On diversity, Canadian media is throwing stones in a glass house – Murad Hemmadi

I share the wish for more accurate data on diversity in the media (have asked for a breakdown from Labour Canada of the broadcasting sector) that would likely show under-representation in management ranks and columnists, likely less so with respect to journalists.

In this sense, media may be no different than other sectors where visible minorities tend to be at more junior levels compared to “whites” due in part to relatively shorter periods of time in Canada.

However, my general reading of articles and commentary on immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism indicates for the most part that the major issues are covered with a broader perspective than just “white.”

I wish I could quantify here the degree to which Canadian media is white. Then-Canadaland reporter Vicky Mochama once asked Canadian media outlets for diversity data. They were reluctant to cooperate, and did not opt instead to collect and publish the data themselves; it is, after all, harder to criticize organizations for what we can’t count. A J-Source attempt to gather self-reported diversity data about columnists produced incomplete results in part because some of those contacted were actively hostile to any such measure. So the best I can offer is that looking around newsrooms, the senior ranks are disproportionately white, and the people of colour present are more commonly found towards the bottom of the masthead and in strung-together contract positions or internships. The result of not having people in the building who understand specific identities and cultures is that your publication does not cover them often, if at all, and when it does it’s often in an insulting or stereotypical way.

Look, you can’t stretch your legs in Canadian media without kicking someone connected to you. Of those who opted to pledge their support for the appropriation prize online, Alison Uncles is editor-in-chief of this publication, and Maich runs the publishing arm at Rogers, which owns Maclean’s. (Both noted they were acting as individuals). Whyte himself was at Rogers until recently, while National Post editor-in-chief Anne Marie Owens and Coyne left Maclean’s a few years ago.

However permissive the workplace, it is always the case that to criticize or question the lack of diversity and pervasive whiteness of Canadian media is to risk alienating someone who may one day be a coworker or boss. To be clear, and for what it’s worth, I’ve never had it so much as hinted to me by those I work with or for that I should be less vocal about these topics. But faced with an industry whose power players often actively reject or else pay lip service to diversity, both in the workforce and the subjects covered, I’m left to wonder how often I can bring it up before it becomes my label—“that brown guy who keeps whining that we’re not diverse enough.” (Or in a more egregious example, think of Desmond Cole, who wrote about race too often, according to the Toronto Star’s publisher).

Told there’s nothing wrong, or that things aren’t as bad as we make them seem, we press our case again and again. With every passing insistence, white decision-makers are increasingly able to dismiss us as shrill and one-noted, muting us with calls for “civil discussion” in rooms reserved for higher-level, disproportionately white staff. Already, that repeated denial of what we see in our lives— “gas-lighting”—has a chilling effect of its own, teaching us that we best not talk about these things because we won’t be believed or taken seriously.

So imagine how discouraging it is to see the decision-makers who cannot find money in the newsroom for more diversity gladly offer to give their own for a cause that people of colour and Indigenous people have pointed out actively devalues us.

Of course, I don’t expect the people who pitched in to Whyte’s effort to pay for a permanent reporter position out of their own pockets, though the total they’ve pledged would have covered a month of my first full-time salary. And it’s true that “not quickly enough” will always be my view of how fast newsrooms must work to diversify. But the symbolism of white Canadian media decision-makers sponsoring an appropriation prize via a Thursday night Twitter thread—that’s something people of colour and Indigenous people in the industry could have done without.

Source: On diversity, Canadian media is throwing stones in a glass house – Macleans.ca

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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