New award celebrates Elmina (Elliott) Atkinson and social justice reporting
The Ryerson School of Journalism introduced the Elmina (Elliott) Atkinson award to be presented to a journalism student who identifies as a woman or non-binary person (including peope who are cisgender or transgender) and has proven their interested in social justice reporting.
“The award was created with the combined support of Atkinson Foundation and Elmina’s descendants, as well as my own contribution. As of now, the award will allow one student to have $1,000 and we are looking for donations to increase the fund so we can help more students in the future,” said Emily Mathieu, Toronto Star reporter and great great granddaughter of pioneering female journalist Elmina Atkinson.
Elmina Atkinson was one of the first female journalists in Canada and held very close personal and professional ties to The Star.
“She was writing at The Star under the alias Madge Merton, and was women’s editor from 1901 to 1909. She had a prominent position in what would become Canada’s largest newspaper, she was out writing on her own before she met and married Joseph (Atkinson). She must have been tough as dirt,” said Mathieu.
According to Mathieu, the award was developed to honour the memory of Elmina Atkinson, but also to serve as a slight benefit to young women entering the field.
“It seemed fitting that her award would be geared towards women and use progressive language.It is nice to highlight young women who know they are entering a tough industry that is still predominately white, cis, male-dominated and I like being able to provide a leg up for those young women,” she said.
Mathieu says the ideal candidate for the award is someone who shares similar work-ethic and values as Elmina Atkinson.
“Ideally, I want this money to go to someone who is interested in social good and is deeply invested in the voiceless. I want this award to go to someone who is empathetic, rigorous, street smart and has their own ideas of what is important to report on. Hopefully the ideal candidate can prove their interest through their activism or previous reporting,” Mathieu said.
As a Toronto-based reporter, Mathieu says she understands the challenges facing young journalists in the city and hopes the award alleviates some of the financial burden of living in Toronto. She also believes that the award will serve as a good mentorship opportunity.
“A lot of my reporting is based in Toronto so I know how expensive it is for students. They need to pay rent, pay tuition and buy good, healthy food. I am also excited to meet the recipient and go for coffee with them and serve as a sounding board for any ideas they have,” Mathieu said.
Students can apply online to The Elmina Atkinson Award through Ryerson’s AwardSpring (external link) .