Alumni Memory: Barbara Freeman, BJ ’69

The Future is Female

My favourite professors were Phyllis Wilson, who taught us print journalism, and Joan Topolski, who taught us television. There were no radio courses at the time. Professor Wilson was an exacting teacher. I remember getting an F on one of my assignments because I wasn’t careful enough to convert metres to feet, thereby missing the lede, which described a robber squeezing through a very narrow pipe during a successful break-in. But she was kind, and was always there in her office should you need to talk through your worries and concerns. She kept a box of Kleenex in her desk just for that purpose. Joan Topolski was also kind. She assigned me my first live television interview, in-house, with a broadcaster known as Anne Francis. At the time, Francis was the somewhat regal head of the federal Royal Commission on the Status of Women (RCSW), which she chaired under her real name, Florence Bird. She was a real icon. However, I flubbed the pronunciation of her alma mater, Bryn Mawr, during our interview. In the interests of journalistic accuracy, she promptly and a somewhat sternly corrected me, which made my knees shake even more. The patient Joan saw it as a teaching moment. So, although there were very few women professors in the school, I only remember Phyllis and Joan as they were very important to me. They both let us all know that equality for women was a desirable goal. At the time, there were marginally more male journalism students than female ones, and very few women in hard news beats in the real world. Later, when I went on to teach radio in the journalism school, in 1980, Phyllis was still there, and was a very supportive colleague. We were both glad to see that the numbers of full-time female professors was finally beginning to increase. And I wrote a book about the media coverage of the RCSW. – Barbara Freeman (BJ ’69)

Alumni Memories are part of Carleton Journalism’s 75th Anniversary.

Want to be featured?

Submit your best j-school memory here.

Follow us on social media



Friday, August 27, 2021 in
Share: Twitter, Facebook