Allan Thompson

Allan Thompson during a visit to Rwanda. (Photo courtesy Brent Foster) 

This blog is maintained by Allan Thompson, a Canadian journalist and journalism professor who is based in Ottawa, Canada. Allan worked for 17 years as a reporter with the Toronto Star newspaper before he joined the faculty at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in 2003. He continues to freelance for The Star and until recently, wrote a regular  column called World Citizen that appeared in the Toronto Star every second Saturday.

In this blog, Allan reflects on issues in journalism and journalism education.



Allan Thompson’s current CV

Associate Professor
School of Journalism and Communication
Carleton University
613-520-2600 EXT. 7439
Rm. 4106B River Building 


Master of Arts in International Relations, University of Kent at Canterbury, 1987. Thesis focused on the impact of the news media on international affairs and the concepts of image and reality and how the two often become blurred. Media accounts of world events outside of our daily lives create the ‘mediareality’ that becomes the cornerstone of our understanding of the world.

Bachelor of Journalism, Carleton University, 1986. Graduated with Highest Honours in Journalism and Political Science. Honours Research Project took the form of a radio documentary on the so-called Barnardo Children, child migrants who were transported from Britain to Canada at the turn of the century as part of an evangelical child migration scheme.


Associate Professor of Journalism, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University, 2003-present.

Columnist, The Toronto Star, 1998-2012. On a freelance basis, retained by The Toronto Star from 1998 to 2012 to produce a regular column on immigration issues, published in the Living section of The Star.

Freelance journalist. I continue to write on a freelance basis for the Toronto Star. Most recently, The Star published a 3,500-word story of mine recounting a fact-finding mission to Rwanda, Congo and South Sudan by Romeo Dallaire in support of his Child Soldiers Initiative.

The Toronto Star, 1987-2003. Worked for Canada’s largest daily newspaper as a reporter, first in the Mississauga Bureau and the newsroom at 1 Yonge St. in Toronto and then, from 1994 to 2003 as a political reporter in the parliamentary bureau, in Ottawa. On Parliament Hill, covered foreign affairs, defence and immigration issues and wrote a weekly column on immigration issues. While based in Ottawa, covered two general election campaigns, the 1995 referendum and travelled across Canada and around the world with the Prime Minister. Also carried out extended reporting assignments for The Star in Russia, Kazakhstan, Somalia, Rwanda, Zaire, Sierra Leone and Washington. First worked for The Star as a summer intern in 1986.

Gemini News Service, London, 1990-91. During a one-year leave of absence from The Star in 1990-91, I took up a research fellowship from the International Development Research Centre that included a placement with the London-based Gemini News Service, a small news agency specializing in developing world issues. The placement also included a five-month research trip to the Maghreb countries of North Africa.

London Free Press and Kincardine Independent. While studying journalism at Carleton, worked at the Free Press as a summer student in 1985 and at the weekly Kincardine Independent in the summers of 1983 and 1984


Diamond Jubilee Medal. Presented with this honour, established to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, in November, 2012. I was nominated by Senator Romeo Dallaire, who said the medal was intended to recognize my work in trying to foster a free press in places like Rwanda.

Governor General’s Medal. Presented with this medal by Her Excellency, Gov.-Gen. Michaëlle Jean during her State Visit to Rwanda, April 2010, in recognition of work establishing the Rwanda Initiative and promoting freedom of the press in Rwanda.

Canadian Journalism Foundation – 2007 Special Humanitarian Award. Presented with this award by the Canadian Journalism Foundation at a gala banquet on June 6, 2007 in recognition of my contribution to journalism and humanitarianism in establishing the Rwanda Initiative.

National Newspaper Awards. Nominated in the Short Features category for the 2004 National Newspaper Award, Canada’s most prestigious print journalism award. This was the first time a member of the faculty of the School of Journalism and Communication was nominated for this award – the highest honour for print journalists in Canada – while also teaching on a full-time basis.

IDRC Gemini Fellowship. In 1990-91, took up this one-year fellowship sponsored by the International Development Research Centre. The $25,000 fellowship included the placement at Gemini and field trip to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania to conduct research on the fledgling Arab Maghreb Union.

Gordon Sinclair Fellowship. First recipient of this $10,000 scholarship named in honour of the broadcaster and journalist. The scholarship, open at the time to graduates of a Canadian journalism program, is meant to encourage further study and I used the funds to enroll at the University of Kent, at Canterbury.

Co-authored books

The Canadian Reporter: News writing and reporting, by Catherine McKercher, Allan Thompson and Carman Cumming, published in March, 2010 by Nelson Publishing, Toronto.

Articles in refereed Journals

“Journalism training and media freedom in Rwanda,” in Media Development  Vol. 14, No. 4/2007, pp. 24-29.

“Movers and Shakers: Louise Arbour,’’ in International Journal Vol. LIX No. 3, Summer 2004, Canadian Institute of International Affairs, pp.681-692.

Edited books

The Media and the Rwanda Genocide, edited volume, published January 2007 by Pluto Press (London), Fountain Publishers (Kampala) and the International Development Research Centre.

Other (non-refereed) Scholarly Publications  

“Conflict Prevention: Do journalists have a role,’’ The New Interaction: Conflict Resolution for Everyday Life, Vol. 17, No. 3, Winter 2005, pp. 14-15.

“Fundamental Misperceptions: The media and the Islamic revival,’’ The Southeast European Yearbook 1993, pp. 189-203.  Published by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, Athens.

“The Maghreb, Islam and the Politics of Need,’’ Al-Mizan, Vol. 2, No. 2, Spring 1992, pp.3-7.

“Mediareality,’’ Paradigms: The Kent Journal of International Relations, Vol. 2, No. 1, June 1988, pp. 44-55.

“The news media and international relations: Experience and the media reality: The Gordon Sinclair essay.” Canadian Journal of Communication.  1987, 13, (1, Winter), 39-54.

“The Study of International Relations: Relatively Speaking,’’ Paradigms: The Kent Journal of International Relations, Vol. 1, No. 1, June 1987, pp. 3-7. Editors Note.

 Creative or Professional Publications

The Toronto Star: As a reporter with The Star I published more than 4,000 articles in the course of my career

World Citizen column: Until September of 2012, I published a regular column in The Toronto Star on immigration issues, the only column of its kind in Canada. In the fall of 2006 the column was re-named World Citizen. It appeared every second Saturday.

The Toronto Star – freelance work– Since joining the faculty at Carleton on a full-time basis in the summer of 2003 I have continued to submit freelance work to The Star. Freelance contributions published by The Star since I joined the faculty at Carleton include:

  • A story published on page A1 of The Star, on Nov. 6, 2003, revealed that the RCMP might have broken the law to obtain a key document later used by against Maher Arar.
  • In a 10-part series of stories, published between Jan. 17 and Feb. 1, 2004, I reported for The Star on Romeo Dallaire’s testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in Arusha. Several of the stories appeared on the front page.
  • A seven-part series of stories, published between April 3 and April 11, 2004, chronicled Romeo Dallaire’s first trip back to Rwanda since the 1994 genocide. Several of the stories appeared on the front page of The Star.
  • In an exclusive interview, published on the front page on June 7, 2004, Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour said human rights had come under siege during the U.S.-led war on terror. Arbour had just been appointed the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • A July 5, 2004 front-page story based on a second exclusive interview with Louise Arbour focused on Arbour’s recollections about the imposition of the War Measures Act in 1970.
  • An Aug. 8, 2004 feature in The Star’s World section examined human rights in Rwanda.
  • A cover story in The Star’s Arts and Entertainment section on Sept. 11, 2004 chronicled the work of a documentary crew that accompanied Romeo Dallaire to Rwanda.
  • In a Nov. 14, 2004 op-ed piece, written just after the death of Yasser Arafat, I recounted my two meetings with the Palestinian leader.
  • A Jan. 22, 2005 analysis piece focused on the problems with Canada’s dysfunctional immigration system.
  • In an exclusive interview in the Rwanda tribunal courtroom in Arusha, the alleged mastermind of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Theoneste Bagosora, laid the blame for the massacres at the feet of Romeo Dallaire the UN. My story on the interview was published on July 10, 2005.
  • A Nov. 11, 2005 piece published on page A2 of The Star was based on documents obtained under access to information which revealed concerns about politicians and bureaucrats using their BlackBerrys to circumvent access to information rules.
  • A cover story in The Star’s Life section on Feb. 4, 2006 documented the time I spent in Rwanda teaching journalism as part of our Rwanda Initiative project.
  • A cover story in The Star’s Arts and Entertainment section published on July 22, 2006, took the reader to the hillside in Rwanda where the cast and crew of Shake Hands with the Devil were working on the feature film based on Dallaire’s memoir.
  • In an op-ed piece published as the lead editorial in The Star on Sept. 23, 2006, I challenged journalists to consider their own contribution to the smear campaign against Maher Arar.
  • A story published on June 2, 2008 under the headline Canada Spurns UN plea on Congo revealed that Canada had once again turned down a request to take command of the peacekeeping force in Congo.
  • A front page story on Dec. 16, 2008, the day after Bob Fowler’s disappearance in Niger, chronicled his career.
  • A major feature published on page A3 on Dec. 19, 2008 detailed the conviction by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of genocide mastermind Theoneste Bagosora.
  • A front-page story on April 11, 2009 turned to five full pages inside the paper telling the story behind historic news footage taken in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.
  • The Ottawa Citizen published a story on Jan. 21, 2009 on page C6 about the experience of taking my son Laith to the Obama inauguration in Washington.
  • The cover of the World Weekly section in the Toronto Star on April 26, 2012 featured a three-page spread on Romeo Dallaire’s fact-finding mission to Rwanda, Congo and South Sudan.

Diplomat and International Magazine: Until a 2006 change in ownership resulted in a shift in the magazine’s mandate, I wrote the back-page column for this Ottawa-based publication for the diplomatic and foreign policy community in the nation’s capital.

Canada and the World: I contributed an article on Romeo Dallaire and Rwanda to the spring 2004 issue of this magazine published by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Gemini News Service: During a one-year placement with this London-based news agency, I published about 50 articles on development issues.


Papers presented


“The Genocide Video,” presented at Representing Genocide: Media, Law and Scholarship, April 5-6, 2013, at the University of Minnesota.


“The Genocide Video,” presented at The Desire to See: The Construction and Circulation of Images of Atrocity, a symposium held April 25-26 at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, New York University.


(Please note, I made virtually the same presentation, “The Genocide Video,”  at both the Minnesota and NYU events, with full agreement from my hosts, who were interested in hearing about my research into an important piece of news footage captured during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda).


 “Rwanda and the Responsibility to Report: A New Journalistic Paradigm,” presented at Media, War and Conflict Resolution, Sept. 17-19, 2008, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.

Other professional activity

Director, Centre for Media and Transitional Societies. I continue with my role as the director of the Centre for Media and Transitional Societies, a Public Affairs Research Centre established to examine the role of news media in post-conflict and other “transitional” societies. At the heart of the proposal for the establish of Centre for Media and Transitional Societies was the notion that Carleton could be doing so much more to cultivate Canadian expertise and to build the capacity of the media abroad, particularly in so-called “transitional societies” where there is a window of opportunity to use the media to advance development and build the institutions of governance and civil society. Some of this work must involve research and the creation of knowledge in Canada and abroad about the role of media in transitional societies. But the new Centre could build on the model developed through the Rwanda Initiative project to other transitional societies – places like Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone or Afghanistan for example – where media can play a role in development and where Canadian expertise can be deployed. The CMTS also provides summer internships in Africa for Carleton journalism students. This year’s internship program includes 22 placements across Africa.

Lead Researcher – Radio, Convergence and Development in Africa. This research program, funded by the International Development Research Centre, examined the fact that radio is increasing its reach and interactivity as a result of changes in the regulatory environment, the growth of citizen journalism and convergence between radio and other information and communication technologies (ICTs), notably mobile phones and the Internet. New technologies are enhancing radio, not displacing it as originally predicted. But despite the obvious reach and pertinence of radio to the lives of Africans, little is known about its contribution to development. Like any other ICT, radio – whether state-controlled, privately owned, community or international – can serve to trigger or exacerbate positive or negative outcomes. This project explores how radio can help address development challenges in Africa, such as poverty, the Millennium Development Goals and making governance work for the poor. It is doing so through the mechanism of a research grants competition. The first stage in the program was a brainstorming workshop of experts on radio and ICTs held in Rwanda in early September, 2009. In this context, I also participated in the Acacia Research and Learning Forum, organized by IDRC in Dakar, Senegal. October 4-8, 2009. A total of 14 research projects were funded and their research work was completed in the summer of 2011. Grant recipients presented their results at the Radio Days conference hosted by the Wits Radio Academy, in Johannesburg in early July of that year.

The Rwanda Initiative, founder and director. From January 2006 to August 2011, I acted as the as director of the Rwanda Initiative, a partnership between Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication and its counterpart at the National University of Rwanda that I established at the beginning of 2006. Since beginning my employment at Carleton in 2003 I have made 12 working visits to Rwanda. This initiative resulted in a journalism teaching partnership that has taken more than 130 Canadians to Rwanda. Nearly 50 Canadian visiting lecturers have gone to teach at the National University of Rwanda, in Butare, or at the Great Lakes Media Centre, a night school for working journalists in Kigali. The initiative has also established a media internship program allowing Carleton journalism students to work as interns at various media outlets in Kigali. Two exchange students from Carleton visited Butare in the summer of 2006. The project was expanded l to include an internship program for Rwandan journalists in Canada. Over the years the Rwanda Initiative project has received extensive media coverage in Canada and abroad, has attracted considerable outside funding and has served as a recruitment tool for Carleton. I organized an event on April 8, 2011 to mark the 5th anniversary of the project. But because of a lack of funds, the teaching partnership was put on hold in August, 2011.

Member of Research Steering Committee, Will To Intervene (W2I) project. I was invited in July 2007, by Senator Romeo Dallaire and Prof. Frank Chalk at Concordia University to join the research steering committee of the Will To Intervene Project, a 16-month research project initiated by Dallaire and the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS). The purpose of the research project is to develop practical tools to generate sufficient political will to prevent genocide and other crimes against humanity I am advising on the role of the media in this regard.

Speaking tour on the role of the media in the Rwanda genocide. From January to April of 2007 I undertook a major international speaking tour to address the issues raised in my edited collection, The Media and the Rwanda Genocide. The tour, which was funded by the International Development Research Centre, Foreign Affairs and International Trade and by me personally, included more than 30 speaking engagements in 17 cities. The speaking tour included stops at Oxford (Oxford University Programme in Comparative Media Law), London (London School of Economics, City University), Kigali (Kigali Institute for Science and Technology), Butare (National University of Rwanda), Kampala (Makerere University), Nairobi (International Development Research Centre, University of Nairobi), Lewiston, Maine (Bates College), Washington (the World Bank Infoshop), Ottawa (Parliament Hill, Carleton University), Tiverton, Ontario, Halifax (King’s College, Dalhousie University), Vancouver (University of British Columbia, Liu Centre), Regina (University Regina School of Journalism), Edmonton (Edmonton Journal, University of Alberta, Grant McEwan College), Montreal (Concordia, McGill University, Paragraphe book store), Toronto (Ryerson University, Indigo Books), Stockton College, New Jersey, New York City (United Nations Correspondents Association).

Team member, Carleton’s participation in the Al Ahram Canadian University project with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. This project involves the provision of consulting services to assist in the development of the Journalism faculty at this new university.

Uniterra, communications advisory committee. I assisted this development organization with its communications strategy. Acting on my suggestion, Uniterra established the Uniterra Media Internship program, which resulted in 13 Canadian journalism students doing work terms in the developing world.


 Print Journalism Laboratory (Bootcamp), JOUR5200: Intensive journalism workshop for Master’s students, taught in fall term 2004, 2005 and 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and again in the fall term of 2011 and 2012.

 Journalism and Conflict, JOUR4101B – In the fall term 2012, I taught a revised version of the course that I launched in 2007.

Introduction to Journalism Studies, JOUR1000A – In the winter term I taught our first-year course, working closely with colleague Prof. Kanina Holmes, who taught the course in the fall term. Together, we did a complete re-design of the course.

Journalism and the Developing World, JOUR4101A: In the winter term I taught the third iteration of this course, first offered in 2011. The crux of the course was a novel linkage between Carleton students and working journalists in Africa. Each student was linked with three or four journalists, with whom they corresponded during the term by email, Skype, mobile phone and other means. The results of those interactions were posted to a course website. Working with their African counterparts, students produced a multimedia prototype of Gemini News Service.

Professional Practices in Journalism, JOUR5706 – In the winter term of 2011 I taught this course for MJ1 students which combines an examination of professional practices in journalism with an intensive focus on preparations for the MRP.

Fundamentals of Reporting, JOUR2201 – Taught a section of this second-year course in the winter term, 2011.

Journalism and the Developing World, JOUR4101A: Taught for the first time a new course that I proposed and developed. The crux of the course was a novel linkage between Carleton students and working journalists in Africa. Each student was linked with three or four journalists, with whom they corresponded during the term by email, Skype, mobile phone and other means. The results of those interactions were posted to a course website. Working with their African counterparts, students produced a multimedia prototype of Gemini News Service.

Fundamentals of Reporting, JOUR2201 – Taught a section of this second-year course in the winter term, 2011.

Print Journalism Laboratory (Bootcamp), JOUR5200: Intensive journalism workshop for Master’s students, taught in fall term 2004, 2005 and 2006, 2007, 2008 and now again in the fall term of 2010.

Journalism and Conflict, JOUR4101B – In the fall term 2010, taught a revised version of the course that I launched in 2007.

Sabbatical, 2009-10 academic year.

Journalism and Conflict, JOUR4101: In the winter term, 2008-09, I once again taught the course that I designed and launched the year prior.

Analytical Reporting, JOUR 3205: Taught in 2003-2004, 2004-2005, 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.

Advanced Print Reporting – National University of Rwanda: Fourth-year print reporting course, taught at School of Journalism and Communication, NUR, January-February 2006, through the Rwanda Initiative.

Fundamentals of Reporting, JOUR 2201: Taught in 2003-2004.

Public Affairs Reporting, JOUR 5208: Taught in 2005-2005, 2003-2004 and in 2002-2003 as a sessional.


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