Paula Simons is The Edmonton Journal‘s award-winning City columnist. A graduate of the University of Alberta [’86 BA Hons, English] and Stanford University, and a former fellow of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and the Banff Centre for the Arts, Simons is a five-time National Newspaper Award nominee.
She has also been honoured by the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, Edmonton’s Vietnamese community, Edmonton’s “queer” community, and the Governor-General for her columns championing civil rights and inclusive communities.
Paula didn’t start out to be a reporter. Her plans to be a lawyer were derailed when she met Greg Hollingshead, her first-year English professor as quoted from the U of A website:
He convinced me to enter the Honors English program,” Simons said. “And that in turn convinced me that I needed to find a job where I could get paid to write.
After graduating as the Rutherford Gold Medallist in English Literature, Simons went on to Stanford University and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Then I ran out of warm places to go to school,” she joked.
A born and raised Edmontonian, Simons spent seven years as producer with CBC Radio in Edmonton and Toronto, working on programs such as Edmonton AM, Ideas, and the Arts Tonight, before joining the Journal in 1995. Since then, she’s won three National Newspaper Award (NNA) citations of merit for editorial writing, column writing and political reporting.
In 2002, her work as a member of a Journal team investigating the deaths of seven children from the Samson First Nation earned the paper a Michener Award citation of merit for public service journalism. In 2005, she was part of a Journal team that won an NNA for its coverage of the murders of four RCMP officers at Rochfort Bridge near Mayerthorpe, Alberta.
In 2006, Simons earned a citation of merit from the Canadian Bar Association for excellence in legal writing.
All these years after I opted out of law school, winning an award from Canada’s legal community had a special savour,” she says. “But I’ve never regretted my decision. I have the best job in town. I get paid to read, I get paid to write, I get paid to speak my mind — and best of all, I get paid to advocate for the community and the issues I feel most passionate about.
In August 2007, she was named an Edmonton Woman of Vision, and in November 2008, she was honoured by the Edmonton Historical Board for her writing on Edmonton history, architecture and heritage preservation.
In 2012, she won international recognition for her pioneering work in social media when she personally won an Eppy Award from Editor and Publisher for best use of social media by a media organization with fewer than 1 million unique visitors a month. (The parallel award for a larger media organization went to the Today Show.)
In 2013, she was feted by Edmonton’s own social media community with the inaugural Yeggie award for outstanding political or current affairs coverage on social media, in recognition of her work on Twitter, her Paulatics blog, and her Facebook page.
According to her Facebook page…
Paula hates chocolate, can’t skate, and is allergic to cats. She has the messiest desk in the newsroom — and if you know anything about newsrooms, you’ll know that’s saying something. She secretly dreams of being an opera singer. And she never irons anything if she can possibly help it.
Paula loves theatre and opera, great novels and trashy mysteries, riding her bike and visiting farmers’ markets. She’s an enthusiastic but messy cook, a passionate debater, a lover of festivals and walks in the North Saskatchewan River Valley. She can only draw stick figures – but she loves to sing. Whether you want to hear her or not. Her husband, teen-age daughter, and bichon frise dog put up with her antics with reasonably good humour.