Mary McGuire Sitting Outside At Picnic Table In Winter With CBC Radio Pack On Table

Mary McGuire

By Laura Byrne Paquet, BJ/87
Giving Insight Spring 2023 Edition

Retired Carleton journalism professor Mary McGuire (BJ/79) spent the first seven years of her career covering Canada’s North as a reporter for the Whitehorse Star and CBC North. The experience had a deep impact on her.

“You don’t know or understand just how vast and diverse Canada is until you travel the country, especially in the North. Because the North is such a unique place and the people there are so different—their background, their history, their culture are all so different,” says McGuire, who was born and raised in Toronto. “It just touches you deeply.”

After returning to southern Canada and working as a Parliament Hill reporter, she joined the School of Journalism and Communications faculty in 1990. She was carrying a full course load and serving as undergraduate supervisor when she received shocking news in late 2018: a diagnosis of late-stage cancer. She had to retire early to focus on her health, but she also began thinking seriously about her legacy plans. “The shock of my diagnosis and having to face my own mortality…it focuses the mind!” she says with a laugh.

One of her key goals during her time as a Carleton professor had been to ensure journalism students had opportunities to put their skills to use. When her son suggested blending that aim with her love of the North, a plan began to form in McGuire’s mind.

She knew the high cost of travelling to and living in the North made it difficult for many students to pursue work there. Her proposed solution to that problem had two parts.

First, she worked with CBC North to arrange an annual paid internship of at least eight weeks in CBC’s Yellowknife newsroom. She also established the Mary McGuire Journalism Internship Travel Fund at Carleton University to help offset students’ related expenses. The fund may also support students working in other northern journalism outlets besides the CBC.

Organizing the internships gave McGuire a focus separate from cancer, “but it’s really not what motivated me,” she says. “What motivated me was wanting to leave something behind that would help Carleton’s journalism students.”

Despite an initial poor prognosis, McGuire has been able to see the first two students set off on their adventures in the North and was able to meet the latest, Rose Danen, in person. When Danen tweeted a photo of a TV story she reported from the Northwest Territories, McGuire was delighted to see the concrete results of her project.

She hopes the students who participate in the program will find it as inspirational as she found her first job in the North and make them better reporters in the future. “It changed me forever, but mostly it just opened my eyes to what this country is. I felt like, that summer, I became a real Canadian.”