intends to keep plugging away. Stelter said that, given how “random” his career path has been, and how it’s “just kind of been handed to [him], in a way,” there’s no real way to prepare.
“When the right opportunity comes around I’ll take a stab at it, but for now, I’m just happy to keep serving the people of Kenora and provide the news.”