Journalists awarded $25,000 for research

Aleksandra Sagan and Laura Kane, two journalists with the Canadian Press in Vancouver, have been awarded $25,000 for winning Carleton’s 2018 R. James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship.

Sagan and Kane will use the fellowship to travel to South Africa and India as a team to explore the issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They’ll focus on how the issue is being combatted, and innovations that are being made both abroad and in Canada.

The duo plans to travel to South Africa in March before heading to India in April. They hope to publish their work in the spring.

“One of the most exciting things about the fellowship is it presents Canadian journalists with an opportunity that a lot of newsrooms in today’s media industry aren’t capable of doing, and that’s actually getting out of the office and getting to do some international reporting,” Sagan said.

Susan Harada, the associate director of the school of journalism and communications at Carleton, said these kinds of fellowships can help to fill gaps in news coverage that cutbacks in media companies have created.

“The fellowship is about encouraging the kind of journalism that is essential to democracy,” she said. “ This is in an age when mainstream news companies are cutting back on their international coverage. So, this helps fund a major project that is internationally based but has great relevance to Canadians.”

According to a press release about the fellowship, bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics can weaken life-saving medication, resulting in thousands of deaths each year, while also costing governments millions of dollars.

Sagan and Kane are specifically focusing on drug-resistant tuberculosis, which kills thousands of people in South Africa each year, and will be spending time in hospitals in India, where poor sanitation only compounds the resistant bacteria problem.

Sagan said they hope to emphasize that this is not just an issue on the other side of the world, but one that affects Canada too.

“Bacteria don’t respect borders. We in Canada have many deaths daily . . . We have cases here of drug-resistant tuberculosis,” she said.

The use of antibiotics is not limited to humans; they’re commonly used to promote growth in livestock. As a major beef producer, Canada can be at risk of contaminating cattle with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can then be passed onto Canadians who consume the food, Kane added.

“That is something that the Canadian government is now moving to curb, but it’s taking a very long time. The first conference on this was in 1997, and the government is still working on a Canada-wide plan,” she said.

Applying a Canadian perspective to global issues is something James Travers, the namesake of the fellowship, was renowned for. During a six-decade long career, Travers worked for Southam News in the Middle East and Africa during the 1980s. He bore witness to some of the most important global events of the time, something he believed was important to do for Canadians.

“We spent a lot of time researching this story and we really wanted to make sure this story got reported because we feel it is so important, and we both want to express our immense gratitude to the Travers family and the panel for selecting our project,” Kane said.

Photo by Aaron Hemens