From the University of Manitoba to the world

Seeds of Nahlah Ayed’s journalism career planted in Winnipeg

CBC foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed has spent her life travelling across the globe but, at one time, she called Winnipeg — and the U of M — home.

Ayed visited the U of M this week and took part in the university’s Visionary Conversations series, which seeks to “explore tough questions and foster conversations that drive discovery and insight.”

As a journalist, Ayed has covered international events, particularly within the Middle East.

Before CBC, she was a parliamentary reporter for the Canadian Press.

She has been nominated for multiple awards for excellence in journalism, including a Gemini award for her work reporting in Iraq.

Her travelling began at a young age — a first-generation Canadian, of Palestinian parents, born in Winnipeg, her family chose to move to a refugee camp in Jordan for a short time.

While Ayed said the experience was not easy, she also noted it gave her a firm grasp on both the Arabic language and, as she called it, the “language of adaptability.”

“It was difficult, and it was jarring, and it was scary, and it was all those things,” she said.

“But children are amazing, right, they adapt and I think for me […] it reinforced that ability to move around and to kind of make the best of your surroundings.”

Ayed was pursuing science at the U of M when she walked into the Manitoban and got a job as a news reporter.

“I saw an ad in the paper and they wanted a news reporter and somehow, again, I just walked over and said, ‘I’d like to be that news reporter,’” she said.

During her time at the paper, she “fell in love,” began freelance journalistic work and was convinced by a supervisor in her science studies to make a choice between pursuing the study of genetics further or going into journalism.

“I was wearing my white lab coat,” she said.

“And she said ‘Nahlah, you can’t do both of these things. You’ve got to choose.’”

This push helped her apply to journalism schools, and her choice was made. Ayed received a master of journalism degree from Carleton University in 1997.

“To be honest with you, when I started journalism, I wasn’t necessarily thinking that I’d like to be a foreign correspondent — I mean, I was interested, because I watched the old guys, like Don Murray and Patrick Brown,” she said.

Ayed went on to achieve success in reporting both within the country and worldwide.

In 2008, she received an honorary degree from the U of M for her outstanding achievement.

The U of M’s Nahlah Ayed prize is awarded yearly to students who demonstrate “exceptional vision, passion, commitment, great leadership skills, and whose actions are helping to bridge the local and the global.”

The deadline to submit for the 2019 award is Dec. 14.