Pacinthe Mattar named the Winter 2023 Asper Fellow

December 2022

Pacinthe Mattar sitting in a cream-coloured dress outside with a backdrop of green, leafy treesThe Faculty of Information and Media Studies is pleased to announce that Pacinthe Mattar, award-winning journalist and recent Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, has been named the Winter 2023 FIMS Asper Fellow in Media. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Mattar has published work with CBC, The Walrus, Buzzfeed, Chatelaine, and others. In 2021 she was a Gold Winner at the National Newspaper Awards for a feature essay titled “Objectivity Is a Privilege Afforded to White Journalists.” The work was originally published in The Walrus in August 2020.

Since the publication of that essay, Mattar says she has continued her exploration of how notions of objectivity can be better applied to the practice of journalism. It’s an area of inquiry that she will bring into focus for students in the Master of Media in Journalism and Communication program, as well as other graduate students in FIMS, through a master’s level course titled “Long Form Writing, Objectivity and Truth.”

“I have been a journalist for over ten years, and I am interested in both the craft of journalism, and the theory and principles that guide it - specifically, the notion of objectivity and how it has been used to exclude, silence, and cast doubt on the experiences of people from marginalized communities,” says Mattar.

The course will be conducted in workshop-style and will focus on stories that challenge conventional notions of ‘objectivity’. Students will study and analyze profiles, interviews, essays, and other types of long form journalism, “with an eye for both the journalistic craft and the perspective it is being written from.”

Before the class concludes, students will produce their own long-form features using the skills and knowledge developed through the course, including being self-aware of their own reporting habits and personal style.

“I want students to learn to hone their curiosity, trust their instincts and follow and cover stories about issues they care deeply about,” says Mattar. “I want them to develop the skills to tell a well-structured, well-reported story that leans into their own experiences and perspectives while employing journalistic rigour, a critical lens, a commitment to accuracy and the right tools of the craft of long-form writing to help tell that story.”

This type of writing is growing in profile. Mattar notes that since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the journalism industry has been going through a reckoning that has shone a bright light on the mainstream journalism industry, professional journalists, and how they approach their craft. The process has been painful and challenging, but Mattar is encouraged by what she sees in today’s journalism students and the academic curriculums in which they are immersed.

“One of the places I continue to find hope, optimism and belief in the future of our industry is through student journalists and the way that journalism education is changing to better reflect, reckon with, and hold a mirror up to the worlds, issues, and stories we want to cover. I'm looking forward to getting to know the students who'll take my course - and to learn from them as well,” she says.

The Asper Fellowship in Media (formerly the CanWest Global Fellowship) was established in 2006 through a donation from The CanWest Global Foundation. The aim of the Asper Fellowship in Media is to enrich academic programs in media and journalism at Western, expand research on significant topics in Canadian media, and promote public discussion about Canadian media and the media industry within Canada, including the business of media.

Mattar’s appointment will run from January 1 to April 30, 2023.

Image credit: Enzo Rodriguez