Photo by Fangliang Xu

Carleton University’s journalism program is partnering with CBC North to create new, paid internships for Carleton students in CBC newsrooms in such communities as Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

The project is the brainchild of long-time journalism professor Mary McGuire, who approached the CBC with a proposal to create the internships and a commitment to establish a special fund at Carleton to help cover the high cost of travel and accommodation for students selected for these internships at CBC North.

Those who want to contribute to the Mary McGuire Journalism Internship Travel Fund can do so during Carleton’s Giving Tuesday fundraising drive on Dec. 1, when Carleton has committed to matching as many donations as possible.

After graduating from Carleton’s journalism program in 1979, McGuire worked for seven years in Whitehorse, primarily for CBC Radio. She also covered northern and indigenous issues on Parliament Hill and across the North for the CBC’s Northern Service before joining Carleton’s journalism faculty in 1990.

McGuire was a fixture in the Carleton journalism faculty for close to three decades before cancer took her out of the classroom. She’s taught more than a thousand students over the years and helped change the school’s curriculum, first to expand courses in radio journalism and then, as the internet evolved, to develop and launch courses in digital journalism, too.

One part of McGuire’s legacy at Carleton will be this program to introduce another generation of students to Canada’s North.

Mary McGuire on a stopover in Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic coast in the summer of 1981 on her way to Herschel Island in the Beaufort Sea for CBC Radio.

“The opportunity I had, after being born and raised in Toronto, to launch my journalistic career in the North changed me forever,” McGuire said in her original proposal to the CBC. “It gave me a profound sense of wonder about this country, taught me the value of local journalism in small communities, and opened my eyes and my heart to First Nations people and their place in this country.”

Through an initial, three-year agreement that is open to renewal, an outstanding Carleton journalism graduate will be selected to go North as a reporter for the CBC while the CBC will get a well-trained young journalist to work with them for several weeks in the summer.

“We have created an environment of opportunity at CBC North,’’ said Mervin Brass, the newly-appointed senior managing director heading CBC North. “Our goal is to build a partnership with Carleton that will help us develop northern journalists. This partnership is the start of that relationship.” Brass said he is committed to having young producers and hosts in his newsrooms, to help a new generation of journalists realize the value of reporting from small communities.

The Carleton School of Journalism will invite, screen and assess applications and provide a shortlist of good candidates to the CBC for the internship each year.

Carleton’s journalism program supports a number of different internships for journalism students across the country, but few exist in newsrooms in northern or Indigenous communities, in part because travel and accommodation costs are a barrier to most students.

Despite the barriers, several Carleton graduates have worked in the North over the years and some of Mary’s former students are thriving there now. They include Joanne Stassen a producer at CBC Yellowknife; Anna Desmarais with CBC in Hay River; Emma Tranter, the new CP correspondent in Iqaluit, previously with the Nunatsiaq News and Philippe Morin, a multimedia reporter at CBC Whitehorse.

“I’m indebted to the people in the North who taught me things I didn’t learn in elementary, middle, high school, and in my post-secondary education,” said Carleton MJ graduate Priscilla Hwang, who worked at CBC North’s bureau in Yellowknife after moving there in 2016 and also did stints in Whitehorse and Iqaluit. “I moved to the N.W.T. knowing very little and was grateful that though I was a young journalist from the South, people were patient and willing to share their stories with me. They educated me on their values, knowledge and history — some of which was painful.”

McGuire says she owes much gratitude to her friend and former CBC colleague, Marie Wilson, for her help getting this project launched. Wilson, who is now a member of the board of directors of the CBC and was also one of three commissioners on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), also began her journalism career with CBC in the North.

Photo by Fangliang Xu

“As a young journalist, reporting from the North was no less significant than the experience of being a foreign correspondent,” said Wilson.

“Starting off your journalistic career in northern Canada, whether you come from the north or the south, it gives you a sense in a concrete way of the enormity of the country,” Wilson said.

And she said McGuire’s initiative to help young journalists work in the North is critical right now.

“It is long overdue to create opportunities to get to know each other as human beings and as professional colleagues,” she said. “The part of Canada that is least well known to most Canadians is the place where the rest of Canada has the most to learn.’’ Wilson said.

Journalists will be able to experience “the stark beauty of meeting such strong, resilient people and to marvel at societies that have been here for tens of thousands of years.

“For young journalists it is a great invitation to humility and an opportunity to learn the depth of what you need to know to be a good journalist.’’

And Wilson said the initiative says so much about Mary McGuire, “because she wants this to be about the possibilities for young journalists.”

Learn more and donate to the Mary McGuire Journalism Internship Travel Fund here.

Thursday, November 26, 2020 in ,
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