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2009 President’s Media Awards

January 21, 2010

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SFU gives its annual President’s Award for Service through Public Affairs and Media Relations to one or more faculty members who have demonstrated outstanding service to the university by sharing their expertise through media and other public relations activities. This year’s winners are Richard Smith and Doug McArthur. Their disciplines and choice of communication venues are distinctly different, with Smith preferring the new social-media universe while McArthur’s wisdom typically graces newspaper op-ed pages. But they share the same fierce dedication to informing public dialogue and promoting a free press through their access to reporters and editors.

Richard SmithIn Twitter terms, news of communication professor RICHARD SMITH'S award might read:
Congrats @smith! The prez appreciates yr awesome service to @sfu via Twitterverse, blogosphere & mainstream media #followfriday Pls RT!

When it comes to the brave—and frequently misunderstood—new world of technology, social media and public surveillance, Smith likely has an opinion and is willing to share it with fellow researchers, students, and significantly, the public at large.

His nominators included several pages of examples of his spirited engagement with local, national and international journalistic outlets.

Smith says he responds to media calls “because it’s part of my job, but also because I enjoy explaining things.

“Often my role in a media interview isn’t so much telling about my research as it is about putting a context around, or commenting on, or providing background to, or criticizing something that has happened in the world.

“When asked, I respond with opinions, insight, examples, or explanations. But I rarely initiate contact with a journalist on my own—and that’s why SFU’s public affairs team is so important.

“When a scientist has something important they want to share with the public—as with my recent art show on the theme of surveillance—I strongly recommend they work with the professionals to get their message out.

“I’d caution against playing around in the media sandbox by yourself unless you’re prepared to get sand in your mouth….”

Doug McArthurDOUG MCARTHUR has observed the plight of families in Afghanistan, monitored elections in the Ukraine, advised First Nations groups and debated Canada’s most pressing issues with a national roundtable of experts and journalists.

And in any given week, his take on everything from pulp to politics can be found in newspaper articles or on radio or television. Media calls aren’t typically pencilled into his day’s schedule but spontaneously making time for them is as important as any aspect of his university work, says McArthur, a professor of public policy.

“To do this kind of work requires giving it a priority,” says McArthur, who as a Prairie-born youth was struck by how the University of Saskatchewan’s community-development outreach helped local farmers. “Such work and effort makes the university look good, which is a measure of its value.”
His participation in last year’s Globe and Mail roundtable talks kept him in the headlines throughout the series. Journalists say he is consistently available on a wide range of topics and that his commentary is often sought for its frankness.

“I do feel honoured and appreciated by this award,” says McArthur.

A Rhodes scholar, he worked as a senior public servant for governments in B.C., Saskatchewan and the Yukon, including a stint as Minister of Education in Saskatchewan from 1978-82.

McArthur continues to serve as an advisor to the federal government and the Tsawwassen First Nation, and he also remains committed to his teaching and research.

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