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Francine Pelletier named Concordia’s 2020 journalist-in-residence

David Secko: ‘We're very lucky to have someone of Francine’s caliber’
October 15, 2020
By Robin Della Corte

“Of the three different hats I wear—columnist, documentary filmmaker, teacher—teacher could very well be the most gratifying.” Photo by Lisa Graves, Concordia University.

Francine Pelletier, weekly columnist for Le Devoir and award-winning documentary journalist, has been named Concordia’s 2020 journalist-in-residence.

Pelletier came to Concordia in 2015 after winning the Michener-Deacon Fellowship in Journalism Education, which allows an industry professional to spend time teaching or mentoring students at a recognized Canadian journalism school.

Pelletier has worked as a journalist for four decades in English and French, both in print and electronic media.

“It’s a tremendous honour,” she says. “It gives me the opportunity to really dig my heels into the world of education which I’ve come to belatedly but am discovering that I really love.”

As the new journalist-in-residence, Pelletier plans to increase the profile of documentary journalism within the department through a virtual workshop series and other activities.

“We're very lucky to have someone of Francine’s caliber joining us as our next journalist-in-residence,” says David Secko, chair of the Department of Journalism.

“This program helped launch the Institute for Investigative Journalism and our current Indigenous Journalism course,” he adds. “We want to continue to give our students all the tools they need to create excellent documentaries and having Francine as their guide will push our students to the next level. I can’t wait to see what Francine creates with our students.”

Pelletier says she’s seen journalism shift from a predominantly print-based medium to one that focuses much more heavily on multimedia. Sharing her expertise in documentary journalism is an opportunity to show students how the format supports exceptional storytelling – which, she says, is at the heart of all great journalism.

Pelletier got into journalism through her involvement with the women’s movement in the late 1970s. She was co-founder and editor-in-chief of the feminist monthly magazine La Vie en Rose from 1980 to 1986 and wrote a weekly column for Montreal’s largest French daily La Presse from 1988 to 1992. She was also a regular on Peter Gzowsky’s Morningside on CBC radio and on CTV’s Sunday Edition as well as being Quebec parliamentary correspondent for Radio-Canada’s Le Point into the mid-1990s.

She spent five years as co-host of CBC’s flagship current affairs program The Fifth Estate and in 2001, began a new career as an independent documentary filmmaker and screenwriter, writing and directing 11 documentary films to date.

‘Combining the best of journalism (storytelling) with the best of you (your creative voice)’

Pelletier’s documentary journalism workshop series will be presented virtually and feature prominent figures from the field.

“The workshop series is devised to answer the question: why should I care? Why should a journalism student, already busy enough, want to tackle something as ambitious as documentary filmmaking? The short answer: because it combines the best of journalism (storytelling) with the best of you (your creative voice),” says Pelletier.

The first workshop in the series, Documentary Wants You!, is an introduction to the world of documentary filmmaking. This is followed by The Camera as a Storyteller, which looks at how investigative documentaries are made with guest Julian Sher, one of Canada’s leading investigative journalists and documentarians.

The series concludes with We Have Seen the Future and it is Podcasts on the significance of podcasting with guest David Gutnick, a veteran radio documentarian who spent 35 years working with CBC.

“I’ve always been somewhat terrified of teaching; it’s a huge responsibility being asked to actually teach people something. But I’ve discovered, getting older and all, that it’s not impossible! Not only that, of the three different hats I wear - columnist, documentary filmmaker, teacher - teacher could very well be the most gratifying,” says Pelletier.

Register for the documentary journalism workshop series and find out more about Concordia’s Department of Journalism.

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