Sarah Lawrynuik, 2019 bursary winner, to report on political changes in Eastern Europe

TORONTO (June 11, 2019)—Journalist Sarah Lawrynuik will use the Gordon Sinclair Roving Reporter Bursary to explore the recent monumental political shifts that have led to the erosion of various freedoms in several Eastern and Central European countries.

The Gordon Sinclair Foundation awarded the bursary at its annual meeting, in Toronto on June 10. Lawrynuik, 27, is a Calgary-based multimedia journalist and a University of King’s College graduate who has worked across multiple platforms, filing stories to the CBC, The Narwhal, The Sprawl and New Scientist, among others. Since graduating, Lawrynuik has worked at the CBC in numerous roles including a six-month stint as a one-woman pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. As a freelancer she has published stories from eight countries, including Iraq. She focuses on in-depth storytelling across multiple platforms, especially radio and is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Global Energy and Climate Policy from the University of London.

2019 bursary winner Sarah Lawrynuik
Credit: CBC

As a Gordon Sinclair Roving Reporter, Lawrynuik will examine the current political shifts in Eastern and Central Europe and how those shifts are resonating in Canada. She will engage with the sizeable diasporas of Hungarian, Ukrainian and Polish Canadians on the ground in Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto before flying abroad to track the story there. Austria will be included in her travels, where Michael Ignatieff and the Central European University was recently relocated after having been thrown out of Hungary.

“The changes in Hungary echo those seen in the days following the final shots of World War II as Soviet forces took hold,” Lawrynuik says. “State control of the media, banning work of civil society groups, the detention of refugees—all seen then and now.”

“I want to bring this story home to Canadians and compare everyday people’s views with what the international narrative of the changes has been.”

The Roving Reporter Bursary was created in memory of Gordon Sinclair, who made his name reporting around the world for the Toronto Star in the 1930s. The bursary replaced a university scholarship for journalism students that was been given out annually since 1986 by the Gordon Sinclair Foundation, established by friends of the remarkable journalist, author, radio commentator and television personality who until his death in 1984, was one of Canada’s most enduring celebrities. He earned that celebrity during a career that included periods with the Toronto Star, CFRB radio and as a panelist on CBC’s long-running news quiz program Front Page Challenge.

“I want to thank the Gordon Sinclair Foundation for this opportunity to pursue in-depth international journalism,” Lawrynuik added. “It’s a chance rarely afforded to early-career journalists. I’m thrilled to represent the foundation in this way.”

Gordon Sinclair

At a time when most news organizations have cut back on travel, the Gordon Sinclair Roving Reporter Bursary is meant to support a major research and reporting trip by an early career Canadian journalist who has within the past five years graduated from one of Canada’s university-level journalism programs. The purpose of the $15,000 bursary is to encourage a young journalist to get off the beaten track and to spend a considerable period—a minimum of six weeks – away on a reporting assignment.

In recent years, bursary winners have used the award to document stories anywhere from the Middle East to Northern Canada.

In 2018, Katrina Clarke used the Roving Reporter bursary to report on Indigenous education in Australia and Canada. The results of her reporting were published by the Toronto Star, CBC and The Daily Gleaner and provided an international context to Canada’s efforts at truth and reconciliation.

In 2017, award-winning investigative reporter Annie Burns-Pieper travelled to Madagascar to report on US President Donald Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule—which bans foreign aid to groups that perform or promote abortion—and how it has impacted global health programs, specifically family planning and women’s health services.

Applicants to the Gordon Sinclair Roving Reporter Bursary were invited to submit a proposal to travel abroad or to a region of Canada that is not usually well covered by the media and to research and then prepare a substantial body of journalistic work on an important issue.

Two of Sinclair’s former employers—the Toronto Star and the CBC—have undertaken to provide mentorship by senior editors to the bursary winner and to consider the work for publication or broadcast.

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