By Elke Weesjes
The Natural Hazards Center joined others in hazards community this month as we mourn the loss of T. Joseph (Joe) Scanlon, Professor Emeritus at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and director of its Emergency Communications Research Unit. Scanlon died of complications of a heart attack on May 2 in Kingston Ontario, where he was attending the Carleton Spring Conference. He was 82.
A frequent contributor to the Natural Hazards Observer and fixture in the hazards community, Scanlon combined two different worlds—journalism and disaster studies.
Scanlon graduated from Carleton’s journalism school in the 1950s and began his career as a staff member with the Toronto Daily Star. He became the paper’s Washington correspondent in the early 1960s, covering the first years of the Kennedy administration and the civil rights movement. He also worked in television as a field producer and editor with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1965, Joe joined his alma mater as an assistant professor and was appointed director of the School of Journalism the following year. It was around this time that he became involved in disaster research and was able to apply his experience as a reporter and journalist to this field. His research and writing—an exciting mix of investigative practices, sociological theories, data analysis, and interviews—breathed new life into the field.
Scanlon published extensively on emergency incidents throughout his lengthy career. He focused mainly on events in his home country of Canada, but also examined disasters in Australia and France. He was particularly interested in media coverage of disasters, gender and evacuations, emergency management, and community involvement in disaster preparedness and response. A sought-after speaker, he continued to lecture on these topics at conferences around the world until his death.
Scanlon received the Charles Fritz Award from the International Research Committee for his lifetime contribution to Sociology of Disaster in 2002.
Winning the prestigious award far from marked the culmination of Joe’s career as a writer and researcher. Recently, he was working on a large-scale research project that focused on the problems surrounding mass death. The project included a study of the overseas response in handling of the dead after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, a study of Canadian disaster mass death incidents, and a study of how pandemic death was handled in three Ontario communities. In addition he served as a consultant on a National Science Foundation project that looked at supply chains resulting from the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Joe is survived by his longtime partner Kathleen Quinn, and his children, David, Lucy, Leslie, Meaghan, and Amy.