Diversity has been a major topic in the media over the last few years. Both audiences and the media itself have had many conversations about why it’s important to tell stories that reflect our increasingly diverse cities, communities and country. As media, we’ve collectively acknowledged the ways that newsrooms can and need to do better when it comes to who they represent and how that work is being done. Often though, these understandings aren’t reflected on the ground. A recent call-to-action by the group Canadian Journalists of Color and the Canadian Association of Black journalists was a reminder of the well-known fact that Canadian newsrooms are not reflective of the racial diversity in this country. The report acknowledged that while media outlets have made recent efforts to address the gaps in the way Canadian media covers diverse communities, a “glaring racial inequity” still remains.
And those experiences are even more complicated for freelance workers and temporary employees at these organizations, a category that is often made up of a disproportionate number of people of color. Many of these temps face issues ranging from an absence of health and other benefits usually afforded to permanent employees to, of course, the general lack of predictability that comes with precarious work.
Let’s face it; the industry isn’t what it used to be, and there is often a high financial, emotional and sometimes even physical cost to be precariously employed in this way. With the steady decline in permanent jobs within journalism, the emergence of a much more robust freelance class of worker was almost inevitable. And despite the instability that comes along with casual work, many of us do our best to get what we can from it, gaining some experience, and trying out different kinds of work to get a good feel for what you like and what you’re good at. But, it’s not ideal and we are all looking for something stable.
In my time as a casual employee at the CBC, I’ve had the opportunity to produce for both local news and current affairs programmes. I have worked in multiple cities and acquired a wealth of knowledge, practical experience and meaningful relationships that I will carry with me throughout my career and for the rest of my life. I’ve also had the opportunity to work under so many different team configurations and management styles, I can now much more confidently ease into new professional dynamics. Still, as many of my diverse, precariously-employed peers and colleagues have pointed out over time, there are many ways that a system like this does not work in our favor.
When it comes to inclusion, our job as news people is to seek truth and find fact. That work becomes impossible to do when so many identities, experiences and people are being left out of the conversation. And this doesn’t just apply to the producers, reporters and on-air staff at our news organizations. This change also needs to go up to higher management in Canadian news organizations, with more diverse people facilitating this necessary work.
The CJOC made a list of recommendations and calls to action that Canadian newsrooms should adopt, which includes self-reporting on their newsroom demographics on a regular basis, formally consulting with racialized communities about news coverage on an ongoing basis and taking intentional steps to improve representation beyond corporate training and workshops.
Aside from that, there are any number of ways that media organizations can support us, the diverse talent and resources who are already present in these newsrooms. This could be anything from ensuring that their diverse talent (particularly temporary employees) have access to key trainings and development opportunities, to helping them with the application process for permanent roles. It is also crucial for newsrooms to take proactive steps in making sure you are hearing from the entire community, seek their expertise outside of stories they are covering and put them forward for bigger and better opportunities.