Ryerson School of Journalism celebrates 60 years

When Kenny Yum attended Ryerson University’s journalism program in the mid ‘90s, he says he was rejected from the school’s “prestigious” magazine stream and forced into his second choice, reporting for print – a medium he barely ever worked in.

Fifteen years later, the Huffington Post Canada’s current managing editor will receive the school’s most prestigious honour.

Tonight Yum and 11 other successful Ryerson journalism grads will be recognized as the first members of the program’s new virtual hall of fame at the School of Journalism’s 60th anniversary cocktail party. This group, known as the headliners, includes roughly two noteworthy graduates from each decade the school has existed.

“I’m really floored by it,” said Yum, who previously served as the Globe and Mail’s online editor. “A ton of talent came out of the ‘90s…I truly know that I’ve been lucky to be at the forefront of digital [media] for the last 13 years.”

The recipients will be awarded an honorary certificate and a place in the school’s virtual hall of fame, to be displayed on a TV in the program’s new student workspace. This year’s inaugural group of inductees was chosen by a committee made up of faculty members and alumni. The program plans to add two new members every decade.

“I wasn’t there primarily for the academics; I was there to learn the craft of journalism.”

Jaclyn Mika, the departmental assistant for the School of Journalism tasked with organizing the event, says that current students should look to headliners to learn how varied a journalism degree can be.

“We have headliners representing print, broadcast and online journalism, but we also have winners representing careers outside of journalism,” says Mika, who is a 2008 Ryerson journalism graduate herself. “I think this will really show the breadth of what you can do with this degree.”

While the current program has more than 500 undergraduate students studying to earn a degree, many of the headliners can recall a time when they didn’t receive one at all. Before the journalism school officially earned a degree designation in 1973, students worked full-time on the daily school newspaper for three years in order to graduate.

“I wasn’t there primarily for the academics,” said Jim Sheppard, a current executive editor at The Globe and Mail who graduated in 1971. “I was there to learn the craft of journalism.”

Headliner Robyn Doolittle, a graduate of the program in 2006, agrees.

“I got my [school] work done on time, but I was mostly committed to the Eyeopener when I was in school,” says Doolittle, who now works as city hall reporter at the Toronto Star. “There was a balance, but if I was going to have one of them suffer it would’ve been school.”

The ceremony, Journalism on the Rocks, will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., at the Sears Atrium in the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre.

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