The Maclean’s They Were Loved obituary project gains support from new sponsor, Mindset Social Innovation Foundation

The Maclean’s They Were Loved obituary project gains support from new sponsor, Mindset Social Innovation Foundation

The ambitious years-long initiative in partnership with Carleton University’s Future of Journalism Initiative and journalism schools across  the country aspires to commemorate everyone who has died of COVID-19 in Canada, and every Canadian who has died of the disease abroad. 

The ambitious years-long initiative in partnership with Carleton University’s Future of Journalism Initiative and journalism schools across  the country aspires to commemorate everyone who has died of COVID-19 in Canada, and every Canadian who has died of the disease abroad. 

February 4, 2021
Maclean's They Were Loved


Toronto, Ontario (February 4, 2021) –  Maclean’s, published by SJC Media, is thrilled to announce Mindset Social Innovation Foundation (Mindset Foundation), as the new sponsor of its They Were Loved obituary project, launched in July 2020 to honour the lives lost to COVID-19 in Canada and to mark this historic moment in Canadian history. 

Maclean’s created They Were Loved in partnership with Carleton’s Future of Journalism Initiative. Now with 16 Canadian journalism schools and 400 students on board, Maclean’s has formed the second-largest newsroom in Canada and has assigned more than 800 obituaries to date.

Journalism students research and write the obituaries, and in this way the project engages some of Canada’s youngest in paying tribute to some of the country’s oldest, while also providing invaluable experience in reporting and storytelling. Macelan’s runs  a selection of obituaries in its monthly print edition, and all obituaries are published on a searchable online hub.

“It has been a tremendous honour to be part of this project,” says Dafna Izenberg, Managing Editor of Special Projects for Maclean’s. “I am constantly inspired by the depth of compassion everyone involved with They Were Loved brings to the job, from my colleagues at the magazine and at the Future of Journalism Initiative, to the professors at participating journalism schools to the students who are interviewing families and writing the tributes. Each time I read an obituary for They Were Loved, there is inevitably a moment in which I well up or get goosebumps—where I feel I’ve seen into a person’s life and been allowed to have a sense of what it was to know them.”


While They Were Loved received a generous seed donation from The Giustra Foundation, Mindset Foundation has stepped up to continue funding the project through the spring. Mindset Foundation supports individuals and organizations working on complex social problems with innovative solutions. Its core initiatives include affordable medicine,  access to knowledge and training the next generation of investigative journalists.


“The They Were Loved project gives a voice to every family that has lost a loved one due to COVID-19, and an opportunity to keep their memory alive,” says Alison Lawton, Mindset Foundation’s founder. “Mindset Foundation is thrilled to be supporting Maclean’s and Carleton in this meaningful work while also impacting more than 400 journalism students across the country by allowing them to share these untold life stories.”


“Some of the students have written to me after their pieces were completed to say that they found working on these obituaries to be utterly transformational, journalistically and personally,” says Katherine Laidlaw, the Carleton University fellow overseeing the obituaries with Maclean’s “I think they come out of the assignment seeing what I see: that these pieces are exercises in empathy, that they’ve been granted a private window into someone’s life and that’s a gift.”


To support journalism professors and their aspiring students, Maclean’s provides extensive guidelines on skills such as reaching out to and interviewing families and videos in which Maclean’s reporters discuss the art of writing obituaries and participating professors discuss best practices for the project. Maclean’s and Future of Journalism staff frequently meet with professors and their classes to answer questions and gather feedback. Once assigned the name of someone who has died from COVID-19, students are responsible for identifying loved ones to interview and striving to capture the essence of that person’s life in only 250 words.


“It’s a big challenge and a big responsibility,” says assistant journalism professor Archie McLean who is leading Mount Royal’ University’s involvement in They Were Loved. “In many cases [the students] have just got a name — that’s all they have to work with. Some of the people are older and don’t necessarily have a huge digital footprint. So just to find them is the first challenge. The second challenge is to interview people who’ve suffered grief and loss, which is not easy. And then finally to write these tightly edited stories. Given all those challenges, I think the students have done an incredible job.”


“Going into this project I had a lot of fear about not doing the stories of these incredible people justice,” says Angelica Zagorski, a student at Carleton University. “I soon realized that there is nothing more beautiful than hearing the brightest parts of someone’s life told by the people that loved them most, and my job was only a small part of that. I have been so grateful to be a part of this project.”


Maclean’s search for the names of people who have died from COVID-19 is ongoing, including in harder to reach areas such as Indigenous communities. Anyone who has lost a loved one from COVID-19 and would like them included in the They Were Loved project can write to Maclean’s at 

Support for They Were Loved and other Maclean’s special projects can also be funded by individuals through the purchase of a subscription. Go to for a  special 6 issues for $6 special offer.

For more information or an interview with Dafna Izenberg, Maclean’s Managing Editor of They Were Loved, please contact:

Marta Tsimicalis 
Marketing & Communications Manager, SJC 


About Maclean’s
Maclean’s is Canada’s premier current affairs magazine. Maclean’s enlightens, engages and entertains 2.4 million readers with strong investigative reporting and exclusive stories from leading journalists in the fields of international affairs, social issues, national politics, business and culture. Readers can engage with Macleans on Instagram (@macleansmag), Facebook (@macleans),  Twitter (@macleans), YouTube (@MacleansMagazine) and LinkedIn (@macleans). For more information, visit 


About SJC Media 
SJC Media, a division of St. Joseph Communications, is Canada’s largest privately held media company and a wholly owned division of St. Joseph Communications. SJC Media publishes some of Canada’s most iconic and celebrated media brands including Canadian Business, Chatelaine (English and French), FASHION Magazine, FLARE, HELLO! Canada, Maclean’s, Ottawa Magazine, Quill & Quire, Today’s Parent, Toronto Life and Weddingbells. SJC Media also operates Strategic Content Labs, which creates custom content, websites, apps and content management solutions for some of Canada’s leading brands and institutions. For more information, visit


About the Future of Journalism Initiative
Carleton University’s  Future of Journalism Initiative (FJI) is a collaborative research hub where journalists, academics and students work together and independently on innovative research projects that further the collective knowledge and understanding of journalism practice. The FJI’s aim is to incubate ideas and nurture the objectives of students and researchers, while fostering creative and academic partnerships with other like minded institutions in the industry and the academy, engaging visiting practitioners and academics on projects that serve a public interest and/or which bolster the study of journalism in society. 


About Mindset Social Innovation Foundation 
Mindset Social Innovation Foundation (Mindset Foundation) is a registered Canadian charity founded in 2006 and based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Its mandate  to support the efforts of social innovators: those developing and implementing solutions to create more equitable and just systems. It conducts research into the observance of human rights, and works to ensure its findings are creatively distributed to the public through a variety of media for maximum impact. 

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