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By DASHA ZOLOTA

Special to the RJRC

A new Centre for Free Expression, the first of its kind at a Canadian university, is coming to Ryerson.

Currently in the planning stages, the centre will be housed in the Faculty of Communication and Design and led by Jim Turk, a distinguished visiting professor at the School of Journalism. It will focus on research, advocacy and event hosting and examine challenges in the creation, dissemination, access and representation of information.

“Democracy depends on an informed public,” says Turk, the author of Academic Freedom in Conflict: The Struggle over Free Speech Rights in the University (2014). “This is the value that universities have traditionally upheld, because it’s vital to the work they do. We can’t educate people and we can’t educate the public unless you have free expression in your institution.”

The censorship of libraries, funding for public arts productions and government involvement in impeding free speech in Canada are all topics that will be on the centre’s agenda, said Turk, a long-time champion of academic freedom. In a speech at the School of Journalism last November, he examined how codes of conduct threaten academic freedom in universities.

Ryerson tied with four other schools for best upholding practices of “open discussion of controversial ideas on campus,” according to the 2014 Campus Freedom Index compiled by the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF). The centre’s mission is “to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through litigation and education.”

Michael Kennedy, JCCF’s communications and development coordinator, said in an email that in terms of free expression practices on campus, “it is hard to get much better” than Ryerson. The upcoming centre, he said, will bolster the university’s already “strong, demonstrated commitment to free expression.”

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), on the other hand, tied with four other schools for worst practices in upholding free expression in all of Canada.

Examples of the RSU’s problematic practices included a refusal to ratify a men’s issues group in 2013, and this year’s refusal to ratify a pro-life group. The RSU spent its second year in a row on the top-10 worst students’ unions on the index.

Incoming RSU vice president of education Cormac McGee says that’s one thing the recently elected Transform Ryerson slate intends to fix.

“It’s going to be less about turning down views that we don’t agree with and more focus on…letting people or groups operate that we don’t necessarily agree with but have the right to operate on campus,” McGee says. “If there’s any place that you should be able to speak your mind…it should be on a university campus.

“Universities are a safe space to be critical of each other and to be critical of things, that’s what we’re here to do,” McGee adds. “We’re not here just to blindly follow what’s pushed out, and I guess that’s what this [Free Expression] centre is for, and that’s really great.”

Kennedy says the JCCF would be happy to work with the RSU on these issues. One first step, he suggested, would be to cancel the policy banning student groups from proselytizing (changing someone’s opinions or beliefs).

Another would be to repeal a 2013 motion banning people, groups and events promoting misogyny. This same motion prevented the ratification of the men’s issues group and the pro-life group.

Turk has been active around campus this year organizing events related to journalism and free expression, including panels on secrecy in the Canadian health system, the impact of budget constraints on investigative journalism and, most recently, the teleconference with Edward Snowden. He is also a co-organizer of an upcoming one-day conference exploring constraints on the public’s right to know. Flying Blind: The right to know, government obstruction, and fixing access in Canada will take place May 8 at the Ryerson School of Journalism. The lineup includes experts on access to information including the information commissioner of Canada, professors and journalists.

In its first year, the new centre will be funded by the university’s provost and the Faculty of Communication and Design. Turk said it is too early in the process to get an exact cost of establishing the centre. Later on, he said, it will be funded by external sources with the exception of government.

Dasha Zolota is a fourth-year student at the Ryerson University School of Journalism.

By ROBERT LIWANAG

Staff Reporter

Firefighters outside of the radio station (Photo: Euriahs Togar)

Firefighters outside of the radio station (Photo: Euriahs Togar)

The destruction of the University of Liberia’s campus radio station is a blow to the school’s journalism program, says Ryerson professor Janice Neil, who spent five weeks advising faculty and teaching students there in 2013.

A fire ignited by an electrical spark from the building’s air conditioner destroyed station LUX 106.6 FM early on Saturday, March 21. Stars, an entertainment program that promotes local artists, was on air at the time. The presenter rushed his guest out of the studio and then attempted to stop the fire by shutting down the building’s power generator. However, flames had already reached the radio station by the time he got back.

“The station was the lifeblood for so many people,” said Neil, who teaches in the Ryerson School of Journalism. “A lot of people who are now working as journalists in Monrovia have gone through this radio station.”

Neil visited Liberia during her sabbatical in the fall of 2013 on a trip co-sponsored by Journalists for Human Rights and Ryerson International. She was invited by the program’s chair, Weade Kobbah, to deliver workshops to students and faculty.

JaniceNeil-Liberia

Ryerson journalism professor Janice Neil teaching students at the University of Liberia in 2013.

The main goal of her visit, Neil said, was to look at the university’s journalism program and see if any modifications could be made to the curriculum and how reporting skills are taught to students. She said that the large class sizes and the lack of facilities for hands-on experiential learning were the main problems she identified.

“One of the interesting things (about the program) is that the profile of the students there is not the same as it is here,” Neil said. “Most people were not between the ages of 18 and 22, they were much, much older – there were students in the program who were in their 50s.”

LUX 106.6 FM is similar to radio stations found on North American university campuses in that it has a full-time station manager, several staff members and is largely run by volunteers. The station hosts a variety of programs, including interview shows. Before its creation, journalism students had to go to other stations for their internships.

“They (firefighters) only succeeded in stopping the fire from completely destroying the entire Communication Department and from spreading to other adjacent buildings,” Euriahs Togar, the station’s manager, said in an email. “Nothing was salvaged from the radio station. It was an emotional scene – weeping students and a distraught management and staff.”

Togar and his colleagues have decided to move LUX 106.6 FM to the University of Liberia’s new Fendell Campus, which is located approximately 13 kilometres from Monrovia. The university is unable to help with funding because of financial difficulties.

“LUX is the equivalent of a science laboratory to science students,” said Togar. “Unless LUX is restored, most of these students risk graduating without radio broadcast knowledge and experience.”

Neil said that the two biggest challenges in rebuilding the station will be importing and maintaining the necessary studio equipment.

“It isn’t simply a matter of, you know, buying a new studio or getting a donation from somewhere else, it has to come with people who can install it properly,” said Neil. “And there isn’t that kind of infrastructure in the country – there aren’t repair people, there aren’t people trained in electronics who know how to run things.”

In the aftermath of Saturday’s fire, Neil said she is considering requests to start a crowdfunding initiative to help rebuild the station. Togar said it will require $35,000 to start work on renovating a potential site. Students, meanwhile, are planning a rally to get the station back on air.

By ROBERT LIWANAG

Staff Reporter

Ryerson journalism professor Gene Allen is a finalist for the 2015 Canada Prize in the Humanities for his scholarly book on the Canadian Press news agency.

The book, Making National News: A History of Canadian Press, explores the history of the Canadian Press (CP), including its role during World War II, relationship with the Associated Press and Reuters, and clashes with a number of Canadian newspaper publishers. It is the first scholarly history of CP.

“Most of my stuff, I’m aiming it at other people interested in the history of journalism and history of communication,” said Allen. “So I was really delighted to think that the judges thought this was a book that would be of interest to Canadians more generally.”

The prizes are awarded annually to the best scholarly works in the humanities and social sciences that have been funded by the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP) and honour books that “make an exceptional contribution to scholarship, are engagingly written, and enrich the social, cultural and intellectual life of Canada.”

“These history books, especially, with a lot of archival research, there’s kind of a fairly long lead-up time,” said Allen. “There’s a lot of plowing through the archives that you have to do before you’re in the position to write very much.”

Allen approached then-editor-in-chief of CP, Scott White, with the idea for the book and was later given complete access to the CP archives. He says, however, that they were not highly organized, so he often relied on Ryerson University research assistants to help him sort through the available material. Allen finished writing Making National News in 2011 and it was published in 2013.

“I’m not taking anything for granted – the competition is very tough, there are four other finalists and they’re very good books on very interesting subjects,” said Allen. “I know this sounds cliché but, you know, it’s a real honour just to be nominated.”

The winners will be announced on April 22 and the awards ceremony will take place on April 29 at the Toronto Reference Library.

By DAISY BADU

Special to the RJRC

The questions on the quiz at the start of the workshop sent my mind into overdrive. “When was the last time you read a story about Canada’s indigenous community?” we were being asked.

Could I remember the last story? When would it have been? Had I ever even read a story about this country’s aboriginal people?

The further I got into the quiz the more clueless and uniformed I felt. “When is it appropriate to use the term Indian?” “What was the last story you read about indigenous people about?”

This all unfolded in my fourth-year Senior Reporting class. Our instructor, April Lindgren, had invited Journalists for Human Rights to come in and run a two-hour workshop on news reporting on Canada’s indigenous people. Delaney Windigo, a national video journalist for APTN, led the Feb. 11 workshop along with Myles Kenyon, JHR’s program coordinator. Windigo, a member of the Muskowekwan First Nation in Saskatchewan, and Kenyon delivered the same program a week earlier in a first-year reporting class.

Our discussion began with an examination of common stereotypes of indigenous people. Windigo quoted Duncan McCue, the creator and curator of Reporting in Indigenous Communities, an online guide for journalists who are reporting stories in indigenous communities. McCue, who is also a journalist for the CBC, has observed that when we hear about indigenous people in the news, they are either drumming, dancing, drunk or dead.

He’s right. I don’t know much about Canada’s First Nations and the vague impressions I do have relate either to missing or murdered women or videos of colourful festivals.

We also discussed the lack of reporting on indigenous people by Canadian media. Windigo suggested if news coverage reflected Canada’s population, then about two per cent of stories should be about Aboriginal people. Unfortunately, that is not what’s happening – I still could not remember any stories I came across. Most of what I know, I realized, was from conversations and social media.

I learned a lot. We talked about when it is appropriate to use terms such as aboriginal, indigenous, Metis or Indian and came out of the session knowing that the best thing to do when working on a story is to ask sources how they want to be identified.

I learned that when I meet an elder in the indigenous community it is respectful to present a gift of tobacco. I learned that women who married outside of the indigenous community were stripped of their status. And I learned that tax exemptions are only offered to some status Indians.

I was also shocked a lot of the time. Kenyon provided a brief history of indigenous people in Canada and I was startled to hear about the 60s scoop. The “scoop” involved the removal of many aboriginal children from homes that authorities deemed “unfit” for ridiculous reasons, such as their bed sheets not matching. During the 1960s, when this happened, these children were then placed in foster homes with white families.

I am a 22-year-old black woman and this workshop made me think about the coverage of the black community. The issues are similar in that news coverage of both communities is typically negative – a black man is usually only seen in the media when he is under arrest, murdered or wanted by police. In 2004, a family friend was murdered and it really bothered me how he was portrayed as a “gangster” instead of the loving brother and son he was.

As a journalist and a member of Toronto’s black community, one of my goals is to tell positive stories about the black community by highlighting individuals who are starting their own business or volunteering their time to help young people. This workshop got me thinking that a case can be made for offering a workshop on reporting about the black community.

Kenyon and Windigo talked about the need to learn about and understand indigenous communities if you plan to write about them. They said reporters should build relationships with people and not just call when there is a problem that warrants a story. They also said we need to tell the positive stories and not just focus on negative events.

One of the things that will stay with me was a comment Kenyon made at the end of his presentation.

“Just remember,” he advised, “these tips can be used when reporting on any group.”

Daisy Badu is a fourth-year student at the Ryerson University School of Journalism.

2012

Jalifax Chronicle Herald, April 14, 2012   Don’t take free press for granted                                                                                   Article related to RJRC press freedom conference Click here

Toronto Star, April 13, 2012                                                                                          Readers asked about role of press councils in digital age                                     Story about press council research by Ivor Shapiro and Lisa Taylor

Toronto Star, April 13, 2012                                                                                             Media accountability: Share your opinion of the future of Canada’s press councils Click here

Ryerson University: News & Events, March 23, 2012                                               Study find public political discourse misses the mark on child care issues           Features study by Ryerson journalism professor Ann Rauhala Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 14, 2012                              There is no such thing called freedom’ for journalists working in ethnic media   Story by Sahar Fatima on challenges faced by ethnic media journalists while reporting on terror Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 14, 2012                                         Press Freedom in Canada: Public apathy, ‘courthouse culture’ and new media challenges                                                                                                                              Summary and highlights of the Press Freedom in Canada conference at Ryerson University Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 12, 2012                                      Libel and intimidation: Regarding Twit-slips and SLAPPs                                 Coverage of the “Privacy, libel and intimidation: Press freedom and the strong arm of the law” panel at Ryerson’s Press Freedom conference Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 12, 2012                                          #freepresscda lunch with Tony Burman Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 12, 2012                                          Media mediocrity, lunch with Tony Burman and courtroom tweeting: A roundup of #freepresscda Day 1 Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 9, 2012                                       Courthouse Culture                                                                                                        Article on panel at Ryerson’s Press Freedom conference Click here

Toronto Star, March 9, 2012                                                                                   Canadian Charter of Rights: What is the status of press freedom in Canada?         Public Editor Kathy English quotes Professor Ivor Shapiro in this piece about Ryerson’s conference marking the 30th anniversary of the Charter Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 8, 2012                                    You Can’t Say That!                                                                                                              Article on “You can’t say that! Press freedom and the expression of opinion” panel at Ryerson’s Press Freedom conference Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, February 29, 2012                                    Press Freedom: Who gives a damn, anyway?                                                         Article by Ivor Shapiro discussing the apathy surrounding press freedom in Canada Click here

Globe and Mail, February 24, 2012                                                                                  Brothers Ford taking it to The City                                                                               Includes comments from School of Journalism professor Suanne Kelman Click here

Toronto Star, February 3, 2012                                                                                  Leveson Inquiry: Can Canada learn from British inquiry into press ethics? Click here

2011

Ryerson University: News & Events, March 23, 2012                                               Study find public political discourse misses the mark on child care issues           Features study by Ryerson journalism professor Ann Rauhala Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 14, 2012                              There is no such thing called freedom’ for journalists working in ethnic media   Story by Sahar Fatima on challenges faced by ethnic media journalists while reporting on terror Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 14, 2012                                         Press Freedom in Canada: Public apathy, ‘courthouse culture’ and new media challenges                                                                                                                              Summary and highlights of the Press Freedom in Canada conference at Ryerson University Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 12, 2012                                      Libel and intimidation: Regarding Twit-slips and SLAPPs                                 Coverage of the “Privacy, libel and intimidation: Press freedom and the strong arm of the law” panel at Ryerson’s Press Freedom conference Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 12, 2012                                          #freepresscda lunch with Tony Burman Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 12, 2012                                          Media mediocrity, lunch with Tony Burman and courtroom tweeting: A roundup of #freepresscda Day 1 Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 9, 2012                                       Courthouse Culture                                                                                                        Article on panel at Ryerson’s Press Freedom conference Click here

Toronto Star, March 9, 2012                                                                                   Canadian Charter of Rights: What is the status of press freedom in Canada?         Public Editor Kathy English quotes Professor Ivor Shapiro in this piece about Ryerson’s conference marking the 30th anniversary of the Charter Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, March 8, 2012                                    You Can’t Say That!                                                                                                              Article on “You can’t say that! Press freedom and the expression of opinion” panel at Ryerson’s Press Freedom conference Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project, February 29, 2012                                    Press Freedom: Who gives a damn, anyway?                                                         Article by Ivor Shapiro discussing the apathy surrounding press freedom in Canada Click here

Globe and Mail, February 24, 2012                                                                                  Brothers Ford taking it to The City                                                                               Includes comments from School of Journalism professor Suanne Kelman Click here

Toronto Star, February 3, 2012                                                                                  Leveson Inquiry: Can Canada learn from British inquiry into press ethics? Click here

Openfile.ca, December 29, 2011                                                                                       What can an ethnocultural newspaper tell us about our city?                                    Story on Ryerson professor April Lindgren’s research on local news content in ethnic news media Click here

Globe and Mail, December 19, 2011                                                                          Those who inspired in 2011                                                                                           Story cites panel featuring female war correspondents who spoke at the RJRC’s 2011 Women in the Field symposium Click here

The Link, Radio Canada International, December 14, 2011                                           Story features Ryerson professor April Lindgren’s research on local news content in ethnic news media Click here

Omni Television, November 28, 2011                                                                                 Story feature’s April Lindgren’s research on local news content in ethnic news media

CBC Metro Morning, November 25, 2011                                                                           Story feature’s Ryerson professor April Lindgren’s research on local news content in ethnic news media

The Toronto Review of Books, November 25, 2011                                                           Reviewing the critic: The ever-increasing canon of Kamal Al-Solaylee’s theatre criticism                                                                                                                                Review of Ryerson professor Kamal Al-Solaylee’s book, Tonight at the Tarragon: A Critic’s Anthology Click here

Xtra, November 24, 2011                                                                                                   A tribute to Toronto’s Tarragon: Critic Kamal Al-Solaylee launches anthology of seminal theatre’s memorable works Click here

Canadian Press, October 7, 2011                                                                                 Victory that seemed likely months ago slips through Tim Hudak’s fingers          Ryerson professor April Lindgren interviewed about results of Ontario election campaign

AM640 (640 Toronto Radio), September 21, 2011                                                             Story on Ontario election campaign strategy quotes Ryerson professor April Lindgren

Global News: Toronto, September 20, 2011                                                                       April Lindgren interviewed about politicians controlling perception on the campaign trail

CBC News: Toronto (CBLT-TV) Toronto, September 15, 2011                                       Discussion features Ryerson professor April Lindgren on provincial election polls

The New York Times, August 24, 2011                                                                               After Player’s Death, a Question of Privacy Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project                                                                       Commenting on the dead: all in the timing? Click here

London Free Press, August 23, 2011                                                                                 Hudak won’t commit on costs Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project                                                                       Pink Flak jackets and babies: there’s more to women in the field Click here

Telegraph Journal, March 28, 2011                                                                                   Twitter in the courtroom: how much is too much?

Globe and Mail, March 28, 2011                                                                                        Dominance of coalition chatter betrays an embarassing truth Click here

Toronto Star, March 25, 2011                                                                                           English: Women have come a long way Click here

Toronto Sun, March 25, 2011                                                                                                  A great sport: Gaillard scored one for female broadcasters Click here

Toronto Star, March 24, 2011                                                                                           Questions over Layton’s health; does the public really need to know? Click here

Canada Meets World, March 23, 2011                                                                              Canadian women covering war – twice the battle, half the sky Click here

The Sault Star, February 5, 2011                                                                                      Toronto’s ‘snowmageddon’ warnings may not be as silly as they seem

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project                                                                      Pros vs. joes Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project                                                                      Marching to the police beat Click here

Toronto Star, February 3, 2011                                                                                        Snow scare prepared us, experts say

The Globe and Mail, January 29, 2011                                                                              On a trip back to Cairo, the guilt sets in; Returning to the city where he grew up, a Toronto professor is struck by the growing gap between the haves and have-nothings

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project                                                                      Why the media doesn’t cover suicide (and why it should) Click here

J-Source: The Canadian Journalism Project                                                                       Journalist Terrence Belford passes away Click here

National Post, January 20, 2011                                                                                           Is the truth stranger than non-fiction? Click here

The Canadian Press, January 7, 2011                                                                                 Liberals say it’s premature to talk about McGuinty leaving after Oct. 6 election

2010

City News Toronto, December 23, 2010                                                                             From Colonel To Sex Killer: Russell Williams Chosen Newsmaker Of The Year Click here