Why journalism matters

Forget the propagandists, naysayers and trolls: producing timely, verified news that holds power accountable, informs citizens and gives voice to the voiceless is more important than ever in these turbulent times.


Gail Cohen, media director, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Gail J. Cohen, Director, Media and Communications, Canadian Civil Liberties Association Gail Cohen has been the director of media and communications for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association since 2016. She joined the CCLA after spending almost two decades overseeing coverage of legal news and information in her capacity as editor in chief of the country’s largest legal media group, which includes publications such as The Law Times and Canadian Lawyer and their affiliated websites. After graduating from Carleton University’s journalism program Gail worked as a reporter in Thunder Bay and as a freelance writer and photographer in South Africa.

This is not normal

Candid talk from working journalists on the choices they make to do their best work and keep their focus in challenging times.


Andrea Houstoninterim managing editor, Torontoist


Interim managing editor of Torontoist, Andrea Houston is a journalist, human rights advocate and community organizer. As a journalist, she has covered a range of issues affecting LGBTQ people on local, provincial, national and international levels. She has written for the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, NOW Magazine, Ricochet, the Peterborough Examiner, and Xtra, Canada’s gay and lesbian news. More recently, she worked for Ontario’s first LGBTQ critic, MPP Cheri DiNovo at Queen’s Park, creating legislation to make the province safer and more accepting for queer and trans people. Andrea has a journalism diploma from Humber College and an honours degree in English and theatre from York University.

Shree Paradkar, columnist, digital editor, Toronto Star


Toronto Star columnist and digital editor Shree Paradkar tackles issues of race and gender. She is the author of Betrayed: My cousin’s wrongful conviction for the murder of her daughter, Aarushi. She has been a journalist in Bangalore, Mumbai, Singapore and Toronto.

 Matt Braga, technology reporter, CBC News


Matt Braga is senior technology reporter at CBC News. A former RSJ instructor, he was previously the Canadian editor of Motherboard, Vice Media’s science and technology website. Before that, he was a business and technology reporter for the Financial Post. Matthew has worked on investigations with reporters at The Globe and Mail and CBC News, and has been published by Bloomberg Businessweek, Hazlitt, The Walrus, and The Atlantic, amongst others.

Lenny Carpenter, program manager, Indigenous Reporters Program, Journalists for Human Rights


As manager of Journalists for Human Rights’ Indigenous Reporters Program, Lenny Carpenter works to improve the quality and quantity of Indigenous voices and stories in Canadian media. Lenny, a member of Attawapiskat First Nation, is a journalist and filmmaker from the James Bay community of Moosonee. Before joining JHR, he worked as a reporter and editor and,  finally, as the publisher of Wawatay News.

Resilience, grit and optimism

Strategies for surviving and thriving as a journalist – and a human being – when uncertainty is the only certainty.


Diana Brecher, psychologist, professor, Ryerson University

Dr. Brecher is a cognitive behavioural therapist who has a particular interest in working with clients who are experiencing anxiety and depression. She started the Ryerson Crisis Team in 1994 (providing Critical Incident Stress Debriefing to those groups on campus who have experienced a traumatic event). In addition, she is a founding member of the Ryerson Assessment of Behavioural Risk Team. She teaches in the graduate counselling psychology program at OISE/UT, and is co-teaching the dual certificate program, Advance Certificate in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at The Hinks Dellcrest Centre & OISE/UT. She directs the Ryerson CSDC internship training program and provides clinical supervision to the counsellors in the CSDC.

Pizza Lunch

Lunch will be served in the Venn, RCC 103

Reading: Kamal Al-Solaylee, Brown


Kamal Al-Solaylee, professor, Journalism, Ryerson University


Kamal Al-Solaylee, an associate professor at the School of Journalism at Ryerson University, was previously a distinguished writer at Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail. Al-Solaylee also worked at Report on Business magazine and has written features and reviews for the Toronto Star, National Post, The Walrus, Toronto Life, Chatelaine, eye weekly, the Literary Review of Canada and Elle Canada. Al Solaylee’s bestselling memoir Intolerable was a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and Canada Reads, and won the Toronto Book Award. Brown is a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Literary Non-fiction. Al-Solaylee holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham and has taught at the University of Waterloo and York University. Al-Solaylee lives in Toronto.

Surveillance: Borders and beyond

The president of the United States calls us “enemies of America.”  Working in the United States has always had some challenges, so have they changed in this new Post-Trump world?  Explore how to get across the border, keep a low profile and still get your work done.


Tom Cooke, professor, Sociology, King’s University College

Thomas N. Cooke, Professor of Sociology, King’s University College, Professor of Police Foundations, Fanshawe College. Cooke is a SSHRC doctoral fellow in his fifth year as a PhD Candidate in the Joint Programme in Communication & Culture at York and Ryerson Universities. Cooke is a Student-at-Large Representative for the Executive Committee of the International Studies Association Canada, and radio personality on the Bell Radio Network London.

Tom Walters,  L.A. bureau chief, CTV


As CTV’s Los Angeles Bureau Chief, Tom Walters has reported from the Oscars red carpet, from the front lines of California’s worst wild fires, and from ground zero of the H1N1 outbreak in Mexico. He has covered the recent devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, several hurricanes, and the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Robert Osborne, journalist

Robert Osborne is a lecturer at Ryerson and a multi-award winning journalist with extensive experience in documentaries, daily news, current affairs, newspaper and magazine writing.  He’s worked as a reporter for CBC and for Global National News.  He also spent nearly 20 years working as a producer for W5, CTV National News and CBC’s Marketplace.  Recently he worked for the internationally acclaimed series “Drugs Inc.” on National Geographic channel and the BBC Newsmagazine series “Stacey Dooley Presents.” In December 2016 Robert’s latest documentary “Unstoppable” was aired on CBC Television.   Robert has also worked extensively in the digital domain, writing a regular column for the Huffington Post and has worked for the past two years as Associate Editor for XRay Magazine.  Robert has simultaneously developed a career in print journalism, researching and writing freelance articles for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and National Post.  He also writes for a wide selection of magazines around the world.

Refugee, immigrant, permanent resident, citizen: Why you need to know the difference

Who holds what status when it comes to citizenship matters to everyone.


Graham Hudson, professor, Criminology, Ryerson University

Dr. Graham Hudson is an Associate Professor and the Undergraduate Program Director for the Department of Criminology at Ryerson University. He one of the lead researchers on a major grant investigating the intersection of security, irregular migration and asylum and part of a research team that recently released a report documenting the ways Toronto is not living up to its commitments as a “sanctuary city.” Graham is the winner of a Ryerson interdisciplinary teaching award and a member in good standing of the country/folk/rock band Kitchen City Orphans.

Melita Kuburas, assoc. managing editor, Metro Newspapers


Melita Kuburas, a graduate of Ryerson’s School of Journalism (Class of 2006), is now an assistant managing editor, Entertainment and Lifestyle, Metro Newspapers. When she came to Canada as nine-year-old back in 1993, however, Melita was a refugee. “Welcoming refugees is very generous of Canada, and of Canadians,” she has written, “but I can assure you: refugees are not freeloading.”

Read the Toronto Star’s 1993 coverage of Melita’s arrival in Canada with her family.

Read between the lines and explore how politicians use language to move, convince and persuade audiences

Read between the lines and explore how politicians use language to move, convince and persuade audiences


Colleen Derkatch, professor, English, Ryerson University


Colleen Derkatch teaches courses on rhetoric and writing studies in the English Department’s BA program and Literatures of Modernity Graduate Program. She is also on faculty in the joint Ryerson-York University Graduate Program in Communication and Culture and a recipient of the Ryerson Faculty of Arts New Faculty Teaching Award. Her research and teaching focus on rhetorical theory and criticism, particularly rhetorics of science, medicine, and health.

Reading: Marsha Barber, poetry


 Marsha Barber, professor, Journalism, Ryerson University

RSJ professor Marsha Barber has been shortlisted for the international Bridport Poetry Prize and longlisted for the national ReLit award. She has won a number of other awards including several first-place prizes from the Ontario Poetry Society, and the Chester Macnaghten Prize. Marsha has been published in such periodicals as The Antigonish Review, The New Quarterly, The Walrus and The Prairie Journal.

Covering Islamophobia (Without Stereotypes)

How journalists can expertly report on Muslim communities and discrimination without perpetuating stereotypes.


Sarah Hagi, writer, Vice, Broadly


Sarah Hagi is a staff writer for Broadly and Vice, based in Toronto. Her work has appeared both online and in real life.

Joyce Smith, professor, Journalism, Ryerson University


RSJ associate professor Joyce Smith is the original director of Ryerson’s online journalism program, and has also taught research, diversity, religion reporting and creative problem-solving classes to undergraduate and graduate students at all levels. She is delighted to be teaching JRN 510/NNS 510 Religion Reporting, and for the first time, the fully online course JRN 319 Special Topics in Journalism Practice: Reporting on Indigenous Issues.

Where next?


Ivor Shapiro, professor, Journalism, Ryerson University


Professor Ivor Shapiro teaches ethics and feature reporting, and conducts research into aspects of ethics and excellence in journalism. He chaired the ethics advisory committee of the Canadian Association of Journalists until June 2015, and was the founding editor of the Canadian Journalism Project (J-Source.ca), a national website providing information, commentary and resources related to the achievement of, and challenges to, journalistic excellence.