New program launched to help Indigenous journalists build careers in industry

Media producer Jolene Banning hopes the new Indigenous Reporters Network will help attract more First Nations people to journalism so their voices are the ones that tell the stories of their people. – Photo of Leigh Nunan

By Colin Graf

TORONTO – Two Canadian organizations are launching a new program to bring together Indigenous journalists to develop their skills, participate in professional development and make new connections with their peers across the country.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (ACJ) and Journalists for Human Rights (JDH) created the Indigenous Reporters Network help First Nations journalists and editors at all stages of their careers network and make connections.

“We are creating an institutionalized set of opportunities for Indigenous journalists to network with each other and with mainstream Canadian journalists,” said Rachel Pulfer, Executive Director of JDH.

The Indigenous Reporters Network will bring together Indigenous journalists, emerging and established, to create online and offline communities within the CAJ.

“There is a shortage of Indigenous journalists in the industry, and this initiative creates an opportunity for emerging journalists to launch careers, or for established Indigenous journalists to hone their skills,” said Karyn Pugliese, former chair of the CAJ. “Having more Indigenous journalists in the industry will be critical to achieving the media’s reconciliation goals. “

“In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) laid bare the essential role the media must play in advancing our country’s long-term reconciliation goals,” said the president of the ACJ, Brent Jolly. “The creation of the Indigenous Reporters Network brings us one step closer to achieving these goals, as it will help increase access to jobs, professional development opportunities and leadership positions for Indigenous journalists.

Since 2013, JHR operates the Indigenous Journalists Program increase the quality and quantity of Indigenous stories and voices in Canadian media. The program trained 2,500 people, including Indigenous journalists, non-Indigenous journalists learning best practices for covering Indigenous stories, and Indigenous adults and youth interested in journalism. The program provided professional training, financial support, supervised internships and scholarships to indigenous youth or “people in transition to journalism,” says Pulfer.

As the original program continues, the director of JHR said the new network will “integrate Indigenous journalists into a professional network of over 900 members” within CAJ, Canada’s national body for the profession.

Through join the new program, interested young people and working journalists will have their CAJ membership fees covered for two years. They will also have access to professional development events as well as networking opportunities that will allow aspiring reporters to get started and help create more avenues of advancement for those already working in the field, says Pulfer.

JHR’s original journalists’ program was “absolutely a huge help to a lot of people,” says Tanya Talaga, the award-winning Fort William First Nation journalist and author who shed light on the deaths of students in the First Nations secondary school in Thunder. Bay as a reporter with the Toronto Star.

“Our young people are full of stories they have waited too long to tell.”

The program has helped remove systemic barriers to education and the lack of opportunities, she said.

“JHR has helped break down those barriers and open doors in newsrooms as well. “

Although Jolene Banning, a producer at Talaga’s media production company Makwa Creative, has yet to join the new network, she credits JHR’s original program for making her debut in journalism ago. a few years.

“It has been incredible support to help me get my foot in the door,” with learning opportunities, connections and mentorship, she says. Mentors in the Native Reporters Program have been ‘amazing’ to ‘meet people where they are’, visit communities that can be reached by air in the north ‘where they don’t even have a high school’ to talk about journalism and helping people with the media projects they wanted to do, whether it was podcasts, newspapers, or connecting with mainstream media, Banning recalls.

Eventually, the program arrived in her Fort William First Nation community, and she learned to present a story to editors and interpret editorial commentary. Banning later worked for a major Canadian media outlet where she worked as an administrative assistant with an on-air column.

“We’re really starting to hear now what is needed is leadership training so that they (Indigenous journalists) can move forward,” Pulfer says.

He was told they were frustrated at being “vetted as an indigenous journalist, covering indigenous stuff” or not being framed in a role where they could take a leadership position.

The need to promote Indigenous voices in Canadian media is immediate, according to Banning and others.

“Stories that ignore our history, the truth about what happened, are often quite harmful and hurtful,” she says.

Indigenous peoples are still often portrayed in the media as “drunk, murdered or missing, or dancing,” she said.

“That’s roughly it. These institutions must make room for us,” she adds.

The lack of Indigenous people in reporting first hit Pulfer in 2012, as the Idle No More movement gained momentum. Neither those who reported the stories nor the interviewees appeared to be indigenous.

She was puzzled, so Journalists for Human Rights conducted a study of Canadian media content from 2010 to 2013 that “confirmed the anecdotal feeling that indigenous peoples are just completely absent from these stories.”

This study led to the first Indigenous Reporters Program. Pulfer repeats the oft-quoted saying that “journalists write the first draft of history”, so “what better place to start than to encourage and support Indigenous journalists to ensure their views and understanding of this story ”are recorded.

The need for these changes is now accelerating following the discovery of numerous anonymous graves at former residential school sites, she adds.

“It finally convinces Canadians that there is a real problem here that has been cleared of our textbooks.”

Funding for the Indigenous Reporters Network is provided through the RBC Foundation’s Future Launch program.

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