A Canadian Terrorism Confession on a Times Podcast: the Canada Letter

The podcast means that you now have a colleague from The Times along when you’re reporting. Has that brought any changes, either good or bad?

My work is often very solitary. It’s usually just me flying to the country where I am reporting, staying by myself in a hotel and then meeting up with our translators and fixers during the day. When I’m writing, it’s even lonelier. It was so much fun to have my audio colleague Andy Mills for one of my trips to Iraq. He was at my side for almost four weeks. We slept on the roofs of abandoned buildings together. We embedded with troops and searched buildings side by side. And then back in New York, it was such a rush to be able to work with a team — including producers Larissa Anderson and Asthaa Chaturvedi and our editors Wendy Dorr and Sam Dolnick. We all shared in the creation of this project.

Does the podcast allow you to tell stories that elude the printed word?

A Canadian Terrorism Confession on a Times Podcast: the Canada Letter
A Canadian Terrorism Confession on a Times Podcast: the Canada Letter

Audio allows you to be much more transparent with listeners about the process through which you got the story. For example, last year in a story Andy and I recorded for The Daily, another Times podcast, about recently rescued Yazidi girls, who had been raped over three years by the Islamic State, we entered a tent where we found two girls, both collapsed. They appeared to be unconscious and I realized right away that we had no business being there. In the audio, you hear me telling Andy that we need to leave. I think that singular moment speaks to the immense trauma that this community has faced and allows listeners to understand that getting these interviews is not a simple, walk-in, walk-out scenario. You’re also wrestling with the ethical dimension of whether you should even be there.


Municipal garbage collectors retrieved unclaimed bodies, mostly suspected of being Islamic State members, from the Old City district of west Mosul in February.Credit Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

While “Caliphate” takes a generally sober look at a serious subject, it’s tone is very human and, at times, even funny. New episodes are available every Thursday. Those of you who are Times subscribers can listen to episodes a week before everyone else, assuming that you are logged in to The Times’s site.

On May 11, Rukmini will be in Toronto to discuss her podcast at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. In addition to playing excerpts from her podcast, Rukmini will analyze the current state of the terrorism threat with Janice Gross Stein, founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, and Amarnath Amarasingam, an author and researcher.

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You can buy tickets here and if you’re a Times subscribers, you’ll get 50 percent off the regular price.

Listen: Caliphate

Read: The ISIS Files

On Stage

A number of journalists from The Times, in addition to Rukmini, are also making their way to Canada for public events. As I mentioned last week, Jada Yuan will be in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, as part of her heroic effort to visit The Times’s Travel list of 52 Places to Go. “The Paris of the Prairies” is her only Canadian stop.

On May 1, she’ll be spending part of her visit in a discussion with me and Charlie Clark, Saskatoon’s mayor, at the fantastic new Remai Modern. Tickets, which are fast selling out, and details can be found here.

And we’re giving away a pair of those scarce tickets for the Saskatoon talk and reception through this drawing.

Also on May 1, Michael Shear, a Times White House correspondent, will join Catherine Porter, the Toronto bureau chief, for a conversation following a screening of “The Fourth Estate,” a documentary about The Times by Liz Garbus. It’s part of the Hot Docs Festival. Tickets for it are also selling quickly. If you act quickly, you may be able to find some here.

A reminder: On April 24, Melena Ryzik, a reporter for the Culture section, will be moderating a discussion between Josh Basseches, the director and chief executive of the Royal Ontario Museum, and Antoni Cimolino, the artistic director of the Stratford festival. It will take place at the museum and this is the spot to find details and tickets.

Finally, on June 21, Ben Brantley, a Times co-chief theater critic, will lead a discussion following a performance by the Belarus Free Theatre at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre in Toronto. The group, which was formed in 2005 to challenge censorship of artists, has joined with Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot to create “Burning Doors,” which is on The Times’s list of the 10 best theater pieces of last year. Its Canadian debut is part of the Luminato Festival. Times readers get 15 percent off performance tickets here by using the code BURNING18. The discussion is open to the public at no charge.

Centre Ice

When I was flying back from Western Canada recently, the captain joked over the P.A. system that the Toronto Maple Leafs were hoping to finally have a color photograph of a Stanley Cup win. Mike Babcock, the coach of the team that last won hockey’s top prize in 1967, doesn’t have much use for sports history.

Trans Canada

—Few recent issues have been quite as divisive as Kinder Morgan’s plan to expand a pipeline that links Alberta’s oil sands to a tanker port near Vancouver. And as Alberta and British Columbia battle things out, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stuck in the middle, is making choices that will inevitably alienate some voters.

—The Selkirk herd of caribou is so rarely seen that its members are known as the gray ghosts. Now their numbers have dwindled to the point where some wildlife experts say they are “functionally extinct.” Mining, forestry and oil and gas development in British Columbia are being blamed.

—Bruce McArthur, the suspect in a serial killing case which has unnerved and angered many in Toronto’s gay community, now faces an eighth charge of first degree murder.

—A landmark hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, has forgiven “the worst hotel guest ever.”

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 15 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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