Funds will support the founding of the Canada Press Freedom Project

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J-Source has been awarded the 2020 Michener-L. Richard O’Hagan Fellowship for Journalism Education, the foundation announced on April 30.

The fellowship will give us the opportunity to lay the groundwork for the Canada Press Freedom Project.

Inspired by the U.S. Press Freedom tracker, the CPFP will be a free, online research hub that will document  press freedom violations and incursions nationwide. It will also include an open database, analysis and educational tools.

The inaugural fellowship is named after the late Dick O’Hagan, press secretary to two prime ministers and former journalist, who died in December 2018.

The winners of the Michener-Deacon Fellowships for Investigative Reporting are Laura Eggertson, who will investigate aging out of foster care in an in-depth series and Maurie-Claude Lortie, who will examine the health, environmental and economic impacts of pesticides in Canadian agriculture.

Our project proposal team — J-Source editor-in-chief and Ryerson journalism assistant professor Sonya Fatah, J-Source publisher Christopher Waddell, Ryerson journalism instructor and J-Source’s former managing editor H.G. Watson and J-Source managing editor Steph Wechsler — extends sincere thanks to the Michener Awards Foundation for recognizing the potential of this initiative. We also thank Ryerson University, for its support of this project and being the institutional partner of the CPFP.

“While COVID-19 had taken hold in countries that seemed far away, we submitted this application before the pandemic defined a lot of our lives here in Canada,” said Wechsler. “We live and report in an altered world now. But this project is as — if not more — important than ever.”

The $40,000 plus $5,000 in eligible expenses made available through the fellowship will support the building of this project’s foundation, including establishing methodology and stakeholder consultation; building a coalition; community engagement; designing the platform; developing resources and tools and publishing our results in the first report of the CPFP. 

J-Source will hire one or more research assistants to work with us in conducting these critical first steps. Postings will be made available soon on our website.

“This is an excellent opportunity to advance our understanding of press freedom violations from coast to coast in Canada,” said Fatah. “Not only will a central database for information and analysis prove useful for media organizations and policy-makers, but it will also act as a key research tool for students interested in journalism, public policy and access to information.”

We thank the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom, the National NewsMedia Council, the Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University, the Canadian Journalism Foundation, the Ryerson School of Journalism and Faculty of Communication and Design, Carleton University and J-Schools Canada/ÉcolesJ for supporting our proposal. An early iteration of the CPFP was first drafted by Watson, in collaboration with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. We thank the CJFE for its support in our proceeding with this project.

More information about the project and how to get involved will be forthcoming. 

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