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The First Annual Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture

The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University

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The world is in a precarious space, with ongoing conflicts, simmering flashpoints, tens of millions of people forcibly displaced. These are global issues that demand global attention, and one way we can make sense of what is happening is by reading, watching, and listening to smart journalism.

the Canadian War Museum to offer this annual lecture. As one of the world’s most respected institutions dedicated to the study and understanding of armed conflict and its effects, the Canadian War Museum is the ideal venue for this informed discussion of conflict journalism, both past and present.

Foreign correspondents have always played a pivotal role in keeping us informed, and despite the tectonic shift in technology and the ways in which we communicate, the need for journalists to bear witness in conflict zones is more urgent than ever. It is essential that we maintain access to clear, thoughtful, verified information.

Susan Harada Associate Director, School of Journalism and Communication Journalism Program Head Carleton University

In this spirit, Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, through the generosity of Richard Stursberg and Judith Lawrie, has established the Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture.

Stephen Quick Director General, Canadian War Museum Vice-President, Canadian Museum of History

A 20th century war correspondent, Peter Stursberg reported from the front lines of the Second World War for the CBC. His on-the-ground reportage helped Canadians understand the human and political cost of the carnage unfolding overseas. The School is pleased to collaborate with

The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University


A Witness to History By Karen Kelly

BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet has been on the front lines of many conflicts, but it’s the Syrian War that has emerged in her mind as the most enduring, destructive and consequential conflict of our generation. “It is the cautionary tale of our time,” explains Doucet, who has been reporting on conflicts in the Middle East and beyond for more than 30 years. “Social media has made it the most documented war of our time and yet the world has been incapable of stopping this terrible spiral into what many call ‘the greatest human disaster of the twenty-first century.’” Even as she crosses continents on a regular basis, Doucet’s attention to Syria is unwavering. She’s currently conducting interviews for a two-part TV documentary on the Syrian war for the BBC’S national and global networks. It will rely heavily on her reports from the field as the conflict unfolded. “We wanted to go back and ask why the world failed, and ask why Syrians on all sides made the choices they did. While the rules of war were violated on a daily basis, there needed to be a political solution, which


seemed beyond the grasp of world powers and the UN Security Council,” says Doucet. Throughout this conflict, which is now approaching its seventh year, the UN’s main political body has been gridlocked. While Russia and China back Syria’s government, the West has sided with the opposition. Doucet is in the midst of interviewing players on all sides—the government, the rebels, protestors, senior officials from the main foreign powers—to ask whether they think the war could have been avoided, in hindsight. Doucet says most of the interviews end in tears. “It’s not just the bad people against the good people. There are those on all sides,” she insists. “We’re looking at the dark and the light because it’s the only way to understand the shifting kaleidoscope that is Syria.”

Giving Voice to Suffering Doucet’s strong sense of service and justice began early in her upbringing and career. She was raised in small-town New Brunswick, where her Aunt Gloria, a missionary,


A Witness to History continuing from page 7.

introduced her to the idea of working abroad. After earning a BA from Queen’s University and an MA in International Relations from the University of Toronto, Doucet volunteered to teach English in the Ivory Coast with Canadian Crossroads International. Soon after, she transitioned to freelancing in West Africa for Canadian news outlets and the BBC. This led to her life-long career in the BBC, beginning with a posting in Kabul, then Islamabad, Amman and Jerusalem. As a foreign correspondent, she covered all of the major conflicts in the Middle East since the mid-1990s. This led to a personal connection to the region, and to Syria in particular. “When I first went to Syria in 1994, it was a middle income Arab country with an extraordinary heritage and hospitality but few political freedoms,” she said. “I’ve been visiting Syria since then, and if I stopped going, it would be saying that this part of my life doesn’t matter anymore. But it is hard, very hard, to see what has happened there.”

There have been a few signs of hope in Syria. Doucet recently visited the Syrian city of Homs, which saw some of the worst fighting of the war. She found some signs of life beginning to re-emerge now that the main battles have ended with the government back in control. “The stores and cafes were full; the kids were taking swimming lessons, but others parts of the city are in utter ruin,” she says. “There’s a gaping wound that is still very raw. So many Syrians who protested or took up arms were forced to flee and they fear they’ll never be able to return.” Doucet has seen so much suffering in these conflicts that she has learned to take a break from international news when she isn’t on the job. She also takes time to contemplate her own good fortune for being born a Canadian. “You can’t help but live with a profound sense of gratitude,” says Doucet, who was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire, along with many other recognitions. “It’s being grateful for being able to live in places where there is the rule of law, as well as peace and tranquility. I’m acutely aware that it could have gone the other way.”

The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University

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The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University


A Life in Words

By Richard Stursberg

Peter Stursberg was born in China in 1913, the year before the outbreak of the First World War. His mother was half Japanese and half Irish. His father was an official in the British colonial administration. He was schooled at home in China until he was 10 and then sent to boarding school in Britain. He attended McGill University, but left during the Great Depression because he had no money. His foreign birth, the exotic quality of his family and his relative poverty made him the quintessentially Canadian immigrant. In early 1932, when he was 19, he landed a job as a journalist in British Columbia. By dint of sheer chutzpa, he managed to return to Britain as an Empire Press Union Exchange reporter. This allowed him to visit Czechoslovakia just before it was betrayed by Britain and France in 1939. On his return to Canada, he joined the newly created CBC news service. When the Second World War broke out, he pestered the CBC management so incessantly that they finally agreed to make him a war correspondent. He arrived in London at the beginning of 1943 and began making the broadcasts

that would make him a household name in Canada. He covered the Canadian invasion of Sicily, the terrible battles up the length of Italy, the liberation of Holland and the entry of the Allied troops into the wreckage of Berlin. Through the course of all this, he somehow managed to write his first book; Journey into Victory. By the end of the war, he was 32 and famous. He wanted to go back to Canada, but the war was over and the CBC did not need any more war correspondents. He was out of work. Somehow, he managed to land a job in London as the roving correspondent for the Daily Herald, which sent him to cover the last days of the Raj. He interviewed Gandhi and Nehru and reported on the catastrophe of the partition of India. Finally, the CBC took him back and made him their first correspondent to the newly formed United Nations. This led to his second book: Agreement in Principle, a funny and bitter account of the UN’s failure to live up to its promise.

The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University

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After six years in New York and having been away from Canada for almost 15 years, he returned as Ottawa editor of the Toronto Star. Once home, he began the most productive period of his career. He became one of the founders of private TV news; he set up an internationally syndicated radio service; and he began writing books at a ferocious rate. The most important of his books were four volumes on the Diefenbaker and Pearson governments: Diefenbaker: Leadership Gained; Diefenbaker: Leadership Lost; Lester Pearson and The Dream of Unity and Lester Pearson and The American Dream. In writing them, he also became one of the pioneers of oral history in Canada.

He received the Order of Canada when he was 82.

The wheel came full circle when he published his last book - an account of his exotic family and their days in China at the age of almost 90.

He died at 101, the last of the Canadian journalists who had covered the Second World War.

When he retired, he moved back to British Columbia, where his career had begun. In retirement, he continued to write, producing biographies of various well-known Canadians, a pair of memoirs and a history of the Canadians in China. Peter Stursberg

The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University


War Correspondents For as long as people have been fighting among themselves, someone has been there to observe events and relay the news to others. In the centuries before newspapers began to dispatch civilian ‘war correspondents’ in the latter half of the 1800s, people most often heard about war from official proclamations and the participants themselves. Indigenous peoples in what is now Canada learned of minor raids, great battles and warriors through oral accounts. The Greenland Saga documents skirmishes between 10th century Vikings and the Beothuk in Newfoundland. Samuel de Champlain recorded in Voyages how he joined a HuronAlgonkian war expedition to Mohawk country in 1609. In pre-Confederation Canada, most newspaper reporting on war– such as accounts of the War of 1812 or the 1837 rebellions - was written by soldiers. The personal journals or memoirs of campaigns composed by literate officers were often published on their own or excerpted by newspapers, providing a first-hand perspective of warfighting that was eagerly read by consumers on the home front. They were also the only way that readers could open a window to war, as the civilian war correspondent didn’t gain access to the frontlines until the mid-19th century. The first civilian war correspondent may have

been William Howard Russell, who chronicled the foibles of the British military in the Crimea in the 1850s for the venerable Times of London. Following in his footsteps Canadian journalists began to report on conflict. Among them was George A. Flinn, who reported critically on the Riel rebellion in 1885 for the Winnipeg Sun and the Toronto Telegram and, like other reporters, clashed with the commander, General Frederick Middleton. By the end of the century, Canadian journalists were also among 200 correspondents covering the Boer War. Kathleen “Kit” Blake Coleman, who reported for the Toronto Mail and Empire, is credited with being the first woman accredited as a war correspondent when she was somewhat reluctantly given permission to cover the 1898 Spanish-American War in Cuba. The letter of introduction provided by U.S. Secretary of War Russel H. Alger gave her permission “to accompany the military expedition of the United States out of this country, if not inconsistent with the best interests of the service.” Alger’s proviso about the military’s “best interests” has proven very influential in governing what Canadian and international war correspondents have been able to report on in the years since. In the First World War, highly restrictive

The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University

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provisions for reporting on the Western Front meant that only a handful of reporters were given access at any given time. Canadian coverage was largely shaped by Max Aitken—aka Lord Beaverbrook—the Canadian newspaper baron who established the government’s official “Eye Witness” program to provide newspapers with official accounts of the battles. The news promoted Canada’s participation in the war and was subject to heavy censorship, presenting a skewed vision of the horrors of the trenches. Newspapers at home also published long casualty lists, as well as soldiers’ letters that often provided a more personalized picture of the war. The ruinous costs of transmitting news by transatlantic telegraph cables led to significant changes in news organization in Canada, including the consolidation of several wire services in 1917 into “The Canadian Press.” Second World War reporters enjoyed a much better relationship with the forces they covered, receiving the honorary rank of captain, services of a driver, and greater access. Added to this was the technology of radio broadcasting, which for the first time brought the sounds of war into living rooms across the country, complete with moving accounts from iconic voices such as Peter Stursberg, Matthew Halton and Marcel Ouimet.

Still subject to censorship, journalists ended up as part of the war effort, helping to sell Victory Bonds and self-censoring information in the name of victory. The symbiotic relationship between war correspondents and military public relations nevertheless helped to produce some stirring reporting of the war, with reporters sharing much of the risks with the soldiers they covered. In recent decades, Canadian war correspondents have covered conflict in far flung corners of the world and followed this country’s involvement in United Nations and NATO missions in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. Canada’s decade-long engagement in Afghanistan introduced a new generation of Canadian journalists to the rigours of war correspondence, the ethical quandary of signing embed agreements with the Canadian Forces and Canada’s most intensive combat operation since Korea. Along the way, as they have always done, Canadian correspondents helped shape the way we see war.

Allan Thompson Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University Andrew Burtch Historian, Canadian War Museum

The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University


Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture [Advisory Committee membership as of February 15 2017]

Cameron Barr Managing Editor The Washington Post Tony Cavin Deputy Foreign Editor CBS News Michel Cormier Directeur général information des Services français Executive Director News and Current Affairs of French Services CBC Radio-Canada Roula Khalaf Deputy Editor Financial Times Robert Mahoney Deputy Executive Director Committee to Protect Journalists

Andrew Roy Foreign Editor BBC News Chris Wilson-Smith (former) Foreign Editor, The Globe and Mail (current) Head of Publications and Content Strategy, Royal Ontario Museum Susan Harada - Chair of Advisory Committee Associate Director - School of Journalism & Communication, Program Head - Journalism, Carleton University Richard Stursberg - ex-officio member former Executive Vice President, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, English Services Andrew Burtch – partner observer Historian, Post 1945 Canadian War Museum

Jennifer McGuire General Manager and Editor in Chief, CBC News and Centres

The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University

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The Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture • School of Journalism and Communication • Carleton University


Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture School of Journalism and Communication Carleton University 4309 Richcraft Hall 1125 Colonel By Drive Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1S 5B6 Phone: (613) 520-2600 x7404 Fax: (613) 520-6690 Email: journalism@carleton.ca @JSchool_CU

The Peter Stursberg Inaugural Lecture  

See the program here. Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, through the generosity of Richard Stursberg and Judith...

The Peter Stursberg Inaugural Lecture  

See the program here. Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, through the generosity of Richard Stursberg and Judith...