Former local journalist next head of Carleton University’s prestigious Journalism Program

Allan Thompson will be the next head of Carleton University’s prestigious journalism program as it embarks on its 75th anniversary celebrations in the coming academic year. 

Thompson has been a professor in Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication in Ottawa since he joined the faculty in 2003 after a 17-year career with the Toronto Star. He took a leave from his job at Carleton to run unsuccessfully as the federal Liberal candidate in Huron-Bruce in 2015 and 2019. He takes over as the head of the journalism program on July 1.

Carleton’s journalism school, the oldest in Canada, was founded in October 1945 in the wake of the Second World War and Thompson will lead efforts to launch events marking the 75th anniversary with a virtual gathering of experts and practitioners to share insights about journalism’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My association with Carleton’s journalism school goes back nearly 40 years to the time when I arrived here in 1982 as a first-year journalism student,” said Thompson, a graduate of the program. “As we set out to mark a milestone anniversary for Canada’s oldest and original journalism school, I am eager to take a leadership role and work with our great team,” Thompson said.

One of Thompson’s first responsibilities will be chairing the online global forum on journalism and the pandemic. The event, dubbed “Journalism in the Time of Crisis,” will be convened on Oct. 23-24. 

Soon after arriving at Carleton in 2003, Thompson established a partnership between Carleton’s journalism school and its counterpart at the National University of Rwanda. That five-year program was Carleton’s first real attempt to project its journalism expertise abroad and took close to 200 journalism educators and interns from Canada to Rwanda to help rebuild the media there after the 1994 genocide. 

 Thompson has also organized several large and ambitious conferences at Carleton and has always been at the forefront of efforts to enrich the experience Carleton offers to its students, particularly through experiential learning exercises and overseas internships. 

 Most recently, Thompson was the director of a research project called Media and Mass Atrocity: the Rwanda Genocide and Beyond that culminated in an international roundtable at Carleton at the end of 2017 and a publication of the same name. 

 On the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, in 2004, he organized a major international conference at Carleton called The Media and the Rwanda Genocide. As a follow up to the 2004 symposium, in 2007 he published an edited collection called The Media and the Rwanda Genocide. In 2009, he launched a new research centre at Carleton, the Centre for Media and Transitional Societies (CMTS). The centre administers the Global Journalism Internships that allow Carleton journalism students to take up media internships in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Thompson was also the co-author of the third edition of the journalism text The Canadian Reporter

 Born and raised on a family farm in the southern Bruce County village of Glammis, Thompson did a Master’s degree in International Relations at the University of Kent at Canterbury after completing his journalism degree at Carleton. His first experience in journalism was with the Kincardine Independent, a small town weekly. Later, he worked for one summer at the London Free Press, and then joined The Toronto Star, first as a summer student in 1986 and then full-time from 1987. In 1994, he was posted to The Star’s Parliament Hill bureau in Ottawa, where he worked for most of the next decade as a political reporter and also completed reporting assignments abroad for The Star in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Russia.

During leaves of absence from Carleton, Thompson ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in the southwestern Ontario riding of Huron-Bruce in the 2015 and 2019 federal elections.