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Emmy adds to honours for School of Journalism alumnus Graeme Smith

By Antoinette Mercurio

Graeme Smith. Photo credit: Marc Bryan-Brown Photography.

Ryerson School of Journalism alumnus Graeme Smith won an Emmy Sept. 21 for his multimedia series Talking to the Taliban. Photo credit: Marc Bryan-Brown Photography.

Ryerson School of Journalism alumnus and Globe and Mail reporter Graeme Smith has won an Emmy award for his acclaimed series Talking to the Taliban.

Smith and the Globe team beat out entries from the New York Times, Washington Post and Reuters for the prestigious honour.

"One of the presenters joked on stage that whatever other awards you've won, the Emmys will be the only prize that your mother has heard of. We're a lucky bunch of people at The Globe and Mail - Jayson Taylor, Chris Manza, the rest of the project team - because we get to experiment with new ways of storytelling," he said.

The award was presented to Smith at the News and Documentary Emmys Sept. 21 in New York where the series won in the New Approaches to News and Documentary category. Talking to the Taliban included taped interviews with 42 Taliban foot soldiers discussing why they fight. The series was made public through online multimedia and print articles.

"Anyone who thinks journalism is in trouble should check out Graeme Smith's work. We need this kind of honest storytelling and critical insight more than ever, and fortunately our students and graduates are providing it," said Paul Knox, journalism chair.

The series has received many accolades, including an Online Journalism Award for best investigative piece by a large website, and a coveted Editor & Publisher "Eppy" online journalism award. Earlier this year, Talking to the Taliban received a National Newspaper Award (NNA), Canada's highest prize for print journalism, for the country's best multimedia feature and Smith accepted an NNA for international reporting.

For Smith, more important than the awards is the motivation to enhance understanding of what is going on in the world.

"When I volunteered to start up the Kandahar bureau in 2006 I had no idea we would reap these sort of awards - and that really wasn't my goal. A hunger for glory isn't enough to drive you into a war zone day after day, year after year. It's got to be something deeper. For me, it's a sort of zealous belief in the power of understanding. Maybe it's naive, but I really do think that humans can muddle through all kinds of problems if they can only grasp what's happening," he said.

This summer, Ryerson's Alumni magazine named Smith one of the University's Top 30 Under 30. He told the magazine that he has much more to accomplish: "I'm proud of my few small successes, but this is a long road and I will never reach the destination."

Smith has travelled extensively in his short career. Previously based in Moscow, he was stationed in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2009 and has devoted more time to southern Afghanistan than any other western journalist since the arrival of NATO forces in the region.

He is currently on leave from the Globe to write a book about Afghanistan. He's around campus, volunteering at the student paper, the Eyeopener.

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