Currently viewing the tag: "Ann Rauhala"

Staff reporter

April 18, 2018

Ryerson School of Journalism associate professor and faculty teaching chair Ann Rauhala and National Post political reporter Marie-Danielle Smith discuss sexual harassment in the newsroom. (Amanda Pope)

Journalists who are sexually harassed by sources, on social media or in their newsrooms should document the incident, find a support network and be aware of how their union can help, panellists told an audience of young reporters at the Ryerson Review of Journalism’s spring conference.

The two-day event, #MediaToo: The #MeToo movement has hit Canada, what’s next?, explored how journalists should report on sexual violence in the media and also deal with their own experiences.

“When awkward things happen and someone crosses the line in a way that isn’t criminal or isn’t ‘serious,’ journalists just kind of brush it off and move on,” said Marie-Danielle Smith, a political journalist for the National Post. “They make you feel uncomfortable and I think those are the moments we don’t talk about enough and this culture stays alive because we don’t talk about it.”

Smith, who reports on Parliament Hill, gave an example of her own decision to remain quiet rather than confront harassment. She said she was alone with a senator while interviewing him in his office when he asked her to move from her chair to sit right next to him on a couch. “You don’t mind, do you?” he said, and made a joke about how he “wouldn’t bite,” Smith wrote in an article for the National Post three years after the fact.

Smith said she decided to go public with her experience because for many decades cases of sexual harassment on Parliament Hill have been silenced and offenders have been protected. It was time, she said, to start talking about these issues so the harassers would suffer the consequences.

Smith said that after she told her story in the newspaper and opened up about the misconduct she’d dealt with, she learned that her mother – a former staffer on Parliament Hill – had dealt with similar situations. Her mom, she said, remembers a man patting his lap in invitation for her to sit on him while they were alone in his office in the 1980s.

“Talk about it with your friends and family,” Smith told the nearly 40 student journalists in the audience at the Ryerson School of Journalism. “Don’t close yourself off. It’s really easy to internalize these things, you kind of get in your head. The way to avoid that is to share outwardly when you can. If you have someone you trust that you can speak to about it, that’s great.”

Ann Rauhala, an associate professor of journalism at Ryerson and the faculty teaching chair, advised journalists who are sexually harassed by their sources or in the newsroom to write down the details of the incident. This practice has the same calming and self-care effect as talking to a friend, she said. But it also ensures there is a record of what happened: “You’re all journalists, you know the power of controlling the narrative and having accurate and complete notes … It makes it clear, it makes it more real.”

This is exactly what radio host Katie Summers did when she was sexually harassed by Jacob Hoggard from the Canadian pop-rock group Hedley. Attending the panel via Skype, Summers, the co-host of AMP Mornings with Katie and Ed on Calgary’s 90.3 AMP radio station, described what happened when when Hedley appeared at the station seven years ago.

After she told Hoggard she was a longtime fan, Summer recounted, he said, “‘Oh cool, well, maybe if you’re lucky I’ll let you come out into the back alley with me and’ – I don’t want to say it because it’s graphic – but he basically said I could give him oral sex, if I was lucky.” After that, she said, Hoggard “gave my butt a quick little slap and out the door he went.”

When she decided to go public with her experience of sexual harassment, Summer said, her notes helped her to accurately recall the event and also reminded her of how awful the experience had been. Hoggard did not respond directly to Summers’ allegations, but he released a statement apologizing for how he has treated women over the past 13 years. Toronto police last month confirmed that the sex crimes unit has opened an investigation into the Hedley frontman. No charges have been laid and police did not reveal who filed the complaint.

Rauhala said incidents of sexual harassment can be less obvious than what Summers experienced, but they are still harassment.

“Sexual harassment isn’t necessarily the gross, shocking stuff that happens to some people,” she said. “It is so subtle, so fast-moving that many times people stop and say, ‘Did that just happen? Was that an accident that he brushed my breast as he handed me that piece of paper?’”

Inappropriate and sexual comments are also ‘weapons’ used to harass journalists in subtle ways, Rauhala said. By way of example, she recalled the period in her career when she was promoted to the position of foreign editor of the Globe and Mail – the first woman to hold that job. a gossip magazine subsequently characterized her as “the compliant Ann Rauhala,” implying she must have slept her way to the top.

Journalists, she said, should not allow those smaller experiences to go unaddressed amidst all of the horrific, overt cases of sexual misconduct: “Think about what a nasty little weapon that is,” she said. “The weapons are getting uglier now … but don’t let the big weapons distract you from the little ones that will affect you everyday. I do think that sharing them with other women and finding [support] is helpful.”

Feb. 1, 2018

Staff reporter

Ann Rauhala, associate professor of journalism at Ryerson University. (Courtesy of the Ryerson School of Journalism)

Ryerson journalism students are participating in a study investigating whether mindfulness and meditation can help them cope better with the stresses of the job.

A four-week course led by associate professor Ann Rauhala and assistant professor Lisa Taylor, both from the School of Journalism, will introduce student journalists to mindfulness strategies for dealing with the anxiety arising from interviewing and may also help participants handle the stresses of deadlines and career uncertainty.

“I became really concerned about the pain and suffering I was seeing among our students,” said Rauhala, who is also the teaching chair for the Faculty of Communication and Design. “People becoming so anxious about their future and depressed about their possibilities and not enjoying themselves. What [journalists] do is important and it is good to have the clarity and resilience to keep on pursuing the truth when everyone is insulting and berating you.”

The mindfulness class will introduce students to the fundamentals of mindfulness, review the scientific evidence of its benefits and explore different forms of meditation practice. The 15 participants will complete a pre-course questionnaire that is a well-established general anxiety assessment tool. At the end of the course, participants will do the assessment again and they will also be asked about the course content, including questions about which skills and exercises they found most or least helpful, and the degree to which they are likely to continue to practice mindfulness meditation.

In addition to attending the one-hour class once per week, students are being asked to meditate every day for 10 minutes and to record their experiences in a log. The classes, which will begin with a short meditation, will be a place for participants to talk about their efforts to meditate during the previous week and discuss the challenges of developing a meditation practice.

Lisa Taylor, assistant professor of journalism at Ryerson University. (Peter Bregg)

Taylor says the goal is to help participants regulate their anxiousness: “Some degree of stress is healthy for journalists. Stress is what lights a fire under us to go out the door to get our interviews and what compels us to meet our deadlines.” The key, she said, is to regulate this state of arousal so that instead of being paralyzed by fear, individuals experience a healthy level of anxiety that makes them energetic and focused.

Mindfulness stimulates creativity

Rauhala said research on mindfulness shows it has the potential to benefit students in their journalism practice and in life in general.

“Mindfulness helps you manage your time better because you’re not wasting time on diversions,” Rauhala said. “It helps you to manage your response to situations that are frustrating such as someone cancelling an interview or working with a difficult person.”

She said the research also suggests that mindfulness practices can boost creativity in a way that would potentially benefit journalists as they go about their work: “It stimulates looking at things from different angles. It quiets the mind so that you can listen to what people are saying instead of barreling along with what you think the story is … It helps you to be more empathetic and understand where people are coming from and they will therefore have better sources, better interviews and get better stories.”

Students at Ryerson are quickly immersed in journalism and, by the second week of classes, they are interviewing strangers on the streets of Toronto. Taylor says the students in her first-year reporting class tell her about levels of anxiety that she seldom heard about 10 years ago when she came to Ryerson.

“More students were saying they freeze up when they interview or get stressed over deadlines,” Taylor said. “You can only help a student to a certain point by teaching them to write a cutline or take a photo…At some point you have to look carefully at the challenges they face in their daily lives and their anxiety.”

To help students be more positive, she said, participants in the study will record one or two things they are grateful for each day: “In our lives as humans it is very easy to focus on what goes wrong, not what goes right,” Taylor said. “As journalists, because of the very nature of what constitutes news, we are often deeply immersed in negative, unhappy stories. So if anyone needs to be pushed to see the goodness and the light in the day, it’s a journalist.”

This is one of a series of articles and videos on the June 2017 conference “Is no local news bad news? Local journalism and its future” hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre. Watch the full conference panel below. To read more about the conference and local news, visit:

Staff reporter

Small market newspapers are being stripped of local content by “predatory” chain ownership groups, a new study suggests.

John Miller, a professor emeritus at the Ryerson School of Journalism, compared local content in the Northumberland Today, the daily newspaper published in Cobourg, Ont., with local news published by its predecessors. The Cobourg Daily Star and the Port Hope Evening Guide amalgamated with the weekly Colborne Chronicle in 2009 to form Northumberland Today.

Since the merger, the amount of local content featured has sharply declined, Miller concluded. His quantitative analysis shows that widely-circulated syndicated material with little relevance to Port Hope or the surrounding area has replaced locally-relevant coverage, and the audience noticed: Northumberland Today, which now only reaches 2,600 people daily, is losing 500 readers every year.

Northumberland Today is now owned by Postmedia, whose primary aim, Miller says, is to extract revenue from its newspapers rather than support good journalism.

“We have to invent a word for that kind of ownership,” Miller said during his presentation at a recent conference on the future of local news. “Gnawing-off-their-own-limbs chain ownership might be more appropriate.”

With the exception of a $17.8 million profit in the first quarter of 2017, which was largely the result of one-off debt restructuring last October, Postmedia has long been losing money, primarily due to a high debt load and declines in print circulation and print ad revenue. During that time, its journalists and editors have been offered voluntary buyouts, faced layoffs, and been merged with other newsrooms.

Miller, Marc Edge, a professor at both Canada West University and the University of Malta, and Adam Szynol, an assistant professor at the University of Wrocław in Poland, discussed the concentration of media ownership on a panel moderated by Ryerson School of Journalism associate chair Ann Rauhala. The session was presented as part of Is no local news bad news? The future of local journalism, a conference held June 3-4 at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Syndicated material now makes up 75 per cent of Northumberland Today, Miller said, while Port Hope-focused content has fallen to six per cent from 41 per cent in 2008. Area news, which includes news about surrounding communities, has also declined, he said, albeit not as much.

“It leads me to believe it’s not a local paper anymore,” says Miller.

Instead of focusing on hiring good reporters and supporting local newspapers, Miller said Postmedia is extracting money from them, leaving editors at local newspapers with too few resources to commit to community-focused work. Even the opinion pages—essentially free, local content—have gone from three or four pieces per day 20 years ago, to none today because people aren’t invited to write in, he says.

“[The editor] seemed to be willing to print letters to the editor,” says Miller, “But the newspaper has lost its engagement with the public.”

Publishers, says Miller, are crucial to building and maintaining relationships with the community.

Nonetheless, he noted, several publishers, including at Northumberland Today. have been cut by Postmedia and replaced with regional managers.

Despite the dire headlines, Edge argued that Postmedia’s financial troubles have been greatly exaggerated.

The company’s $352-million loss last year, for example, includes a $267 million writedown—a devaluation of its assets—which Edge says is only a loss on paper. On an operating basis—the day-to-day costs and revenue of the business, without all the debt—Postmedia reported an $82 million profit. In a study of publicly-traded newspaper owners going back to 2006, Edge found that on an operating basis, none had declared an annual loss.

“The myth of newspaper poverty is alive and well,” says Edge. “Perhaps more so than ever.”

He said newspaper owners have been happy to leverage the hard-times myth for regulatory leniency. In British Columbia, he said, the Competition Bureau, the federal agency tasked with investigating anti-competitive behaviour, has been “derelict in its duty.” Since 2010, Glacier Media and the Black Press, which collectively publish nearly 150 community newspapers in B.C., have bought, sold and traded newspapers, and then proceeded to close 20 of them after they changed hands. One 2014 exchange included a total of 15 newspapers, Edge noted, of which more than half have closed. Their dealings, he said, have created regional monopolies in B.C.

“This is classic anti-competitive behaviour,” Edge said. “Buy your competition, close it. This is clearly tit for tat, quid-pro-quo stuff, and yet the Competition Bureau does nothing.”

The multiple newspaper closures, he said, mask the financial reality that Glacier Media and Black Press are both doing well.

Until the 2008 recession, Glacier, which is publicly traded, enjoyed 20 per cent-plus profit margins, says Edge. That fell to between 15 and 20 per cent in subsequent years. The average profit margin for a Fortune 500 company, he reminded the audience, is 4.7 per cent. Glacier’s most recent financial statement reported a 15 per cent profit margin.

“The newspapers they’ve been closing have died not so much as a result of natural causes,” says Edge, “But as a result of premeditated murder.”

Although Black Press is a private company, Torstar, which is public, owns a 20 per cent stake. From that, Edge estimates that Black Press is profitable.