Leadership Award

Kathy Vey is the 2019 Digital Publishing Leadership Award Recipient

The NMAF is delighted to announce that TVO Executive Producer of Digital Kathy Vey is the 2019 recipient of the Digital Publishing Leadership Award, which honours an individual whose career contributions to Canadian digital publishing deserve recognition and celebration. Vey will receive her award—the highest individual distinction from the Digital Publishing Award program—at the DPA Soirée on May 29th.

Kathy Vey’s 37-year career in Canadian journalism spans pivotal roles at media outlets including the Toronto StarOttawa CitizenToronto SunQueen’s Park Briefing, OpenFile, and TVO.org. Vey grew up in Toronto’s east end and began working at the Toronto Sun while still a teenager. In 1988, she jumped to the Star, where she soon became an assistant national editor.

After taking a 1993 buyout from the Star, Vey worked as a freelance writer for Canadian Gardening magazine and spent a couple of years editing at the Ottawa Citizen before returning to Toronto and the Star in 1998. She then served as a deputy city editor, a news editor, and the team editor of training and development. In the latter role, she headed up the Star’s first multimedia training program, an intensive weeklong effort that introduced many editorial staff members to the rapidly emerging potential of digital journalism.

“Having Kathy on your team meant there was someone there who could take on the toughest and most complex assignments.”

John Ferri, TVO Vice-president of Current Affairs & Documentaries and Vey’s longtime colleague

In 2010, she left the Toronto Star again to join the team launching OpenFile, an innovative online news startup that prioritized local reporting and audience engagement. As the founding editor-in-chief, Vey guided OpenFile’s development and in less than two years established a core team of editors and freelance writers while building readership in major cities across Canada. She hired a cohort of young reporters, whom she sought to mentor and empower. “Journalists in nearly every city we operated in, from Ottawa to Calgary to Halifax, have similar stories to tell about her support and advice in building a career in journalism,” says TVO Digital Editor Chantal Braganza, who adds she gained invaluable experience working for Vey at OpenFile.

“She offered a guiding hand in shaping stories and facilitating skills development, but left city editors to manage their own teams, experiment endlessly with tools and engage constantly with audiences. That required a skillset uncommon to many newsroom leaders, particularly those in Canada’s nascent digital startup space,” says Maclean’s Digital Editor Nick Taylor-Vaisey, whose journalism career began with Vey at OpenFile.

“Everyone who runs a newsroom should lead by Kathy’s proven example. To use a sports analogy: she drafts prospects and turns them into all-stars, and no matter which team she leads, they’re contenders while she’s at the helm.”

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Maclean’s Digital Editor

“She led a small newsroom and encouraged it to take risks and think of new ways of engaging with an audience. She was a tremendous editor and mentor for the young journalists we were lucky to hire,” confirms BuzzFeed News Media Editor Craig Silverman, who worked closely with Vey for two years at OpenFile. Silverman cites the development of “The Poppy File” as a key example of her leadership style. The award-winning project resulted from Vey’s encouragement of OpenFile contributing editor Patrick Cain, who had been collecting the names of Torontonians who died in World War II. Vey devised an interactive map to show where each of the more than 3,000 people had lived in the city, working closely with the product team to realize an innovative data visualization. The resulting interface was not only attractive and functional, but offered a platform for OpenFile reporters to share some of the stories revealed through the project. (Though no longer active on OpenFile, a version of the project is viewable here.)

“The Poppy File” was praised by Toronto mayor David Miller, won a Canadian Online Publishing Award, and earned National Magazine Award and Online Journalism Award nominations. The Guardian’s former data editor Simon Rogers called the project “the pinnacle of what data journalism is supposed to be about.” The project “came together because Kathy immediately saw the potential and brought everyone together,” says Silverman.

OpenFile.ca was a significant and extraordinary achievement… Kathy helped put into practice many of the theories and ideas that are seen as crucial to the evolution of journalism in the age of digital disruption: community engagement and emphasis on social media, the notion of journalists as curators of information and not just news-gatherers, and data-based interactivity,” says John Ferri, TVO Vice-president of Current Affairs & Documentaries and Vey’s longtime colleague. “It’s no exaggeration to say that she has played an instrumental role in building a bridge to the future of journalism in Canada.”

After OpenFile, Vey joined Torstar’s Queen’s Park Briefing as executive editor. According to Ferri, the fledgling online publication—aimed at a politically inclined professional audience—was “in desperate need of a steady hand” when she took the reins. She transformed it within six months. “Kathy believed that there was a role for smart, policy-focused journalism that was willing to look outside of the daily news cycle—and that people would be willing to pay for it—and she was right,” says TVO Columnist John Michael McGrath, who was among the team Vey brought on board.

In 2013, Vey became a part-time instructor at Ryerson University, a natural progression from her newsroom mentoring in earlier years. She was appointed Rogers Journalist in Residence, during which time she developed the Canadian Press Style Coach, a prototype e-learning program designed to help journalists—both emerging and established—master the CP style guide.

“Kathy has consistently demonstrated exactly the kind of values our industry needs, both to meet the challenges of a changing business environment and developing the talent that will tell the stories of the future.”

John Michael McGrath, TVO Columnist

For the past three and a half years, Vey has worked as the Executive Producer, Digital, at TVO, where she oversees all content produced for the web, including daily articles, short video, editorial newsletters, and podcasts, as well as the journalistic social media accounts. “She has been key to the evolution of TVO’s digital presence,” affirms Ferri. “In sum, Kathy Vey has been a catalyst for change. She has a superb analytical mind and is a master of newsgathering logistics. She has demonstrated a clear and cohesive vision of the future of journalism in the digital space. She has shifted easily from working in large traditional media to startups. She is a creative and innovative individual, an industry leader. She is loved and respected by her peers and staff. She has a tremendous wit and style. This kind of passion for our craft deserves to be recognized and fostered.”

For her leadership, innovation, and dedication to Canadian digital publishing, the NMAF is honoured to present Kathy Vey with the 2019 Digital Publishing Leadership Award.

Previous Leadership Award Winners

2018 – Brodie Fenlon
2017 – Kenny Yum

Interested in nominating a colleague for the 2020 Digital Publishing Leadership Award? Here’s what you need to know.