A more inclusive newsroom, a wider perspective, a better reflection of our community
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/07/2019 (1429 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Stacked up in a back corner of our newsroom are some vintage photographs that remind us how far the Free Press has come from our early days.
Much like the newspaper of old, they paint a picture in black and white of who we were and the way things were as the city we have covered since 1872 began to grow into the Winnipeg we know today.
There are moustaches and bowler hats. Pocket watches and waistcoats. And lots of white men — but no women.
A lot has changed in our newsroom since E. Cora Hind found a way to get her foot in the door more than a century ago to become the first female journalist in Western Canada. But we haven’t come far enough. And we need to do much more to better reflect the city and province we serve.
I could list the reasons why our newsroom isn’t as diverse as it should be. I could point to structural forces that have helped create the imbalance. But rather than make excuses, what we really need to do is make changes to deliver stronger journalism.
“Ultimately, the value of diversity to journalism is not about skin colour, gender, sexual orientation or social class,’’ the Columbia Journalism Review wrote last fall in a report that chronicled decades of bad reflection in U.S. newsrooms. “It’s about the stories people can tell.”
A more diverse newsroom won’t happen overnight — but the dawning of one can’t be put off until tomorrow. So we’ve started this process by establishing a baseline to measure our progress.
A staff survey we recently conducted measured everything from gender to religious views, educational levels to sexual orientation and language skills. For the record, 70 per cent of our staff identify as male and 30 per cent as female.
When it comes to Indigenous and visible minorities, only 10 per cent of our newsroom identifies in the non-Caucasian category.
Clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement.
But we have made some changes.
New faces in our newsroom have been predominantly female, including arts reporter Frances Koncan, who adds to the Indigenous perspective on our pages.
Women are also playing a leading role in our newsroom. Two of our three associate editors are women, and they are directly involved in the daily planning of our front page in print and Above the Fold for our digital audience.
We have completed a gender review for all our freelancers and are shifting to a 50-50 gender split.
Members of our newsroom will help develop the next generation of diverse journalists by way of a mentoring program, which we will launch this fall.
All of us– reporters, photographers and editors — understand we have a duty to ensure the faces featured on our pages and pixels are more diverse and that the voices we quote are more representative of our community.
All of us — reporters, photographers and editors — understand we have a duty to ensure the faces featured on our pages and pixels are more diverse and that the voices we quote are more representative of our community. That understanding resulted in an almost even split between men and women featured on our front pages in June.
Since newsrooms run on deadlines, we have given ourselves until 2022 to remake who we are and how we reflect the community we serve. In that year, the Free Press will celebrate its 150th anniversary.
When we mark that achievement, the portrait of newsroom staff will be fundamentally different from the stark monochrome one that now sits in the corner.
That one deserves to be buried in the past.
Paul Samyn has been part of the Free Press newsroom for more than a quarter century, working his way up after starting as a rookie reporter in 1988.