Althia Raj – Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Huffington Post Canada
Earlier this year, The Huffington Post announced its foray into the international arena with the launch of a Canadian edition. As one of the most visited news sources on the Internet, with many of its hits – upwards of 1.3 million unique views – coming in from Canada, the move made sense. It was time to cover the Canadian market, and on May 26th,The Huffington Post Canada made its debut.
It is now Althia Raj’s job to get the capital city on board. “I’m thrilled about the possibility of building The Huffington Post’s presence in Ottawa,” she said.
Raj joined The Huffington Post Canada as the new Ottawa bureau chief in August with one mission: make the website a must-read for anyone interested in Canadian politics.
“I really want to build the bureau into something that can’t be ignored. I’m focusing on breaking news, telling original stories, offering readers news they won’t get anywhere else – or in some cases, offering it to them first.”
Raj is no stranger to covering high profile stories. While serving as a national bureau reporter for Sun Media, she interviewed Canadian Governor General David Johnston, was one of the first Canadian reporters in Haiti to cover the 2010 earthquake and even traveled abroad with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
With all that experience under her belt, Raj is excited about making the transition from a print to an online outlet. She said the main difference is that writing for The Huffington Post allows her to focus more on issues she’s really passionate about.
“I love having the flexibility to cover what I’m interested in and the ability to react quickly to scoops and breaking news. I like having the ability to play around with different multi-media story treatments and to spend the time needed on big projects. I’m really enjoying the breadth of coverage.”
However, writing for the Web also means more pressure because stories can be updated almost instantaneously. “Your scoop – you might have it for a few hours rather than a day as competing news outlets try to match you,” Raj said. But she remains optimistic.
“I think we’re getting better at adjusting to online media’s immediate deadlines and its overall potential.”
And the potential is huge when writing can be paired with video, photographs, graphs, maps, source materials and even behind-the-scene recaps of how stories come together. Suddenly reading the news is more interactive, and the payoff for readers and reporters can be rewarding.
“The experience for readers can be so much richer. As a reporter, the Web’s social media platforms allow you to share your stories with readers, colleagues, friends, family members [and to] watch the commentary evolving is not only satisfying, but sometimes ideas percolate for follow-ups.”
Raj said it’s imperative to know the kinds of stories she covers. “I get a lot of pitches that are not related to Ottawa politics or even Canadian politics. I don’t write much about weight-loss drugs or frozen doughnuts unless the companies have received a lot of federal cash.” She added that “tailored pitches work best; they are harder to ignore.”
She also seeks stories that are exciting and fresh.
“If it’s new and hasn’t been done before, that might grab my attention. If it’s an interesting take on an agenda story, that could do it too.”
She prefers to be pitched via email, but warned, “Sometimes when I’m sorting through several hundred emails a day, I just don’t have time to respond.”
Follow Raj on Twitter at @althiaraj.
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