As newsrooms work to become more inclusive, editors and producers may need to be flexible in how reporters go about their jobs.
Gestures such as offering modest gifts after receiving information from a source are taboo for reporters, but that could put some in a conflict with their culture.
“In many Indigenous cultures across the land… often when we speak to folks, when we’re asking people for their time, effort or knowledge, usually there’s a gift of tobacco involved,” said CBC radio reporter Kyle Muzyka. “This directly conflicts with what we consider a norm in journalism.
“Not only do we not accept gifts, we also really aren’t supposed to give them either. The rationale is that it can cause a bias or conflict of interest.”
He added he’s managed to convince his employer to allow him to show Elders his appreciation when needed, but highlighted it as an example of the conflicts Indigenous journalists experience in the trade.
Muzyka, who is Métis, was responding to a new policy paper through the Gordon Foundation, which examines the still-low level of Indigenous journalists working in Canadian media. The paper calls for the addition of a journalism program at Aurora College, which is transforming into a polytechnic university, as one of three pillars.
Authored by Jane Glassco Northern Fellow Garrett Hinchey, the paper also calls for hiring targets among media organizations and better integration of communications and media studies in high school curriculums.
“You sort of have to stumble across someone and then explain to them why it’s something they could be interested in,” Hinchey said. “That first part, that thinking of ‘I would like to try that,’ isn’t something that people come to on their own.
“If you put on CBC Northbeat, most of the people you see on there are the kind of professional graduate school types who come up from down south, so people don’t see themselves represented. So that’s the first barrier I think we need to break down.”
Laws of supply and demand are also a factor.
Former Northern News Services publisher Bruce Valpy said the first major hurdle to get past was improving high school graduation rates.
”The education system is failing Indigenous students, that’s the problem,” said Valpy. “They’re not given a proper grounding, so there are not enough people graduating, and there are not enough people going to university because of the barriers. Especially in the North, you have to make up all the deficits at the same time you’re coming of age, so you have that extra burden.
“Candidates are just too few and far in-between.”
Efforts are underway in the NWT public education system to give Northern students more opportunities in media.
Breaking News Reporter and Digital Editor for NNSL, Eric operates out of Inuvik in the Beaufort Delta. He's four years into his Northern adventure and is eager to learn more about life in the Arctic Circle....
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