Broadcasting Company Creates New Vistas for AU Journalism Students

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A leading western Canadian broadcasting company is helping Athabasca University journalism students-especially those who may someday work in war zones-to gain a valuable new perspective.

Vista Broadcast Group, the operator of 25 radio stations in 20 communities across British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, has contributed $75,000 to the Re-Imagine Athabasca University Campaign to support the Collaborative Journalism Residency Program in the Bachelor of Professional Arts communications studies major.

Left to Right: Dr. Frits Pannekoek, president, Athabasca University / Terry Coles, president and COO, Vista Broadcast Group / and Lori Van Rooijen, vice-president (advancement), Athabasca UniversityThe company’s contribution, over five years, will strengthen the program, which is a collaboration between the university and the Canadian Armed Forces Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre (CMTC). The partnership aims to improve the ability of journalists and Canadian Forces staff to work effectively and safely together when news is being reported from conflict areas.

“It’s vitally important that people around the world understand what is happening in war zones, but getting the news out can be incredibly difficult,” explained Terry Coles, Vista president and COO. “We’re excited to support a project that will prepare journalists for the realities of working in conflict zones and enhance the quality of information people receive. This is an important investment in the future of news and in our industry.”

Vista’s support will help create a student practicum opportunity to be operated by the CMTC during specific military exercises. Each senior journalism student taking part in the three-week assignment at CFB Wainwright will conduct interviews with soldiers and other personnel and write stories, performing all the duties expected of a war-zone journalist.

This unique training partnership will be a benefit to students, the Canadian Forces and the communication industry alike, enhancing the quality of news being reported from war zones. It will also be a tremendous benefit to the worldwide audiences that rely on journalists for awareness and understanding of complex issues.

When they graduate, the journalism students who have completed this practicum will be well prepared to report from conflict zones such as Afghanistan and to file meaningful stories immediately.

This partnership between Vista and Athabasca University is a natural fit, said AU’s vice-president (advancement), Lori Van Rooijen. “AU is the only university in the world delivering a professional communication studies degree program entirely through distance education, which opens doors to students wherever they live. Vista’s presence in rural communities and its mission to become a leading regional broadcaster reflects the company’s strong ties with non-urban areas.”