Pre-requisites/Co-requisites
Externship Seminar

Note: 2 credits (ungraded) per term

Max enroll: 2 (conditional enrol course)

Note: Students enrolled in year-long externships must participate in the fall term Externship Seminar.

Pre-requisite: None. Students who apply should have a keen interest and curiosity in issues facing journalists and the media, such as freedom of expression and the press, open courts, defamation and the online world, access to information, privacy, public accountability and truth-seeking journalism. No experience is required. 

See details on how to register below.

This part-time, full year media law externship gives students the opportunity to explore legal and policy issues facing journalists in a real-world, public interest environment. Students will be immersed in the day-to-day work of investigative reporters as they uncover and report on ground-breaking public interest stories.

The program challenges students to work in dynamic, multi-disciplinary environment and examine issues facing journalists in a critical way, while honing their judgment, critical thinking and writing skills.

The Investigative Journalism Bureau:
The Investigative Journalism Bureau (IJB) is an impact-driven, collaborative newsroom based out of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and consists of professional and student journalists, academics, graduate students and media organizations who together tell in-depth stories in the public interest. The IJB explores issues such as end-of-life care, environmental threats, youth mental health, two-tiered healthcare, medical malpractice, and industry impacts on first nations’ health.

To date, the IJB’s work has been published in the Toronto Star, the National Observer and NBC News.

The IJB has a partnership with the Toronto Star which includes sharing editorial and investigative resources. IJB journalists work closely with members of the Toronto Star’s investigative team (known as the “I-team”).

Externship Components:
Through this externship, students will work alongside journalists at the IJB and members of the Toronto Star’s investigative team, under the supervision of media lawyers, providing a legal lens to the work of our public interest investigative reporters.

Assignments will necessarily vary from term to term, and from student to student. However, students can expect to assist with many of the following tasks (under the supervision of course instructors):

  • Conducting legal research relevant to specific investigations;
  • Providing insight to journalists on the requirements of the “responsible communication” defence to defamation, including by helping to draft correspondence to sources and subjects of investigations;
  • Bringing access to information requests under federal and provincial legislation, and preparing materials for appeals;
  • Challenging publication bans, sealing orders and other encroachments on the open courts principle;
  • Conducting legal research into areas such as defamation, undercover reporting, emerging privacy torts, copyright law and the concept of a “right to be forgotten”;
  • Reviewing draft articles for defamation, publication ban and privacy risks;
  • Assisting with the drafting of court materials for defamation litigation, including drafting pleadings, factums, anti-SLAPP motions and argument.

Students will also assist with the development of template materials for journalists to use when appealing access to information denials, fighting publication bans and sealing orders, or seeking comment from sources.

Students can expect to gain skills in the areas of problem solving and critical thinking, legal analysis and reasoning, legal research and writing, factual investigation and communicating insights in a fast-paced environment.

Substantively, students will gain both an academic and practical understanding of media law, including the law of defamation, freedom of expression, privacy torts, copyright and the open court principle.

Term schedule:
Students will begin the year with in-depth seminars on substantive media law (approx. 6 hours in total). Following these substantive sessions, students will attend bi-weekly tutorials (every other week) where they will work with their supervising instructors on assignments and explore emerging practical applications of media law. Students may work out of the IJB or Toronto Star newsroom as flexibly as they wish, with a minimum half day per week (in person or, if needed due to COVID-19, virtually) expected.

All students will be required to sign a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement at the first meeting.

How to register for this course:
To register for this course, please send an email to Sara Faherty at sara.faherty@utoronto.ca with a current CV and a statement of interest including the following information:

- Why you wish to enroll in the IJB/Toronto Star externship program; and
- Your interest in the issues faced by investigative reporters and the media.
*Transcripts will also be provided to course instructors.

Students must apply to the clinic by the deadline for course selection before the lottery. Review of applications begins at the start of the course selection period and course instructors will interview students for the available positions. 

Note: Enrollment in this clinic is conditional. The Records Office will add the clinic to the student's course selection once participation is confirmed by the clinic instructor. In the meantime, students must select sufficient credits for the term/year. Students approved for the clinic will have the opportunity to adjust their credits before the add/drop deadline.

Evaluation
Students will be required to draft at least one legal memo of practical importance to investigative reporters and at least one template set of court/tribunal materials to assist journalists in bringing legal challenges (which may include, as applicable, a template factum, affidavit and notice of motion/application). Students’ successful completion of externship requirements will be assessed by the faculty advisors. Satisfactory attendance, written work, and performance will earn two ungraded credits each term.
Academic year
2021 - 2022

At a Glance

Both Terms
Credits
4
Hours
0

Enrolment

Maximum
2

2 JD