CBC reporter will use Travers Fellowship to investigate aid solutions in Africa

Joan Travers was on hand for the awarding of the annual James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship to CBC online reporter Laura Payton. This year’s winner of the fellowship was announced on March 12. (Chris Roussakis Photo)

Parliament Hill and politics reporter Laura Payton plans to take her penchant for digging up government secrets to eastern Africa since she won the fourth annual James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship.

Accepting the $25,000 award at Carleton’s annual Kesterton Lecture March 12, Payton said, “I am so excited about this and grateful for the opportunity. This fellowship is a rare opportunity for a Canadian journalist to take time away from the real newsroom to travel and to meet with the people affected by Canada’s aid program. There are stories to be told that matter to Canadians.”

Payton, who has been covering Canada’s commitment to maternal, newborn and child health since Prime Minister Stephen Harper first announced it in 2010, intends to travel to Tanzania, Ethiopia and the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York to see first-hand how the funds are being used and how the projects work.

“Harper’s program is working through the UN to make governments more accountable,” said Payton, who hopes to start travelling in May. “I will talk to groups of people actually using the programs, not just the people who are delivering them.”

The fellowship, established to finance significant foreign reporting projects by Canadian journalists, commemorates the career and ideals of James Travers, who worked as a correspondent in Africa and the Middle East for Southam News during the 1980s. Travers was also general manager of Southam News, editor of the Ottawa Citizen, executive managing editor of the Toronto Star and an award-winning national affairs columnist at the time of his death in 2011.

In the wake of extensive cutbacks to news reporting from abroad, the fellowship hopes to offer Canadian journalists the opportunity to focus on foreign news, and to feed the demand for first-hand reporting of the world by Canadians.

“The fellowship is a real testament to James Travers,” said Payton after accepting the award, “that his friends and family are committed to keeping his journalistic goals alive.”

Payton, a senior online writer for CBC, has covered Parliament Hill since 1999 and serves on the executive of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery. She also covers the fallout from the 2008 and 2011 elections, democratic reform, consumer affairs and women’s health.

Susan Harada, associate director of Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication, said the fellowship received 28 applications, with story ideas about global issues with far-reaching impacts.

“During the selection process, we singled out proposals that addressed topics that are important to Canadians and that have the potential to impact public policy,” she said.

Last year’s fellowship winner, Toronto Star reporter Marco Chown Oved, travelled to Burkina Faso, Ghana and Peru to examine the impact of foreign aid on overseas mining development.

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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