Category Archives: news

Remembering former RJAA president Don McCurdy

What stood out most about Don was his generosity: with his time, stories, advice and drinks!

As a member of the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association, he was constantly giving back. Not only did he serve as the president, but he also took on the “past president” advisory role for three years – a position that only called for a one-year term. Going above and beyond to help others is what Don did best. On the association, he took interest in the career paths of each individual executive member and provided guidance for the group as a whole and to each member individually. You couldn’t help but love Don.

Don was my sounding board and a talented, passionate and fun-loving guy. I will miss him dearly.

-Amanda Cupido
(RJAA President 2013-2016)

Don, back left, with other members of the RJAA.

Don, back left, with other members of the RJAA.

Below are some thoughts about Don posted to Twitter:

Highlights from our branded content panel


Kicking off our first event of 2017, the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association (RJAA) brought together an expert panel to discuss one of the industry’s dirty phrases – branded content.

Unlike more traditional forms of advertising such as advertorials, branded content doesn’t typically come off as a marketing ploy. Brands involved in these kinds of campaigns typically approach mainstream news outlets, asking the outlet to create and share branded stories, videos and other content. The huge success companies have had through this method of marketing is mainly due to effective storytelling. Pairing up with reputable outlets allows companies to create positive brand awareness and build relationships with potential customers.

The outsourcing of journalists to create branded content has raised many ethical questions, including whether marketing content should be allowed to blend in with regular content. The RJAA’s panel — Pacific Content’s Chris Boyce, The Huffington Post Canada’s Sasha Nagy, freelance journalist Andrea Janus, Key Media’s Joe Rosengarten and moderator John Shmuel, of  — tackled the ethics of branded content on April 6. Here’s what the audience of budding journalists and media professionals learned:

“Consumers don’t care”

Credibility is everything. For outlets and journalists, remaining loyal to their audience is essential. So when it comes to getting paid to produce branded content, it’s no surprise that one of the most pertinent questions journalists ask is – what will the audience think? As Boyce said candidly, “Consumers don’t care.” The reason for this, Nagy said, is that brands need to meet a standard before they can work with many media outlets. The quality, authenticity and credibility of good branded content needs to be on par with regular content. As long as that standard is met, the panelists agreed that consumers don’t care if they’re consuming regular or sponsored content.

Transparency is key

A lot of discomfort about branded content is about ethics. In some cases, branded stories appear beside regular content and are hard to tell apart. “You do need to make sure you’re being very transparent,” said Janus, who has worked on numerous content assignments. Any work should be clearly labeled as sponsored or have the brand logo attached, she said.

Journalists are the ultimate storytellers but have competition

There’s a reason why brands choose to pay media outlets big bucks. Journalists understand how to connect and inform audiences in a way that few companies have traditionally understood. But, as Boyce noted, an increasing number of brands have created their own departments to generate content. This new trend may create some competition for outlets profiting from branded content. Profit generated from creating branded content goes towards producing actual journalism, Nagy noted. The panelists agreed that as brands move to in-house content creation, media outlets need to stay competitive, or risk losing a source of revenue.

Nominate ‘Headliners’ now

Each year, the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association pays tribute to three exemplary professionals who’ve attended Ryerson’s School of Journalism.

This is your chance to nominate someone for a chance to be honoured as an RJAA “Headliner.”

Who is a Headliner? He or she is a journalism alumni who has left a legacy. They’ve made a difference, having used their Ryerson experience as the basis to make an impression on the world.

Students who’ve passed through journalism school at Ryerson don’t just make an impression in the media world, but in other industries as well. Headliners don’t just need to be journalists.

Nominate a Headliner before Sept. 23. Send us an email with the nominee’s name, occupation and a short description that explains why they deserve to be a Headliner.

Email us:

Get involved with the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association

This year, the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association’s annual general meeting will be held on Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. until noon at the Rogers Communication Centre. Elections for the following positions will be held:

President (1): The president shall be responsible for chairing meetings of the executive committee and supervising and directing the activities of the Association, including the creation of subcommittees, as required, and the development of initiatives by the executive to establish and maintain the financial viability of the Association in pursuit of its objectives.

Vice-president: Events (1): The vice-president shall, in the absence of the president, serve as chair of executive committee meetings and shall assume other responsibilities as determined from time to time by the president and/or the executive.

Vice-president: Finance (1): The treasurer shall be responsible for the collection, safekeeping, and supervision of all monies of the association and shall prepare financial statements on an annual basis and provide interim financial data, as required by the executive committee.

Secretary (1): The secretary shall be responsible for recording the minutes of all meetings of the Association and for their preparation and distribution prior to each succeeding meeting. In the absence of the secretary, the president shall designate a recording officer.

Headliners Delegate (1): The headliners delegate will lead the selection committee in inducting three grads into the school’s journalism “hall of fame.” They will also be in charge of notifying recipients and assisting in the planning of the annual event,

Members-at-Large (3): The members-at-large shall assist in determining and implementing the activities of the Association and shall carry out responsibilities pursuant to the objectives of the Association.

All positions are eligible for a two-year term. If interested in getting involved (or if you have any questions) please email

2015 Headliners Announced

The RJAA is proud to announce the Headliners of 2015:

Brian Stewart, broadcast journalist and foreign correspondent

This 1964 grad is known for his show, CBC News: Our World, his many acclaimed international documentaries, and his standout reports for CBC’s The National from 1974 to 2010. A Gemini winner for Canada’s Best Overall Broadcast Journalist, Stewart is noted for his ability to bring compassion and humanity to foreign coverage. Now retired from daily journalism, he is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Paul Workman, broadcast journalist and foreign correspondent 

Since January of 2009, Paul Workman has been at the helm of CTV National News’ U.S. coverage from Washington. With more than 30 years in  journalism, this former student of the 1973 cohort helped Canadians understand a variety of notable news events, including: the revolution in Eastern Europe, the death of Princess Diana, the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the fall of Pakistan’s former president Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Christie Blatchford, columnist and author

This 1973 alumnus is best known for her column at The National Post. Known for her strong opinions and indefatigable pen, Blatchford has written for all four Toronto-based newspapers. With a National Newspaper Award for column writing and a Governor-General’s Literary Award in 2008 for her book Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army, Christie Blatchford is a consummate example of speaking up for what you believe in.

Why Headliners Matter

It’s now easier than it has ever been to publicly say whatever you might want to say, or tell whatever story you might want to tell.

Bylines are everywhere, your friends’ Facebook feeds, the Twitterverse and so on.

That’s excellent news for aspiring journalists and experienced pros alike.

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Suzanne Ma talks about the importance of writing skills and much more

Since the 1980s, waves of economic migrants from rural China have left their homeland bound for Italy but little attention is paid to them in the international press.

Determined to bring their stories to light, Suzanne Ma, a graduate of the 2006 Ryerson journalism class, spent five years shadowing a handful of Chinese economic migrants. The result is her debut non-fiction book, Meet Me In Venice, published in February and funded by a Pulitzer fellowship she won after graduating from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2009.

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A message from the president

As journalism continues to evolve, so does the Ryerson Journalism Association (RJAA).

You’re going to notice some changes.

Our association used to sell memberships to grads, print (and mail) newsletters and offer weekend workshops to enhance reporting skills.


Now, with a newly-elected team, we are planning to revamp the association and provide alumni with events, information and opportunities that better-fit today’s industry.

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© Carys Mills