Cover art by Katrina McGaughey

In August of 2022, the Toronto Star was embroiled in controversy over the popular advice column “Ask Ellie.” Ellie Tesher, a relationship advice columnist at the Star, was being dragged on social media for advice she gave to a woman experiencing abuse. The woman claimed that her partner had repeatedly told her he wanted to kill her, and pointed a gun at her on multiple occasions. In response, Tesher pointed out to the woman’s cheating as a reason that the abuse was happening. Readers accused Tesher of victim-blaming.

Historically, many advice columns have treated systemic problems as individual struggles. They were often directed to an audience of women, but they were anything but feminist. Many of them would teach women how to conform to traditional gender roles, and fit into a society that didn’t see women as equals.

However, in recent years, many advice columns have become a space for people to challenge traditional gender roles and other systemic injustices. In her piece for the Review of Journalism, Production Editor Maddy Mahoney writes about the changing landscape of this journalistic medium, and how advice columnists are trying to move away from seeing themselves as authoritative figures. Managing Podcast Editor Silas Le Blanc sat down with Maddy to discuss her story, and her thoughts on advice columns more broadly.

Guest Bio:

Maddy Mahoney is a second-year Master of Journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University. She is a freelance journalist whose work can be found at Xtra Magazine, Toronto Life, CBC Arts, and others. She was formerly an Editorial Intern at Maisonneuve magazine and the Web Editor for CJRU 1280AM. She’s interested in long-form features, queer storytelling, subcultures, and weird internet trends.


Xtra Magazine: Ask Kai

Toronto Star: Ask Ellie

The Baffler: Designs for Living

Please check out the Spring 2023 issue of the Review of Journalism at Even better, buy a print copy. When you do, look out for Charlize Alcarez’s feature about another newsroom use of AI: the Globe and Mail’s AI-powered content curation tool—Sophi.
You can find the Review of Journalism on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

About the author

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Silas Le Blanc
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