Popular CBC radio host Jo-Ann Roberts is stepping out of the broadcast booth and into the classroom as the latest Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction with the University of Victoria’s acclaimed Department of Writing.
Roberts is currently teaching a lecture and discussion course called “Public Broadcasting and the Public Good,” examining the proud history and somewhat uncertain future of public broadcasting in Canada, and around the world. She will also be offering a free public lecture on the same topic at 7:30pm Wednesday, January 30, in room 240 of UVic’s HSD building.
“Public broadcasting matters to every journalist in this country,” Roberts explains. “We keep the bar high, and that means private broadcasters can’t go any lower—but the lower we get, the lower their bar goes. As a journalist, you don’t have to be working for a public broadcaster to care about it.”
A respected journalist with 35 years experience in radio, print and television, the award-winning Roberts has been at the helm of CBC’s Victoria-based All Points West for six years now, building it into the top-rated afternoon show in the province.
“I think I have a pretty broad classroom between 3 and 6 each day,” says Roberts. “Not that I’m out there to teach, but radio is very much a learning environment. You have to engage an audience, give them something they didn’t know before, get a good discussion going . . . that sounds like a pretty good class to me.”
But, as she explores in both her Southam class and upcoming lecture, Roberts is concerned about the future of the broadcaster about which she cares so deeply. “I worry not that government will get rid of the CBC, but that it will simply underfund it. That makes the CBC just what most governments would rather have—a lapdog, instead of a watchdog. I don’t want that.”
“We’re thrilled to be able to bring Jo-Ann Roberts to the campus to mentor students and engage the community,” says David Leach, Director of Professional Writing. “Jo-Ann is a dynamic personality, with rich and varied experiences, who will be a real inspiration for students and the public alike. The future role of the CBC, in our current political climate and our ever-changing digital media environment, is one of the most urgent and complex issues facing the profession of journalism in Canada.”
Her class runs through to April 5, from 4:30 to 6pm Mondays and Thursdays.
Roberts is the sixth person to hold the prestigious Southam Lectureship, following Charles Campbell (Georgia Straight), Sandra Martin (Globe and Mail), Jody Paterson (Times Colonist) and authors Richard Wagamese and Terry Glavin.
(Speaking of Sandra Martin, she’ll be returning to UVic for a free, one-night-only Department of Writing reading event with veteran journalist Tom Hawthorn in February. The event— Obituaries to Die For—will feature Martin reading from and discussing her recent book, Working the Dead Beat: 50 Lives That Changed Canada, while Hawthorn will do the same for his Deadlines: Obits of Memorable British Columbians. That’s at 7:30pm Tuesday, February 12, in room 105 of the Harry Hickman building . . . don’t be, uh, late.)
The annual Harvey Stevenson Southam lectureship is made possible by a significant gift from one of the country’s leading publishing families. Harvey Southam, a UVic alumnus and journalist, was heir to his family’s publishing empire when he died suddenly in 1991.
Learn more about the Harvey Stevenson Southam lectureship by clicking here.