TORONTO (June 28, 2023)—Three young Canadian reporters will embark on extended reporting trips to North Africa, Central Asia and northern Ontario through the Gordon Sinclair Roving Reporter Bursary.
This is the second time in 40 years that the Sinclair Foundation has elected to give out multiple bursaries in a single year. The foundation’s board opted to do so this week in recognition of the high calibre of applications and the fact that a Sinclair award had not been given out for two consecutive years as a result of the pandemic.
“We were thrilled by the enthusiasm for this award that was shown by a whole new crop of reporters looking to travel near and far in order to tell unique stories for a Canadian audience,” said Allan Thompson, president of the foundation. Thompson was himself the first young journalist to receive funding from the Gordon Sinclair Foundation in order to pursue research in another country back in 1986. “This year’s winners each proposed very important reporting projects and they are each uniquely qualified to receive the foundation’s support.”
Ania Bessonov, a multi-platform journalist at CBC news, will spend several weeks reporting in Central Asia on the exodus of the hundreds of thousands of Russians, many of which come from ethnic minorities, who fled the country following President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization to continue the war in Ukraine; Isaac Phan Nay, a recent Carleton journalism graduate and freelance journalist, will journey to Ontario’s Ring of Fire region to produce a podcast series that will explore how local communities are reacting to provincial plans to heavily mine the region; Jade Prévost-Manuel, a freelance journalist and former Joan Donaldson Scholar, will travel to North Africa to investigate the local impact of Canadian recruitment of qualified nurses and health care workers from other countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Cameroon.
This year’s recipients are the latest in a long line of young journalists who have been awarded funding by the Gordon Sinclair Foundation to undertake reporting expeditions around the world. Previous recipients have produced stories for multiple outlets, including the CBC and Toronto Star, which were Gordon Sinclair’s longstanding employers.
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.
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—traditionally a minimum of six weeks – away on a reporting assignment.
In 2020, Josie Fomé used the bursary to explore what happened to communities in Kampala when borders closed and what do locals say is needed to make development work ethical as the world slowly attempts to “reopen” after the pandemic. In 2019, Sarah Lawrynuik used the bursary to report on political changes and the erosion of various freedoms in Eastern Europe. Her field reporting in Ukraine earned her a nomination for a CAJ (Canadian Association of Journalists) award for human rights reporting.
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.
Here are more details about the winners and their reporting projects:
ANIA BESSONOV has worked in various roles at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto, including as a senior writer and a producer for several platforms. A graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University’s journalism program (2019) she speaks English, Russian and French as well as Hebrew and Ukrainian. She has an MA in Security and Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University where she completed a thesis analyzing how different Russian news outlets covered the Covid-19 pandemic and the lead up to the invasion of Ukraine. “I’ve been passionate about the Central Asian region for quite some time,” says Bessonov. “Not only is it rich in history and culture, but it’s become a pivotal place of refuge for many Russians, especially those from Siberia and ethnic minorities, who fled in large numbers following news of the partial mobilization. I am embarking on this journey to tell the stories from this region — a journey that would not be possible without the generous assistance from the Gordon Sinclair Roving Reporter Bursary.”
ISAAC PHAN NAY is a 2023 graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program. A former radio roomer at the Toronto Star, he has written for several publications including Canada’s National Observer and the Breach. Now, he works as an anchor and producer for CityNews in Vancouver. His reporting has earned recognition from the Emerge media awards and the Canadian University Press. By heading to northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire mining region, he hopes to help people in south Ontario hear the voices of people living in the province’s North. “I’m thankful for this rare opportunity. I hope I can do justice to the stewards of one of the earth’s most powerful carbon sinks.”
JADE PRÉVOST-MANUEL is an alumnus of both McGill University and Western University, where she obtained a masters of journalism in 2020. A former CBC News associate producer, Jade has worked in investigative journalism, science journalism, and local and national daily news. She speaks both English and French, and her bylines have appeared in nearly 20 publications around the world. Canadian-born but raised abroad, Jade is passionate about telling global stories that help Canadians think critically about their global impact and amplify the voices of people in underreported regions, particularly in the Caribbean. Her most recent stories examined a social movement to reclaim safe abortion access in Haiti and looked at how sex education can impact gender-based violence in Trinidad and Tobago. “Waiting hours in an emergency room, years for a medical procedure, days or months for a call back from a specialist… those are healthcare situations that anyone living in Canada can relate to,” says Prévost-Manuel. “Coming out of a pandemic, Canadians want to know how we can heal our healthcare system. I want to investigate the local impacts, at home and abroad, of one of the proposed solutions—foreign medical recruitment.”