Accomplished Concordia graduate says storytelling is the root of journalism
Jonah Keri believes journalism hasn’t changed since cavemen started sharing stories thousands of years ago.
“There were cavemen putting sketches of killings on the wall, telling stories, and nothing of that has changed,” he told a crowd at the D.B. Clarke Theatre on Nov. 16. “We always want to consume our news no matter through which medium.”
Keri and Arpon Basu, two graduates from the journalism program, returned to Concordia University last Thursday to host a talk called “Up, up, and away: A journey into sports journalism.” Both are accomplished sports writers, with Keri covering baseball for CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated as well as hosting his self-titled podcast. Basu is the current editor-in-chief of The Athletic Montreal and Athlétique Montréal, and has covered the Montreal Canadiens for over a decade.
Keri said his favourite part about being a journalist is storytelling. “For me, as a journalist, it’s about telling stories and bringing people along for a ride,” he said while gesturing as if he were dragging somebody across the stage.
Keri, a former sports editor at The Concordian, has written three books on baseball, with his latest titled Up, Up, and Away. It covers the history of the Montreal Expos, from the team’s beginning in Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1969 to their death in 2004, when the franchise moved to Washington, D.C. He published the book 10 years after the Expos left, but was reluctant to write it at first.
“[In 2011] my editor told me we should do a collab on a book on the Expos,” Keri explained. “I said, ‘Who cares about the Expos? They left a number of years ago.’” But in February 2012, former Expos catcher and Hall of Famer Gary Carter died, and that’s when talk about the Expos started to heat up again, according to Keri.
“When Gary Carter passed, it was so sad, but it was that light that clicked and linked to the Expos, and people said, ‘Oh yeah, I miss the Expos,’” Keri said. That’s when he started writing the book, and a week after it was published in March 2014, nearly 100,000 fans filled the Olympic Stadium, the Expos’ former home, to watch preseason games between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets. Basu said talk of the Expos has grown considerably since they left Montreal.
“Today, [MLB commissioner] Rob Manfred talks about expansion and the Expos, and it’s just crazy to see the commissioner of the MLB talk about the Expos,” Basu said.
Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre was a big advocate of bringing the Expos back and building the new stadium the team would need in order to return. Current Mayor Valérie Plante has said she would not use public money to build a new ballpark, unless Montrealers voted in favour of it in a referendum, according to CTV News. Keri said that doesn’t mean the dream of an Expos return is dead.
“Whether I live in ville St-Laurent or on the moon, I wouldn’t want public funds to go to a baseball stadium and help out billionaires,” Keri said. “So with the new mayor, it doesn’t mean the baseball dream is dead, but it’s a different approach.”
Main photo by Matthew Coyte