Currently viewing the tag: "Ryerson University"

Dec. 13, 2017

Staff reporter

Sandbox, a skills development space within Ryerson University’s business incubator the Digital Media Zone, will house five digital news startups. (Courtesy Ryerson University)

Five Canadian journalism entrepreneurs will each receive up to $100,000 in seed money for their early-stage startups as a result of a new program designed to encourage journalism innovation.

In addition to the seed money, each of the finalists in the Digital News Innovation Challenge will receive a Facebook marketing budget of $50,000 to promote their company’s innovation on the social platform. The partnership, between the Facebook Journalism Project, the DMZ and the Ryerson School of Journalism, will support digital news ideas and tech companies that drive innovation for journalism and news organizations.

“A lot of the traditional business models of journalism are floundering and are not finding the readers and audiences they want,” said Janice Neil, the chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism. “ This program will let people explore and create other options and give people a place to think of new ideas– new content that will be appealing, new ways of getting information or new ways of gathering information.”

The program, which will run from April through to September 2018, offers the five startups a place at Sandbox, the DMZ’s skills development space offering support to entrepreneurial ideas and early-stage startups. The entrepreneurs will gain access to high-profile senior mentors; workshops designed by digital news experts in Canada; workspace in Ryerson’s DMZ – the leading university-based business incubator in North America; and the opportunity to work with investors, journalists, experts and researchers.

Neil said the initiative is important for the Ryerson School of Journalism because it offers opportunities to explore new ways of producing quality journalism.

“This is an opportunity to put the Ryerson brand on this program but more importantly, to give our faculty and students the chance to engage with people who have ideas or experts (who are a) part of the process by attending workshops and modules,” Neil said.

Asmaa Malik, an assistant professor at the School of Journalism, said the program is an opportunity for students and faculty members to learn more about journalism innovation.

“There will be robust educational components in terms of a conference talking about frontiers in news and what people are doing across the world,” Malik said. “We spend a lot of time learning about traditional journalism in the classroom so I think this program will bring a different approach to journalism in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship.

“There is a lot for students to learn and for us as a journalism school in terms of looking forward and the changes we need to make as a journalism school.”

The adjudicators, who have yet to be announced, will be looking for projects that tackle a compelling problem within the Canadian digital news and journalism landscape. Successful applicants must have a strong business model, a collaborative leadership team and innovative digital news and storytelling ideas that can be turned into sustainable businesses.

“The money is a great incentive,” Malik said. “We don’t have a robust startup culture like the U.S., like Silicon Valley. So I think when it comes to an investment, this is a great investment for a new Canadian startup.

“It will make the challenge quite exciting in terms of who applies and who shows interest. There will be a lot of competition.”

At the end of the program, there will be a demo day where the startups will present their companies and ideas to a panel of judges, mentors and industry leaders.

Malik, who teaches entrepreneurial journalism to undergraduates and graduate students in the School of Journalism, said the purpose of this Canada-wide program is to drive innovation and find the people who care about the future of journalism and the news.

“The goal is to find unexpected approaches to solving some of the big problems in content, distribution, the diversity of perspectives or access to news and information,” Malik said. “This is a great opportunity to see what people across Canada are up to.”

Applications for the Digital News Innovation Challenge will open on Jan. 25, 2018 and will close on March 9, 2018.

Click here to see the live blog transcript for this event.

Special to the RJRC


Changes in how the public consumes news and the implications of these changes for journalism and journalism education will be the focus of an April 28 colloquium hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre.

The meeting of international scholars, journalists and educators is the first in a series of Journalism Transformations colloquia organized by the RJRC. The morning lecture, which is open to the public, will feature presentations that examine changes in local news coverage, audience behaviour and technology.

The day begins with “The Audience Revolution,” a public panel with Philip Napoli, professor and associate dean of research at Rutgers University; Kim Schrøder, professor of communications at Roskilde University in Denmark; Alexis Lloyd, creative director of The New York Times R&D Lab; and discussant, Retha Hill, a professor at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism. Rich Gordon of Northwestern University and Carrie Brown of City University of New York will also be a part of the day’s events.

The panel discussion is an opportunity for journalists and non-journalists alike to hear how newsrooms are adapting to the evolving media landscape and the interests of their audiences.

Asmaa Malik, an associate professor of journalism at Ryerson’s School of Journalism, said the idea for the event grew out of a discussion with co-organizers Gavin Adamson and Ivor Shapiro, and other journalism professors on the changing value proposition of journalism school. As the industry changes, more prospective students (and their parents) question what comes after a journalism degree.

Malik said the job of educators now is to prepare journalism students for careers both inside and outside of traditional newsrooms: “It’s not like we’re training reporters or editors; we’re trying to train people who are fully-equipped for whatever’s ahead and we don’t know necessarily what’s coming down the pipe.”

Napoli, the principal investigator for the News Measures Research Project at Rutgers, will discuss how news has responded to audience behaviour, with an emphasis on how those changes affect local news consumption. Schrøder will contribute his research, the bulk of which was conducted before the digital era began, examining international news consumption shift away from traditional mediums to digital platforms. Alexis Lloyd will discuss her experience at The New York Times, reflecting on how technology engages news audiences and enhances journalism.

Update: Alex Watson, of The Telegraph Media Group in London, will replace Alexis Lloyd on April 28. He is The Telegraph’s head of product and a former technology journalist and led the team behind the creation of the newspaper’s new content management system



Special to the RJRC

February 26, 2016

The Toronto Star's work and wealth reporter, Sara Mojtehedzadeh speaks to students at Ryerson University

The Toronto Star’s work and wealth reporter, Sara Mojtehedzadeh speaks to students at Ryerson University

Labour and workplace coverage has been neglected over the years in part because newsrooms have been dominated by journalists from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds, says Sara Mojtehedzadeh, the Toronto Star’s work and wealth reporter.

Mojtehedzadeh said that when she first took her job at the Star in 2014, she was astounded by how little attention labour stories received. In the past, labour issues used to be front page news, but in recent years, if they’re not included in business coverage, often they’re not covered at all, Mojtehedzadeh said during a Feb. 3 presentation organized by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre and the Centre for Labour Management Relations.

She said lack of diversity in the newsroom is partly to blame: “What’s relevant to an upper-middle-class white person is not relevant to the experiences of a working class person of colour.”

Since taking the Star job, Mojtehedzadeh has chronicled changes to the job and work landscape, including the growth in unstable jobs and lack of protection for vulnerable workers.

She said the biggest challenge in covering the beat is getting people to speak on the record about their workplace experiences.

“You’re sort of trying to balance the need and the desire, I think, both on behalf of the journalist and the worker, to expose a greater injustice, with the pressure of the risk that the worker is taking.”

Angel Reyes took the risk and spoke to Mojtehedzadeh about working as a “perma-temp” at a recycling company for five years on minimum wage, with no benefits and no raises. Soon after the story appeared in the Star, Reyes lost his job.

“That really got me down,” Mojtehedzadeh reflected. “It weighs really heavily on you as a reporter.”

Mojtehedzadeh wrote a follow up story about the price Reyes paid for talking to her and it ran on the front page. A reader got in touch and offered him a unionized position with benefits, so his story had a happy ending, she noted.

“It’s a stress of the job that you’re always trying to manage and to balance between wanting to give your editors good, compelling stories, and…the ethics of asking a vulnerable worker to speak to you.”


Mojtehedzadeh said she hears from many post-secondary students and graduates stuck in precarious work. “For young people it’s quite hard to speak out,” she observed. “People are worried that it’s going to affect their future employment opportunities and they’ll be seen as a trouble maker.”

Despite employees’ concerns about putting their jobs at risk, Mojtehedzadeh said she receives many calls from workers who are disadvantaged by gender pay gaps, struggling to obtain bereavement leave and dealing with bosses who don’t pay. When deciding which stories to tell, she said she focuses on issues “where there’s potential to make a difference for as many people as possible.”

Stable, unionized, nine-to-five jobs with benefits are no longer the rule, but the exception, Mojtehedzadeh said, noting that in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton, less than half of jobs now fit that description. The unionization rate in Ontario is six per cent and part-time, temporary contract positions are the norm.

Women, people of colour, and new immigrants are the majority of workers who are stuck in non-unionized, precarious jobs with little protection under current employment standards laws, she said. At least 45 professions in Ontario don’t have the right to minimum wage, overtime or limits on their hours: “All of these basic rights that a lot of us take completely for granted…many in this province don’t even have access to.”

Enforcement of existing “patchy laws” is weak, she added. Ontario’s Ministry of Labour has 180 enforcement ministers dealing with employment standards related issues, she noted, less than half the number devoted to health and safety. Of the 12,000 successful complaints made against employers last year, only eight were prosecuted.

“We don’t talk enough about the various ways that employers can legally bust unions, ways that employers can legally try and prevent unions from forming or undermine collective agreements,” Mojtehedzadeh said. “I certainly was not aware of how easy it was for employers to get around this stuff.”