By ROBERT LIWANAG
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.