jack webster foundation

We gratefully acknowledge our sponosors of the 2020 Jack Webster Awards:

JWF Fellowships to the Poynter Institute for Print, Broadcast and Online News Journalists

Poynter Experience

Reports from:Bal Brach | Jill Bennett | Audrea Chan | Lisa Johnson | Gillian Shaw

Bal BrachBal Brach
Global TV

Recipient of the Don Matheson funded fellowship to the Poynter Institute

The Backpack Journalist Seminar at the Poynter institute was a transformative career experience for me. I felt recharged and inspired after spending a week learning about video journalism from some of the best reporters and instructors in the business. Not only did I appreciate the classroom teaching, but I still cherish the great conversation and debate in our nightly outings. We shared tips on everything from editing to storytelling, as well as discussing the current state of journalism and the future of the news business.

Our industry has had to adjust to so many changes in the past decade, many of us don't have time to reflect or consider how these changes affect our work on a daily basis. That's why opportunities like this, provided by the Jack Webster Foundation, are so important. The five days at Poynter gave me a chance to sit back and really think about the way I work and how I can make it better -- even when the deadline is looming.

As a VJ, you have to constantly be thinking about how you're going to tell the story ? and what visuals you'll use to convey the narrative. I learned the power and impact of one beautiful shot can shape a story and say so much more than any words. Having said that, getting that money shot is tough! I now have a newfound appreciation for talented video journalists - it's a superb skill - one I hope to hone over the course of my career.

The Jack Webster Foundation is an amazing support and champion of quality journalism in British Columbia. I am deeply honoured and thankful for having received this prestigious fellowship.

Here is the first story I shot and edited entirely on my own! It's about St. Pete's most popular tour bus driver and what makes him stand out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vh4YI409tmc

Jill BennettJill Bennett
CKNW Newstalk 980

The JWF fellowship provided travel funding to Jill Bennett for her attendance at Knight Digital MultiMedia Centre Workshop.

I had an amazing experience while at the workshop in Berkeley. I want to thank the Jack Webster Foundation again for choosing me as a 2010 fellowship recipient. The workshop was a great educational experience and a huge challenge and I would highly recommend it to other journalists.

Audrea ChanAudrea Chan
Fairchild TV

Seminar attended: TV Power Reporting

"Expect to be pushed back!" Those were the first words our seminar leader Al Tompkins said to us on our first day at Poynter.

"How much more could I be pushed back?" My heart responded.

As exciting and rewarding a journalism career could be, it is often very stressful. Many times along the way, I have asked myself whether passion alone is going to carry me through. I have done radio, print, online and TV broadcast journalism in the 'non-mainstream' media for 7 years, I felt like I am starting to believe in what others told me. I was not sure whether I have put my heart and talent at the right place anymore. I have stopped believing in myself. Then I was offered the opportunity to go to Poynter by the Jack Webster Foundation.

A big part of my Poynter experience has to do with my 14 classmates, with very diverse background, and representing 6 countries from across North America and Europe. We shared some of our best moments as a journalist; we also shared our ugliest 'babies' of our journalism career. We were not only there to be inspired, but we were also there to be an inspiration to others too, and in ways we never thought of because we were just too accustomed to what we do. Through discussions and debates, we discovered new strengths and weaknesses of ourselves and our system, and we helped each other to find ways to work our new discoveries towards our own advantage.

The best part about my Poynter experience has to be the opportunity to evaluate and reflect upon our decisions made in the newsroom in hindsight. We talked about many ways information could be handled, how the outcome could be different, and the ethical concerns we could have considered. These discussions could not have happened without Al, our seminar leader, and our 2 guest instructors, Les Rose and Stacie Schaible. Their insights reminded us that information is powerful, and the freedom of press is a privilege.

We all went to Poynter for different reasons, and we all found different things. Until we cross paths again, one thing that is going to connect us is the renewed passion for serious journalism. But whether being true to our passion will bring success, I do not know. In that sense it is a scary road to travel.

At the end of the 5 day seminar, we are being sent home with this last piece of advice from Al: "Do something that you are scared of."

Thank you for bringing me to a new level of confidence.

Lisa JohnsonLisa Johnson
CBC News

Attended Poynter Institute: Narrative Writing on Deadline

What surprised me most about the Narrative Writing on Deadline course I took at the Poynter Institute was how much it was really about everything you do before you write.

In the month since I came back, I've been asking more questions, ones that sometimes surprise the people I'm interviewing, but yield details that make the story more real for my audience. I've been structuring my story earlier in the day, so I can have more time later to write it well. I've also been looking around more, to see parts of the story I might have missed. Just yesterday, I paused after an interview to watch a busy scene, long enough to see that what I'd just been told was either wrong, or a lie.

These are all skills that could be applied to a major narrative project, and I hope to try that too. But in the meantime, the Poynter course has changed how I work each daily deadline.

The class was small, and the instructors were excellent. They had plenty of experience in newsrooms, and a Pulitzer each. But they avoided the common pitfall of journalism education - telling war stories - and used what they know to really teach.

It was only a week, but the fellowship was a rare chance to pause and work on how we do things, rather than just getting them done.

Thank you to the Jack Webster Foundation for the generous support. As many other fellows have noted, this kind of training wouldn't be possible without your help. Thanks also to the CBC for letting me take time out of the newsroom for professional development.

Gillian ShawGillian Shaw
Vancouver Sun

Poynter was awesome/inspiring and too many other superlatives to list!

I learned a lot, it was totally rejuvenating to be learning from those at the leading edge of journalism excellence. I just wish - especially at a time when there is so much doom and gloom around the future of journalism - that all journalists who are struggling to adapt could attend such a seminar.

It was fun to be there with Bal Brach from Global; the other Canadian in the crew was CTV National's Omar Sachedina and the entire class was great. Very talented people and I likely learned as much from being around all of them as I learned from the instructors - who were, by the way, top at what they do. I'm ready to move into Poynter - I could just keep soaking that stuff up. One of the follow up benefits is that the entire group is staying in touch with a list and already I am getting tips and pointers and help from the instructors and other journalists from the class.

back to top


Previous Recipients

Reports from



Previous Recipients and their Experiences