Carleton University’s Susan Harada, associate director of the School of Journalism and Communication, announced today that journalist Michael Petrou has received this year’s $25,000 R. James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship. The fellowship is administered by Carleton and supports a significant foreign reporting project by a Canadian journalist or journalism student.
“It is a fitting tribute to Jim Travers that the fellowship in his name received so many excellent proposals from such strong journalists,” said Harada. “The winning proposal focuses on a volatile and still unfolding story—one that will continue to have far-reaching consequences on public policy, both at home and abroad.”
Petrou will examine how the Syrian civil war has created the greatest forced displacement of people since the aftermath of the Second World War. Those who have come to Canada or Europe are a small fraction of that exodus. Most remain in the Middle East. Petrou’s work will tell their stories, explore their impact on the countries to which they have fled and examine Canada’s efforts to help Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them.
“I am honoured to receive this fellowship that pays homage to Jim Travers, a superb journalist, and a compassionate, kind and endlessly generous man,” said Petrou. “I will be reporting on the millions of Syrian refugees who have not made it to Canada, or Europe—instead remaining in, and transforming, the Middle East countries hosting them. I will report, also, on how Canada is responding to this nearly unprecedented exodus and its impact.”
The announcement was made on Parliament Hill at an event hosted by Senator Jim Munson and attended by members of the Travers family, parliamentarians and colleagues of the former foreign correspondent. Travers was editor of the Ottawa Citizen, executive editor of the Toronto Star and an award-winning Ottawa columnist for the Star at the time of his death on March 3, 2011.
“Jim will always be remembered for bringing the Canadian perspective to international events,” said Munson. “His legacy is inspiring a new generation of foreign correspondents and I congratulate this year’s fellowship recipient, Michael Petrou, for tackling the dramatic, heart-wrenching story of Syrian refugees.”
Last year’s recipients, journalist Sarah R. Champagne and documentary photographer Michel Huneault, travelled to Mexico, Turkey and Haiti for a series of print and online stories about migration, remittances and development. They followed immigrants in Montreal and Toronto and then met their families abroad to portray the financial and virtual links across borders.
About Michael Petrou:
Petrou is a journalist, foreign correspondent, author and historian. He has reported from across Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. He has won three National Magazine Awards, including for reportage from Haiti and Ukraine, and he has been nominated for six others for stories from Russia, Egypt and Iraq.
Petrou spent a decade as a senior writer and foreign correspondent at Maclean’s. He has also worked for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post, the CBC and BBC World Service. He has been published in OpenCanada, iPolitics, the Walrus, the Telegraph and the New York Times.
His first book, Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, was described by the Globe and Mail as “painstaking and clear-eyed.” The Spanish newspaper El Pais called it “beautiful.” His second book, Is This Your First War? Travels Through the Post-9/11 Islamic World, won the Ottawa Book Award for non-fiction.
Petrou has a doctorate in modern history from the University of Oxford, which he attended as a Chevening Scholar. He is a non-resident fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.
For his Fellowship project, he will be partnering with the National Post and Postmedia.
About Jim Travers:
Travers worked as the Southam News correspondent in Africa and the Middle East during the 1980s covering major stories – from apartheid in South Africa and the Ethiopian famine, to the conflict in Lebanon and the Iran-Iraq war. Returning to Canada, he continued an influential career as general manager of Southam News, editor of the Ottawa Citizen, executive managing editor of the Toronto Star and finally as an award-winning national affairs columnist known for his compassion and playful wit.
He believed Canadians deserve first-hand, in-depth coverage of important stories outside our borders. He argued passionately that it is crucial for Canadian reporters to “bear witness” – because in our interconnected world, foreign news is local news.
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