Langara Journalism Review • Issue 23 • May 2019

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JOURNALISM REVIEW Spring 2019 – No. 23



The Discourse’s Jacqueline Ronson pioneers a new form of storytelling p.13

Into the Weeds

The boom and bust of the cannabis beat p.10

Stephen Quinn in the Driver’s Seat How the new host of The Early Edition hopes to protect CBC’s most valuable brand p.20

The Cost of Curiosity

Why people won’t pay for science reporting p.37

Jeani Read was The Province newspaper’s first full-time rock critic, a lifestyles columnist, and the author of 1986’s Endless Summers and Other Shared Hallucinations. Her husband, Michael Mercer, was an awardwinning playwright and script writer. Their legacy to young writers is Langara Journalism’s Read/Mercer Fellowship.

The spirit of thoughtful, enquiring journalism lives on. ENDOWMENT CREATES JOURNALISM FELLOWSHIPS


The Jeani Read-Michael Mercer Fellowship for Journalism

Amanda Poole (CBC): will produce a radio series about seniors

Students was established to encourage students to continue

and young people who share housing, a solution to housing

their pursuit of journalistic excellence through mentorship.

shortages and low vacancy rates that many cities and advocates

This endowed fund provides four fellowships annually

are trying to encourage.

worth $7,500 each. Successful applicants will receive support for approximately two months while they produce a major work of journalism, such as an in-depth newspaper story, or series of stories suitable for publication in a

Nikitha Martins (CBC): Will report on the stressful world of care aides and nurses who work in people's homes, a task that can be very rewarding but may also lead to abuse, racism and violence.

newspaper, magazine, or on the web, or for broadcast on the

Patrick Penner, Kathryn Tindale, Rena Medow (Vancouver

radio. Journalism students may apply for this award in their

Sun): Taking an in-depth look at the lives of those who got rooms

final term. Fellowships will be awarded in the Spring.

in the city's new temporary modular housing.

For more information visit

Nathan Durec, Mandy Moon, Roxanne Egan-Elliott (Vancouver Sun): The city's sidewalks are some of the most ignored infrastructure in the city. This team looks at how much is actually spent and the kinds of legal cases that result from people having accidents because of poorly maintained sidewalks.


Photos: Mathilda de Villiers except bottom centre (Rich Lam), bottom right (courtesy of Wawmeesh Hamilton)


Storytelling Pioneers

Small-town reporters have big news to break—if only they had the resources to do it. p.13

Keeping the Top Spot

Stephen Quinn brings his own take to morning radio. p.20


Slow Road to Equality

More women are reporting on sports but they are still the minority in the newsroom. p.16

Decolonizing Journalism

Standing Out From the Crowd

Social media changes the game for photojournalists. p.24

What is inspiring journalism students today? We surveyed B.C. to find out.

How to better cover Indigenous issues. p.28

CBC’s Justin McElroy on how to win the live tweet game— and why social media even matters.

What journalism schools are doing to incorporate web reporting into their curriculums.

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The Sign-Off

The Change Agents

How journalists who focus on social justice can become unintentional champions of the issues they spotlight. p.6

Spot. That. Headline!

It was a crazy year in news—and even crazier in fake news. Take our quiz to see if you can tell the difference. p.8

Taking the Stars Out of TV News

Citytv is blowing the lid off of traditional broadcasting with its new franchise of anchorless newscasts. p.9

Coming Off the High

In the months leading up to marijuana’s legalization, the cannabis beat took off. One year in, the future is less certain. p.10

Is Objectivity Dead?

Two journalists weigh in on why longstanding rules about objectivity must evolve as society fractures along partisan lines. p.12

Viewer Discretion is Advised

Latin American news audiences have stronger stomachs for violence, giving broadcasters more freedom. p.33

Adapting to a Mobile World

Today’s journalist has to do it all—and Glacier Media’s Katie Mercer is better equipped than most. A look inside her toolkit. p.34

License to Report

Should there be a certification requirement for journalists— and if so, how would it impact the industry? p.36

Blinded by the Science

With fewer media outlets employing science journalists, who is left covering this important beat? p.37

The Last Word

We speak with Global legend Clive Jackson on the future of TV news and how to tell an intriguing story. p.38


Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

Photo by Mathilda de Villiers // Illustration by Taesa Hodel



CONTRIBUTORS Nick Laba Roxanne Egan-Elliott J Jeffery Gabrielle Plonka Cloe Logan


Editor’s Note

utting together a magazine in just eight weeks on the current state of journalism in B.C. felt impossible after only two years of study. It still does, though we seem to have achieved it. We are a small team, and we have been since we started in September 2017. We know each other’s strengths and we are necessarily skilled at leaning into each other’s wildly different personalities. In a very short time, we’ve grown enormously, and we are united by our passion for the trade. That same passion is what inspired the collection of stories you’re currently holding. In producing this year’s Langara Journalism Review, we were guided by that same passion and willingness to be instructed by the process. We developed an entrepreneurial sense of what stories worked and what didn’t. We wrote about what we felt was important. The social justice and climate issues that kept us awake at night, the shapeshifting nature of multimedia, social media and do-it-all media that is sweeping the industry and the place journalists hold in a turbulent world. We are indebted to the many working journalists who aided us in our reporting for the magazine, many of whom guided our investigations with invaluable wisdom and perspective. Despite the many people who have told us that journalism is an impossible industry to break into, or perhaps failing its purpose in some way, we are optimistic for the future and what we will achieve. The many voices in these pages have taught us how much can be achieved with the right amount of enthusiasm.

Cameron Thomson Mathilda de Villiers Taesa Hodel Desirée Garcia Amanda Poole Nikitha Martins Mandy Moon Agazy Mengesha

Photo by Mathilda de Villiers

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FAIR AND BALANCED As news director at News 1130, Charmaine de Silva expects her reporters to be unbiased

Stand and Deliver For those covering the toughest issues facing our society, it’s hard not to have an opinion STORY BY NIK I T HA MART I NS A ND TAESA HO D E L / / P HOTO S BY MATHILDA D E V I L L I E R S


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photo of hundreds of people marching down Davie Street cheering and waving pride flags is displayed at the head of Charmaine de Silva’s Twitter profile. During de Silva’s time as assistant news director at CKNW, a position she held from 2014 to 2018, she had to formally notify her employers of her pending involvement with the Vancouver Pride Society. Before Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, de Silva points out that it was more problematic for journalists to voice their opinions about LGBTQ+ rights. She says that only after policy has changed or the political climate on a subject

has cooled, can journalists openly express their support. De Silva’s current job as the news director at News 1130 consists of assigning stories, beats and projects. She expects her reporters to produce fair and balanced work, regardless of their personal biases. “When people are sharing political views of the government of the day, the opposition or the mayor, that, to me, would be a red flag. That moves beyond objective analysis of a situation,” de Silva says. She notes that in the News 1130 newsroom, she is still surrounded by journalists who are, in a sense, advocating for certain issues, but don’t consider

THE LEAD themselves activists. “There are a lot of other issues where people do really amazing work that challenges norms and gets the public to think and create societal change. I don’t know that they would ever consider themselves an activist, nor would the public, but it is actually what they’re doing,” says de Silva. The stories journalists tell can bring perspective to things like freedom of speech, accountability and inequality. De Silva says that journalists who have passionately covered the opioid epidemic are, in a way, advocating for those affected: “You certainly see a point of view coming across in that work.” Andrea Woo, a Vancouver-based reporter with The Globe and Mail, covered a court case where Pivot Legal Society challenged the federal government on regulations surrounding prescription heroin. Pivot won, and people with severe addiction can now access prescription heroin at a clinic on West Hastings Street—a first for North America. For Woo, covering such stories means her approach to journalism is constantly evolving. “After years of covering the overdose crisis, after countless stories on the scope of the issue, what we’re doing and what we’re not doing, I struggle with how to keep the issue in the news,” Woo says. “We’re still in the clutches of our worst overdose

crisis ever, but I worry there could be reader and compassion fatigue.” While Woo does not consider herself an advocate, there are some issues she believes have clear rights and wrongs. Namely, the treatment of minorities. “To report on a contentious issue by merely presenting ‘both sides’ is not journalism,” Woo says. “At best, it’s lazy stenography and at worst, it’s the complicit normalizing and promotion of harmful, hateful people and ideologies at the expense of others, to real consequences.” Woo quotes Christiane Amanpour, a British-Iranian journalist with CNN, who says that journalists must be “truthful, not neutral.” Woo says there’s no such thing as neutrality when it comes to the value of human life. But she reiterates that she is “not an activist.” “I am cognizant of the power of journalism to influence public opinion and, by extension, effect social change,” she says. “My job is not to push for changes in drug policy, for example, but to show how existing or proposed legislation directly impacts lives.” Woo says journalists should report on mental illness and substance abuse like they would about other physical injuries. Dismantling stigma, she says, is one of the most powerful things a reporter can do. Woo says that working to report fairly on a community like the Downtown Eastside is an emotional burden that she has carried

since she picked up the beat in her university days. But her commitment to the beat has paid off. Woo’s reporting on the Pivot case aided in its victory and the implementation of a hydromorphone replacement program. De Silva says that there are lines that need to be drawn for journalists who become indirect activists for a community. With political activism, the line is drawn even more firmly.

“After years of covering the overdose crisis, after countless stories on the scope of the issue, what we’re doing and what we’re not doing, I struggle with how to keep the issue in the news” – Andrea Woo, reporter for The Globe and Mail With the use of social media and free expression, de Silva says she gets uncomfortable with journalists who are willing to share their thoughts on

certain subjects so willingly, especially when it involves political biases. To de Silva, journalists who share their political opinions are on shakey ground—and open themselves to general critisism of their reporting work. But when it comes to human rights and equality, de Silva says she happily shares her opinons. “As a lesbian of colour, I have a certain life experience and a certain perspective. So when stories come up around LGBTQ+ rights, do I weigh in on those conversations? Absolutely,” she says. “I think it’s important for people from diverse backgrounds to be a part of those conversations in newsrooms because that makes sure that when we tell stories we’re telling the whole story from all the other different perspectives.” On many occasions de Silva has had to interview people opposed to LGBTQ+ rights, but she’s never feared the challenge. In a time where journalists of colour have stepped up and are having a conversation about objectivity in the media, de Silva says it shows that “there’s a lot of racism and discrimination that goes on.” It’s in situations like these where journalists can tread the line between activism and traditional reporting. “You have to have that curiosity and that willingness to be uncomfortable,” she says. “That needs to trump perhaps their own personal feelings.” L

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Ripped From the Headlines How good are you at recognizing fake news? STORY BY CAMERON THOMSON // ILLUSTRATIONS BY MANDY MOON


hile some news can be fake or misleading, not all headlines are easily pinpointed as true or false. In this issue of the Langara Journalism Review, we offer five headlines—one of which is fake, and the others actual stories published over the past five months. The imposter is identified at the bottom of the page.

“Woman in critical condition after snorting hand sanitizer to ‘clear sinuses’”

“Pennsylvania man says emotional support alligator helps with depression”

“Woman finds out man she terminated life support for wasn’t her brother, sues hospital”

“Indian man suing parents for giving birth to him”

“Man hospitalized in Dublin after injecting himself with own semen to ‘cure’ back pain” L

The fake headline is “Woman in critical condition after snorting hand sanitizer to ‘clear sinuses’”


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THE LEAD THE CAMERA AND ME David Zura prepares to record voiceovers for Citytv’s 6 p.m. broadcast

Anchors Away Citytv is experimenting with a bold new plan for newscasts built around the story, not the people telling it STO RY BY AG AZ Y ME NGE S HA / / P H OTO BY M ATH ILDA D E V ILLIER S


s the winds of change sweep across the media landscape, the technology used in broadcast journalism has, for the most part, remained constant. The focus in TV has been on enhancing the viewer experience, instead of changing it, with a team of reporters, editors and camera operators employed in similar fashion for decades. In July 2018, a small but significant change happened at Rogers Media’s Citytv station that could portend changes to come across the industry. Partnering with radio station News 1130, Citytv Vancouver announced that its new evening newscasts—at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.—would do away with the traditional

anchor, as part of a series of changes to how daily news would be covered. Key to the shift has been empowering video journalists—a sort of one-person newsroom where the reporting, shooting and editing of videos is all done by one person. Kyle Donaldson is managing producer of the new Citytv Vancouver efforts. A former producer at City’s Breakfast Television, Donaldson describes the changes to the format in entrepreneurial terms. “The biggest thing with this project for me was that it was a startup, really,” he says at the Citytv studios near Olympic Village. The Vancouver news program has been rolled out at the same time as Citytv newscasts in Calgary, Edmonton, Winni-

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

peg, Toronto and Montreal. Many have expressed concern about the quality of newscasts without a host, but to that question Donaldson points to his days as an anchor with Breakfast Television. It wasn’t about being the star of the show, he says, but “the product that you’re putting out as a team. The days of your stereotypical anchorman or anchorwoman sitting behind a desk in their suit with their anchor-hair—that’s kind of coming to a bit of an end.” According to Citytv reporter Isabelle Raghem, a video journalist who formerly worked at CHEK News in Victoria, the new newscast allows her to pursue stories free of the usual restrictions. “News has always been this very

traditional look and feel,” she notes. “I think it is a great way to get into the community and actually be a part of it, and tell the stories that normally wouldn’t get this platform.” For the man who oversees all of the network’s news operations—Dave Budge, vice-president of news and information at Citytv in Toronto—the future for broadcasting is bright, so long as media outlets continue to innovate. He sees the Citytv news structure as an example of where TV newscasts need to go—saying his organization’s focus on the intensely local is what keeps them alive where other programs are failing: “It’s a ray of hope for other news programs.” L



Green Rush Legalization has been a boon for cannabis journalism. But will it last? STORY BY NICK L ABA / / I L LUST R ATION BY TA ES A H OD EL


he public reacted with excitement last October when cannabis was legalized in Canada—and media attention surged along with public interest. But early signs of decline in the cannabis beat south of the border—in American states where marijuana is legal— leaves an uncertain future for reporters in this country. Mike Hager of The Globe and Mail is among those who have been assigned to the cannabis beat at mainstream Canadian outlets. He’s been excited to report on such a historic shift in policy. “It’s been fun for me


because it’s the first time in my career where I’ve developed a beat, really,” says the Vancouver-based reporter. “Over the past few years, I’ve collected contacts and sources and understanding of what’s important in the cannabis journalism field.” The Globe and Mail, Daily Hive and the Georgia Straight have all dedicated sections of their publications to cannabis. In the time since legalization, stories have moved away from reporting predominantly on legislative issues, replaced by a wealth of stories on economics, human health and consumer interest. Part of the rush has

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

passed with legalization, as many of the journalism questions—about the business model and regulations, for instance—have been answered. Hager isn’t writing about cannabis as much as he used to; he says the beat takes up 60 per cent of his time, where it used to take up 80. Vancouver Sun reporter Nick Eagland says he was working on cannabis stories every day in the weeks before and after legalization, where now he writes one every couple of weeks. While the legalization of cannabis has lead to journalistic opportunities, some people in Canadian media

aren’t confident the boom will last—especially given the layoffs and abandoned websites seen in the United States. Ricardo Baca, the first marijuana editor at The Denver Post, says he witnessed declining interest—from publishers and readers alike—post-legalization, and Canadian reporters will likely experience the same. In November 2013, two months before the recreational sale of cannabis was legalized in Colorado, the Post’s editor-in-chief appointed Baca to lead cannabis coverage from a serious, journalistic perspective. A month and a half later,


he says, they debuted the standalone website The Cannabist, days before the first recreational sales began on Jan. 1, 2014. In December 2016, Baca left his editorial post at The Cannabist. The following April, six months before legalization in Canada, The Denver Post gutted the last of its Cannabist team. “What you ultimately see is that when you live with legal marijuana for a while then inevitably normalization sets in,” Baca says. “It becomes more normalized. It becomes less interesting. The public starts caring less and then you see outlets start to fade away, or the coverage starts to fade away.” The decline isn’t unique to The Denver Post. The Chicago Sun-Times’ initially successful cannabis website Extract posted its last story

in July 2017; the San Francisco Chronicle’s Cannabist took an eight-month hiatus last August. Some journalists believe that time will weed out the weakest publications. “It’s going to do what a lot of

on five decades of cannabis reporting, launched Straight Cannabis in April 2018. Unlike many publications, says Courtenay, the Straight has been reporting on cannabis since its very beginnings. Courtenay thinks that

“It’s going to do what a lot of other trends in the media do, which is peter off and leave the strongest pillars standing” – Piper Courtenay, the Georgia Straight other trends in the media do, which is peter off and leave the strongest pillars standing,” says Piper Courtenay, cannabis editor of the Georgia Straight. The Straight, building

most Canadian publications who’ve jumped on the bandwagon will drop their cannabis-dedicated reporters in the next five years, but she’s not cynical about the overall future of the beat.

“The thing about cannabis is it’s really the beat that keeps on giving. You can talk about sports. You can talk about wellness. You can talk about politics, investing and economics. There’s no shortage of stories and there won’t be for a very long time,” she says, adding that journalists who put the time in to become knowledgeable, expert authorities on cannabis will outlast the trends. Mike Hager, for one, sees the need for cannabis journalism enduring so long as people are making money in pot. Or trying to. “If you buy the hype that Canadian pot companies are going to go worldwide and have first-mover advantage and become the global giants, then that provides endless fodder for coverage and scrutiny,” he says. L

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Walking the Line In an age where the media is being increasingly criticized for bias and lack of transparency, ethics surrounding objectivity are more relevant than ever STORY BY CLOE LOGAN // ILLUSTRATIONS BY J JEFFERY


bjectivity has long been a fundamental characteristic of good journalism. To be objective, a journalist must portray stories in an unbiased matter, with readers making their own decisions based on the facts presented. In an increasingly polarized world, some think the idea of being completely objective has become antiquated. There are things that have been collectively agreed upon as morally wrong, yet people holding those opinions are still given a voice in the media. Where does a journalist draw the line when deciding who deserves a voice? We asked freelance writer Jackie Wong and Brielle Morgan, a reporter with The Discourse, for their thoughts.

How do you feel about the state of objectivity in journalism today? “Traditional ideas around always striving to show both sides of a story––that’s a very subjective idea that is often framed and misrepresented as objectivity. I don’t necessarily think traditional ideas of objectivity are really serving the way that journalists are working now.”


“I think that anything that has been a standard rule for a long time is worth revisiting. At The Discourse, we’re just trying to be really intentional about carving out more time to revisit standard practices.”


How do you currently practice objectivity in your work?


“When I think about how to be objective when covering the child welfare system, I think about where is the power right now. In terms of balancing stories, I think about who doesn’t have a voice––and how can we carve out more space for those perspectives and those people. In any story that I do, I’m trying to centre those perspectives.”

“It’s been important for me to centre power and privilege in my work, and that’s a constant source of how I practise my objectivity.” L




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Strength in (Small)

Numbers How a different business model could keep investigative reporting alive in rural communities STOR Y BY CA M ER ON TH OMSO N P H OTOS BY M ATH ILDA D E V ILL I E R S


mall-town newsrooms are shrinking, and with them, the ability to produce groundbreaking investigative stories. The Discourse, in five short years, has become one of the few exceptions to that rule. The Vancouver-based organization—co-founded in 2014 by journalists Erin Millar, Christine McLaren and Colleen Kimmett—calls upon writers across Canada to help tell in-depth stories about the communities in which they live. The journalism is largely funded through philanthropic and non-profit

Photos by Mathilda de Villiers

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review


partners and based on a new model of reportage that, according to The Discourse, is “based on deep listening to people who are often excluded from public and political dialogue.” Jacqueline Ronson, who has spent most of her career as a small-town reporter, is one of those Discourse reporters. She thinks that this new model may represent the future of investigative journalism. “[The Discourse] seems like one of the few bright spots in the Canadian journalism industry right now,” says Ronson, who covers Vancouver Island from her home in Youbou on Cowichan Lake. “There’s hope and excitement and commitment to really looking at our ethics and our values, and sticking to those values.” Before working at The Discourse, Ronson spent three years reporting for Yukon News in Whitehorse, an experience that built an appreciation for the importance of rural reporting. But the limited resources that came with the job—with a three- or four-person newsroom—was not conducive to investigative journalism, she notes. The challenges faced by Ronson are not unique. At many smaller media outlets across B.C., reporters are struggling to adapt to an industry-wide decline while simultaneously maintaining the

editorial standards expected by readers. Emelie Peacock ran a one-woman show at the Hope Standard for 12 months, serving the community of 6,000 people on the eastern end of the Fraser Valley. The demands of the job limited her ability to investigate local stories. Peacock not only wrote and reported every story in the Standard—she also

“I did do an investigation, but it took a lot of time. It happened on the very edge of my desk—like, falling off my desk” – Emelie Peacock laid out the pages and worked with the publisher to make sure it made it to the printer every week. Despite all that, Peacock still found time to dive into a complex story about rental evictions. “I did do an investiga-

tion, but it took a lot of time,” says Peacock, who in 2018 left Hope to go work in the Yukon for Vista Radio. “It happened on the very edge of my desk— like, falling off my desk.” One saving grace of working for a small weekly is the allowance for flexible deadlines on investigative pieces. According to Peacock, Black Press, the company that owns the Hope Standard, was able to accommodate her needs, but even with the benefit of time, investigative stories were at the bottom of the pile of things to do. As a result, stories naturally fell through the cracks. She points to an investigation into the RCMP’s dealings with local missing and murdered Indigenous people as one example where the battle against time and resources was lost. Peacock argues that small towns like Hope are actually in need of more investigative reporting than big cities, given the area is relatively isolated, rich in natural resources and dominated by corporate interests: “There are fewer people—fewer civilians to hold [these corporations] accountable.”


ward-winning investigative reporter Eric Rankin’s early career was established working for CBUO and CBYQ in northern B.C. He knows the difficulties these northern

STANDING GUARD (previous and opposite pages) Jacqueline Ronson works in the beautiful Youbou area; (this page) Emelie Peacock, now in the Yukon, started her career as reporter for the Hope Standard


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Photo (above) courtesy of Emelie Peacock

newsrooms face. “There was always that feeling that there were stories that were just beyond your grasp,” he says. Today, Rankin works on the CBC’s investigative unit, based in Vancouver—a powerhouse team of eight reporters and producers. He tries to pay it forward when he can by working alongside reporters in smaller newsrooms to break ground on local stories. When he notices reporters are skirting around the edges of a larger issue, Rankin then works alongside them to dive deeper. The collaborative spirit is shared by Gordon Hoekstra—a reporter for the Vancouver Sun and, before that, the Prince George Citizen, where he spent 15 years. Hoekstra believes that a better utilization of shared resources between reporters would be to the industry’s benefit. Hoekstra imagines a network where journalists can get help breaking investigative stories. “I don’t mean help in the sense that you’re going to do the work for them,” Hoekstra says. Rather, he argues for a place where journalists can share tips on finding information.


lowly, leaders within the journalism industry are realizing the demand for greater teamwork across publications. In October 2018, the Centre for Free Expression—a resource group for “public education, research and advocacy,” based out of Ryerson University—produced a journalisthosted podcast discussing a new model for investigative reporting. The key, said the speakers, is to replace competition with collaboration. Collaboration is key to the model being used by The Discourse, with its focus on curating investigative stories from B.C.’s rural communities. In addition to its philanthropic funding, The Discourse is partially crowd-funded by readers, bringing the promise of co-operation to the audience level. Members are encouraged to pledge monthly or annually, and so far, it has worked well enough that the organization can survive without ad revenue or paywalls. Eventually, says Ronson, the hope is to operate entirely on reader funding. The Tyee is another B.C. publication that utilizes a voluntary subscription model. They call their subscribers “Tyee Builders,” and liken it to a secret club—

with readers paying anywhere from $5 to $100 a month to underwrite the kind of journalism they want to see in their communities. Tyee Builders helped to hire a reporter in Ottawa and boost the online site’s coverage of provincial and federal elections. Like The Discourse, The Tyee has built a strong reputation for its investigative pieces and its focus on social justice issues in the Pacific Northwest. Still, both outlets remain outliers in their approach to investigative journalism. Each relies heavily on community engagement and participation from readers, while most corporately owned media have centralized functions and grown more remote from the cities and towns in which they operate. Ronson believes that there are newsrooms, both big and small, both for-profit and not-for-profit, that could benefit from the model The Discourse is pioneering. Being close to the community and engaging with them “does deepen your reporting,” Ronson says. “You’re including your community in the conversation, and allowing them to tell you things they know, and that you don’t know.” L

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BEATING THE ODDS Wendy Long (left) and Karen Thompson (right) had successful careers in sports journalism despite facing discrimination


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Blazing Trails

Female sports journalists have made inroads in recent years. But full equality is still a ways off STORY BY DESIREE GARCIA PHOTOS BY MATHILDA DE VILLIERS


aren Thomson’s love of competition drew her to sports as a child, though she never could have guessed what challenges awaited her as she progressed within the journalistic niche. Thomson, a veteran of TV and radio, credits her sports-loving dad for suggesting she pursue a career in sports broadcasting. Her family had always supported and nurtured her love of competition, enrolling her in an array of extracurricular activities and encouraging her passion for softball. “I’m a little ball of competitiveness,” Thomson says, remembering the victory she felt the first time she hit a home run. Thomson graduated from the journalism program at Columbia Academy in Vancouver in 2005 and went on to become a news anchor for News 1130, where she stayed for almost four years before moving on to cover sports at CTV Vancouver. Throughout her years as a sports reporter, she found the industry to be dominated by men and felt significant pressure to fit in “with the boys.” “You just need to prove yourself even more so,” she says. “If you make one tiny mistake, people are on you.” According to an International Sports Press Survey in 2011, more than 90 per cent of sports articles that year were

written by male journalists, while only eight per cent were written by women. In a pointed attempt to rectify gender inequality in the field, many North American newsrooms have worked to bring more women to prominence in recent years, with moderate results. Thomson says gender discrimination still exists in the sports newsroom. People often questioned how she got her job, or assumed she’d stumbled into sports from the news department, never guessing that sports reporting had been a lifelong dream. She felt the men were never asked these questions or expected to explain their presence in the newsroom. The legal right of female reporters to have the same access as men to athletes was given via a 1978 court judgment in the United States after Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke was barred from Major League Baseball locker rooms. But that one case hardly settled issues of inequality. In 1990, writer Lisa Olson filed a lawsuit after being harassed in a National Football League locker room—one of many stories of bullying, harassment and conflict faced by women covering the sports beat. In their 2013 essay The Glass Ceiling and Beyond, journalism professors Erin Whiteside at the University of Tennessee and Marie Hardin at Penn State blame inequalities in sports media on a

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concept they called “hegemonic masculinity.” They theorize that professional sports systematically “normalize women’s inferiority” and their “accepted marginalization.” Whiteside and Hardin go on to say that many women in sports journalism become tokens tasked with proving their worth in the industry, and by extension, the worth of women in general.


hen Wendy Long joined the sports department at the Vancouver Sun in the 1980s, she felt she was causing a bit of a stir. There had never been a woman in the sports department before. In fact, wom-

ONE IN TEN Sarah Jenkins is the only female reporter at Yahoo Sports Canada Toronto Photo courtesy of Sarah Jenkins

en working in sports were so rare that Long was one of just four in the country. When Long stepped into the Sun newsroom for the first time, she felt like all eyes were on her, and that feeling never really changed. “Some of the guys, they were terrific and helpful,” Long says. “Some of the other guys, you could kind of tell they were hoping I wouldn’t last too long. As it turned out, I outlasted all of those guys.” She says she threw herself into her work at the Sun and was determined to be the best sports writer in the country to show everyone that a woman could do the job.

She knew that she would be setting the stage for the future women interested in sports writing. She was the only reporter who was interested in covering sports such as alpine skiing and track and field, as she had actively participated in both her whole life. She went on to develop an expertise in niche sports reporting, and covered seven Olympic Games throughout her career as well as the 1987 Federation Cup and 1999 Pan American Games. She continued trailblazing throughout her career and was the first and only woman to be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 for her work in sports media. Despite all of her success, Long says she had to work twice as hard as the men to prove that she belonged.


t Yahoo Sports Canada, Sarah Jenkins is the only woman in a 10-person newsroom. The 22-year-old was the first female reporter to be brought onto the sports media roster with a full-year contract, and despite her success, found herself running into the same challenges as Thomson. “You have to work harder because you’re going to get questioned a little more,” Jenkins says. “Your intentions are always going to be questioned, unfortunately.” Jenkins, who is a video producer for Yahoo, previously worked as a playby-play hockey commentator at Ryerson University and worked as a writer and researcher for the CBC at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018. Jenkins believes that the representation of women in sports media has improved significantly over the years, but is still lacking, despite media outlets attempting to incorporate gender equality into the newsrooms. She points to a recent time when Yahoo Sports was hiring for a content editor: there wasn’t a single application from a woman, though 100 men applied. “So, it’s this weird issue of, ‘We want more women to be represented,’


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SETTING A PRECEDENT Wendy Long was the sole female sports journalist at the Vancouver Sun in the 1980s

but also, ‘Where are they?’” Jenkins says. She goes on to note that Yahoo Sports Canada is trying to develop a newsroom that is gender equal but that the goal becomes difficult to achieve when the pool of applicants is so small. The problem isn’t helped by the shrinking number of positions in media, thanks to many outlets that have recently slashed their sports budgets. When Bell Media laid off many of the positions in CTV’s sports department, Karen Thomson moved to a career in sales. Looking back, she says she loved being a sports reporter, and she points to some of her male mentors in the newsroom as a key reason why. “They believed in me, which was so important,” she says. “You want to find those mentors who are going to help you and believe in you, and I was really fortunate that I met a few people who were like that.” Sarah Jenkins says she has met many women who are talented and qualified sports journalists through her days in school. She’s hopeful the gender gap in sports will narrow, escpecially with support from people in leadership positions. “I think change is coming,” Jenkins says. “But it does take people like that at the top—to help be mentors to young women, who then want to grow up and become editors and come into those higher positions of power as well.” L

Female Pioneers in Sports Media P HY LLIS G R I FFI THS Griffiths was the only woman ever recognized for her work in sports media in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. Griffiths covered women’s sports, nationally and internationally, between 1928 and 1942. She worked at the Toronto Telegram for the entirety of her 46 years in journalism, writing the ground-breaking column The Girl and the Game.

DA WN LANDIS Landis was the first woman to direct a live CFL broadcast. She began her career at Global TV and helped launch The Score in 1997, where she worked for 11 years before moving on to TSN as a director in 2008—a position she still holds. Landis took on a leadership role in a male-dominated field and helped clear a pathway for aspiring female journalists.

LINDA KAY Kay was the Chicago Tribune’s first-ever female sports writer in 1980. She continued to work as a journalist and journalim professor until her death in 2018. In a 2017 interview with the Toronto Star, Kay said: “When I went into sports, there were men who would not speak to me. It was almost a sabotage situation. They didn’t want you to succeed.”

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Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

Photos by Mathilda de Villiers



Stephen Quinn has inherited one of the most successful franchises in Canada. But for how much longer can morning shows save radio? Story by AMANDA POOLE


Photos by Mathilda de Villiers

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review



hen Rick Cluff— the longtime host of The Early Edition—announced his retirement in December 2017, many wondered about the fate of CBC Radio’s flagship morning show. The show has been key to the success of Vancouver’s mostlistened-to radio station, and CBC listeners are a famously loyal bunch. Would they stay on after their morning companion of two decades had walked off into the sunrise? For Stephen Quinn, who has now been in Cluff’s Early Edition chair for over a year, the challenge was both daunting and straightforward. “It’s a real legacy thing,” says the 55-yearold Ontario native, who joined CBC in 2000 after several years with CKNW. It’s just after three o’clock on a cold January morning, and Quinn is clutching a steaming cup of coffee. “It’s a show that most people listen to. The show has been a wild success under Rick, so all I had to do is not mess up.” Morning shows are foundational for the radio industry. According to Numeris, the majority of Canadian radio listeners tuned in between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. in 2018. In that time, 25 per cent of listeners were tuned in to talk radio stations. For CBC and CKNW— the number one and two stations in the Vancouver market, with 16 per cent and 12 per cent shares, respectively—having the right person behind the mic is critical to building an audience throughout the day. Quinn began his journalism career later in life, spending his twenties working as an equipment technician in Montreal before eventually enrolling in BCIT’s broadcast program at age 30. “[What] I have always loved is that you can do something else while you are listening to the radio,” he says. “It doesn’t demand your attention the way a keyboard and a screen do, the way the television does.” While at BCIT, Quinn met an instructor by the name of Bill Amos, who would prove instrumental to his future


Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

success. Amos is a veteran CBC radio journalist who, like Quinn, hails from Montreal. In 1980, in his earliest days as a broadcaster, Amos reported on the first Quebec independence referendum. By the end of the 1980s, he had moved cross-country and joined BCIT’s faculty, where he has spent the last 30 years. When Amos conducted Quinn’s BCIT admissions interview in 1995, his extensive knowledge about municipal politics set Quinn apart as an impressive candidate, perhaps foreshadowing the many years he would spend reporting on city politics for CKNW and CBC. But ultimately what Amos remembers most about his former student is a willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. “Stephen said to me: ‘I have tried every possible avenue to get into radio or to get into media. People have been telling me I need to go to BCIT for about 10 years, so I give up, and here I am,’” Amos recalls. “All of us thought that he was going to do very well. I’m not surprised that his success has come

in radio because radio—aside from print, of course—is more of an intellectual medium.” Quinn is the first to admit to his own ambition as a journalist. “I am perpetually dissatisfied about where we are,” he says. “You are only as good as your last interview, and not every day goes perfectly.” For Amos, the arrival of Quinn at The Early Edition represents a marked shift for CBC in style and substance. “He’s a bit of an antithesis to Rick Cluff,” he says of Quinn’s sharp interview style. “Rick Cluff was very popular, and was like everybody’s favourite uncle, sort of, but he wasn’t hard-hitting.”


hile on the air, Quinn is constantly perusing audience feedback on Twitter. Listener comments can often be harsh and unfeeling, but he has learned to sift through the tweet-pollution, and astute comments are taken to heart. “I am impatient,” he says. “I want to push

STILL ON THE AIR (right) CKNW morning show host John McComb; (left) a 1954 CKNW billboard at the PNE

harder.” Quinn’s favourite type of radio story is the accountability interview, but an important aspect of hosting, he notes, is to not always be hard-hitting. The Early Edition team is always conscious of what they call the “condition of the listener,” or being aware of where listeners are in their day. In the early morning, that particularly matters. Things like bad commuter traffic will affect programming, when producers know their audience is likely unsettled. In radio, most of the audience is half-listening, on their way to somewhere else. Amos believes that the early morning commute is a pivotal reason that radio as a medium has continued to thrive where other traditional media have faltered. Recent research from Numeris backs up that theory. In its Fall 2018 study, entitled How Canada Listens, Numeris reports that 44 per cent of adult radio listeners are tuning in from their cars. “Right now, radio has a healthier

future than TV news,” Amos says. “I think there’s still power in listening to a story—if it’s very well-told and there’s sound effects mixed in and natural sound—it allows you, the listener, to create the story in your mind, which is more powerful.”


cross town, news-talk powerhouse CKNW runs its own morning show, The Jon McComb Show, in its own inimitable way. According to Larry Gifford—the senior programming director and manager of talk and talent for Corus Vancouver, which owns CKNW—the challenge of running a private station’s morning show, versus the public broadcaster model of CBC, is quite different. For that reason, he says, there isn’t as much of a competitive spirit between the stations as you might expect. “I see it as a different audience. I think there are enough listeners to go around for everybody.” Despite differences in style, the fact remains that The Jon McComb

Photos (left to right) courtesy of City of Vancouver Archives and CKNW

Show and The Early Edition are the bread and butter of each station’s programming, capturing the commuter audience and setting the tone for the day. “More people listen to the radio in the morning,” Gifford says. “You need a strong morning show to really fuel your day of listening.” For Stephen Quinn, his ascension to The Early Edition represents the pinnacle of his journalistic career so far. Still, it’s been a personal adjustment. “The hours are hard,” he admits. Switching to father duty after his shift (two sons and a daughter, 10, 15, and 16 years old respectively), quitting Red Bull, avoiding mid-afternoon naps and maintaining regular eating habits are all challenges he hasn’t quite mastered after his first year in the chair. “But I get to walk into this building every day, and do what I do,” he says. “I don’t ever lose sight of what a privilege it is.” Plus, he adds, “I don’t know what else I would be doing, if I wasn’t doing this, honestly. I can cook.” L

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review



As new platforms give profile to amateur photographers, professionals are learning how to keep a step ahead STO RY BY MATHILDA DE VILLIERS


rom film to digital. From digital to mobile. The world of photography has seen many changes over the past 30 years—changes that have shaped how photojournalists do their job and forced them to quickly adapt to technologies threatening their very existence. Rich Lam is a Vancouver-based freelance photojournalist who has worked in the industry for over 20 years; previously he worked for Postmedia, Getty Images and Canadian Press, as well as private clients.

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Photo courtesy of Rich Lam

VANCOUVER RIOT Rich Lam’s photo of “the kissing couple” won a 2011 National Newspaper Award

Photos by Mathilda de Villiers

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he age of social media has transformed how audiences receive the news. Today, competition for photojournalists like Lam is anyone with a smartphone who knows their way around Instagram. In this new era, veterans must adapt and young professionals must develop online skills in order to survive. Lam remembers what it was like when he first started snapping pictures with film as a student. He says that during the summers, he spent days in the lab developing his film in the darkroom. “[We were developing] on the bright sunny days, on the hottest days in the year, because no one was in the lab,” he says. Even though he missed out on days in the sunshine, that didn’t matter to him. “I was able to make prints, no contamination, no one to bother me. It was perfect,” he says. His career has progressed from taking photos for the college newspaper at the University of British Columbia to being a part of the photography committee at the Vancouver Olympic Games. He is still involved with UBC as its official photographer. Lam is well known for the photo he took during the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver in 2011. He found a break in the police containment lines and captured an iconic moment of a couple kissing on the ground in front of a crowd of rioters. “He looked where no one else was looking,” Erica Bulman, former bureau chief of StarMetro Vancouver, says. Even though the image circulated the internet and became one of the most viewed photos on the web, Lam didn’t realize the shot had gone viral until the following morning when someone asked him, “So how does it feel to be number three on the internet?” When Lam talks about the moment, he’s humble. He doesn’t consider it a big break. “It’s more of a talking point,” he says. “It doesn’t even hang in my house.” According to Lam, the days when a photographer would get work because of such an image are over. Today, if


Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

someone happens to be in the right place at the right time, they’ll get the picture that will circulate the internet— and chances are they won’t be the only one. A photo like the one of the Stanley Cup riots would face fierce competition—especially in an age where more people get their news from social media than from traditional media sources. The game has been changed forever thanks to the evolution of the cam-

“If you give a camera phone to a professional photographer, they’ll come back with professional images. If you give a DSLR to an amateur, they’ll come back with amateur images” – Jesse Winter era phone, which has made photography more accessible. The first camera phones, released in 2000, only had enough memory to store 20 photos at a time with resolutions ranging from 0.11 to 0.35 megapixels. While technology has steadily improved, it wasn’t until 2010 (and after) that phones were readily available with higher-quality cameras—cameras

boasting upwards of eight megapixels, flash, autofocus and other features. Social media platforms for photography expanded alongside these technological advancements. Launched in 2010, Instagram has been described by National Geographic as the “undisputable social network for visual people.” In 2015, the magazine published a multi-part blog series titled “So You Want to be Successful on Instagram?” In it, the magazine urged photographers to bolster their presence on Instagram, telling readers that a high follower count is a “coveted commodity among artists.” The platform is so pervasive that amateur photographers struggling to gain a following can hire “brand mentors,” often bloggers and Instagrammers with follower counts in the hundreds of thousands, to coach them on developing the perfectly curated content. In 2019, Instagram boasted a usership of more than one billion people. Lam—with the experience and contacts already in hand—doesn’t feel as affected by the social media frenzy. Photographers who are newer to the field, by contrast, feel they have to work harder online to make their mark in the industry.


ick Wilking is a renowned American photojournalist who is based in Colorado. He has photographed three U.S. presidents and was on the ground during 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Wilking says the changes social media has brought to the industry have provided valuable marketing tools for photographers. “News organizations and basically anybody who uses photography, they look at Instagram all the time to find images and photographers,” he says. Still, the veteran photographer thinks that the way in which photographers are being evaluated today, based on their social media following, is bizarre: “Your qualifications are based on how many people look at you. I mean, that’s just ridiculous, but you know it happens a lot.”

Photo courtesy of Jesse Winter

TAKING AIM Rich Lam (shooting here for UBC) thinks that social media can never replace the job of real photographers

One can easily fall into the trap of chasing likes and engagement on social media, according to Jesse Winter, an award-winning reporter and photojournalist who currently works for StarMetro Vancouver. While acknowledging the limits of social media, Winter thinks that it has opened up many doors for people entering the field. He says that many of the best photojournalists he knows today have taken their talents and thrown them into finding good stories, taking documentary-style photos, and creating strong and compelling series online. Winter thinks that social media—and Instagram, in particular—is allowing and forcing photographers into a new world of storytelling, which is helping to shape them into different types of photojournalists. On the downside, both Winter and Wilking talk critically about the rise of influencers on Instagram—where an individual has a million followers, for instance, and a brand or company pays that individual to promote their product on their page. “That part of Instagram sucks up so much of the oxygen on Instagram that there’s very little left for photojournalists or documentary photographers,” Winter argues.

Photo by Mathilda de Villiers


avid Karnezos is a freelance photographer with over 13,000 followers on Instagram (as of April 2019). He says that his strong following makes finding jobs easier, because his social media profiles are the first places a potential employer looks. “I think it’s massive,” says Karnezos, describing the drastic change he’s noticed in the last four to five years. Karnezos says that five years ago, Instagram wasn’t a place to show your work as a professional. “That’s changed super rapidly,” he says—especially when it comes to social media marketing and photography. “If you have any kind of content [and] if you have a following, it definitely affects people’s opinion of you and what you can do.” For Karnezos’ career, the growth in his Instagram following (which he started actively building two years ago) has been a positive thing. “I’ve got jobs because of people looking at my Instagram. But I also think people don’t realize that Instagram is definitely hackable,” he says. Being a photojournalist is a tough gig, according to Lam: “If you work hard, people notice.” In the wake of so much being broadcast on the internet as well as social media, it’s more important now than ever to decide how hard

you’re willing to work to break into the industry as a young professional. “You gotta figure out how bad you want it,” Lam says. “When I was a freelancer for the Canadian Press, you’re on call 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Because you don’t know when news breaks.” One of the areas within news that has been most affected by social media is spot news photography, according to Lam and Winter. “Generally by the time you get there, there’s photos all over social media already,” Winter says. To Winter, news photography in the traditional sense has been eaten up by cellphone cameras. When a plane landed on the Hudson River in January 2009, Lam notes how a professional photographer could never have caught that moment because people with cellphones got there first. “You can’t beat the citizen journalist,” he says. Even though anybody on the streets could take a photo with their phone, only a professional behind the lens is able to capture the moment in a way that encapsulates the essence and emotion of the event, Winter says. “If you give a camera phone to a professional photographer, they’ll come back with professional images. If you give a DSLR to an amateur, they’ll come back with amateur images.” L

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Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

Illustration based on original art by: Bill Reid (“Killer Whale,” “Spirit of Haida Gwaii”); James Hart (“The Three Watchmen”); Alvin Kanak (“Inukshuk”); Susan Pointe (“A Timeless Circle”); and Wade Baker (“Gateway to Ancient Wisdom”)

DIVIDE Bridging the

How to mend a broken relationship between the Indigenous community and Canadian journalism



ne weekend about 50 years ago, in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, a charity event was held where attendees were expected to show up in costume. On the following Monday, the front page of the Alberni paper ran a photo of a white woman in what local writer Wawmeesh Hamilton calls a “Pocahontas outfit.” She had a pillow under her dress in place of a baby, was holding a wine bottle, and smallpox marks were painted on her face.

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review


Hamilton—now a reporter on urban Indigenous affairs at The Discourse, based in Vancouver—recounts the anger he felt looking at that image as a young Nuu-chah-nulth boy. He says the insult sticks with him to this day— as do repeated instances of dismissive and belittling cruelty, often much more violent, that have affected the greater Indigenous population. While that front-page photo likely wouldn’t run today, there remains a skewed representation of Indigenous people in our news. The stories told by mainstream media concern those in our court system and on the streets, those in foster homes, or those plagued by substance abuse and mental-health issues. While Indigenous Canadians make up less than five per cent of the country’s population, they account for 28 per cent of all adult admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services, according to a 2018 report from Statistics Canada; suicide rates amongst the Indigenous is twice as high as the non-Indigenous population. Part of the issue of representation relates to a lack of Indigenous reporters. It’s a problem that the federal government identified in its 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, where it called upon “Canadian Journalism programs and media schools to require education on the history of Aboriginal peoples.” While UBC’s Reporting in Indigenous Communities course, launched in 2012, was the first of its kind in Canada, it still is not mandatory for journalism students, and few other schools have followed suit. Hamilton hopes that one day Indigenous reporting will be taught as a mandatory course everywhere to help promote tolerance and communication, as well as to fill the gaps in knowledge that currently exist in the industry. As a journalist, says Hamilton, it’s crucial to understand what’s important to the people you serve, and how they are affected by your reporting. That includes the


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country’s nearly 1.7 million Indigenous Canadians. Hamilton also believes that encouraging Indigenous journalists in newsrooms and editorial meetings is important in this education process, whether they choose to report on Indigenous issues or not. According to a June 2018 study released by B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, Indigenous students transition from highschool to post-secondary education 10 per cent less often than non-Indigenous students do. The majority of Indigenous graduates go on to careers in “trades, human and social services, business

and management, and engineering and applied science.” While there are more Indigenous post-secondary graduates now than ever before, Hamilton says he still sees a shortage of Indigenous students seeking journalism careers. Storytelling is an important part of all Indigenous cultures, and Hamilton believes that can translate into a strong journalistic voice. If it weren’t for the historic and enduring distrust between Indigenous people and the media, he says, fostering this growth would be easier: “Something needs to change

in that respect, to get Indigenous people who are storytellers and want to be storytellers into journalism schools to learn the craft.” Hamilton adds that journalism schools need to do a better job at identifying potential candidates, making space for them, and giving them “incentive to be there while they are in that space—and even afterward.”


hile storytelling in news coverage is critical, representation of Indigenous culture in all media forms is equally important. Alan Greyeyes of the Peguis First Nation is a producer of the sākihiwē music festival and a longtime music adviser. He says that there is no shortage of Indigenous musicians of every genre, but their stories aren’t being told by mainstream media. That’s why he got involved with the Aboriginal People’s Television Network’s (APTN) new study on the impact of Indigenous musicians and the systemic barriers that they face. With this data, Greyeyes says, they’ll be able to “make those stronger arguments to funding agencies to put additional support behind Indigenous music creators and entrepreneurs.” Greater funding would help Indigenous work be more accessible to both the mainstream and marginalized communities. Andrea Warner, a music journalist and associate producer with CBC Music, says that Indigenous artists have a different attitude toward issues of money and power, which complicates the coverage. She points to Indigenous superstar Buffy Sainte-Marie as an example. “There’s this idea that whiteness places you in relation to those things [success measured in money and power], in that you can envision that is something you will get, that you will experience,” says Warner, whose official biography of the singer was published in 2018.

“I think Buffy just always knew that she did not have an approximation to those kinds of power structures.” While Sainte-Marie may have been one of the first to establish an Indigenous voice in mainstream music, Warner says she sees great things coming from Indigenous hip-hop artists, and relates that to storytelling. “I feel like, because there already is such a tradition of oral storytelling, if you are in any way a writer or interested in words, and interested in the active community of storytelling, hip-hop is a great place to start,” she says. “It’s a place that really does focus on lyrics first . . . there is so much power in the tradition of powwow and beats.” As a non-Indigenous reporter herself, Warner is critical of the gatekeeping culture of journalism—and music journalism in particular. To make any kind of progress in decolonizing this industry, she says, white journalists must acknowledge their privilege, how they’ve benefited from it—and that it still exists. “It’s still a lot of older, powerful white people who are still looking to their insular circles, in terms of who gets interviewed for articles, who gets written about, who gets the benefit of the doubt all the time,” she says, “versus who is punished, who is experiencing racism.” Warner says that, as a white journalist, she is constantly weighing her own usefulness in certain situations. On Twitter, for example, she takes time to think of what she can add to the conversation, especially when it comes to discussions around race. More often than not, she adds, the most useful thing she can do is retweet those involved. She doesn’t think of her work as helping people, but as amplifying the voices of others. “You do things because they’re important, right? Not because you want to be rewarded,” she says. “It’s our responsibility.” Warner believes the important thing for journalists on any beat to do is to identify and (continued on p.32)



s a white journalist writing stories about Indigenous people and communities, The Discourse’s Brielle Morgan has struggled with imposter syndrome. “It was very humbling, and scary at the beginning, and I questioned whether I was doing more good than harm,” she says. Once, after Morgan accepted an invitation to speak to a room full of Indigenous leaders in Victoria, someone told her that they didn’t think it was her place. “One person said: ‘No offense, but I really feel like Indigenous journalists are the best journalists to come into my community, and I don’t know you. I don’t trust you,’” she recalls. Many non-Indigenous journalists share the concern that Indigenous stories aren’t theirs to tell. When faced with criticism that she’s not the right person to tell stories about Indigenous issues, Morgan shifts the language. “Indigenous issues are not Indigenous people’s issues,” she says. “They’re colonial issues. They’re white people’s problems. As non-Indigenous journalists, we have a responsibility to take ownership of these issues. I like to say instead of ‘Indigenous issues,’ say it’s issues impacting Indigenous people or issues relevant to Indigenous people.” The Discourse’s Wawmeesh Hamilton has heard non-Indigenous journalists question whether it’s appropriate for them to write about Indigenous people and

communities. “I’ve heard this from time to time: ‘I just don’t feel I have the right to be doing this story. Am I appropriating? Am I taking up space that should be taken by an Indigenous person? Do I have the right to tell this story? Can an Indigenous person only tell this story?’’’ But journalists can’t use these concerns as an excuse not to tell Indigenous stories, Hamilton says, because there aren’t enough Indigenous reporters to take the mantle. “Until there is parity in the newsroom, it falls to them to do those stories,” he notes. Even if there was parity, he still thinks it’s important for non-Indigenous journalists to tell these stories. Hamilton illustrates the obvious irony of discussing this topic by imagining himself using the same logic to avoid writing certain stories: “I don’t know, boss. That’s a white issue. I’m not white. I can’t do that.” When Morgan ultimately addressed that group of Indigenous leaders in Victoria, she questioned her right to take up space there. She stated her intentions, and she recognized aloud that the media has caused significant harm to Indigenous communities. After her 30 minutes were up, one person said to her: “This is the first time a journalist has reached out to say we want to build a relationship.” For Morgan, building such meaningful relationships is her form of reconciliation. L

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(continued from p.31) eliminate barriers that could be excluding their Indigenous readers. For Warner, this can take the shape of watching her word choice, using preferred nouns or traditional names, and analyzing what factors into qualifying “important” or “meaningful” art. “It’s about doing the work ourselves to critically examine society and culture and figure out how we contribute or how we negate progress,” she adds.


etter media representation is particularly important in communities where there is a higher concentration of Indigenous people. In Saskatchewan—with 10 per cent of its population Indigenous, compared to less than five nationwide—it’s crucial. When Nelson Bird started working at CTV Saskatchewan in 1998, he says he felt pigeon-holed by his title: Indigenous Reporter. Bird—a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation—graduated from the University of Regina / First Nations University with a degree in Journalism and Indigenous Studies in 1997. He entered the industry as an intern for CHEK News in Victoria before returning to his native Saskatchewan. In those early days at CTV, he was often introduced as the “Indigenous” reporter—the only journalist, says Bird, whose title included his racial background and not his beat. While he was proud to represent his community and culture, Bird felt he was a qualified journalist whose work spoke for itself. When this was brought to his manager’s attention, the problem was quickly acknowledged and rectified. Five years ago, he was promoted to his current position of assignment editor at CTV Regina News. Bird—who also serves as senior adviser of the weekly CTV series Indigenous Circle—says that over two decades on the job, he’s experienced his share of racism. He has received hate mail from viewers and phone calls full of racial slurs. Many of these have


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“Something needs to change in that respect, to get Indigenous people who are storytellers and want to be storytellers into journalism schools” – Wawmeesh Hamilton been threats on his life. He believes that social media, as a platform, has allowed this bigotry to flourish, with immigrants, LGBTQ+ people and other minorities

feeling the brunt of this intolerance. “You almost become numb to it,” says Bird. As far as tolerance within the newsroom itself, Bird says he’s pleased to have worked with journalists who are, for the most part, open-minded and intelligent people who want to learn from other cultures. Bird says that a driving force behind his own desire to become a journalist was the slanted coverage he saw growing up. He had become accustomed to only seeing Indigenous people portrayed on the news as victims or criminals, with coverage limited to tragedies or rallies. He became a reporter in his early 20s to bring more impartiality to the coverage of his community. Ultimately, he says, he wants to continue to show Indigenous people that the media can get it right—and coverage does not have to be biased: “The best way to ensure young people, especially Indigenous youth, take an interest in journalism is for me to just keep on doing what I do.” As for Wawmeesh Hamilton, he believes that, while it’s important to foster the growth of more Indigenous journalists, all reporters—whatever their background—must do a better job of covering Indigenous stories. “What are they [non-Indigenous journalists] learning about reconciliation or Indigenous people otherwise? If they’re not doing these stories, putting in the time, building these relationships, what are they learning?” L


If It Bleeds The unapologetic broadcasting of violent images in Latin American newscasts sharply contrasts with Canadian attitudes on good taste and ethics STORY BY DE S I R E E GAR CI A / / P HOTO BY M ATH ILDA D E V ILLIER S


lipping through channels in Latin America, raw footage of shootings, torture and violence is as common as Saturday morning cartoons. Anyone who has grown up in a Latino-Canadian household has experienced the divide between the two styles of newscasting. The default Canadian coverage differs dramatically from the Latin American channels, and for those who subscribe to both, the difference is stark. On a Canadian channel you might see a story about the rise of homelessness in Vancouver; on a Latin American television station, you could see security footage of a man being shot mid-robbery. Canadian news traditionally filters out graphic photos and videos from their newscasts, while news in Latin America fights for viewers by producing sensational broadcasts to draw the eye. Part of that is convention: in 1994, private Canadian broadcasters agreed to a code of ethics that bans gratuitous scenes of violence. In countries such as Mexico, those types of broadcasts can be seen often and throughout all hours of

the day. Oswaldo Perez Cabrera is a journalist from Mexico City who now lives in Vancouver, working as a host for radio station CiTR. “Canadian news is more polite, more politically correct,” says Perez Cabrera. “Sometimes Mexico doesn’t care too much about political correctness.” In Mexico, Perez Cabrera started out with an interest in writing fiction before he became a news writer. Since moving north, he has worked for several community newspapers, magazines and radio shows–– some in Spanish, English or both. Perez Cabrera says that in Mexico, media consumers enjoy the drama and gore of newscasts. In Vancouver, he had to learn to be more conscious of what he was reporting. In a study conducted in 2017 by the University of Havana, Martín Oller Alonso and a team of nine other researchers analyzed the differences in news coverage in several Latin American countries—specficially, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Mexico. Journalists from these

countries were asked to define which journalistic values were most important

“Canadian news is more polite, more politically correct. Sometimes Mexico doesn’t care too much about political correctness” – Oswaldo Perez

Cabrera Host, CiTR 101.9 FM to them. At the top of the list of values was “reporting reality” and reporting on things “as they are.” Second and third on the list

were providing analysis of current issues and letting audiences express their views. Duncan Anderson is a recent graduate of Langara journalism now living in Costa Rica. He believes there may be several reasons why Latin American news coverage is commonly more graphic—including the high magnitude of violent crimes within Latin American countries, coupled with consumers being drawn to the pure shock value of violence. Latin America consists of eight per cent of the world’s population, but accounts for 33 per cent of homicides, according to a report published in April 2018 by the Igarapé Institute––a Brazilian think tank focused on security and development issues. While violence might be a common reality in Latin America compared to Canada, Perez Cabrera says there is more to Latin American television than brutality. He says there is a balance to the prominence of violence. “You also have the cultural news,” he notes. “So you have people that go really in depth into one issue or one topic. In Canada, we don’t get that.” L

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review


Going Mobile


Selfie Light. To create sufficient light on either yourself or your subject, a selfie light is a great lightweight and easy-to-use tool. Shown here: Raphycool rechargeable ring light. ($16.99, Amazon)

A glimpse into the intrepid field reporter’s technological toolkit STORY BY MAT HI L DA D E V I L L I E R S A ND CLO E LOGAN


ccording to Katie Mercer, journalists who say the trade is broken simply haven’t adapted. “Print’s not dead,” she says. “It’s online.” Mercer is Glacier Media’s social media and web content guru. She oversees over 60 community publications, ping-ponging across Western Canada in an attempt to guarantee quality online content at every single one. If you want to work like Mercer, you have to do it all: write web copy, shoot video, take photos, post live hits and 360° shots. So, what are the right tools for the job? We took a peek inside the briefcase of a multimedia journalist.

Power Bank. An important item to have in your toolkit to make sure that you never run out of battery, no matter the situation. Shown here: Anker Power Core 20100mAh. ($49.99, Amazon)

READY TO SHOOT Katie Mercer doesn’t enter the field without her stabilizer rig

Stabilizer Gimbal. Essential for the best-looking footage, this tool allows you to shoot with your phone while on the go without having to worry about keeping your hand steady. Shown here: DJI Osmo Mobile 2. ($179.00, Amazon)


Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

Portrait: Mathilda de Villiers


360-Degree Smartphone External Camera. With this

attachment you’re able to create the increasingly popular 360-degree videos for social media. Shown here: Insta360 Air 360° 3K VR Camera for Android. ($125.39, Amazon)

FilmoraGo Video Editing App. A free app for An-

droid. Highly recommended by Techradar, this app has many functions, including the picture-in-picture feature. Shown here: FilmoraGo app for Android. (Free)

Tripod. When you need the extra stabilization for a time lapse or a static interview, a tripod is essential. Shown here: Manfrotto Mini Tripod + Manfrotto Mount for Universal Cell Phone. (Together $51.02, Amazon)

Splice Video Editing App.

A free app for iOS. Easy to use, it includes features such as trims, borders, background music and voiceovers. Shown here: Splice app for iOS. (Free)

External Lens. A telephoto lens

can bring you closer to the subject. Attaching a circular polarizing lens can reduce glare and make colours stand out. Shown here: Olloclip Telephoto Lens. ($70.00, Indigo)

External Mic. A mic will enhance the audio quality of your recording, whether in person or at an event. Shown here: Rode VideoMic Me Directional Microphone for Smart Phones + Rode ROD WS9 Wind Shield. (Together $101.98, Amazon)


Stabilizer Rig. A multi-purpose rig that allows you to attach your phone, a mic and a light. Shown here: Neewer Smartphone Video Rig Handheld. ($17.99, Amazon) L

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review



Where Credit is Due

Some countries require journalists to become licensed to report. Would Canada benefit from a similar system? STORY A ND I L LUST R AT I O N BY MANDY M OON


anada doesn’t have a heavy-handed approach to how journalism is practised. But some say that a licensing system would improve the quality of reporting in this country, offering it as a possible solution to the problem of fake news. In December of 2016,


the National Observer’s editor-in-chief Linda Solomon Wood gave a presentation to a House of Commons committee that, in part, argued for an accreditation system for journalists. “We’re in a pretty dangerous situation,” she told the Commons committee. Solomon Wood, among

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism

others, is concerned that anyone can market themselves as a journalist, particularly people interested in spreading fake news. Solomon Wood told the Langara Journalism Review in an email interview that she still sees merit in a licensing system. “All around the world, thousands and thousands of people are looking for ways to fight fake news, which can and has been deadly,” she says. “Anything we can do to distinguish the journalism produced based on the accepted standards of public service reporting is urgent.” Those who argue against an accreditation system say that there are already mechanisms in place to hold journalists accountable and worry that a regulatory body could wield undue influence on what stories get published and by whom. Andrew Holota, editorial director with Black Press Media, is not in favour of accreditation and is skeptical that a standardized, formal process could lead to better journalism. “If we’re seeking to control or credential individuals, is that for the greater good of journalism and the free press?” he asks.

Many Canadian journalists are asking similar questions about the federal government’s proposed tax breaks to qualified news organizations in the 2019 budget. Jesse Brown, the founder of Canadaland, said in a tweet that the policy will “create a caste of state-recognized news [organizations] deemed to be of higher public value, and a lower class that is not. I’m not aware of any other Western democracy that has ever done this.” To qualify as a Qualified Canadian Journalism Organization (QCJO), a newsroom must be Canadian-controlled and “primarily focused on matters of general interest and reports of current events.” The Canadian Association of Journalists said in a blog post that “this definition will eliminate a number of sports and arts-focused publications and may eliminate a wide number of newer outlets.” Once granted, QCJOs will have access to new federal tax incentives. Incentives include a 25 per cent refundable tax credit on wages paid to newsroom employees and the ability to issue tax receipts.


The Cost of Curiosity

The number of journalists reporting on scientific research is shrinking faster than the polar ice caps, and bloggers are filling the void



ven though we’ve been warned by the United Nations that we have only 12 years to avoid a climate change catastrophe, Margaret Munro says that we’re seeing less science reporting than ever before. Munro is a veteran science journalist who has based her career on writing about the environment. She was the national science correspondent for Postmedia until budget cuts eliminated the position in 2015. Now, Munro considers herself semi-retired, occasionally freelancing for Canadian Geographic and The Tyee. Despite the increased relevance of environmental research, science journalism isn’t getting the attention it deserves. “There’s definitely less mainstream science journalism,” Munro says. “There’s just not money there anymore.” Her first major story, about acid rain, was a 15page feature in the Vancouver Sun in 1990. “Now, we’re 30 years into this, and we’re not making much progress,” Munro says. “We need better science journalism, and we need more, but we’re

getting less.” Ivan Semeniuk, science reporter for The Globe and Mail, is one of the few fulltime science reporters left in Canada. “There aren’t too many people who do what I do, which is report on science for a newspaper,” Semeniuk says. “On the other hand,

loyal readership. Starts with a Bang spent its first seven years on Medium before it was additionally picked up by Forbes in 2015. “I had a day job,” Siegel says, referring to teaching at a university. “As I got more successful, more notoriety, I started to realize this was something I potentially

always sell well. The first of these is climate change, which is the “biggest science story of the century.” Second is human health and modern medicine. Finally, stories that appeal to pure curiosity––like the kind that Siegel writes––will always find an audience, says Semeniuk.

there are so many other people working in the field in more independent ways.” “I’m not sure if they have much job security,” he adds. The age of the internet has led to a surge in independent media. Suddenly, scientists have been given an unfiltered platform to write about their research and the chorus of voices in the field has grown louder. Ethan Siegel’s astrophysics blog, Starts with a Bang, is an example of this. Siegel started writing in 2008 as a “side hustle,” and his blog quickly won him a

could turn into a career.” Siegel’s blogging style isn’t journalism, but it might be the future of science writing. It’s quirky and humorous and multiplatform. Siegel writes, hosts podcasts and posts videos to his YouTube channel, and these extra platforms allow him to invite guest lecturers and increase viewer interest with costumes and other gimmicks. His blog attracted two million visitors in its first three years. Whether mainstream or independent journalism, Semeniuk says there are three topics in science that will

“There is an awful lot of room for stories about the cosmos, and evolution, and how the brain works and why dandelions are the way they are,” Semeniuk says. “Any number of things that are fascinating—and they make good stories because they’re just illuminating.” Despite challenges in the current economy, Margaret Munro is optimistic that the intrepid reporter will always find an audience. “Get onto some big stories, and just work away,” is the advice she offers. “If you have a good story, you will sell that story.” L

Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review



Last Word with Clive Jackson A broadcast legend weighs in on the timelessness of good storytelling STORY BY CLO E LO GAN


n the 25 years Clive Jackson spent as the assignment editor at Global TV, Jackson brought acclaim to the station as both an expert chaser of breaking news and a master storyteller. Before his time on the assignment desk, Jackson reported for BCTV (now Global) in the ’80s, and was the first to report on the polygamist community of Bountiful, B.C. Jackson retired in 2015, and in October 2018 received the Jack Webster Lifetime Achievement Award. We caught up with him for a look back on his storied career. Newsrooms changed dramatically over the course of your career. What were some of the biggest changes? The expression used at BCTV was that they would wheelbarrow money into the newsroom because there was so much of it to spend. We had a lot of staff, we had a lot of camera people, we had a lot of reporters and we were able to cover the province. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was almost impossible to live feed; we had to put tape on planes to fly it back to Vancouver where it was picked up. The kind of extravagance that there was in those days. I’m guessing that the number of reporters at Global now is probably half of what we had. Do you think that a journalist’s job is any easier in this new media age? I personally think it’s harder. Now, what reporters are


being asked to do––I just couldn’t do it. Simply couldn’t do it. They’re being asked to not only do a story for the six o’clock show, but they’re often doing something for noon, a live hit for five o’clock. They’re having to file on the Global website, they’re having to tweet. It’s just endless. What is the key to good storytelling? A story to me is like an onion: you slowly reveal more and more as you unpeel it. You tell the story so it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In television, it’s something you build up to: you don’t necessarily start with the biggest drama, you build to it. And then have a good line or two to finish the story.

Photo courtesy of Clive Jackson

What did the lifetime achievement award at the Websters mean to you? It meant a tremendous amount. I worked with Jack Webster back in the early 1980s and he was iconic–– probably the best journalist I’ve ever worked with. And he was just a guy I always looked up to. I’ve been lucky enough to have won

it. I was watching Citytv a few times recently and I think it’s actually an intriguing idea––it’s a very smooth newscast. And it has been obviously really well planned. It’s not nearly as different as I thought it would be.

a few other awards, but the Webster means a lot.

How do you feel about the future of journalism? I remain an optimist. I know it’s a tough time for journalists and journalism. But it’s an important time. It’s probably more important now than it has been for a long, long time to have good journalism.

Some TV stations are now moving into anchorless news. How do you feel about that? When I first heard about it, I thought, “This is crazy.” I just couldn’t comprehend

After your retirement, you launched a consulting firm, Headline Strategies. What is that about? I give media training, media advice and help companies get their message out. I work, I don’t know, 30 or 40 days a year. And I use the income from that to finance some fairly exotic travel, so I’ve had three or four years of really good travel since I started the company. It gets me out there and keeps me involved in the community.


Spring 2019 – Langara Journalism Review

Award-winning news from Western Canada’s top journalism students The Voice newspaper and its digital edition, The Voice Online, are produced by Langara College journalism students. The Voice covers Langara College campus news and South Vancouver community news from Musqueam territory to Boundary Road, 41st Avenue to the Fraser River.

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If there is one standard journalists must fight to protect, it is the banner that proclaims what is true. With the assaults being made on truth today there is a need — now more than ever — to separate fact from fiction. As we witness the struggle around the world to protect and nurture a free and independent press, we are faced with the challenge of addressing a fundamental question: How do we protect and nurture journalism here at home? Each year the Jack Webster Foundation supports student and working journalists by providing:

- monetary Student Awards to journalism students - Professional Development Fellowships to working journalists - Law and the Media Workshops - the annual Jack Webster Awards for excellence in journalism in B.C. See details at

The Jack Webster Foundation Now More than Ever

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