How Idil Mussa Pursued Her Passion for Radio Through Western's Journalism Program

By Tina Donati

Idil's hometown: Toronto, Ontario


When a bad eye infection as a teen caused light sensitivity to her vision, Idil Mussa spent weeks recovering in total darkness. This led to a new discovery: her passion for radio.

During this time, Idil was unable to watch television or read. Instead, she tuned in to various radio stations. “Radio was sort of my lifeline—that's when I fell in love with it,” she said. Now, Idil spends her days producing, hosting, working with reporters, vetting and editing scripts for radio as a multimedia journalist at CBC.

Idil’s love for radio is what led her to pursue journalism. After working in Toronto for an organization dedicated to housing the homeless, she was ready to advance her career but wasn’t sure of her path.

“I loved the work; it was very fulfilling. But, I didn't have a social work background. I was at a point where I could go back to school and get a master’s in social work or do something else. And I knew I loved radio.”

After deciding to make a career change, Idil got to work researching her school of choice. Interested in a one-year program with real-life experiences, Western’s Master of Arts in Journalism piqued her interest (now the Master of Media in Journalism and Communication).

Idil recalls her time in the program: “It turned out to be one of the best years of my life. I was moving on to something else, something I loved.”

Learning to research, write and tell stories on a variety of mediums, Idil said Western’s journalism program taught her how to identify a compelling story and how to communicate its message beautifully.

“In the program, your writing had to be strong. I'm so glad we got to write for television, radio and print; you just can't survive when you're a bad writer in journalism.”
The opportunity to complete an internship was important to Idil, which was part of the reason she chose to study in Western’s program. She chose to do hers at CTV London.

While at CTV, Idil met and watched journalists in action, and wrote stories of her own. “Journalism is one of those things where you have to learn as you do—you need that hands-on experience. I don't think I would have been as comfortable applying for jobs if I hadn't had that real-life experience,” she said.

Aside from her internship, combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience is what Idil loved the most about the program. One of her biggest takeaways was learning how to ask herself questions about how she is covering stories. These questions include the following:

  • Am I asking the right questions?
  • Am I using the right lens?
  • Am I doing justice to the people that I'm covering in this story?
  • How am I portraying people?

Asking the right questions is important to a journalist’s role, according to Idil:

“Having that theoretical background helped me because I was questioning journalism—that's what made it a master's program. We need to do a better job of covering Indigenous communities, people of colour, victims of assault… all these things. The program provides students with the analysis and the tools to do that, which is so critical.”

After the program, Idil focused her career on the medium she loves most. “I went into radio because there's a certain intimacy in radio that you don't have in television. Subjects are willing to be a little bit more open when there isn't a camera in front of their face,” she said.

When asked what advice she’d give to students interested in a radio journalism career, Idil said to watch the news, read news and practice writing news for radio.

Fun Fact

"It's silly...but I'm quite short. People who hear me on the radio are often shocked at how short I am (5'2"). With my deep voice, they always expect someone taller."

Part of Idil’s success was because she spent time listening to others on the radio. She’d dissect the stories she listened to, figure out how the journalists were writing them and read old radio scripts. This helped her understand what journalists did to tell a powerful story.

Remember the importance of finding your radio voice, Idil tells students to practice getting comfortable speaking for radio: “I remember in the beginning, I didn't know who I was. I wasn't comfortable. I decided to emulate the people whose voices I loved until I found myself.”

Idil said Western’s graduate program prepares students well for their careers. She encourages more people to apply; her hope is to bring more diversity to the field.

“I would encourage people of all ages, backgrounds and life experiences to apply. Diversity is not just about skin tone. Diversity is about life experiences, class and varying abilities. We need to have those people in our newsroom making decisions.”

The MMJC program has allowed many students to launch successful careers in journalism, communications, marketing and other media-focused industries. If you’re interested in starting your media career, apply to Western’s MMJC program to Start Your Story!

Profiles in the Start Your Story blog are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.