Wednesday, January 07, 2015

McGill celebrates alumnus Jonathan Kay's accession to The Walrus editor's chair

McGill University's publication McGill News has profiled alumnus Jonathan Kay (BEng'92, MEng'94) who assumed the editorship of The Walrus in December. He says that he didn't plan to go into journalism when he was at McGill, but his engineering studies proved useful to his later journalism.
“I worked on stories that other journalists wouldn't touch because they were scared off by science,” he says. Kay’s knowledge of metallurgy came in handy when he debunked conspiracy theories about the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers in Among the Truthers. The book, which examined the factors that fuel conspiracy theories, drew praise from both the New York Times and The Economist.
Kay says Walrus readers should not expect any drastic changes concerning contributors.
“I would like to retain the magazine’s writers from the Annex [a left-leaning neighbourhood in Toronto],” says Kay, “but I would also like to use writers whom I respected at the National Post. But they wouldn't necessarily write on politics.” He suggests Conrad Black, MA’73, might contribute an essay on prison reform and Father Raymond J. de Souza could write on college sports.
In early 2014, Kay helped Justin Trudeau (another McGill alumnus, BA'94) write his memoir Common Ground
“I’d never worked closely with a politician at that level,” he says. He interviewed the Liberal Party of Canada leader for 40 hours about his life and politics, coming away with enormous regard for Trudeau’s honesty and warmth, if not his policies.
Kay says he expects to be at The Walrus at least five years.
 “After 16 years at the National Post opinion pages, I felt like I was getting a little stale,” he says. “I also felt like I had written enough 700-word editorials on, say, the Middle East or Quebec separatism — and that it was time for someone else to take over. The pages will profit from someone else bringing a fresh perspective. 
“Over time, my interests as a journalist had drifted more toward essays and long-form journalism, which is what The Walrus serves up. So it’s a great fit for me.” 
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