Research examines barriers to Indigenous participation in news media

As newsrooms strive to become more inclusive, editors and producers may need to be flexible in how reporters do their jobs.

Gestures like giving modest gifts after receiving information from a source are taboo for journalists, but it could put some at odds with their culture.

“In many Indigenous cultures across the country…often when we talk to people, when we ask people for their time, their effort, or their knowledge, there’s usually a gift of tobacco involved,” said Kyle Myzuka, CBC radio reporter. “It directly conflicts with what we consider a norm in journalism.

“Not only are we not accepting gifts, but we’re not supposed to give any either. The reason is that it may lead to bias or a conflict of interest.

He said he was successful in convincing his employer to allow him to show his appreciation to Elders when needed, but pointed to this as an example of the conflicts Indigenous journalists experience in the profession.

Myzuka, who is Métis, was responding to a new policy paper through the Gordon Foundation, which examines the still low number of Indigenous journalists working in Canadian media. The document calls for the addition of a journalism program at Aurora College, which is evolving into a polytechnic university, as one of the three pillars.

Written by Jane Glassco Northern Fellow Garrett Hinchey, the paper also calls for hiring targets among media organizations and better integration of communications and media studies into high school curricula.

“You kind of have to bump into someone and then explain to them why it’s something they might be interested in,” Hinchey said. “That first part, that ‘I’d like to try that’ thought, is not something that people come up with on their own.

“If you put on CBC Northbeat, most of the people you see there are the kind of professional graduate school types that come from the south, so people don’t see themselves represented. So that’s the first barrier that I think we have to break down.

The laws of supply and demand also play a role.

Former Northern News Services editor Bruce Valpy said the first major hurdle to overcome was improving high school graduation rates.

“The education system is failing aboriginal students, that’s the problem,” Valpy said. “They’re not given the proper foundation, so there aren’t enough graduates and there aren’t enough people going to college because of the barriers. Especially in the North, you have to meet all the deficits at the same time as you reach majority, so you have this additional burden.

“The candidates are simply too few and far between.”