Not diverse enough, a snapshot survey shows
by Maria Iqbal in Brampton, ON
Three quarters of Brampton’s population are ethnic minorities, but local media has yet to catch up.
A recent survey of diversity in Brampton newsrooms shows that on average, only 39.5 per cent of staff are visible minorities.
The survey, which was commissioned by New Canadian Media and Magazines Canada, looked at the newsroom diversity “deficit” in Brampton media outlets. Five local news sources focusing on Brampton were asked to provide the number of visible minority journalists in their respective newsrooms. The lowest percentage was in the Brampton Guardian (which shares its staff with the Mississauga News) at 25 per cent of staff who are visible minorities. The highest was Brampton Focus, a volunteer-run news organization, with 67 percent staff who identify as visible minorities. The latest census shows that 73.3 per cent of Brampton’s population are visible minorities.
One outlet, inBrampton.com of the QuickBite News network, did not respond to the survey questions.
The survey was a lead-up to a town hall on March 23 titled, “What’s the cost to Bramptonians when the media doesn’t represent them?”
The diversity problem only adds to Brampton’s existing lack of local news. A study of local news coverage of the 2015 federal election in eight Canadian cities found that Brampton had the least
number of local news outlets per voter. The city also had the least number of local election stories per voter and of the existing news sources, the Brampton Guardian was dominating the coverage, the study found.
Although Brampton has few of its own news outlets, its ethnic media landscape is thriving.
Since that study, there have been some changes. The Pointer was launched in September as a digital outlet focusing on investigative stories. However, one news website which was included in the study, 4 Corners Brampton, has not been updated since 2016.
Mainstream news outlets were also contacted for the survey, but only CBC/Radio-Canada responded by the deadline. The organization tracks and publishes its workforce diversity statistics online, which showed that 12 per cent of its staff were visible minorities, according to the latest data available from April 1, 2018. The Toronto Star’s staff is 11 per cent “diverse” based on data previously collected from its union, according to a J-Source story from November. However, the Star’s editor Irene Gentle did not clarify if this number was only referring to visible minorities.
Thriving Media Landscape?
Although Brampton has few of its own news outlets, its ethnic media landscape is thriving. In 2015,
around 50 ethnic news outlets were on the City of Brampton’s distribution list for press releases,
according to a study by Ryerson University Professor April Lindgren. Today, outlets such as the Punjabi Post, Urdu Times and Toronto Caribbean News are on that list, according to an email from Christine Sharma, media coordinator for the City of Brampton. However, Lindgren’s study found that ethnic media tended not to prioritize local news, despite access to city news releases—opting instead to cover international news from the home country of the ethnic community it served.
In 2015, city hall expanded its outreach to ethnic media by providing translations of press releases in Punjabi, Urdu, Portuguese and French. “They hadn’t been doing that outreach for very long” at the time of the study, Lindgren said in an interview, noting that she has not done follow-up research on the subject. The city now also provides translations in Gujarati, says Sharma in an email.
To help recruit more diverse journalists, job postings at the Brampton Guardian and Mississauga News “now include the suggestion that a second language, such as Mandarin or Urdu, would be an asset,” says Web Editor Katharine Sealey in an email.
“We ensure that different voices in the community are represented and that stories about minorities
and ethnic groups come from a place of understanding,” said Bramptonist editor Nikita Brown in an
“To do that we ensure that someone from that ethnic group is involved in the process by either writing the story or assisting with research.”
San Grewal, founder of The Pointer, said his outlet is committed to reflecting its audience. “This can’t be done without proper representation,” he said in an email. “We are currently recruiting female journalists, as the goal is to reflect both the gender and ethno-racial makeup of our readership.”
Grewal will be moderating the town hall on Saturday, which is being held at the Sheridan College Davis campus.
Maria Iqbal is a freelance journalist and a graduate from the Master of Journalism program at Ryerson University.