Carleton's journalism program is turning 75

The oldest, largest and best-known journalism school in the country was founded in October 1945 in the wake of the Second World War. The first class was held on Oct. 9, 1945 in a rented space in downtown Ottawa. At any other time, we would have been organizing a major event to mark the program’s 75th birthday. But these are not normal times as we now grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The journalism program’s 75th anniversary committee decided to shift gears from our original plans for a birthday party and reunion this fall. Instead, we held a soft launch via Instagram on Friday, Oct. 9, to kick off a year of events and initiatives marking the 75th anniversary of the program, culminating with what we hope will be a major, in-person event in October of 2021, when we will be able to mark the 75th anniversary of the first graduations from Carleton’s fledgling journalism school.


Fangliang Xu snaps photos of Allan Thompson (photo by Jena Lynde-Smith)

Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon; Allan Thompson; Brenda O'Neill (photo by Fangliang Xu)

J-School's Jena Lynde-Smith and Dave Elliot at work (photo by Fangliang Xu)

Brenda O'Neill, Dean of the Faculty of Public Affairs (photo by Fangliang Xu)

Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Carleton University President (photo by Fangliang Xu)

Jena Lynde-Smith and Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon prepare (photo by Fangliang Xu)

We would like to involve you in our planning for this year of events, under the theme Carleton Journalism @ 75 – the Future of Journalism is Here. There will be three major components to our 75th commemorations

We launched The Future of Journalism Initiative, a collaborative research hub where journalists, academics and students work together and independently on innovative research projects that further the collective knowledge and understanding of journalism practice

On Oct. 22-23, 2020, we hosted Journalism in the Time of Crisis, a major international conference to be held entirely online. This event forged an international network around the question of journalism and the pandemic, bringing together key experts with students and young scholars and produce a digital platform and major publication.

We will mount a series of events recognizing Carleton’s role in journalism education and the future challenges for our program and our industry. The annual events that have already become a regular highlight of our year – the Kesterton and Stursberg Lectures for example – will now be linked to the 75th commemorations.

Four members of the inaugural class of seven (1945)

Dr. Henry Marshall Tory, founding President of Carleton College (1942)

Masonic Temple, Metcalfe Street: site of Carleton Journalism’s first classroom

Carleton’s first degree-granting convocation: Oct. 23, 1946

Douglas Leechman, Carleton Journalism's first teacher

Calling all alumni: share your j-school memories! →

Our History


The first journalism class 75 years ago was presided over by a man named Henry Marshall Tory, the founder and first president of Carleton itself and the driving force behind the establishment of its journalism school.

There were only five students in that first class – three women from western Canada and two men fresh out of the army after the Second World War. One of those students, Jim Coulter, kept a journal about his experience, providing us with some details about how those first classes unfolded.

On that day 75 years ago, Dr. Tory introduced two instructors — one veteran journalist from the Ottawa Citizen, one from its rival newspaper, the Ottawa Journal. Those three young women in the class had already earned their Bachelor of Arts degrees elsewhere in Canada, and would need just one year of intensive reporting instruction at Carleton to earn their Bachelor of Journalism degrees — the first ever awarded in Canada.

The first several classes were held at the old Masonic Hall on Metcalfe Street, a building that no longer exists. But after just a few weeks, the class had moved to the Sunday School rooms of Knox Presbyterian Church at the corner of Elgin and Lisgar in downtown Ottawa. Indeed, the Coulter journal vividly describes that first class held here in the church basement:

“Dr. Tory was on the job early arranging the chairs and tables and generally floating around in the manner of a concerned hen with unruly chickens…”

Those first classes were not only the beginning of a flagship program for Carleton University, but also the birth of an important training ground for top journalists and other accomplished graduates who were destined to shape Canada’s future — primarily through their work in the newsrooms of the nation, but also in a wide range of fields beyond journalism: politics, law, education, the arts and social justice to name only a few.

Journalism at 75

This 75th anniversary finds us at an important crossroads. The media industry that was already in crisis is now grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year has brought another kind of reckoning as well, as we finally, finally begin to take steps to confront the systemic racism in Canada’s journalism industry and in the journalism program here at Carleton.

So, while we are celebrating and recognizing our 75 years, we are also looking to the future. We hope you will join us.

75th Anniversary News & Events

Sorry, there are no upcoming events.

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