Commentary by: John Ferri in Toronto
The crisis in local journalism is well documented, most extensively in a report last January by the Public Policy Forum, and by others who have painted in detail the corrosive effects of cutbacks to local newsrooms and the shuttering of an entire daily newspaper in a mid-sized Ontario city.
It’s evident in these reports that there’s a real thirst for local perspectives – if not necessarily for supporting the business models that have traditionally delivered them. It’s also clear that there is no single solution to the loss of local journalism in Ontario.
But I do want to offer a new TVO editorial initiative as a kind of case study. It’s called Ontario Hubs and it brings a current affairs perspective to parts of the province that are increasingly under-served. Its intent is to provide news analysis and context that is relevant to both local audiences and to the wider public.
Ontario Hubs were made possible by a major gift from civic-minded philanthropists: the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman. This donation is allowing us to hire seven journalists and open regional offices outside Toronto.
For TVO, it’s an opportunity that speaks to our mandate to reflect and connect Ontarians and that is potentially a game-changer. It substantially increases the coverage of Ontario issues, ideas and events on tvo.org and on our flagship current affairs program, The Agenda with Steve Paikin.
Our initial plan calls for four regional hub offices. The first two officially launch on September 6 – one covering the region of Northwestern Ontario, based in Thunder Bay; and a second hub for Southwestern Ontario, based in London. The two additional hubs will be announced later this fall.
Each will be staffed by a full time TVO journalist, whose job it will be to identify issues and ideas of importance to the communities in their regions and report on how those matter locally, regionally and to the entire province.
The Hubs journalists will also help create networks of freelancers and contributors in their respective regions. In addition, we will have a full-time on-air journalist who will produce weekly feature reports for The Agenda with Steve Paikin. These won’t be in the form of a traditional 90-second news report but longer, more in-depth and, often, meant to set the table for a panel discussion on The Agenda.
With this new team of journalists and contributors we will produce multi-platform features – online and on broadcast – that will dive deep into big issues.
Earlier this year, TVO hired Jon Thompson for our Northwestern Ontario hub. Jon is an award-winning journalist and author with deep roots in the northwest. Since joining us, he’s filed a number of stories including a substantive feature examining how accusations of racism against Indigenous residents have divided Thunder Bay. It’s apparent that this story was not based on a few days visit by an outside media organization. Nor was it the incremental, day-to-day coverage local news outlets – increasingly strapped for resources – might provide.
The story is a fine example of the editorial stance TVO is taking with this project. It occupied the journalistic sweet-spot we aspire to: step-back and analytical but informed by being firmly planted on the ground, and appealing to both local and wider audiences.
The story did very well. It was among the most-read on our site in July, with more than a third of the traffic from Thunder Bay. And it helped define the public conversation on an issue with a national profile: on the strength of it, Jon was interviewed on CBC Radio’s As It Happens.
Ontario Hubs will not replace what’s being lost. TVO’s mandate is not daily news reporting. We won’t be covering regular meetings at Timmins City Hall or the school board in Owen Sound or the library services in Northumberland. My fervent hope is that a sustainable model for that kind of essential reporting, in whatever form it takes, will be found.
But what Ontario Hubs can offer is regional current affairs – in-depth, in context, and from multiple perspectives – that will help build a province whose citizens are better informed, responsive and engaged. It’s an addition to the journalistic eco-system at a time of decline. We hope it will serve as one model of a path to the future.
John Ferri is the VP of Documentaries and Current Affairs at TVO. This piece was republished under arrangement with J-Source.
Commentary by: Nick Fillmore in Toronto
News outlets in Canadian communities are falling like bowling pins.
At least 171 media organizations in 138 communities closed between 2008 and this January, according to the Local News Research Project, a project led by Ryerson School of Journalism. By comparison, only 51 new outlets opened.
The loss of media is so severe that a special report submitted to the House of Commons Heritage Committee was entitled: “Local news poverty in Canadian Communities.”
“Local news poverty, we argue,” is greatest in communities where residents have limited or no access to timely, verified news about local politics, education, health, economic and other key topics they need to navigate daily life, ” project co-ordinator April Lindgren writes in Policy Options.
Small communities such as Markdale, Ont. and Canmore, Alta. lost their local papers while cities Guelph, Ont. and Nanaimo, BC were among the largest centres to be hit.
Newspapers have been crucial for the development of Canada for more than three centuries. But ‘free’ news from for-profit papers is coming to an end.
Daily papers are failing because millions of dollars of advertising they used to have has either moved to the internet or has just disappeared. Because an ad that brings in $1,000 in a paper sells for about $100 on the internet, the newspaper corporations are so far unable to make a go of it in a digital world.
Corporate-owned news organizations around the world are trying to find a formula that will allow them to be profitable. However, they have made little progress in the dozen years since internet-based companies started stealing their ads and readers.
Hundreds of Canadian communities are now poorly served when it comes to local news by underfunded and under-staffed internet news sites, give-away newspapers and even bloggers.
Nonprofit media can be the solution
However, Canadian communities still should be able to have reliable newspapers. They need to explore creating community-controlled not-for-profit papers.
Nonprofit newspapers have financial advantages over for-profit papers. A commercial paper is expected to churn out at least 15 per cent profits or investors will take their money elsewhere. Business executives at corporations command salaries into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The manager of a nonprofit might earn $90,000. Ad sales staff at daily papers earn a large salary; not so at a nonprofit. A for-profit paper pays taxes. A nonprofit pays few taxes and can engage in fundraising activities.
Other factors: The internet is the future for many news organizations, but many people prefer to hold a newspaper in their hands. A printed publication tends to have more authority than an internet site. And, finally, advertisers like to see their ads in print.
There are no nonprofit daily newspapers in Canada, but hundreds of public interest organizations operate on a nonprofit basis.
The U.K. Guardian is the most prominent not-for-profit newspaper in the world. Last year, the award-winning but financially-strapped Philadelphia Inquirer switched to the not-for-profit model. Both organizations have large endowments.
I believe not-for-profit newspapers are highly desirable if a group can develop a break-even budget. I believe this is possible in Canada.
Set up a research group
If folks feel there’s a need for a newspaper in their community the first step would be to bring together 15 or 20 people who represent a cross-section of citizens. The group could conduct a survey to determine whether people in the community support the idea.
An important early task would be to have experts help you develop a project model to see if the concept is financially viable.
Warning: Don’t focus too much on journalistic content in the early stages. Instead, the most important thing to determine is whether the model you develop is financially viable.
Think about how groups and businesses in the community might contribute. Reach out to local journalists and media outlets to see if they would like to become involved in the project.
My recommendation is that groups create a nonprofit corporation. This way any surplus at the end of the year would go back into the project. A lawyer can create a nonprofit organization for about $700.
An important decision: One of the biggest questions concerns is how to distribute the paper. Traditional door-to-door delivery could be costly but, if the project can afford it, this is the best way to go.
However, groups could use a much cheaper distribution system. What I call the "mini-paper" would have small pages – 8 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches - just about the same size as Maclean's magazine – distributed to subscribers by e-mail.
Subscribers would print out the paper in the morning. The group would provide a simple binding system that readers would use to hold the pages. It might be best to limit the size of any one edition to 24 pages or less.
The huge advantage of the mini-paper is that it would not require newsprint and there would be no distribution expenses.
In case subscribers prefer to access the information on-line, all of the articles and other information published in the mini-paper would be posted behind a paywall on a website.
The big question for any group is figuring out where the money is going to come from.
I think it should be possible to run a nonprofit paper with about one-third of the revenue coming from advertising, one-third from subscribers and sustained donors, and one-third from fundraising.
Many sources of funding
Note: I have considerable experience as a fundraiser and I would be pleased to provide fundraising advice to any group free of charge. Here’s a summary of funding possibilities:
My strong advice to a group is to not launch a new paper until you have lined up funding for at least your first full year.
I know a number of Canadian nonprofit experts and journalists who would be pleased to help develop a project. Several knowledgeable U.S. organizations, such as Institute for Nonprofit News and the Poynter institute would provide advice.
The creation of even one sustainable, independent newspaper project anywhere in Canada would be a huge, unprecedented accomplishment. It could be the forerunner of other papers that would once again provide our communities with a reliable source of news and information.
Nick Fillmore was a CBC journalist and producer for more than 25 years, and is a founder of the Canadian Association of Journalists. He currently works as a Toronto freelance journalist who specializes in writing about media issues.This piece was republished under arrangement with J-Source.
By H.G. Watson
The Canada Periodical Fund may broaden its horizons in the years to come.
Luc Marchand, the director of the Canada Periodical Fund, told attendees at MagNet, the annual Canadian magazine conference, on June 8 that the results of federal government consultations on media may impact how the fund designs its grants, and for who.
In the years to come, more program dollars may be extended to digital-only outlets, which are currently unable to access some portions of the fund.
The fund currently offers assistance to publishers of paid print magazines, non-daily newspapers and digital periodicals through two programs, one for business development and one for distribution, with a third funding envelope for industry associations. Currently digital periodical publishers can only access the business innovation program, and are excluded from support for distribution.
During the presentation, Mark Jamison, the president of envericom, a project management practice, said that government investment through the Canada Periodical Fund represents about four per cent of value in the industry.
However, the amount of money distributed by the Canada Periodical Fund has been relentlessly dropping since the mid-1990s, a trend dramatically accelerated by the Conservative government. As well, J-Source recently reported on evidence that the program had become politicized, citing a business development grant to Briarpatch that was recommended for approval, but then rejected at the directive of former Heritage minister James Moore without explanation.
Change may come
But change may come. The Liberal government’s push to examine and potentially radically alter Canada’s media laws may impact the fund. A standing committee on local media met throughout the winter, and consultations are coming on digital content creation, according to Marchand.
Marchand said that the switch to digital doesn’t seem to be as prominent in the world of magazines as it is in the newspaper industry. “Print is really strong (in magazines),” he said. But, he noted, more magazines now have a greater online presence.
No changes will happen without consultation with the Canadian magazine industry, he added, noting that it would be at least a year until the Canada Periodical Fund sees major change, if any.
Until then, there is the recently launched pilot program to fund digital start-ups, which Marchand hopes will help the Fund cover a broader base of the industry.
Full disclosure: NCM currently receives funding from the federal Heritage Department's Canada Periodical Fund towards specific editorial and marketing-related projects. This reporting was republished with permission from J-source.ca
by Marcus Medford in Toronto
Journalism and the media play a major role in forming a national identity and informing the public about what’s important.
That is why Rohit Joseph, who is currently in the Masters of Journalism program at The University of British Columbia (UBC), says that people of diverse backgrounds play an important role in the media.
Joseph and his family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia from New Delhi, India when he was nine years old. The 23 year old has spent most of his life in Canada and identifies as Canadian.
“If the news media and political establishments want to improve their relationship with the diverse ethnic communities that make up this nation, we need qualified journalists from these communities to represent them,” he says.
It starts in j-school
Joseph’s UBC classmate, Jessica Quin (a pseudonym), says that journalism as a whole doesn’t accurately represent Canada’s diversity and that there’s more work to be done – and it starts in the classroom.
“Ethnic diversity in journalism schools is not only important, it is absolutely necessary in an ever-changing Canadian multicultural landscape,” says the 24 year old.
Journalism programs, like all other post-secondary programs, have a responsibility to produce graduates of all ethnicities. Failure to do so is a “disservice to the country” according to Carleton University journalism student Jolson Lim.
In the United States, a survey from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication found that approximately one out of every four students majoring in journalism or communications is a visible minority.
In Canada, according to Humber College journalism program coordinator Dan Rowe, it seems that while there is a considerable number of visible minorities graduating from j-school, they aren’t the ones being hired.
Quin says hiring challenges are something she hears of often from friends already working in the industry.
“In truth, you will be more easily hired if you are white, because you fit the standard status quo and implicitly fit into the newsroom culture,” she says. “Journalists of colour have to work harder to land a job in the industry.”
‘White values’ remain dominant
Guyanese-born Varsha Ramdihol remembers watching as her parents struggled to find employment due to hiring biases when her family first immigrated to Toronto.
Ramdihol, 18, studies journalism at the University of Toronto Scarborough’s campus and has a “very diverse” class, which she thinks is important. Still, she admits to one major concern: her ability to find a job when she graduates based on what she looks like or cultural stereotypes.
Ramdihol says that, if hired, she and other visible minorities can bring added value to the news through “background information, context and history” when it comes to certain events.
Jeffrey Dvorkin, 69, is the director of U of T’s Journalism program and teaches a class at the Scarborough campus. Like Ramdihol, Dvorkin says his class is very diverse, which, he adds, is a good thing. But the former National Public Radio ombudsman does have some concerns.
“I worry that as journalism schools graduate journalists of colour, that they may reflect a class perspective (educated, middle class) rather than a purely ethnic one,” the professor explains.
Dvorkin admits that while reflecting a class bias can be a negative thing, it isn’t always. “It’s just part of the business,” he says.
Miglena Todorova of U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) agrees with Dvorkin’s claim. Todorova, an assistant professor in social justice, says that the ethnic composition of a classroom doesn’t matter if biases exists.
Todorova explains that the class bias within journalism is entrenched in the profession.
“Journalism therefore continues to be dominated by a particular set of needs and knowledge and those are the values of white people,” Todorova adds.
Todorova argues that many of the people in decision-making positions working within mass media are white and as a result “journalism refuses to shake its own whiteness.”
“You have to ask yourself ‘who is teaching these programs?’” Todorova adds.
“I have never encountered a non-white professor in journalism,” says 20-year-old Hannah Wondmeneh, a fourth year journalism student at Carleton University who self-identifies as Ethiopian-Canadian.
Wondmeneh's observation is not uncommon it seems.
Of all the students New Canadian Media spoke with in writing this article, the only one who said he saw his ethnicity represented amongst the faculty was a Caucasian male from Alberta.
Dvorkin thinks that balancing conflicting forces is the key to solving issues of diversity in journalism. Dvorkin admits that academia can be rigid when it comes to accepting new ideas, but he’s confident there is a way to “make them compatible.”
But for Wondmeneh, what’s troubling is that she feels as if nothing is being done about it.
“We don’t talk about,” she says. “It’s as if it’s a non-issue, not anything that would need to be addressed, and I find that frustrating.”
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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by Shannon Clarke (@_clarkeshannon) in Toronto, Ontario
When Rogers Media announced it was cutting 110 positions in May, Canadians — journalists, community leaders and critics — focused on OMNI. Not just because the station received significant cuts, but also because of what it has come to represent.
“OMNI, being something that is synonymous with diverse communities and also with the face of Rogers — we were very surprised and shocked by [the announcement],” Jason Merai, executive director of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR), said of the company’s decision to eliminate Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian and Punjabi newscasts from OMNI’s broadcast. “Why would you eliminate that access to an opportunity for [newcomers] to gain knowledge to be engaged in this country?”
Since the announcement, the UARR, along with several other organizations including the Chinese Canadian National Council, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and the Canadian Ethnocultural Council (CEC), have co-ordinated to lobby against the cuts. Since May 7, they have held press conferences, drafted petitions and written letters asking Rogers to reconsider. They are now asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to step in.
Cuts were anticipated
Depending who you ask, the decision isn’t much of surprise. The financial fragility of OMNI — just one of the reasons given for the cuts — wasn’t news. In 2013, OMNI’s Portuguese and South Asian newscasts were scrapped. Last year, former Rogers president Keith Pelley told the CRTC that OMNI was in “crisis” and expressed concern over Canadians’ changing viewing habits. Much of OMNI’s revenue depended on U.S. programming that can now be viewed online.
“Given the length of the time OMNI has been in decline we had exhausted all other options to reduce our costs,” Colette Watson, vice-president of television and operations wrote in an e-mail. That included cutting the most expensive U.S. programs and implementing an all-ethnic schedule on OMNI 2.
In June, executives at Rogers announced they would replace the newscasts with current affairs programs. A move, Watson said, that is in line with other broadcasters, “both ethnic and mainstream English and French,” hoping to reduce operating costs.
“We are not just cutting programming; we are replacing it with more relevant programming in the same language,” she wrote. “We are hoping that our audiences will give the new shows a try and are confident they won’t be disappointed with the depth of local issues these programs explore.”
Expected or not, the elimination of multi-language newscasts from one of Canada’s largest and most recognizable media companies is a loss to the communities they served. The response that followed has demonstrated the importance and vulnerability of third-language media and made Canadians more aware of it.
Ethnic media not surprised by cuts
While OMNI is not the only multi-language media outlet in Canada, it is one of the most visible and, under Rogers’ umbrella, relatively insulated from the funding challenges faced by smaller, independent operations.
Joe Volpe, publisher of Canada’s only daily Italian-language newspaper, Corriere Canadese was unsurprised by the change at OMNI.
Though he believes Rogers’ decision will work in the company’s favour, he is critical of the idea that the way to adapt to the new media landscape is to scale back traditional platforms and cut programs.
“Part of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy of saying that nobody follows news anymore; they can get anything they want online or they go to their smartphone,” he said. “And of course, the longer you repeat that mantra, the more likely it is that you’ll believe it.”
In 2013, Corriere Canadese briefly ceased operation when its parent company, Multimedia Nova Corp., was placed into receivership. Volpe, a former MP, joined with investors to buy the paper and resumed publication.
Now, with an editorial staff of 10, the Toronto-based publication delivers a morning paper to its subscribers on everything from local and federal politics to the European Champions League. Only after subscribers have received their paper does the edition go online.
Volpe believes the 61-year-old paper — founded by the late Daniel Iannuzzi who also established CFMT, now known as OMNI — remains competitive by focusing on the needs and interests of the Italian community. “Maybe we’re wrong but we have a niche market and we’re trying to reinforce that market.”
The importance of ethnic language media
Though many multilingual publications and broadcasts have relatively small markets, it’s a mistake to overlook their political diversity, reach and longevity, said Daniel Ahadi, a PhD candidate researching ethnic media and public policy at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.
“Ethnic language media, third-language media, immigrant media … embedded in that language is that they’re marginal; they’re not part of the mainstream,” he said. “We have to move beyond this because some of these so-called ethnic language media are quite big in terms of operation.”
In 2007, he co-authored a report on more than 144 ethnic media outlets representing more than a dozen communities in Vancouver alone. “Third-language media is part of a communication infrastructure that caters to newcomers,” said Ahadi.
This connection between journalism and immigration is something Merai and many of those advocating for the restoration of OMNI’s third-language [i.e. non-French or English] newscasts have witnessed first-hand.
It’s how his Italian grandparents learned English, and how many newcomers to Canada keep up with issues in both their adoptive and home countries. (Not to mention, said Amy Casipullai at OCASI, they provide employment opportunities for foreign-trained journalists looking to continue working in their field.)
Ahadi pointed out that while other public broadcasters such as BBC and Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service have incorporated multiple languages into their programming, Canada has been slower to respond to demographic changes, placing most of the responsibility on private broadcasters to provide multi-lingual services.
One in five Canadians reported a mother tongue other than English or French on the last census; 80 per cent reported speaking a language other than English, French or an Aboriginal language. Though language policies are intended to protect Canada’s national languages, the Broadcast Act requires broadcasters to “support the linguistic duality and multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society.”
It is these principles organizations fighting the cuts are hoping the CRTC will keep in mind.
Re-published with permission from J-Source.ca.
by Joe Banks in Ottawa, Ontario
There’s a frequent question we hear from parents and their offspring considering enrolling in our program that likely reflects a broader perception in society: “Isn’t journalism dying?”
It’s understandable. Nobody wants to send their kid into a field of study that had its better days in a bygone era.
But that perception fails to reflect that, far short of gasping on life support, the process of journalism is thriving—has thrived—in the wake of massive disruption to the traditional platforms that carry the stuff journalists create. Once they understand that journalism is not a static artifact in itself, they understand and can see the broader opportunities beyond the moment, and the product.
Still, it’s a tough bout to fight. After all, the news industry itself chronicled its own decline. Classroom guest journalists, the grim truth hitting close to their own desks and colleagues, began to tell our students to “run away and save yourselves while you still can,” with tongue not quite firmly in cheek.
I’d wince at that, because they often wouldn’t offer the qualifier: that this remains an extremely fulfilling career, and that disruption followed an unprecedented 30-year period of massive growth and bloated profits. And further, even with the declines, the media industry remains profitable—though not in the strata it once was.
Of course, as it is in politics, the truth is often a matter of perspective. Anyone laid off or fired will of course have a caustic impression of what they've just left. So will the people who remained behind to watch them go.
A new era with a better attitude
And I realize there are those who lament the disappearance of the old ways, where a reporter could waste a day holding forth in a bar somewhere in the name of working the street, spending two hours a morning flipping through newspapers, or refusing to attend "bullshit assignments" because they don’t happen to fit their own personal definition of journalism.
Thankfully, there is no longer room for that, or the pouting, cynical pessimist because the luxury of being able to exercise those characteristics has been spent.
I see excellent journalism being practised today at all levels in Canada, with more precision and transparency than when I first began in 1978. The only problem is that there isn’t enough of it, because of news staff cuts.
Part of this comes from better training, the use of new tools enabled by technologies, and yes, I’d argue, better attitudes. We’re graduating largely optimistic people today, resulting from an array of factors that come more from within, than without. But that’s for another column.
So it’s time for the cynics—and the parents—to take it down a notch, and understand there are non-legacy jobs being created that weren’t there just a year or two ago, from Vice Canada to the Buzzfeeds to the free daily Metros, not to mention all of the tablet-based and other digital projects the legacy media is working hard on to unveil.
There will be more to come and any digital play that wants to offer original news and feature content, will need people with the skills journalists possess.
Joe Banks is the co-ordinator of and professor in the Algonquin College Journalism program, in Ottawa, and has been a working journalist, editor and publisher for 36 years. He writes the Media Musings column for J-Source.
Republished with permission from J-Source.ca.
by Chantal Braganza, Associate Editor for J-Source
In the early ’90s, Ryerson University professor emeritus John Miller conducted a study on the visual representation of minority groups in Canadian newspapers. He looked at which section photos appeared in, how many featured people of colour and compared the ratios with those of actual demographic groups living in the paper’s local population. “Of all the newspapers we looked at, only one newspaper was close to even,” he said. “That was the Montreal Gazette.”
When he called up the Gazette’s then-editor, Joan Fraser, to tell her about it, “she laughed and said, ‘Wow, you can measure that? We’ve been trying to do this for years.’”
“They had an editor in charge of having reporters assigned to keep an eye on certain communities,” said Miller, “and they were really happy with the results and getting interesting stories.”
Addressing diversity in Canadian journalism, both in coverage and in the newsrooms that produce it, is a complicated proposition — at least in part because statistics on the issue and the policies informed by them are often the exception and not the rule.
An Absence of Data
After that visual representation study, Miller conducted a demographic review of Canadian newspaper mastheads with the Canadian Daily Newspaper Association in 1994 and again in 2004 at Ryerson University. At the time, what the studies categorized as visible minorities accounted for 2.6 per cent of staff at newspapers in 1994 and 3.4 per cent 10 years later. In between, studies at Laval University in 2000 and a 2004 Canadian Task Force for Cultural Diversity on Television found that 97 per cent of Canadian journalists working in various media, and 87.7 per cent of news anchors were white, respectively.
But to date, a consistent survey similar to the scope of the American Society of News Editors’ annual newsroom census, running since 1978, does not exist in Canada. Or, in Miller’s words: “Nobody’s keeping count now.”
Sheila Giffen is executive director of Canadian Women in the Literary Arts, an organization that has been counting gender representation in literary arts journalism since 2013. CWILA’s annual count, which includes the gender of both reviewers and authors, not only highlights where representation gaps exist industry-wide but which newspapers and magazines are doing particularly well.
“Our job is to look at the gaps and start a conversation that organizations and publications can and should continue,” said Giffen. “You should also be looking at what other factors are going into the lack of diversity.”
“The numbers that speak to the diversity in an organization are important, but what’s happening below the surface is more important,” she added.
Look and Sound like the Audience
In the absence of numbers, senior managing director of CBC Toronto Susan Marjetti has built a newsroom diversity policy that’s often cited internationally as a successful example of how such a policy can work — and as a business case for having one in the first place.
After seeing a lack of coverage of urban Aboriginal communities in Winnipeg and Black Nova Scotians in Halifax, both places she’d worked at for the CBC, she noticed a similar pattern in Toronto after moving there in 2001 to work as a program manager for radio. “One of the first things I started talking about when I was shaking people’s hands was that we’re going to begin to better reflect this city and all its diversity. Our mission is to look and sound like this city in all its diversity,” Marjetti said.
“That became our vision,” she said. “Simple, memorable, easy for everyone to remember — as opposed to a 14-page strategy document.”
“At the time, we had the opportunity to hire two associate producers and two reporters,” Marjetti said. “I actively set out to recruit from diverse communities.”
Working with human resources to build a staff reflective of the audiences an outlet wants to reach, according to Marjetti, is critical to this approach. “It’s that team that would deliver on our mission and strategy,” she said. “Historically, people hire and surround themselves with people who think, and in some cases look, like themselves. We set out to hire people who think differently. And who may look differently. And who bring that richness and range in ideas.”
Two things resulted from these conscious hiring and coverage choices. First was an answer to a problem that Marjetti has repeatedly heard elsewhere is a barrier to building diverse teams: that qualified people of visible minorities simply don’t apply.
“What are you doing to find them? If you don’t bring people to the table, you’re going to get to that conclusion,” she said. “We worked so hard to put together an excellent and representative example for our hiring board. After that, people were coming to us.
The second was more noticeable to listeners. In a two-year span, Metro Morning went from the city’s sixth-rated show in the Toronto market to the top place — and has stayed in that spot since 2003. The show has also doubled its audience in the 35- to 49-year-old bracket.
“It was, I believe, a direct result of being more inclusive and more comprehensive in the stories, guests, columnists, contributors and even music we aired on the show.”
A Need to be Proactive
Last summer, management at the Toronto Star sat down with editorial managers to implement a diversity assessment of its own coverage. While not a formal policy in and of itself, managing editor Jane Davenport told J-Source the analysis was very much informed by what Marjetti had done at CBC Toronto. Public editor Kathy English wrote a column on the process last July. This spring, management, led by English, will review what’s been accomplished in the year since.
“We sat down with each of the managers in the newsroom and talked about the specific challenges in their file and how we could find ways to improve,” Davenport wrote in an email. “The goal was to make sure that everyone on the team felt the same sense of accountability for reflecting our community.”
“When we sat down and looked at our coverage overall, what truly stood out was the need to be proactive. A lot of news is driven by policy makers and industry leaders who are not as diverse as the people the news affects. And much of news is hard and negative — there is usually a problem,” she wrote. “Looking for diversity in either the solutions to those problems or in the smaller numbers of stories that are simply celebratory or human interest becomes key to not just reflecting back the faces of the community, but also the humanity of it.”
Re-published with permission from J-Source.ca.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit