The Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication held a special panel entitled Women in Journalism on Friday, Sept. 16. The event was held in honour of the 70th anniversary of the conferral of the first Bachelor of Journalism degrees in Canada. Three degrees were granted in 1946, and all went to women.
Written by Karen Kelly. Photography by Chris Roussakis.
Cans of tuna. Red stilettos. A diaper. Hiking boots. A burka. A flak jacket.
Those are just a few of the items that have resided in Susan Ormiston’s overnight bag over the years. As she addressed a crowd at Carleton University recently, the CBC senior correspondent unpacked a khaki green suitcase to demonstrate how her life is a blend of the personal and the professional.
“People ask why we are still talking about women in the media and I tell them it’s because there’s a difference. Women face different pressures,” explained Ormiston, who earned a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton in 1981. “Most of our journalism graduates are women, but ten years down the road, it doesn’t hold up. That likely has to do with the unpredictable hours and lack of stability in our field.”
Women in Journalism Tell Different Stories
But rather than letting these women change fields, Ormiston argued news managers need to make changes to keep them—because journalism benefits from diversity.
“There are advantages to being a woman out in the field,” she explained. “When I’m in Afghanistan, I get interviews that none of my male colleagues could get because I can talk to the women. In Brazil, I interviewed underage sex workers. As women, we can tell different stories.”
Ormiston’s comments were echoed by three journalists—and Carleton alumni—who joined her in a panel discussion after her speech. They included:
- Joanne Chianello, reporter, CBC Ottawa
- Alyshah Hasham, court reporter, Toronto Star
- Anita Li, senior editor, Fusion
“I think newsrooms need to reflect the city they’re covering,” said Toronto Star reporter Alyshah Hasham, describing how that diversity comes through in the people interviewed and the stories covered.
Speaking for the Marginalized
“Our job is to speak for groups who are marginalized,” added Joanne Chianello.
Anita Li also strives to foster a multicultural perspective at her online publication, Fusion.
“In the past, our story ideas were often rebuffed,” she recalled. “But young women and people of colour want to see story ideas that represent them. That’s what our organization is striving to do.”
The event, Women in Journalism, was sponsored by the School of Journalism and Communication in honour of its 70th anniversary and was part of Throwback: Carleton’s homecoming celebration.