Carmen Pauls Orthner has been a working journalist since 1997, and a communications professional since 2003, but she's been putting stories in print and on air for far longer.
Raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, Carmen had her first byline in that city's daily newspaper, the Regina Leader-Post, as a Grade 8 student, with a short opinion piece on the wonders of reading. Caught by the publishing bug, she began writing for her high school newspapers and yearbooks, and her opinions landed her another mention in the Leader-Post, after she zinged humor columnist Ron Petrie with a letter addressing his column about the closure of her all-girls Catholic high school.
Sadly, the pain obviously didn't penetrate all that deeply, as Petrie didn't remember her several years later, when she joined the Leader-Post staff in the fall of 1997 as an intern reporter from the University of Regina journalism school. Always of the school that the story is more important than the byline, however, Carmen didn't take the renowned Third Page Boy's slip of the mind too seriously.
Prior to her U of R studies and subsequent internship, Carmen had honed her writing and research skills far beyond a Grade 11's student's ire on behalf of her school. In the spring of 1995, four years after her high school graduation, Carmen completed both a Bachelor of Christian Studies in theology from Concord College (now part of Canadian Mennonite University) and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Winnipeg.
That fall, Carmen flew to Klaipeda, Lithuania, where she spent four months studying Baltic history and teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes, as part of Concord's International Exchange Program. She stayed on an additional five months to work as an EFL tutor and teacher's assistant at Lithuania Christian College, and to travel through Eastern Europe and parts of the old Soviet bloc. During this time, Carmen wrote articles based on her experience as an exchange student and on her travels, which were sent back to Concord College. At the invitation of the editor, she also spent a week shadowing staff at the Siauliu Krastas, a weekly newspaper in Siauliai, Lithuania, where she stayed on a working farm with one of the reporters, attended both her first murder trial and her first press conference, drank a great deal of very strong coffee every day, and even toured the world's only cat museum.
Returning to Canada, Carmen received a letter of acceptance from the University of Regina School of Journalism, which had decided that her portfolio and a personal interview - conducted via tele-conference at midnight Lithuania time - had shown her worthy of receiving one of the school's 26 spots for the 1996-97 school year. After eight months of study, Carmen was hired first as a summer reporter at the La Ronge Northerner in northern Saskatchewan, and then as a fall intern for the Leader-Post. Both jobs greatly expanded both her knowledge of the business and her clippings file, although the La Ronge job also had the advantage of introducing Carmen to her husband-to-be, Bryan Orthner, and thus convincing her to come back. After Carmen's graduation from the U of R and the couple's marriage in 1998, Carmen was hired as a full-time reporter at The Northerner and relocated permanently to La Ronge.
Since leaving the newspaper at the end of 2002, Carmen has continued to work steadily as a freelance journalist, and has been involved with a wide range of communications projects, highlighted in her resume. She is proud to be filling a niche as a communications professional based in the North, while also telling northern stories through her own articles and photos published both regionally and nationally, and through her work as a researcher, radio broadcaster and screenwriter.
Carmen's strongest assets include her ability to connect on a deep level with people whose stories she is telling, and then to shape that material into interesting, easy-to-read content. She is passionate about research, and has a thirst for news. Those who work with her find her to be friendly, co-operative, committed to both people and projects, and enthusiastic about her work.
Whether you are looking for an innovative writer, a clear-eyed, thoughtful photographer, a nitpicky editor and proofreader, a skilled researcher with strong Web skills, or simply someone who loves the North, its people and its stories, Carmen is up to the task. Get in touch, and find out what Pen for Hire can do for you.