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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Diversity in the media

When I came to Canada, I did a program in journalism, hoping that I would be able to restart my career as a journalist that I had abandoned because the publication I worked for couldn’t pay journalists the wages that had been promised.

That was two decades ago. Life took an unexpected trajectory, and I ventured into media and trade promotion – vocations that I enjoyed; acquiring considerable experience in diverse spheres such as administration, marketing, market research, media relations, conceptualizing material deliverables for intangibles.

I never lost interest in journalism, and freelanced regularly, and also taught aspiring journalist.

When I immigrated to Canada eight years ago, I decided I’d return to journalism – the vocation that moulded me.  I completed a certificate program in journalism from Sheridan College, even getting a silver medal for topping the class. I did some freelance work, and was a columnist for the Canadian Immigrant magazine, but that was about it.

The mainstream media wouldn’t look at me or journalists like me who were trained outside Canada. Everyone in the media establishment expressed and continues to express their misgivings at this state of affairs.

Op-ed fulminations are made periodically, but the media – like any other Canadian mainstream establishment – continues to ignore the emerging reality of Canada. That reality is that the country’s demographics are rapidly changing, and the emerging diversity of voices needs to be reflected in all the apparatuses of the civil society.

Diversity in the media involves many aspects.

Diversity in the newsroom: Journalists from diverse backgrounds and cultures need to find a place in the mainstream media

Diversity in news: News stories that reflect the lives of new Canadians and are culturally sensitive to their sensibilities need to find more space in the mainstream media

Diversity that is all encompassing: Diversity is not merely restricted to race; it must account for gender and sexual orientation

Diversity that is sensitive: News stories need to be culturally sensitive to the sensibilities of the minorities

The Massey College organized a splendid discussion on Whose News? Reflections on Diversity in the Media. The panelists were Hannah Sung, Kamal Al-Solaylee, and Desmond Cole. Each panelist provided a unique perspective on a range of issues that Canadian journalism is facing at present.

The panelists emphasized that media diversity should become a continuous process; they also cautioned that diversity shouldn’t become a window dressing, and nor should it be misused.

Sung, a journalist with Globe and Mail, narrated the organizational challenges to keep diversity on the agenda and to bring about a desired degree of change in terms of diversity in the newsroom.

Al-Solaylee, an award winning novelist, and a journalism teacher, cautioned against a unidimensional conversation on the subject and urged for the inclusion of “white men” into the conversation. He said that diversity has its limits and these should be recognized.

Cole, a freelance journalist, wanted a more robust response from the media to wanton bigotry by public figures. 

Over the past few months, I have started doing a television show on TAG TV (which is internet based) called Living Multiculturalism. TAG TV is attempting to create a platform for all those that the mainstream media ignores. The response to my program - both from the participants (authors, musicians, artists) and audience - has been robust. 

I have come to believe after my experience that the myth of the mainstream prevents good media alternatives to emerge, and if one of willing to and able to ignore the lure of the so-called mainstream, it is possible to create content that is genuinely original and of a superlative quality.  

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