Sharon J. Riley Wins the 2020 Allan Slaight Prize for Journalism for “The Age of Surrender”

The Walrus proudly announces the winner of the 2020 Allan Slaight Prize for Journalism

TORONTO—The Walrus is proud to announce that Sharon J. Riley has been awarded the $10,000 Allan Slaight Prize for Journalism for her April 2020 story “The Age of Surrender.” The piece was also published online as “When Is a Senior No Longer Capable of Making Their Own Decisions?” The article analyzes how our medical systems strip some seniors of their autonomy and how this loss of control affects them and their families.

The Allan Slaight Prize for Journalism celebrates journalistic achievements by contributors to The Walrus. Launched in 2017 by the Slaight Family Foundation, the prize is awarded to an independent journalist for their work researching, analyzing, and writing about some of the most important topics of our time. A jury of industry specialists reviews more than fifty long-form articles published by The Walrus each year and selects a longlist of ten stories, a shortlist of three finalists, and the recipient of the prize.

“This is definitely one of those stories where you read the whole story then you spend hours on a deep dive trying to understand more,” noted Vicky Mochama, writer and member of the Allan Slaight Prize for Journalism jury. “It is a really complex thing to lay out, and [Riley] managed to do that really, really well. There’s a legal, a financial, and a personal part of it, and to get those right could be really difficult.”

Oscar Baker III, journalist and member of the Allan Slaight Prize for Journalism jury, explained that the story had “some beautiful characters.” He continued, “I really felt for the son. I thought it was well researched and had a very poetic ending. It definitely drew me in and made me think about a topic that I had never really thought of. Any time a story that long can hold my attention throughout, and make me think and want to know more, [the recognition] is well deserved.”

Riley is an investigative journalist currently covering energy and the environment in Alberta for The Narwhal. Her freelance essays, interviews, and long-form nonfiction have been published or are forthcoming in The Walrus, Harper’s, Reader’s Digest, The Tyee, Alberta Views, and Maisonneuve, among others. She has also worked as a freelance researcher, fact checker, and copy editor.

In response to being awarded the 2020 Allan Slaight Prize for Journalism, Riley stated:

The crisis in elder care is not new, and the pandemic has brought it into painful focus. I hope increased attention to these issues brings reform, and I hope journalism can play a part in that. Journalism is nothing if it’s not accurate or true, and in stories like this one, the truth is complicated, and to find it is messy, and it takes a long time. In my case, it took years. So many emotions of many different people weave themselves into narratives like the ones I shared in this piece.

About The Walrus

The Walrus is a registered nonprofit with an educational mandate to create forums for conversations on matters vital to Canadians. The Walrus is dedicated to supporting writers, artists, ideas, and thought-provoking conversations. We achieve these goals by publishing The Walrus magazine, which focuses on Canada and its place in the world, eight to ten times a year; producing the national series of The Walrus Talks; posting original, high-quality content daily at; and training young professionals in media, publishing, and nonprofit development.

About The Slaight Family Foundation

Established in 2008, the Slaight Family Foundation is committed to making a difference. The foundation supports projects at the local and international levels related to health care, social services, arts and culture, and at-risk children and youth. The Slaight Family Foundation undertakes bold new approaches to philanthropy to increase impact and improve the lives of those in need at home and abroad.

For more information, please contact our manager of donor stewardship, Bryn Turner, at or (416) 971-5004, ext. 258.

The Walrus Staff