New Canadian Media
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 18:36

A newcomer’s take on Canadian media

by Yaldaz Sadakova for New Canadian Media 

As a newcomer to Canada, I’m having a hard time reading big-name papers like The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. I'm getting the feeling that when they cover stories, these publications don't keep new Canadians in mind. In my limited experience, Canadian outlets for the most part are failing a growing chunk of the country’s audience: immigrants and particularly newcomers.

I guess they’re not interested in targeting, along with the majority, the very group which drives this country’s population growth: immigrants.

I’ve been in Canada for about two months, and when I first started reading Canadian news, I had no idea what the hell the articles were talking about. Every story I went through left me feeling uninformed and stupid.

Why is that? Because the journalists writing and editing these articles assume that their audience is comprised of people who have either lived in Canada all their lives or at least have a good understanding of the issues in this The Land of the Maple Leaf.

No, dear Toronto Star and other Canadian media, I don’t know the history behind Idle No More, an ongoing protest movement organized by Canada’s aboriginal people. So when you publish articles that provide no context whatsoever about this movement, you’re really doing a bad job.

Digging up background

I’ve had to do a significant amount of online research to find out that the country’s indigenous people tend to be less educated than the rest of the population and overrepresented in the prison population. That a number of them struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. That many of them still live on reserves where basics like clean water and heating are lacking. I’ve enjoyed the research, but you could have provided some of that context.

Also, dear Canadian outlets, using an acronym without explaining what it stands for is a really shoddy practice. Because, believe it or not, Canada is not the centre of the world, so I don’t know what NDP stands for. Well, now I do because I Googled it – New Democratic Party, an opposition party.

Why does all of this matter? Because, first, as I mentioned, Canadian outlets are losing eye balls by alienating a growing portion of the country’s population. By failing to provide big-picture explanations, media are also ensuring that their stories have an incredibly short life span.

This kind of lazy journalism is also a disservice to immigrants themselves because staying informed is a crucial way for them, especially for newcomers, to integrate.

Finally, when you present the news in a way that assumes your audience already knows the issues, you’re breaking a fundamental journalism rule.

Back to basics

One of the very first things I learned as a hands-on student at Columbia Journalism School in New York City is that a reporter always has to assume that readers, listeners and viewers do not know the background and do not know what acronyms stand for. It’s the job of the journalist to provide all of that information.

If users have to Google things to figure out what’s going on – and not many people will; most will simply abandon the story, never to come back to that site – then the outlet has not done its job.

As Cheryl Einhorn, one of my journalism instructors at Columbia, used to say, “you should craft your stories in a way that allows everyone to wander in and walk away with a good understanding of the subject.” If you submitted a news piece with inside baseball language and no context, Cheryl -- and all the other J-School instructors -- would tear your work apart. Raising questions that you don't answer was one of the gravest sins you could commit at Columbia.

But, sadly, outside of Columbia it's a different story. And just to be fair to Canadian media, I do have to acknowledge that because the global news industry is struggling and journalists are chronically overworked and often underpaid, more and more news outlets around the world are failing to provide the proper context for their reporting.

Still, Canada, that’s hardly an excuse for taking a provincial approach to news in a country that has so many newcomers like me. - New Canadian Media

Yaldas Sadakova is a multimedia journalist who has worked in New York City and Brussels. Born and raised in Bulgaria, Yaldaz arrived in Canada from Belgium two months ago.

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 Commentary
Friday, 15 March 2013 07:43

Communicating to a new audience

by Pamela George for New Canadian Media

“Immigrants need to know the rules of this land.” “They need to know that Canadians do not tolerate violence against women.” “They need to know about hygiene.” “They need to know that you do not wear flip-flops in a land that gets 100 cms. of snow.”

These were some of the comments heard at a workshop titled “Understanding Life in Canada: Giving Newcomers the right playbook information and orientation” at the 15th Metropolis Conference themed “Building an Integrated Society,” taking place in Ottawa, March 14th to 16th, 2013.

The discussion panel included Cedric de Chardon, Manager of Information and Orientation policies for Citizenship and Immigration Canada; Dr Vicky Esses, Director of the Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations; Din Ladak, CEO of the Immigrant Services Calgary, and Loris Berrigan, Manager of Settlement Services Association of New Canadians (Newfoundland).

My interest in this workshop was more than an academic one. As a newcomer, I have relied on information available both in print and on websites to shape my decisions on life in Canada. I have felt frustrated at the shallowness of some of this well-meant advice.  

All levels of government in Canada -- federal, provincial and increasingly municipal -- are spending millions to dole out information so that newcomers have the tools to navigate life in Canada. In addition to targeting immigrants that are already here, the federal government is targeting the pre-immigrant population in their home countries with information on what to expect in Canada and the best ways to get credentials recognized and find employment.

Although reading these handouts do not readily give that impression, the government does consult immigrants on input. The panel discussed the Alberta Settlement Outcomes Survey which did a survey among 1,000 immigrants in Alberta on what they felt should be included in the handouts.  

This survey showed that the top three sources of information for immigrants are immigrant serving agency portals, government websites and other online sources. Print and library materials figured low down on the list.  The point made was that immigrants and refugees are highly knowledgeable about navigating the Web to get the information that they are looking for.

The survey also threw light on the kind of information that immigrants would like to receive before they arrived in Canada -- important documents needed, the steps they need to take after landing, where to obtain settlement information, etc.

With so much information aimed at immigrants, the most logical question to ask the panel was, “Are you employing immigrant writers and journalists to write the content? Who is better than an ethnic writer, highly fluent in one or both of the official languages, to understand the language, tone and information that other immigrants are looking for?”

Of course, there was no answer. -- New Canadian Media

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 National
Page 11 of 11

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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.

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