JURIST Expands to Canada via UCalgary Law!
Updated: Jun 15
Bringing award-winning legal journalism to a global audience
by Heidi J. T. Exner
One fateful morning in February this year, Dean Holloway forwarded a call to recruit Canadian news writers and editors for JURIST Legal News & Commentary to the UCalgary Law student body. I had seen articles from this publication in passing, but as someone who reads as much news as I habitually tend to, I was not as familiar with this outlet as I believe all Canadians should be. JURIST is an award-winning legal news service that started about 25 years ago out of the University of Pittsburgh Law School. Initially powered by Professor Bernard Hibbitts and a handful of scrappy-but-enthusiastic future legal news journalists, this publication – which is still headed by Professor Hibbitts, with others – now captures an international audience in the millions and is powered by a collaborative team of close to 100 law students from 5 continents. Some of these students work anonymously, as they report out of places like Myanmar, where their safety would be at risk if their identities were revealed.
Most of JURIST’s explosive growth is relatively recent. As the pandemic shuttered our doors to the world, people began to seek connections the only way they could: the internet. When one also considers a growing global appetite for reliable, unbiased, and independent reporting about issues that impact their rights, lives, livelihoods, and the environments around them, it is easy to understand how demand for JURIST’s reporting skyrocketed.
Even upon a quick glance at JURIST’s website, one can see that this publication does something special. This is a mosaic of the voices of law students, like you and me, from all kinds of cool places, who are reporting on legal issues that matter. They are not just law students making and sharing notes, though. JURIST staffers are legal researchers, analysts, writers, linguists, and artists. They are advocates for the pursuit of truth in a world where it is not always evident. Some of them are in situations where their personal safety is at risk every single day, and they care about sharing that truth with the world. If you ask me, they are Heroes.
The idea that this amazing publication was piloting a Canadian contingent out of our very own UCalgary Law made me giddy. Even though I knew little about legal systems in other countries (and I still do not, though I am learning!), I knew that I thoroughly enjoy writing and that I would do my best to learn the nuts and bolts of it all. An opportunity to apply to join these students was not one I was willing to miss. So, like my peers Lubaina Baloch and Ian Profiri, I applied. Since we have headed up JURIST’s expansion to Canada together in March, Lubaina, Ian, and I have each had our own unique experiences in various roles. Much like those before us, we all started out as scrappy-but-enthusiastic future legal news writers, but it was not long before our Canadian flair shone through. Lubaina, who started her JD at U of A and is now a rising 3L at UCalgary Law, has put her nursing background and legal research acumen to great use as a news reporter. Ian, who also considered a career path in health as a paramedic, brought his musical talent to the table. This gift transfers to journalism in that he is able to pull the right notes from a symphony of facts. He has demonstrated a particular talent for digging out and developing Canadian stories as our first Canada Correspondent. His 9 years of experience working for the City of Edmonton and his interest in Energy, Environmental, and Public Interest legal issues undoubtedly also equip him well for this.
Like at least one third of our current student body, Ian notes that his sense of campus community may be quite a bit different than what is typical. He resided in Edmonton for his 1L year, and continues to interact with the law and the school community through the online lifestyle over the summer months. Joining a virtually-connected global community of law students came naturally to him.
As for my experience? Well, the last 4.5 months have been amazing, but this is just the beginning! I have my hands dipped in many JURIST pots, from news writing and press conference reporting to commentary editing and writing to social media. My most prominent role, however, is on the strategic leadership end, and if I told you about all of that then it would spoil the fun! I will say that it is a pleasure to work with Professor Hibbitts, Jaclyn Belczyk, Megan McKee, Ingrid Burke, and all of JURIST’s leadership and staff around the globe to contribute to ensuring future successes of this publication are in accord with JURIST’s vision. Each member of our expanding team seems to be bursting with talent. Finding ways to connect the tiles in our mosaic of global student voices to help one another shine is a pleasure among this group. I just love it.
Lubaina joined JURIST in March 2021 as a news writer, and she has shown a natural knack for reporting by covering an array of short- and long-form news topics from Canada and around the world.
Ian joined JURIST in March 2021 as a legal news writer. He has been a rockstar reporting global news, and as of July he has taken on the role of our pioneer Canada Correspondent.
Heidi J.T. Exner
Heidi joined JURIST in March 2021 as a legal news writer and commentary writer & editor. As of May she has also taken on an international leadership role as our Community Engagement Director.
My interest in providing a public service and exploring global human rights issues steered me to join JURIST, a legal news and commentary service, as a staff News Writer. I believe that bringing news forward and raising awareness on relevant legal issues and events are powerful tools that create broad systemic changes. Since the legal realm is known as a slower vehicle for change, a public service such as JURIST acts as an invaluable catalyst for such change. Keeping this in mind, I joined JURIST’s team as part of its first enlistment of Canadian contributors. I am grateful to have written about human rights matters such as further indictments and sentencing in the George Floyd case, the Arab perspective on the Israel/Jerusalem dispute, and the UN’s involvement with the Kamloops residential school discovery thus far. My hope is that this platform will help me educate the public on Canadian and international human rights events as readers access this growing online legal news service.