MAY 14, 2024

At a time when the Canadian media sector faces job cuts, news deserts and a struggle for supports to save local news, Unifor is proud to fund the Investigative Journalism Bureau at the University of Toronto and welcomes the work of its two interns in this year’s summer program.

“Our union is thrilled to support the next generation of journalists,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne.

“Without programs like this one, we cannot tell our stories or hold the powerful to account. In this era of fake news and alternative facts, we are fighting to maintain trusted, verified, and legitimate local news that is essential to building strong communities and a healthy democracy.”

Unifor has actively fought for financial supports for local news, including the Online News Act, the Modernization of the Broadcasting Act, the Local Journalism Initiative, and journalism tax credits. And this is just the beginning, as there are many more supports needed to ensure a viable free press in Canada.

During the IJB/Unifor Investigative Summer Internship program, Rhythm Sachdeva and Maeve Ellis will spend four months working on public-interest investigations, overseen by IJB staff.

Sachdeva graduated from the university’s journalism program in 2020 and has been working part-time with the IJB as part of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health’s Fellowship in Global Journalism where she dug into a story about two dozen dieticians receiving payment from a Toronto-based sugar lobby group to create sponsored content.

“Those familiar with the inner workings of journalism know that compelling stories demand more than immediacy, solid sources, and research,” said Sachdeva.

“They require journalists to delve deeper, corroborate their data to an exacting degree, and paint a picture as if they experienced it firsthand. I believe, at the Investigative Journalism Bureau, I’ll have the opportunity to do just that.”

Ellis is completing her third year at the University of Toronto as an economics and history major while also working as an assistant editor of The Varsity, the university’s student newspaper. Her thirst to explore challenges around labour standards in a story about school merchandise production created discussion around accountability.

“I’m so excited to learn more about investigative tools and help uncover stories that will make a real-world impact,” she said.

As these students continue to dig up impactful stories, Unifor is also honoured to announce that the IJB/Toronto Star has been nominated for a Canadian Association of Journalists award for its groundbreaking Patient Files investigation.

Ontario hospitals asked patients about the care they received. Results were kept secret — and pleas for change went ignored – the harrowing investigative series by Declan Keogh, Max Binks-Collier, Naama Weingarten and Robert Cribb – is a finalist in the data journalism category.

Through a freedom-of-information battle, The Star and IJB obtained up to six years’ worth of survey data from more than 50 hospitals and health networks. They pored over first-hand testimonies from patients and their families, alleging injuries, and even deaths, due to premature discharges, misdiagnoses, delays in care, and neglect, among other issues.

At least 21 hospitals had in-patient units or emergency departments that consistently scored poorly on the surveys. Ontario hospitals’ score cards were publicly discontinued in 2008 because of government funding cuts.

The award winners will be announced at the CAJ awards gala on June 1, 2024.\


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