By Stefanie Phillips, RSJ ’18

Design by Annie Arnone

This month the Ryerson Review of Journalism (RRJ) is hosting a conference titled, Covering Disasters: a critical lens.

The student-led conference brings together industry veterans as well as Ryerson professors to discuss how we cover disasters and what we can learn from past experiences. The keynote address will be delivered by Catherine Porter, Canada bureau chief for the New York Times.

The conference will take place on Nov. 21. at Oakham House from noon to 6 p.m., and includes the keynote, a series of panel discussions and a Q&A.The event is pay as you can, but attendees are being asked to RSVP due to limited availability.

Daniel LeBaron, an organizer for the event and managing editor of business and audience engagement at the RRJ, said the conference was planned with consideration of an increasing number of disasters in the world.

“We’ve pinpointed an area of journalism that we think is absolutely crucial for students to learn the nuances of – the ability to stay safe, feel comfortable in the field and of course, how to cover the subject the right way,” he said.

The conference is part of an effort to grow the RRJ‘s brand. The publication held its first conference last March and intends to host another conference this coming spring. Its newly released weekly podcast, Pull Quotes invites listeners to engage with important issues affecting journalism, while its online site produces content along a series of key themes like Eye on Diversity, Threat to Local and Inside the Business.

This year’s fall conference is an extension of RRJ student Daina Goldfinger’s multimedia project, which is scheduled for release on the day of the conference. Goldfinger focuses on the ethics of disaster reporting and the importance of hostile-environment training through detailed interviews with experts and journalists.

She said the project stemmed from an observation of the inflated number of disasters occurring in September, from the hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean to the floods that ravaged South Asia. She noticed there was something happening every week, sometimes more than once.

“I thought it would be interesting to sort of explore how journalists are covering disasters and how covering disasters impacts journalists as well, both mentally and physically,” she said.

Based on her research and conversations with experts, Goldfinger said newsroom management and editors need to understand how this kind of coverage can affect journalists’ mental and physical health, and discuss how they can build better systemic support.

LeBaron said the conference clearly builds on RRJ‘s mission.

“When people feel like an event goes a lot deeper than surface level, it will naturally increase the following and dedication to the brand because they know that the RRJ not only knows what we’re doing, but we deeply care about the things we are doing as well,” he said. “We are serious about what it is we are doing, and we are good at it, I think that creates a lot of respect for the RRJ as a brand.”

The project and conference will be accompanied by a photo exhibit showcasing disaster photography hosted by the Ryerson School of Image Arts at the close of the conference. A web-series of six stories based on this year’s RRJ themes will also be released ahead of the conference.



Interested in attending? Please login to the Eventbrite site and register.