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University of Toronto Fellowship in Journalism
& Health Impact

Alumni Member

Stephen Starr

Stephen came to us after reporting for five years from Syria, where he wrote a well-received book about the civil war: Revolt in Syria: Eye-witness To The Uprising. Stephen picked the Fellowship over other well-established journalism graduate schools because it catered to active freelancers. He wanted to learn how to pitch stronger story ideas and “ask other questions” about journalism disciplines that he had “stacked up over several years of field reporting”. During the Fellowship, he created and ran a live blog on Syria for The Globe and Mail called “Syria Live”, covered international relations for The National Post, appeared as a Middle East expert on CBC News, ABC News (Australia) and RTE (Ireland), and Al Jazeera — and filed stories on Canada to Al Jazeera. Now he is based in Istanbul, covering the Middle East for a portfolio of media clients including The Irish TimesThe National PostUSA Today and Irish broadcaster RTE.

“I approach the work completely differently than I did before. The Fellowship allowed me to gain access to and learn from some of the top brains in North American journalism and to ask questions I had stacked up over several years of field reporting. But more than that, the mentoring, interaction and collaboration with major media saw me establish ties that have since borne fruit back here in the Middle East. The teachers areall exceptionally talented reporters and writers. The key thing here is the access to these people. The transition was relatively easy. You’re essentially continuing what you were doing for seven months before. What do you get out of the program? A total mind shift. You learn the most optimal way to transfer information. You are also learning is how to be a freelancer. If you can pitch properly, and are well prepared, and practiced, you can make it work. Very few of the pitches we made to media during the program were rejected.”