Tue, 07/25/2017 - 00:01

Posted by H.G. Watson on June 22, 2017
Patti Sonntag and Robert Cribb will co-teach a new course on hard investigative skills at the Banff Centre this fall. Image courtesy of Marcia O'Connor/CC BY-NC 2.0.

Patti Sonntag and Robert Cribb will co-teach a new course on hard investigative skills at the Banff Centre this fall. Image courtesy of Marcia O'Connor/CC BY-NC 2.0.

By H.G. Watson, Managing Editor

Last fall, when Patti Sonntag was invited to an event at the Banff Centre, an arts and culture school nestled in the picturesque Alberta Rockies, she looked around and had a brainwave — she thought there should be investigative trainings there.

And now, there will be.

In late May, the Banff Centre announced their inaugural investigative journalism intensive, which will be held Oct. 16-21. The five-day course, which also includes an extra two days at the Journalism in the Age of Illiberalism summit, will be co-taught by Sonntag, a managing editor in The New York Times’ News Services division, and Robert Cribb, a foreign affairs and investigative reporter at the Toronto Star.

”With the challenges faced by the traditional media it is and has always been difficult and it is difficult for reporters to get the space that they need to really focus on an investigation,” Sonntag said. “So we are really trying to provide an opportunity for that.” She and Cribb worked together on the original idea and brought the resulting proposal to the Banff Centre.

The Banff Centre does currently offer a number of programs journalists can participate in, including their highly regarded month-long literary journalism course. But an investigative course is unique. Devyani Saltzman, the director of literary arts at the Centre, said that part of the Centre’s mission is to provide opportunities that connect with the times we live in. ”I just felt there was no more important time to invest in this then now, in the post-truth era, and in light of what is happening with the convo around alternative facts,” she said.

Successful applicants will be those who are “really passionate about carrying out an investigation,” said Sonntag. The course will focus on hard investigative skills, including data analysis; navigation of public records; and holding accountability interviews.

While Sonntag isn’t ready to say who all the guest speakers will be, she did say that UBC’s Peter Klein, executive director and founder of the Global Reporting Centre, will join the course halfway through.

While no future investigative courses have been announced, Saltzman said that this signals that the Banff Centre is going to offer more support for investigative reporting in the future. “I think it is definitely in the cards for the future,” she said.

H.G. Watson can be reached at hgwatson@j-source.ca or on Twitter.

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