Jason Warick explaining the media’s role in reconciliation. Photo by: Caitlin Taylor
Written by Josh Diaz Published: 28 November 2016
The sound of a gunshot echoed through the Saskatoon air. Jason Warick knew this is what he had been training for.
On May 27, 2012, Warick finished second in the men’s full Saskatchewan marathon, with a time of two hours 19 minutes and 39 seconds.
While some people may know Warick as one of Saskatchewan’s top investigative journalists, Warick is also one of Canada’s former top long distance runners. The Saskatoon native has collected many accolades during his time competing, including time as the captain of the Canadian National Marathon team. Warick’s passion for running has allowed him to compete in over 25 different countries, on nearly every continent.
With his professional running days behind him, Warick is currently competing in a different kind of marathon, one that he has been a part of for the past nine years. While this marathon has no records to break, no sports drinks to down, and no places to finish, it has proven to be the most difficult one of Warick’s career as a journalist.
A journalist first, and a runner second (depending on who’s asking), Jason Warick graduated from the University of Regina’s School of Journalism in 1996. Before his graduation, Warick worked as a sports writer, judicial reporter and movie reviewer. In 1996 he landed a job with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. This proved to be a good fit as 1996 marked the start of Warick’s 20 year career with the newspaper. It was at the StarPhoenix that Warick became interested in reporting on Indigenous issues.
“Initially, I consciously sought out this beat for selfish reasons,” said Warick. “I thought correctly that this was a really exciting, emerging and interesting beat, that there would be a lot of interesting people and stories to tell.”
However, as Warick reported on these stories, something was picking at him, like a rock in his running shoe.
“I saw that there was some injustice happening. I didn’t have a lot of education about it, I couldn’t name it, but I knew it was there,” said Warick. “From there I felt an evolving responsibility to tell those stories, and to educate myself about it.”
Nine years ago Warick began to use his talents as an investigative reporter to specialize in Indigenous issues. Warick made it his goal to inform and educate the public about these issues, in a way that brought out the truth, and furthered honest reporting on Indigenous issues in Saskatchewan. “Aboriginal equality in the media doesn’t mean only telling the happy stories, or ignoring the scandals when they happen. It means being fair and telling the stories honestly,” explained Warick.
For Warick, finding the truth often means digging deeper, even when some journalists do not. While reporting on the Colten Boushie case, Warick saw firsthand the type of reporting he was competing with.
“In the hours after the event, the RCMP put out a news release that they were rightly criticized for, that appeared to blame the victim,” said Warick. “News outlets ran with the release with very little critical thought, and that was what set a lot of the images and the opinions in those early days for people across Canada. So then it became an uphill battle for Indigenous people to say, ‘Hey, we’re not all these stereotypes that you’re talking about.’ ”
However, Warick does believe we have come a long way in the way we report on Indigenous issues.
“In my early years as a journalist, there was only the beginning of an acknowledgement from the public that residential schools might not have been a great thing,” said Warick. “Compared to when I started, the terminology, and the tone of the articles is better, but with that being said there is still an extremely long way to go.”
Heather Persson, editor-in-chief of the StarPhoenix, has worked with Warick of almost 10 years. “He’s just as competitive a journalist as he is a runner,” said Persson. “It’s the meaning of the work that he’s so passionate about, getting to the bottom of issues, and giving people a voice who otherwise wouldn’t have one.”
With the end goal being Indigenous equality in the media, the finish line still remains far off. But with the prize at the end being justice for the entire Aboriginal community, this is one marathon that Jason Warick is happy to keep on running.