New Canadian Media

by Marcus Medford in Toronto 

Journalism students say they find value in learning how to report on immigration and race issues. Many would like to see more specialized courses focused on diversity and inclusive reporting. 

“There’s never been a time in my life when this has been more important,” says second-year journalism student from the University of Toronto, Tijuana Turner, referring to the current refugee situation and Justin Trudeau pledging to bring 25,000 Syrians to Canada. 

“For example, describing it as a ‘flood’ of refugees isn’t okay when most people associate a flood with disaster,” she explains. 

Turner moved to Canada from Jamaica two years ago to study at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus (UTSC). She says the course Covering Immigration and Transnational Issues” offered at UTSC, which teaches students to analyze news coverage, has helped raise her awareness. 

"[D]escribing it as a ‘flood’ of refugees isn’t okay when most people associate a flood with disaster."

The course includes material on how media outlets frame stories related to race and immigration and how these frames can shape people’s perspective. Before taking it, certain things went over Turner’s head, she explains, but she’s become more critical. 

“You shouldn’t start by saying ‘Refugee Tom...’ That's not inclusion, that’s ‘us vs. them.’ You should try saying, ‘Tom, who is a refugee,’” Turner explains. 

Teaching critical journalism 

datejie green is the Asper Fellow of Media at Western University and a lecturer at UTSC. 

green teaches “Critical Journalism”, which she describes as a “mobilizing, embodied, intersectional approach to journalism” meant to give students a fresh set of eyes to critically engage journalism. The course examines how media cultures address gender, ability, class, sexuality and race.   

“We want to learn about intersectional ways of thinking and mobilize that critical analysis to make sense of everything and write respectfully,” green shares. “These are not static, abstract ideas that we learn and leave in classrooms; these are things journalists need to have at their disposal.” 

Class discussions involve examining the impact and importance of perspective in media. green’s objective is to cross cultural divides in a humanizing way. She says she is open with students about her experiences – as a woman, as someone who’s black, lives with mental illness and is a lesbian – and how it relates to perspective. 

“That shouldn’t detract from my validity as a journalist or a teacher; it’s just a frame. But it allows me to explain how my body is experienced, why and what’s the impact,” green explains. 

Students become aware of different perspectives, which helps journalists “not to write from pre-conceived ideas or ignorance.”

Fatima Al-Sayed is a second-year journalism student in green's class. She says the course is “extremely important” because students become aware of different perspectives, which helps journalists “not to write from pre-conceived ideas or ignorance.” 

“As a woman who wears a hijab, I know the image the media portrays of me because it’s my day-to-day life,” Al-Sayed explains. “I feel like my role in journalism is to change that perspective, but I can’t if I get pulled into that kind of thinking.” 

Integrating diversity lessons throughout j-school 

Specialized courses aren’t the only way to teach these concepts in journalism school. At Langara College in British Columbia, lessons about perspective and diversity are integrated into every course, explains Frances Bula, chair of the journalism program. 

Bula says that in addition to having classrooms and newsrooms that are ethnically diverse, it’s crucial for students to understand the importance of diversifying their sources. 

“From day one, we talk about the importance of diversity and the dangers of getting too comfortable talking with people from a similar age, gender, race, or income background,” Bula explains.    

Journalists should also look to groups who may not have access to the media or may not speak perfect English, Bula adds. 

Petti “Peg” Fong, the assistant department chair at Langara, says courses solely about reporting on race and ethnicity aren’t necessary for journalism students.  

She adds, though, that it’s important for students to understand that audiences and sources come from all different backgrounds to help prevent stereotypes being perpetuated by the media. This is taught throughout other courses, she explains. 

[N]ews gathering should be more inclusive ... or else it runs the risk of stereotyping and misrepresenting.

Students’ role in addressing media bias 

A study from Australia noted that negative and stereotypical coverage of Muslims can foster alienation, which plays into the hands of extremists, says Brad Clark, the journalism and broadcasting chair at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Clark did his doctoral dissertation on representations of ethno-cultural minorities in Canadian media. 

Clark says that news gathering should be more inclusive, especially stories that focus on specific communities, or else it runs the risk of stereotyping and misrepresenting. 

He also says that journalism students can play an important role in addressing implicit biases of mainstream media. 

“They must be allowed to influence news gathering when it strays into the realm of the stereotypic,” he says. “Students need to understand that sometimes it is OK to explore the experience of race, that talking about race isn’t the same as being racist.” 

These issues have become increasingly relevant for j-school students to explore, says Lysia Filotas, a second-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa. Carleton, like Langara doesn’t have a course dedicated to reporting on race and ethnicity, but incorporates it in lessons, something Filotas finds valuable.

“As a reporter, it’s important to learn how these topics colour one’s world views and how not to project that onto someone else during the interview and writing process,” she explains.


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education

by Marcus Medford in Toronto 

Settlement agencies in Canada’s Atlantic provinces are working closely with provincial governments to better service immigrants, but say they need federal support to attract newcomers to smaller communities.

The provinces and territories select which immigrants they want to accept based on their local economic needs. In the past 15 years, the number of immigrants settling in the Maritimes has increased, but their numbers remain the lowest of all the provinces, explained Ather H. Akbari, an economics professor at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. 

“Larger provinces are traditional destinations for immigrants and have established communities with multiple religious and ethnic institutions, which help immigrants with aspects of settlement, but [these resources] are scarce in Atlantic Canada,” he explained, while leading a workshop titled “Economic Integration of Immigrants in Atlantic Canada,” at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto earlier this month. 

The five steps of economic integration are home ownership, car ownership, citizenship, English proficiency and earning a better income said Akbari. These five things are indicators that newcomers to Canada are invested in their new destination and intend to stay. 

[R]etention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities.

Akbari noted that the retention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities. 

“If the networks are not instrumental then there is clearly a need for government policy and settlement agencies to play a larger role in immigrant settlement and integration,” he said. 

Resources for Entrepreneurs 

In New Brunswick, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has partnered with the government to provide financial support for French-speaking immigrant entrepreneurs in an effort to retain the francophone community. 

Attracting and retaining immigrants in rural areas can be difficult admitted Paul-Emile David, senior policy analyst for ACOA. David and ACOA work closely with businesses, governments and research institutions to find and develop entrepreneurial opportunities. 

“We offer programs, initiatives and support so entrepreneurial activities can take place in these areas,” he said. 

There are more than 40 Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) in Atlantic Canada, many of which are in rural areas. 

Entrepreneurial initiatives need access to financing, resources and business skills development courses, David explained. One example of this is Island Advance in Prince Edward Island, which stimulates entrepreneurial projects and helps immigrants recognize good business opportunities. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration.

More funding for integration supports 

As of the end of February, 25,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada, and by the end of the year that total is expected to reach 50,000, making localized support for integration a key issue across the country. 

“We’re hoping that Ottawa will provide some strategic investments very soon in order to put the supports that are needed in place as soon as possible,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. 

He said he hopes that the new federal funding plan for the provinces and territories, along with help from local agencies, will speed up the process of matching immigrants and refugees with language courses. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration. 

It can take up to 16 months for newcomers to Canada to be accepted into federally funded language courses. Some have reported feeling “trapped” because of their lack of English knowledge, meaning they can’t fully interact with society. 

One of the reasons for the long wait-times to get into language programs is a lack of funding and resources. Wait-times also tend to be longer in bigger cities. 

Challenges with government-assisted stream

Of the 25,000 Syrian refugees more than half of them are government-assisted, the others are sponsored privately or with some support from the government. 

For refugees and immigrants alike, one of the most important steps to settling into Canada is finding a job and becoming economically independent. 

[F]or some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income.

Approximately 14 per cent of government-assisted refugees find work within their first year of being in Canada compared to more than 50 per cent of those who are privately assisted. 

“One of the unique challenges for government-assisted refugees is that they’re funded by the federal government for one year,” explained Nabiha Atallah, communications and outreach manager at the settlement agency ISANS (Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia). “After that they need to support themselves or go on social assistance, but they want to work. They really want to work.” 

Atallah spoke during the workshop about strategies for economic integration for immigrants. 

She explained that for some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income, but helps with overcoming the depression, frustration and feelings of loss of self or status that can accompany relocating. 

Even highly skilled immigrants with work experience, education and English proficiency are experiencing difficulty finding jobs, Atallah said. 

ISANS works with several companies to understand their employer needs and to develop training curricula so that immigrants and refugees know what it takes to work at a particular business or organization. 

Matching clients’ interests, skills and abilities with the right employers and planning with end goals in mind are some of the keys to successful job searching, Atallah explained. 

“We also do a lot of work with interview skills because a lot of that is culture-laden. In some countries they don’t have interviews at all and if they do, they don’t look like ours.”


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy

by Marcus Medford in Toronto

International students and children of immigrants say pursuing post-secondary studies in journalism can motivate both encouragement and opposition from their parents.

Sharif Hasan’s parents didn’t argue with him about his program choice – although they did express concerns. Hasan immigrated to Canada from Bangladesh in 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.

According to Hasan, the life of a journalist in Bangladesh is “not ideal.”

“Most young journalists struggle for years to get employed at a good media house,” Hasan explains. “Many of them don’t get a permanent job at all.”

Money in journalism has become an issue internationally due to the increased number of freelancers, the shift to digital platforms and the shrinking of newsroom staff in order to save money.

Media outlets across North America have laid-off hundreds of workers in recent years. For example, Bell Media laid off 380 workers and Sports Illustrated magazine cut its entire photojournalism department in 2015.

Parents like programs that offer clear-cut paths to “solid careers”.

Journalism not always a ‘safe’ option

Parents like programs that offer clear-cut paths to “solid careers” says Maryam Shah, a reporter for the Toronto Sun, who came to Canada from Pakistan to study journalism at the University of Toronto.

Shah wanted to be a reporter since she was 11 and says she “pushed back” when her parents insisted she study law or medicine.

“In Pakistan, that’s just what you do,” Shah shares. “Anyone who says they want to write or travel the world, they look at you like there’s something wrong with you.”

Shah adds that parents are becoming more understanding when it comes to their children’s career choices, but they still prefer ‘safe’ options like engineering or teaching.

Fewer opportunities for minority journalists

Journalism hasn’t proven to be a stable career for Hasan; he struggled to overcome the language barrier, as well as to find work in journalism, so he dropped out of the program.

Hasan’s situation is not all that unique for visible minority or ethnic journalists.

While there is a growing number of visible minorities graduating from Canadian journalism schools, they are not necessarily the ones getting the jobs.

While there is a growing number of visible minorities enrolling in, and graduating from, Canadian journalism schools, they are not necessarily the ones getting the jobs.

Research has found that some of the perceived reasons for the under representation of visible minorities in journalism include hiring biases, fear of harassment and networking barriers.

While Hasan says he never personally experienced those challenges, he admits they were things both he and his friends were concerned about.

“In fact, they have discouraged me to go for journalism because of these issues,” he remarks.

Ingrid Grange immigrated to Canada from Jamaica and encouraged her daughter, Ashleen, in her interest to become a journalist. Grange says she hopes that the barriers students face as ethnic minorities “will have the opposite effect” on them.

“I would hope that it would make people of different ethnicities want to be in the media more so they can show that we’re out there and we should be taken seriously,” she says.

Some visible minority journalists worry about their ethnicity being a defining factor of who they are and fear being perceived as a ‘diversity hire’ by their peers according to a MediaSmarts study.

“I think you have to turn that tokenism around and use it in your favour.”

According to Grange, Ahsleen, who is now in her fourth year of journalism studies at the University of Toronto, says she sometimes has difficulty being taken seriously as a journalist, both because she is a woman and because she is black.

“I think you have to turn that tokenism around and use it in your favour,” says Grange. “It’s hard to get in the door, so if that’s your way through the door don’t hold back. You can’t change things from the outside,” she adds.

Pursuing journalism despite risks, barriers

While there may be risks and barriers involved that keep first- and second-generation Canadians – often visible minorities – from careers in this field, discouraging them from pursuing journalism only perpetuates the problem.

According to Shah, journalists benefit from sharing a newsroom with people from diverse backgrounds. She says she has been able to explain and give context to certain topics which allowed her to “tone down the ignorance” amongst her peers.

Having different ethnicities and perspectives means that inevitably not everyone will agree all the time. Shah notes that sometimes she and her peers “fight” over story ideas, and that she considers this a positive.

“If we all had the same thought processes or the same experiences we wouldn’t put out a very interesting paper,” she says.

Editor's Note: NCM has condensed and revised this article to include Ingrid Grange as an additional source. The original article was published on November 12, 2015.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education

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. 

“Journalists of colour have to work harder to land a job in the industry.”

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. 

“[J]ournalism refuses to shake its own whiteness.”

“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. 

“You have to ask yourself ‘who is teaching these programs?’”

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. 

Changing academia

“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 publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

Zo2 Framework Settings

Select one of sample color schemes

Google Font

Menu Font
Body Font
Heading Font

Body

Background Color
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Top Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Header Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainmenu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Slider Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Mainframe Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Scroller Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Breadcrumb Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Menu Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image

Bottom Wrapper

Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image
Background Color
Modules Title
Text Color
Link Color
Background Image