You may have noticed an increase of Newfoundland-centric Buzzfeed articles in the past year or so, and Ishmael Daro is part of the reason for this. The Muse recently conducted an interview with Daro about his job and his connection to and interest in Newfoundland.
Daro is 29 and works for Buzzfeed Canada. He was born in Afghanistan and his family moved to Canada when he was 9 years old. Daro is a self-proclaimed “prairie guy” having grown up in Saskatoon. He has been living in Toronto for almost five years.
Daro’s title at Buzzfeed is that of social news reporter. “That basically means I incorporate social media into my reporting, both as a means to find stories and also as a way to tell them,” wrote Daro. He said that social media reporting is a way to reflect conversations that are already happening online back to readers.
Before Buzzfeed, Daro worked at the National Post. He said he would often write about “weird shit” he came across online and that “nobody really stopped [him]”. Buzzfeed must have been interested in this “weird shit” because when they expanded into Canada in 2015 they asked Daro if he would be interested in contributing similar pieces for them.
Daro said that he loves to write about “anything weird and highly specific to a certain community.” He said that writing these types of stories makes him feel privileged because it helps him learn more about the unique places that make up Canada. He said the “whole Chase The Ace drama” in Newfoundland is an example of the type of weird and highly specific topic that social news reporters like to write about. Apparently people in the Buzzfeed office followed this story very closely because it was, “frankly, insane. But also delightful.”
Despite not writing the Chase The Ace article, Daro has contributed a number of pieces about Newfoundland in the past year. Some of these stories are fun and light-hearted such as Holy Spirit High School going “bananas” for Halloween, and the delayed flight that erupted into an impromptu kitchen party. He also pens more serious and socially relevant articles like the Halloween party in which law enforcement workers wore Blackface and the Prime Minister’s recent apology to residential school survivors in Newfoundland. Daro said that Buzzfeed tries to write about interesting things wherever in Canada they might be occurring. “[I]n the last year we’ve certainly noticed and written about more stories in Newfoundland. I’m not sure why exactly that is, but my theory is that there’s a strong sense of community — so when something cool happens or when something goes wrong, there’s likely to be a stronger reaction. In a lot of other parts of the country, it can be hard to find that kind of communal spirit.”
Buzzfeed often finds stories about Newfoundland through social media, but Daro also said that sometimes people reach out to them. “The case of the fundraiser where people showed up in blackface is one such example, where a woman was so outraged that she wanted to get the word out. It’s a mix.”
When asked if he has any connection to Newfoundland and Labrador or if he has visited the province, Daro said “[i]t is to my great shame that I’ve never visited Newfoundland, or Atlantic Canada more generally. But I have a real affinity for The Rock. There’s always kind of a weird, unexpected twist to stories out of Newfoundland, and it often reminds me of my own home province in that way.” He believes that there lies a sort of skepticism towards mainland Canada in Newfoundland which he identifies with as someone who comes from the prairies. “[T]he Easterners are screwing us all — and by Easterners, we, of course, mean Ontario and Quebec. So Central Canada, really. It’s kind of confusing.”
Friends of Daro’s who are from Newfoundland have convinced him that St. John’s is “probably [his] spiritual home.”
If he were to visit, Daro said that he would “definitely go whale watching and then pay [his] respects to the “Newfie Bullet” at the Railway Coastal Museum.”
We couldn’t conduct an interview with a contributor from Buzzfeed without asking for some advice for anyone who may have similar career aspirations. Daro said that the first thing for anyone who wants to be a writer is to find your niche or specialty. “That could mean going to law school and becoming the most knowledgeable person to write about the courts, or it could mean spending your days in strange Tumblr communities and being the expert on all the drama going on there. Ultimately, most people who get into reporting are pretty good generalists, but what sets someone apart is whether they have that obsessive focus and expertise.”
Be sure to check out Daro’s work on Buzzfeed and follow him on Twitter @iD4RO