“There goes my bus,” Hristova panted as a Go bus pulled away. This staple of his commute was the opening shot of his three-minute video on opinions millennials have about transit. It aired the day before the provincial election and ended with Hristova interviewed live on TV.
Transit was “an issue we’ve heard relatively little about during this campaign,” said anchor and senior manager Francis D’Souza to introduce the piece. But it’s one Hristova knew matters deeply to millennials.
“Before, I thought all people do is talk about transit all the time and I didn’t understand it,” he says. “But having walked in those shoes, sat on that subway and chased that bus, I’ve come to learn just how important it is for the city and its students.”
A spotlight for the millennial voice
Hristova had recently written a public relations brief for Centennial College about the results of a survey. Millennials across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area ranked transit as one of the top three issues they cared about most. Almost three-quarters said they would leave the area if things did not change.
“I remember doing that story and thinking, ‘Wow, seven out of 10 millennials might leave,’” he says. “What does that make Toronto if that happens?”
From late April to mid-June, Hristova spent $15 and four hours every day commuting from Pickering to downtown Toronto. He took a bus, an LRT and two subways until he reached Dundas Station.
“My commute was like a daytime nightmare,” Hristova says. But he remained optimistic, and started each day by saying hello to every person he saw at work. One of those people was Mike Ongarato, promotions manager at CityNews, who soon asked Hristova to bring him a story.
“The first thing I thought of was transit,” Hristova says. “It was the only thing happening in my life because I had no time for anything else.”
Unbeknownst to his supervisors, Hristova filmed and edited the video entirely on his phone during his free time. The pun-laden video includes a time-lapse sequence, various video transitions and four interviews with millennials. Hristova even recorded his own background music to avoid copyright issues.
Turning obstacle into opportunity
At one point, he was packed into a subway car and knew he had the perfect shot — but he was wedged so tightly between other commuters he could not reach into his pocket to get his phone.
“I wanted to take people with me and say, ‘This is my journey, this is us, getting to work, getting back,’” Hristova says. “A lot of times you’re just watching the news and someone is just telling you what’s going on. This is something you really get to experience.”
A week after his internship ended, Hristova got his car back. But he isn’t bitter — he says seeing his work on TV “was definitely a highlight of my life.”
Hristova is still writing about important issues for millennials and students, including transit stories. CityNews invited him to contribute to their coverage of the upcoming municipal elections.
To other student interns, Hristova advises: be enthusiastic about every task (even coffee-related ones), think outside the box and don’t be afraid to hear “no.”
“Hustle and smile while you do it,” he says. “Every chance they’re giving you is a chance for you to excel and prove yourself.”