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Prof. David Bruser: How to effect change amid a sea change of change

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Prof. David Bruser

UofGH media professor David Bruser didn’t expect to change policy when he and his colleague noticed an unsettling phenomenon.

As a staff reporter on the Toronto Star’s Investigations Team, he’d found judges who were saying that police were lying under oath. “In some cases, police forces had no idea that their officers had been found by judges to have lied on the witness stand,” he says.

“They found out from The Star that this even happened in the first place. Which told us something: that no one’s tracking this.”

Turned out he was right about that. And when the nationwide investigation was published with the headline “Police who lie”, a regulatory gap in Ontario would, as a result, be addressed.

“Effecting change is certainly a very important part – and when successful, a satisfying part of what we can do in journalism.”

“At the risk of overstating what some of us can do, if the focus is right and the work is good and you get a few lucky breaks in the reporting, you’re doing something in the public interest. And that means that you’re doing something that affects peoples’ lives.”

But as Prof. Bruser talks of the changes he’s brought about, he finishes the thought with a writing-on-the-wall type of reality check. We all know that the field of journalism is shifting, and he especially knows it as part of an investigations team in a large newsroom.

“Some of the major, well-respected American newspapers are falling like dominos. For those trying to stay alive, one of the first things they cut are their investigative teams. It costs money to pay staff to do a story once every few months. It’s just not in alignment with their budget requirements.”

He says that in a traditional sense, there will be fewer and fewer opportunities for a job like his. “But I don’t think that means there are fewer opportunities to do the work.”

“We see the results when someone takes the time and finds the way. The work needs doing – it’s clear.”

“We have to think about it differently. [To figure out] how to adapt to the changing landscape. Perhaps that’s the job of this next generation.”


Prof. David Bruser holds a BA in History from McGill University and a MSc in Journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As an award-winning staff reporter on the Toronto Star’s Investigations Team, he’s reported on (in his words) bad charities, police who lie, soldiers who come back mentally damaged and commit crimes, unsafe workplaces, kids suffering serious side effects while taking prescription drugs, and gun violence.