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Open call for RJAA Headliners!

It’s that time of year again!

The Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association is looking at deserving nominees for induction into its Headliners Program – and we want you to have a voice!

The 2018 RJAA Headliners: Liz Renzetti, Zuraidah Alman and Paul Hunter.

We need your help suggesting candidates who have inspired you and merit consideration for entry into the RJAA “Hall of Fame” that will welcome its newest members this fall.

Your suggestions will help us nominate those who have had the most profound impact on our profession and our society. Submissions are due no later than September 16th and can be sent to rjaa@ryerson.ca.

Criteria is simple:

– All nominees must have attended a minimum of one year at Ryerson’s School of Journalism, in any of its programs at any time.

– Candidates are not strictly required to be journalists. The RSJ has produced many alumni whose talents has led them into different fields.

– Headliners have earned the respect of their peers and have produced or contributed to noteworthy, compelling or ground-breaking work.

– They serve as examples of long-term success, encouraging current RSJ students to aim high in whatever they do after Ryerson.

Who do you think should be the next Headliners?

We look forward to hearing from you!

The Headliners Selection Committee

Submit Now

Email: rjaa@ryerson.ca

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Welcoming the RSJ Class of 2023!

Orientation 2019
The incoming undergraduate class of 2023. (Gary Gould)

 

By Daniela Olariu, RSJ ’17

The Ryerson School of Journalism welcomed 143 undergraduate first-year students into the Bachelor of Journalism program on August 27. They had a full day of orientation activities to get to know the school.

Their journalism education began right at the start of the day with an assignment to interview faculty and staff which they then posted to Twitter with the hashtag #RSJnow. Here were some of their tweets:

 

During the day, the students heard from Lisa Taylor, Undergraduate Program Director, Janice Neil, Chair and a panel of five second year students who shared their first-year experiences and tips.

The hashtag became a trending topic on Twitter as upper-year students, faculty and alumni gave advice to the incoming class.

On Wednesday August 28, the RSJ also welcomed 24 Masters students to the graduate program.

Orientation 2019 Masters Students
The incoming graduate class of 2023. (Angela Glover)
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Long-time staff leaving news production but not the classroom

By: Jaclyn Mika (RSJ ’08)

The Ryerson School of Journalism is saying goodbye to two long-time staff members.

Lesley Salvadori, News Media Technical Coordinator, spent 31 years at RSJ. When she began, LesleySalvadorijournalism broadcast was in the basement of Jorgenson Hall. She would go on to coordinate the transformation of the RCC’s newsrooms from analogue to digital.

Salvadori was RSJ’s longest-serving staff member and she will be greatly missed by staff and faculty.

“Lesley and I became friends when I began working in the School 14 years ago. She is one of the kindest and generous people I know. She has always been there for me personally and professionally. She has a way of making you laugh on your worst and best days,” said Bev Petrovic, Student Affairs’ Coordinator. “ I am so glad she is in my life. I miss her terribly as a colleague but am glad to keep calling her my friend.”

Over the years, Salvadori has taught RSJ students video production techniques, many of whom now work in journalism or related industries.

“Lesley was an amazing JRN instructor, she taught me everything I needed to know about the basics of video production and the techniques I need to excel in it,” said third-year student Sara Jabakhanji. “She was patient, approachable and overall a wonderful teacher.”

Salvadori was hired by RTA: School of Media, where she is now Manager, Production and Facilities.

“For 31 years, Lesley has been working in the School of Journalism and it is almost impossible to imagine her leaving our family,” said RSJ Chair, Janice Neil. “But while we may think of Lesley as ‘ours,’ she actually graduated from RTA, so they’ve hired an alum.”

Salvadori will remain with the school as instructor of JRN 310: Video Production Techniques.

Headshot for Sally Goldberg PowellSally Goldberg Powell spent 17 years with RSJ. As the News Media Production Specialist (Post Production), she shepherded the department through the change from video to the world of digital editing. She was also instrumental in creating the graphics for school promotional materials and developing each new look for the school’s annual awards ceremony.

“I’m very sad Sally is leaving us—her design and production talents have given the RSJ a consistent, contemporary and snappy look,” said Neil.

Neil added that she was delighted Powell will continue teaching first-year students. Powell began teaching JRN 104: News Reporting Techniques a few years ago and will continue to do so.

Starting in September, Powell will begin her new position as an Instructional Technologist with Ryerson eLearning.

Like Salvadori, Goldberg’s colleagues are sad to see her go.

“I know Sally had been expanding her skills into eLearning and the new job is perfect for her, but we’ll miss her! This really is like a little family and while it’s hard to see someone leave, you’re delighted for their new opportunity. We’ve shared cookies in Gary’s office, birthdays, mini Christmas parties with our families and disastrous GO Train trips,” said Glover. “It won’t be the same without her.”

Lesley Salvadori, Angela Glover, Sally Goldberg Powell, Gary Gould and Lindsay Hanna in Gould’s office.
Angela Glover, Lesley Salvadori, Gary Gould, Lindsay Hanna and Sally Goldberg Powell at the OPSEU Winter party.
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Ryersonian newsroom to expand ‘digital-first’ coverage

 

 

For 70 years, the Ryersonian has covered our campus community: the people who study, work and teach here and others in the neighbourhood.

Starting this September, the way the Ryersonian reaches its audience will change. The newsroom will become a “digital-first” operation, with students being given more time and resources to produce multi-platform packages for our website, Ryersonian.ca. Students will also produce a monthly full-length TV broadcast and a weekly podcast. The Ryersonian newspaper will be published three times each semester.

“We still believe in the power of print to tell stories. We still have an affinity for print at a time when many journalism schools—from Carleton University to Sacramento State—have stopped printing their newspapers to go digital only,” said Peter Bakogeorge, Ryersonian instructor. “Our audience will find expanded coverage of news stories first reported online as well as longer-form stories about the people and issues engaging our on-campus and off-campus communities.”

For most of its history, the only way people could access the Ryersonian was via the weekly newspaper. However, 10 years ago the School decided to converge all the platforms, rolling all the streams (TV, online and the weekly print newspaper) into one integrated newsroom. Students were expected to do it all—and then more—as podcasting and social media became more prominent.

Though the Ryersonian began calling itself a “digital-first” newsroom, asking students to produce online, audio, video and social media content and then lay out and produce a newspaper every Wednesday meant that sometimes the other mediums came first. That meant that, at times, the newsroom’s focus was “digital-last.”

Earlier this year, RSJ staff and faculty were asked: “If we were starting a newsroom for our senior students today, what would it look like?”

Based on those discussions, the Ryersonian decided to go where its audience is, refocusing student efforts to newsgathering and publication for the online community.

“The changes coming to our newsroom will give our students even more opportunities to do what they have always done well, which is to tell the story of Ryerson and the Toronto Centre community,” said Bakogeorge.  “I’m confident they will embrace doing more breaking news and more in-depth storytelling.”

Students will have more time to report breaking news. They will produce stories quickly for audiences to find first on social media, then enhance and develop them with audio, video, visuals, infographics and text. The Ryersonian.ca site and @theryersonian will be more lively and robust and the destination for our community members who want the breaking news from campus and off-campus.

The changes will provide our students with an enriched newsroom experience, allowing them to use more tools to tell exceptional stories. The expanded coverage of our community—the neighbourhoods around our downtown campus—which we began in the past couple of years, will continue.

“We’re excited about the opportunities to innovate, producing news and telling stories across all our platforms and giving final-year students real-world, professional experience,” said RSJ Chair, Janice Neil.

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RRJ Wins Multiple Awards

By Jaclyn Mika (RSJ ’08)

The Ryerson Review of Journalism has won seven awards or honorable mentions at this year’s Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Student Magazine Contest.

“We are extremely pleased by our showing at this year’s AEJMC awards. It was a great way to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Ryerson Review of Journalism, which has consistently earned major awards throughout its history,” said Stephen Trumper, RRJ co-instructor. “All our honorees exhibited the high journalistic standards we encourage students to reach.”

Trumper described the editorial mix of this year’s print edition as one of the best editorial mixes the RRJ has had in years.

Driven” by Sarah Krichel, placed first in the Articles—People category. Krichel profiled elusive Toronto Sun editor Adrienne Batra.

Judge Diane Cho, features editor for People, described the piece in her evaluation as “riveting from start to finish.”

“Krichel does an outstanding job using key quotes that reveal more of Batra’s character and moves the story along, which helps the entire piece flow seamlessly from one scene to the next,” Cho wrote. She added that Batra was an excellent profile subject and that Krichel “was able to hit several different emotional notes which added depth and dimension to Batra’s character.”

Krichel said she was grateful “Driven” was recognized by the AEJMC because it meant having nuanced conversation about a complicated topic. She found herself lost several times while writing the piece. She further detailed her reporting process in a piece for J-Source.

“After a certain point, I had no idea what I it was trying to accomplish with it anymore. There is just so much about the editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun that makes her such an intriguing public figure,” she said. “But the award instilled in me that tackling such topics is worth it every time.”

Krichel is now EIC of The Eyeopener, where you can find more of her work. To current students she said: “Remember to stay opted in!”

Linsey Raschkowan also placed first in the category Articles—First Person for her piece: “What Journalists Don’t Talk About When Women Talk About Abortion.”

Judge Noah Michelson, editorial director of The Huffington Post, described the piece as: “well-written, well-researched, well-reported and satisfyingly meta in that it uses the personal essay format to tackle the exact problem the piece is laying out.”

“The subject matter is timely, the approach is thoughtful and what unfolds is simultaneously surprisingly intimate, startlingly candid and skillfully illuminating,” he added.

Michal Stein’s piece, “Hitting the Motherload,” about Rachel Mendleson and her investigation into Motherisk Drug Testing Lab placed second in the Articles—People category.

In her write up, Cho said the piece: “really blew me away. The reporting was very impressive and she did a great job condensing and stringing together many different events, while keeping her timelines and writing tight at the same time, which is very difficult to do.”

Stein, now a HuffPost and Yahoo Canada editorial assistant, was surprised when she found out her piece had placed second—she had no idea that the RRJ instructors had chosen it to be submitted.

“I was very moved to have my piece recognized by the AEJMC. This was the longest I had ever worked on a story, so getting this kind of recognition felt so validating,” she said.

“I feel really lucky to have worked with everyone who was on the RRJ this year, and with Steve and Sonya,” Stein added. “I learned a lot from everyone this year, and I’ve been having a lot of fun going through the magazines and properly reading all the features. I’m excited to see what everyone does next!”

The RRJ instructors also had a pleasant surprise from this year’s awards.

“One of the terrific surprises of this year’s awards was the recognition of the RRJ’s website, a first for the Review,” Trumper said.

The RRJ placed second in the Online Magazine category. Danielle Cadet, managing editor of Unbothered Refinery29 and former editor of The Undefeated ESPN described the site as well–organized and informative with a clean design and diverse content.

“The reporting done by the students at Ryerson is incredibly impressive,” she wrote in her review.

Sonya Fatah, co-instructor of the RRJ, said she and Trumper are preparing to meet the 2019-2020 RRJ editors—and set them a challenge.

“We’ve been working hard on improving our website for the past three years to better reflect and analyze what goes on in Canadian journalism,” she said. “We are now in the process of getting ready to meet this year’s crop of new RRJ editors and challenge them to meet—and surpass—the award-winning efforts of the students who came before them.”

The full list of RRJ pieces that placed in the 2019 AEJMC Student Magazine Contest:

Online Magazine

Second Place: Ryerson Review of Journalism

 

Articles—Places

Honorable Mention: Men of Letters by Andrew Cruickshank

 

Articles—People

First Place: Driven by Sarah Krichel

 

Articles—People

Second Place: Hitting the Motherload by Michal Stein.

 

Articles—People

Third Place: Rolling with the Punches by Aurora Zboch

 

Articles—People

Honorable Mention: Yesterday’s Heroes by Hannah Ziegler

 

Articles—First Person

First Place: What Journalists Don’t Talk About When Women Talk About Abortion by Linsey

Raschkowan

 

 

 

 

 

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The times, they are a’ changin’

Anne McNeilly teaching a class.
Anne McNeilly teaching a class.

By Latoya Powell (RSJ ’21)

Ryerson University’s News Reporting Workshop (JRN304) has gone through several changes in the past five academic years. From print to podcasting, here’s a closer look at some of the changes that have occurred.

Until 2015, Ryerson’s third-year journalism program contained several separate workshop courses including: Reporting for Newspaper Workshop (JRN304 print); Digital Reporting Workshop (JRN305 television); and Reporting for Radio Workshop (JRN306 radio). Students could take a variety of these six-hour workshop courses.

But in 2017, the school decided “to give students in third-year workshop courses the opportunity to develop a stronger relationship at the Ryersonian,” which involved integrating a few of the courses, said Janice Neil, Ryerson School of Journalism’s Chair.  The Ryersonian is a print, online and broadcast news publication put out by the School’s fourth-year undergraduate and second-year graduate students.

Third-year students in the new integrated course could become familiar with the operations of a newsroom, practice meeting deadlines and gain experience in pitching stories by partnering with the Ryersonian, Neil said.

“The (media) platforms have converged. You have to at least  know how to use all the platforms to do your job effectively now as a journalist,” said Anne McNeilly, an associate professor who has been teaching for more than 10  years.

McNeilly and Gavin Adamson, who was the RSJ’s Undergraduate Program Director, integrated the News Reporting Workshop with the Digital Reporting Workshop. They scheduled the two formerly separate courses as one so that they ran all day for two consecutive days.

A maximum of 20 students had the option of taking JRN304 along with JRN305 during the same term, turning six-hour classes into a 12-hour, usually longer, workshop. Adamson and McNeilly organized the two courses so that the assignments would complement both classes.

“That was extremely successful,” said Adamson, who scheduled students to rotate through a variety of positions and work as though the classroom were a live newsroom.

The students were enthusiastic because they were “happy about the course design,” and the opportunity to rotate through different jobs each week that included photographer, videographer and social media editor, as well as reporter,  Adamson said.

Spencer Turcotte, who took those integrated courses, said he felt he had accomplished a lot.

“I came out with more bylines, not just for written pieces, but for multimedia and video content as well,” he said.

Adamson and McNeilly  also wanted students to have the opportunity to be published in the Ryersonian.

“We got a good sense of what the editors and instructors were looking for at the ‘Sonian and what worked versus what didn’t,” said Turcotte (RSJ’19), who is now a Multimedia Journalist at CTV News Kitchener.

The success of Adamson and McNeilly’s course encouraged Neil, who was teaching JRN306, and Dan Westell, an instructor for JRN304,  to integrate their courses for the 2018-2019 academic year.

“We were wingin’ it,” said Westell, an experienced journalist, who first  taught JRN304 when it was called Reporting for Newspaper.

Neil and Westell also met success, particularly in the first half of the semester, after collaborating and synchronizing their assignments so that students could create stories on a topic for both audio and print.

“I thought it was a very educational in terms of showing students how the same topic can come together in media very explicitly,” Westell said.

During the second half of the semester, the two courses diverged somewhat due to the demands required by Neil’s  weekly radio newscast assignments.

The evolution of the program, however,  is a good demonstration of the Journalism School’s ability to adapt to industry needs, McNeilly said. “I think the school isn’t afraid to be innovative and to experiment.”

 

 

 

 

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RSJ alum, former CBC journalist and disabilities advocate Ing Wong-Ward dead at 46

Ryerson School of Journalism alumni Ing Wong-Ward died from complications of colon cancer on the morning of July 6, 2019.

Ing was born with the neurodegenerative disorder spinal muscular atrophy and used a wheelchair to get around. When she was a student, Ryerson’s journalism building, 55 Gould Street, was inaccessible and her classes were moved to the basement of Jorgenson Hall. Despite this discouraging inaccessibility, Wong-Ward persisted, working at Ryerson’s independent student newspaper, The Eyeopener, outside of classes.  

At The Eyeopener, Ing met her future husband, Tim Wong-Ward, a photography student.

In a Facebook post, Tim remembered how a photo for The Eyeopener captured the moment they fell in love.

“As photo editor one day in February 1992, I needed to come up with an image to illustrate the lack of access on campus. I discussed it with Ing who was the news editor at the time, and we decided to create a photo of a person in a wheelchair trapped in a box, trying to get out. I was unable to find someone to model for the photo, so Ing grudgingly agreed to do it, on the condition that we do a silhouette so she would be less recognizable (good luck with that!).

Ing Wong Ward headshot
Photo of Ing Wong-Ward

We went to the studio in the old photo building and set up boxes and lights. She took her place under the boxes and I directed her hand and head position.

Suddenly we both got sweaty and tongue-tied. My heart was beating fast. I got distracted from the task at hand. We got the photo, but it was clear something unexpected had occurred.

We talked about it later and it was clear.

This is a photo of the moment we fell in love.“

Ing and Tim married in August, 1998. They had a daughter together, Zhenmei.

After graduating from Ryerson in 1993, Ing joined CBC. She spent 23 years there, working as an associate producer and co-host of The Disability Network, a researcher and producer for Newsworld, and producing stories for The National. She spent 15 of those years with CBC Radio, where she was a producer with Metro Morning, Here & Now and Fresh Air.

In CBC’s obituary for Ing, a former colleague remembered her as “a mighty force.” Matt Galloway paid tribute to her on Metro Morning.

In late 2015, Ing left the CBC to become associate director at The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto. She was a passionate advocate for disability issues, continuing that work through radio interviews, articles and social media even after she retired from professional life following her cancer diagnosis.

One of the causes Ing championed was end-of-life-care, including the need for a national standard of palliative care and increased hospice access. She spoke with CBC in May 2018 about living with dignity and why she would not choose a medically assisted death.

In February 2018, Ing participated in a panel at RSJ on Disability Coverage in the Media.

Obituary of Ing Wong-Ward

‘A mighty force has left us’: CBC journalist and disabilities advocate Ing Wong-Ward dead at 46

‘A compromised life is worth living’: Why Ing Wong-Ward won’t choose medically assisted death

Ing Wong-Ward talks to Matt Galloway about living and dying

Ing Wong-Ward on “Inspiration porn”

The Current: Meet Friday host disability advocate Ing Wong-Ward

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“Wouldn’t Del be proud!” An ongoing legacy of support

Del Bell photo
Photo of Del Bell courtesy of Margaret Bell and George Hutchison.

By Jaclyn Mika (RSJ ’08)

Delmar (Del) Bell knew just how hard it could be to budget as a first-year, Ryerson journalism student.

“To support himself, he looked after six children under 10 years of age after school. Somehow, he managed to finish his first year of Ryerson,” Margaret Bell, his wife, said.

During his summer break after that first year, Del made deliveries for Coca Cola during the day. At night, he worked painting street lines. He often slept on the bags of sugar in the Coca Cola warehouse.

“When he returned to Ryerson in September he was surprised with the offer of either $500 or free accommodation, with no strings attached, in the home of a generous couple,” Margaret said. “He, of course, snatched the latter.”

It made perfect sense that an award in his memory would go to a first-year student.

The Del Bell Memorial Award was established when Del died 11 months after returning to work in journalism as an associate editor of the Toronto Sun after a stint as Communications Director for the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. It is given annually to a first-year student with a demonstrated flair for news and feature writing and demonstrated financial need.

“Del drew great pride from the fact he took to babysitting to help cover his tuition costs at Ryerson,” said George Hutchison, his friend and former colleague from the London Free Press. “But he also carried a lingering memory of the hardship of a tight budget.”

“The fact that it continues to recognize the promise of young journalists, especially when print journalism is under such a technological and shoddy political assault, gives the family and Del’s former colleagues great satisfaction,” said Hutchison.

Before getting into journalism, Del worked making collections for a finance company in Windsor. After they met, he told Margaret over and over that he wished he had gone into journalism instead.

Margaret heard the complaint once too often and finally told him: “Do it! Apply to Ryerson. Sell your car and use the money to pay for your tuition.”

To her surprise, he did. After that tough, first-year summer, he landed a job with the Windsor Star, who would often send him to cover its small, out-of-town bureaus. In the autumn of 1959, he applied to the London Free Press.

He stayed for 27 years.

“He fell in love with the business, the staff, the camaraderie and newspaper life,” Margaret said.

Bosses and colleagues from the Free Press described him as “the stuff of which newspaper legends are made” and “one of the outstanding newspaper characters in the country.”

“I remember a city editor of the day said never in all his years had he met a more gung-ho newsman,” Hutchison said. “He was driven to seek out the truth and place it before the public in his inimitable style. He was a force within the Free Press newsroom and the community at large. In these days, such models are sorely needed.”

Del won numerous Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and a 1973 National Newspaper Award for feature writing. He covered Queen’s Park for the Free Press for two years and when he returned to the London office, he began writing a thrice-weekly column.

“Del gained a lot of attention as a reporter who constantly broke the news. He had a beautiful way with words that shaped his many feature articles,” Hutchison said. “But I think he was at the top of his game when he was given a daily column under the gawdawful title of Del Bell’s Pealings. He effectively became a celebrity and he loved it.”

Margaret and their children, often the subject of his column, were not always as enthused as his readers. The Free Press gave at least one of them the chance to even the score. Allen Bell, Del’s son, shared this story:

“My Dad was a political ‘geek’ all his life. He loved politics – municipal, provincial and federal, and he covered elections with the gusto of a dog with a juicy bone. My father also dearly loved his family and my brothers and I were often the subject of our dad’s weekly column, Del Bell’s Pealings. (Still, love that title!) Our angst, shenanigans, adolescent woes – were all fair game in Dad’s books and readers loved it! Not so much my brothers and me. It was entirely humiliating. Until one day when Mom and Dad went off on a jolly holiday to England and I received a request from the London Free Press to write a ‘guest column’ in Dad’s place. (I think this may have been Mom’s  idea, but who knows?!) They even slipped in a picture of me instead of Dad and, I I believe, the caption read something like: Take that Dad! Mom was with Dad when he eagerly bought a copy of his beloved paper on the way home from the airport. The results were, apparently, unprintable! My brothers and I were thrilled. Gotcha Dad!”

Many of his readers and colleagues donated to the award when plans for it were announced. It is one of the longest-running awards at the Ryerson School of Journalism and has benefitted at least 27 students since it was created.

Margaret Bell with 2016 Del Bell Memorial Award winner Declan Keogh.

“The Del Bell Memorial Award was the first award I won at Ryerson. Before that, I’d never been to an award ceremony in my life, much less received one,” said Declan Keogh, who won the award in 2016 and this year won the Ryerson Gold Medal during convocation.

“Meeting the Bell family was definitely not what I expected. The crew came, Margaret, his wife, and Cassie and Douglas, his kids. Their grandchildren also came. It was a humbling and wholesome experience––they definitely made me feel good about coming to Ryerson and the work I’ve done,” Keogh said. “I’ve been to a few award ceremonies since and the Bell family is always there, smiling and making the next generation of journalists feel supported and valuable.”

Subhanghi Anandarajah, who won the award in 2017, said that she when she started at Ryerson, she was surprised by how many of her fellow students shared her fears about whether they could succeed in journalism. For her, winning the Del Bell Memorial Award boosted her confidence.

Margaret Bell & Subhanghi Anandarajah.
Margaret Bell with winner 2017 Dell Bell Memorial Award winner Subhanghi Anandarajah.

“When I found out I won the Del Bell Memorial Award, my self-esteem improved, and I became confident that I could also become a successful graduate and reporter. It reinforced my determination to become a journalist who motivates people,” Anandarajah said. “For first-year students who are transitioning into post-secondary and learning more about their program and possible career choices, such awards offer them hope that they are able to have an incredible impact through their work if they have the passion and perseverance.”

Seeing the Bell family at the annual RSJ awards ceremony has become a welcome tradition for RSJ staff and faculty as well.

“We look forward to seeing them every year,” said Janice Neil, RSJ Chair. “We’ve gotten to see their grandchildren grow up. They’ve given students a wonderful legacy of support.”

“Seeing the enthusiasm in these young people can only make us hope that Del’s story will be an inspiration to them and show them that hard work, dedication and passion will fuel their success,” said Margaret. “Each year we get a thank-you note from the recipient, many saying that the bursary will make it possible for them to pursue their dream. Wouldn’t Del be proud!”

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Book Club: April Lindgren’s “Headline: Murder”

Many of our talented alumni and faculty have stretched their writing muscles beyond journalism into the realms of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The RSJ Book Club is an occasional series created to highlight these works. If you know of a notable grad you’d like to see featured, send us an email at office.journalism@ryerson.ca.

 

By Latoya Powell (RSJ ’21)

April Lindgren is a professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism, the Velma Rogers Research Chair and principal investigator for the Local News Research Project. Before

Headline: Murder cover
Headline: Murder cover

joining the Ryerson faculty, she spent more than 20 years covering economic and political news on Parliament Hill and at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Her first mystery novel, Headline: Murder, was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel following its publication in 2008.

We spoke to her recently about the book and her decision to write a mystery novel.

Below is a Q/A with the author:

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been an avid mystery reader, so I enjoy the genre. It was intimidating to think about writing fiction after so many years of writing news so I thought it writing a mystery would be a good place to start because there’s a set formula:  A crime occurs, pursuit of the murderer ensues, the mystery is resolved.

Why did you choose to base the story in Toronto?

I love Toronto and wanted the city to be a character in the book. I was also covering Queen’s Park at the time and I wanted to make the most of that by writing about that great old legislature building – its history and idiosyncrasies. I know from my own reading that there’s a bit of a thrill in reading about a place I’m familiar with – seeing it through a writer’s eyes. I wanted to give my readers that experience.

Why was it important for you to incorporate romance into your story?

Mysteries are interesting for more than the “whodunnit” element. They are also character portraits and I wanted Pia, my protagonist, to be more than just a one-dimensional sleuth. It wasn’t the romance per se that interested me so much as the idea of portraying her as a multifaceted character. She’s ambitious, a great reporter, a single woman of a certain again, she has friends and relatives who are intriguing, she has her personal demons. It seemed only natural that she would also have a man in her life.

April Lindgren Professor headshot
RSJ prof and author April Lindgren

Where did the inspiration for Pia Keyne’s character come from?

Well, people are always curious to know whether a protagonist is really just the writer in disguise. I admit nothing.  I will say that Pia is an amalgam of  people I have encountered over the years. I wanted to create a strong, smart female character who would be a bit unpredictable and keep readers interested.

Why do you like writing mysteries? 

Mysteries are satisfying because they begin with a world in turmoil, where something has gone terribly wrong. The situation tends to deteriorate as the book progresses but in the end, order and justice are restored. As readers we find it reassuring to finish a mystery novel and find that all is right with the world once again. I like that about the genre.

From the perspective of writers, mysteries are a puzzle and the challenge is to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together by the last chapter. Assembling the puzzle and then turning it into a story that weaves together people, places and traumatic events is a challenge and really great fun.

 What were some of your challenges while writing Headline: Murder?

I always enjoy it when readers ask me if certain characters are based on real-life people – say a politician. The guesses are amusing. Politicians who read the book have bugged me to find out if a particular character was really one of their colleagues, thinly disguised. My answer, of course, is “no comment.”

How long did it take you to research and write the book? What was your process like?

Well, I just loved, loved, loved the fact that when I was kind of stuck, I didn’t have to do a ton of research or a dozen interviews with people to sort it out. I could just sit down with a cup of coffee and invent the solution. Being liberated from the tyranny of facts was an absolute delight.

What can we expect next from you as an author?

Well, I do have another Pia novel that’s about a third of the way finished. But I have  been so preoccupied with my teaching and research I’m having trouble getting it done. I’m not giving anything away by saying a journalist dies.  At this rate, though,  you’ll probably have to wait until I retire to find out more.

 

 

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Book Club: Gene Allen’s “Making National News”

By Jaclyn Mika (RSJ ’08)

Making National News cover page.
Cover page of Gene Allen’s “Making National News.”

Many of our talented alumni and faculty have stretched their writing muscles beyond journalism into the realms of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The RSJ Book Club is an occasional series created to highlight these works. If you know of a notable grad you’d like to see featured, send us an email at office.journalism@ryerson.ca.

Gene Allen is a Professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism and was the founding director (2007-2010) of the School’s Master of Journalism program.

Prior to joining RSJ, he had an extensive and varied career as a television news and documentary producer and as a newspaper editor and reporter, including director of research and a senior producer of the CBC/Radio-Canada television series Canada: A People’s History. He also edited both volumes of the best-selling companion book to the series.

Allen was co-editor of Communicating in Canada’s Past: Essays in Media History (2009).

Allen’s book, Making National News: A History of Canadian Press, was published in 2013. It was the first-ever scholarly history of CP and detailed how journalism in Canada has depended on the Canadian Press for most of their domestic and international news.

Below is a Q/A with the author:

What interested you in the history of the Canadian Press?

I’ve always thought that news agencies were not well understood, whether by the general public, academics, or even some journalists. When I started at Ryerson in 2001, I was looking for a substantial research project dealing with some important aspect of journalism history in Canada. After making some initial inquiries at CP, it turned out that they had a large trove of archival material that no one had ever looked at, and the people in charge were willing to allow me access to this material. So I was off to the races.

Why was it a story you wanted to tell? 

Several reasons. One is that this is a big part of Canadian journalism history in the 20th century that had never been told. (There is an earlier book about CP’s history written by one of the organization’s founders, but for all its value it is definitely not an arm’s-length account.) I was also interested in the whole idea of nationalism and nationality as largely cultural phenomena (as suggested by Benedict Anderson), and thought that an explicitly national news agency like CP would provide a great opportunity to examine how this actually worked out in some detail.

Why do you think it’s important for people to know this history? What do you want them to take away from the book?

For most of the 20th century, CP was by far the most important source of national and international news for most Canadians. So it seemed important to understand how CP was established, how it evolved, and how it went about doing its work.

What was the most interesting (or strangest or most frustrating) thing you learned while researching/writing this book?

It’s difficult to single out just one thing because there were a lot of things that surprised me. One major and unexpected finding was that the US news agency Associated Press played a strongly directive role in CP’s founding in 1917. If not for a threat by AP to cut off the inexpensive international news it provided to Canadian newspapers, CP might never have come into existence as a genuinely national organization. Then there’s the story of the initial government subsidy that papered over regional divisions about cost-sharing and how it was lost when CP refused to provide news service to a new newspaper in Ottawa backed by the Liberal Party in 1923 …

What were some of the challenges you had in researching/writing this book?

The biggest challenge was that none of the voluminous CP archival material, some on microfilm and some in boxes,  was indexed. There was no overall inventory and there were no finding aids, which meant that the only way to find out what the documents said was to look at every one. Fortunately, I was able to hire a series of excellent Ryerson research assistants (Daphna Izenberg, June Morrow, Jeffrey Todd,  Elisabeth Collett, Martin Kuebler and Sarah Petrescu) who went through all of the boxes and microfilm, making detailed notes about the contents of each. It would have been nearly impossible to carry out the research without their help.

What has changed since you wrote this book?

A great deal has changed. CP ceased being a cooperatively-owned agency in 2010, and is now jointly owned by the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and La Presse. The book covered the period from 1893 to 1970, and in many ways it’s the story of an era in Canadian journalism that will never return.

How long did it take you to research and write the book? What was your process like?

Gene Allen
Photo of Gene Allen.

It look a long time. Archival research is by its nature time-consuming, and I got sidetracked with other research projects and administrative roles along the way. It was finally published in 2013. The process consisted of organizing the various archival materials – which came from several sources besides CP, including the National Archives of Canada, the Reuters news agency archives in London, and the AP corporate archives in New York, along with several oral-history interviews —  thematically and chronologically, trying to find a narrative that made sense and trying to figure out what it all meant.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a non-fiction, history author?

It really depends on whether you’re working in the academic world or not. If in the academic world, get the best training in archival research that you can get and get a tenure-track academic job where producing original research is one of your main responsibilities. Producing historical non-fiction for a general audience is something completely different.

What has your favourite reader reaction been?

Oliver Boyd-Barrett, one of the best-known historians of the international news system generally, described the book as “among the very best works of any that have been written about news agencies in general or national news agencies in particular.” It was one of five finalists for the 2015 Canada Prize for the Humanities, awarded by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. (Didn’t win, though.)

How did writing Making National News influence what you choose to work on next? What are you working on now? 

My current project is a biography of Kent Cooper, who was general manager and executive director of Associated Press from 1925 to 1951. The Cooper project arose from a trip to the AP corporate archives in 2008 while I was working on the CP book.

Why do you like doing this kind of work?

Because it’s incredibly engaging. Archival research is like doing a huge jigsaw puzzle where you don’t know what the final picture is supposed to look like and don’t know how many pieces are missing (except that a lot are missing). Although the process of putting it all together can be like pulling teeth, It’s tremendously satisfying to find a way that (more or less) makes sense of it all, and with luck sheds some new light on important questions about how the international news system has developed and why.