Upcoming Lecture at Carleton University


I’ll be giving a guest lecture on Whistleblowers at Carleton University in October. Hope to see you there!

Lecture 14
Whistleblowers: Criminals or Heroes?
Lecturer: Kathy Dobson

Most whistleblowers are corporate or governmental insiders who anonymously report internal misconduct. Why and under what circumstances do people either act on the spot to stop illegal and otherwise unacceptable behaviour, or report it to the media? And why does the public often have such divisive and changing responses to these whistleblowers, who arguably are only looking out for the greater good? For example, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, faced terrible repercussions by the Nixon administration at the time, but is now widely acknowledged as courageous. Within this historical context, we will explore contemporary whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, and websites such as Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks.

Lecture and visual presentation

  • Day: Monday, October 22nd
  • Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Location: Room 124, Leeds House Building
  • Fee: $30.00 (HST included)
  • Enrollment capacity: 55 participants

Lecturer biography: Kathy Dobson is an award-winning journalist and published creative non-fiction author with extensive teaching and guest speaking experience. She is a Vanier Scholar in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University currently completing a PhD, with numerous peer-reviewed academic publications. Her research interests include the datafication of social assistance programs, media framing of marginalized communities, and the political economy of news. Her dissertation (which was awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, and Ontario Graduate Scholarship) is examining how welfare fraud detection programs are used to support misleading media narratives about ‘welfare cheats.’ Kathy is a researcher and member of the ALiGN Media Lab, created by Dr. Merlyna Lim, which includes working with marginalized communities and groups engaged with challenging dominant narratives. Prior to starting her PhD, Kathy worked as a journalist and news photographer for over 20 years. Her work has appeared in numerous national newspapers and magazines, including the Globe and Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, and Maclean’s, Canadian Living, and Chatelaine magazines. She also worked for the CBC for over seven years, producing documentaries and news stories on a variety of social issues. She also hosts The Poverty Report, a podcast featured on the Carleton University ALiGN Media Lab, and has been twice awarded the Robert McKeown Doctoral Scholarship in Communication. Kathy is also an award winning creative non-fiction author. Her first book, With A Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood (Vehicule Press, 2001) is a memoir and about to go into its third printing. Her second book, Kicking and Punching: Leaving Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood (Vehicule Press, 2018) will be released early next month. She is also currently writing a book, The History of Whistleblowing, to be published in 2019.

Big Data Conference at Carleton University


I recently presented some of my research on the myths surrounding some of the most popular misconceptions about ‘welfare fraud’ at a conference hosted at Carleton University. Plot spoiler: welfare fraud isn’t actually a ‘thing.’ The statistics reveal that it’s in fact a rare event, though you couldn’t be faulted for thinking otherwise thanks to the media’s (mis)representation of welfare ‘cheats.’

But we really aren’t all born equal…


I think the claim that we’re all born equal is a particularly stupid one since of course it’s not true. A kid born into poverty is already at a different starting point than the kid born into a middle class family. And that’s just one obvious example.

People of colour, Canada’s Aboriginal population, and other members of marginal communities are already at a huge disadvantage as well when it comes to this idea about being born ‘equal.’

The problem then becomes that if we accept this notion about all of us being born ‘equal’ as some kind of absolute truth – which so many seem to – then we absolutely judge those who end up on social assistance, especially those who appear, at least to us, as being able-bodied.

That’s why I love this meme. Of course, this isn’t just true of our educational system. It’s also true of social class when we suggest or believe that all of us have ‘equal’ access to ‘success.’


The Poverty Report: “It’s not something I really wanted to tell people.”


What happens if you suddenly become disabled and unable to work and earn a living?

That’s what recently happened to 19-year-old ‘Jess’ after he was seriously injured in a cycling accident. With a concussion and broken collar bone, Jess, who was formerly healthy and fit, was suddenly forced to do something he never expected to have to.

I asked him to share what went into his decision about applying for social assistance, and whether it changed what he had previously thought about other people who are also on welfare.

The Poverty Report: “That makes me so sad…”


As part of a new ongoing series, “The Poverty Report: Systems, Narratives, and People,” I recently sat down with two women, who have lived with poverty, and asked them two questions: What are some of the common misconceptions people seem to have about those living with poverty? What do you wish you could say to them?

Here’s what they had to say:


Carleton Freedom to Read Week


IMG_20160224_125204648This week is Freedom to Read Week, an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression and intellectual freedom, guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Carleton University has a series of events planned throughout the week; As the author of a challenged book, Kathy will be kicking off Carleton’s ‘Readings from Banned and Challenged Materials’ event by reading from her book With a Closed Fist. Members of the Carleton community will also be reading from other challenged and/or banned books.

Check it out Feb 24th, in the Main Floor Reading Room (lvl 2) of Carleton’s MacOdrum Library Main Reading Room @ 12:00pm.

Hope to see you there!



Carleton PhD student’s memoir to be discussed at international conference



From Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication News page:


“A book written by PhD student Kathy Dobson, in the School of Journalism and Communication, will be the focus of a panel at the How Class Works – 2016 conference at Stony Brook, New York, this coming June.

The panel, “Writing the Class Out of Poverty: Autobiography, Gender and Consciousness in With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood,” was proposed by Dr. Herbert Pimlott, a professor in the department of communication at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.

The panel will be addressing the themes of class and culture, and race, gender, power, and social structure. Presentations will introduce and discuss Dobson’s 2011 memoir, which provides an account of the challenges facing a poor family headed by a single mother on welfare in Montréal in the late 1960s from the perspective of an eight-year-old child.

Dr. Pimlott says Dobson’s memoir is both an exemplar of the long tradition of the classic working-class cultural form, the autobiography or memoir, and a unique perspective of telling the story of growing up poor without judgment.

“This presentation will position Dobson’s memoir within the larger tradition of working-class writing in the Canadian context, and with reference to developments in working-class writing since the 1970s, including references to particular writers, such as Helen Potrebenko and her 1975 novel, Taxi,” says Dr. Pimlott.

The presentation will also argue that Dobson’s work is significant because it illustrates the issues that fuel divisions within the poor in a large city but also implicitly addresses the issue of whether the poor can be considered a separate category to or part of the working class, as Michael Zweig, Jack Metzgar and others have considered.

Kathy Dobson is looking forward to discussing her current research in an additional panel, where she will be presenting a paper on how people living in poverty are represented on social media.”