University of Toronto word mark

Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud

Alumni Portraits
Lyse Doucet
Current Industry: Arts & Culture, Entertainment, Journalism / Letters
Master of Arts (MA) 1982, Political Science
Hon. Doctor of Laws (Hon. LLD) 2009

One might be tempted to use a version of that well-worn cliché – “it’s a long way from her home in Bathurst, New Brunswick to the bloody events in Afghanistan and Egypt.” But Doucet has spent her career avoiding the clichés that often come with journalism, focusing instead on providing in-depth accounts of the people who have been ravaged by war and governmental upheaval.

After getting her MA in International Relations at U of T in 1982 (she also got an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from University College) Doucet worked as a freelance journalist for Canadian media and the BBC in West Africa.

She reported from Pakistan in 1988 and was based in Kabul from late 1988 to the end of 1989 covering the Soviet troop withdrawal and its aftermath. In 1994, she opened the BBC office in Amman, Jordan and from 1995 until 1999 she was based in Jerusalem.

She has won several awards, including a Peabody for her BBC documentary about maternal mortality rates in Badakshan, a remote Afghan town that has one of the highest birth mortality rates in the world.

"My education at the U of T opened up my world. I suddenly engaged in a whole new range of issues in a wide array of countries. My education in the classroom was an integral part of my learning outside. These were defining moments for me. I sat in seminar rooms with graduate students from Africa and Canada taking part in animated discussions on political and economic theory, and the situation on the ground across the African continent."

Doucet, who is fluent in English and French, is often deployed by the BBC to anchor special news coverage from the field and to interview world leaders. She has focused on major natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Pakistan floods.

Her recent work has included playing a major role in the BBC’s coverage of the “Arab Spring” across the Middle East and North Africa, including rare access to Syria. Her exclusive interview with Jordan’s King Abdullah made world-wide headlines.

In an interview in The Independent, she was asked about her favourite walk.  She responded: “roaming barefoot along the beach where I grew up in Eastern Canada. It always reminds me of the Bruce Cockburn lyric: All the diamonds in this world/that mean anything to me/are conjured up by wind and sunlight/sparkling on the sea.”

Related Alumni
  • Helena Monteiro took the principles she applied as a graduate student at the Universi... Read more

    Helena Monteiro
  • Heather Johnston
  • After spending years in far-flung locales such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia, Pacinthe Ma... Read more

    Pacinthe Mattar
  • From parasitical infections and DNA swaps to Russian gangsters and Sigmund Freud, fil... Read more

    David Cronenberg
  • Betty Xie is perfectly comfortable being interviewed in a downtown café. After all, ... Read more

    Betty Xie