‘I’ve Never Encountered a Non-white Journalism Professor’

Originally published on New Canadian Media.


Journalism and the media play a major role in forming a national identity and informing the public about what’s important.

That is why Rohit Joseph, who is currently in the Masters of Journalism program at The University of British Columbia (UBC), says that people of diverse backgrounds play an important role in the media.

Joseph and his family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia from New Delhi, India when he was nine years old. The 23 year old has spent most of his life in Canada and identifies as Canadian.

“If the news media and political establishments want to improve their relationship with the diverse ethnic communities that make up this nation, we need qualified journalists from these communities to represent them,” he says.

It starts in j-school

Joseph’s UBC classmate, Jessica Quin (a pseudonym), says that journalism as a whole doesn’t accurately represent Canada’s diversity and that there’s more work to be done – and it starts in the classroom.

“Ethnic diversity in journalism schools is not only important, it is absolutely necessary in an ever-changing Canadian multicultural landscape,” says the 24 year old.

Journalism programs, like all other post-secondary programs, have a responsibility to produce graduates of all ethnicities. Failure to do so is a “disservice to the country” according to Carleton University journalism student Jolson Lim.

“Journalists of colour have to work harder to land a job in the industry.”

In the United States, a survey from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication found that approximately one out of every four students majoring in journalism or communications is a visible minority.

In Canada, according to Humber College journalism program coordinator Dan Rowe, it seems that while there is a considerable number of visible minorities graduating from j-school, they aren’t the ones being hired.

Quin says hiring challenges are something she hears of often from friends already working in the industry.

“In truth, you will be more easily hired if you are white, because you fit the standard status quo and implicitly fit into the newsroom culture,” she says. “Journalists of colour have to work harder to land a job in the industry.”

‘White values’ remain dominant 

Guyanese-born Varsha Ramdihol remembers watching as her parents struggled to find employment due to hiring biases when her family first immigrated to Toronto.

Ramdihol, 18, studies journalism at the University of Toronto Scarborough’s campus and has a “very diverse” class, which she thinks is important. Still, she admits to one major concern: her ability to find a job when she graduates based on what she looks like or cultural stereotypes.

Ramdihol says that, if hired, she and other visible minorities can bring added value to the news through “background information, context and history” when it comes to certain events.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, 69, is the director of U of T’s Journalism program and teaches a class at the Scarborough campus. Like Ramdihol, Dvorkin says his class is very diverse, which, he adds, is a good thing. But the former National Public Radio ombudsman does have some concerns.

“[J]ournalism refuses to shake its own whiteness.”

“I worry that as journalism schools graduate journalists of colour, that they may reflect a class perspective (educated, middle class) rather than a purely ethnic one,” the professor explains.

Dvorkin admits that while reflecting a class bias can be a negative thing, it isn’t always. “It’s just part of the business,” he says.

Miglena Todorova of U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) agrees with Dvorkin’s claim. Todorova, an assistant professor in social justice, says that the ethnic composition of a classroom doesn’t matter if biases exists.

Todorova explains that the class bias within journalism is entrenched in the profession.

“Journalism therefore continues to be dominated by a particular set of needs and knowledge and those are the values of white people,” Todorova adds.

“You have to ask yourself ‘who is teaching these programs?’”

Todorova argues that many of the people in decision-making positions working within mass media are white and as a result “journalism refuses to shake its own whiteness.”

“You have to ask yourself ‘who is teaching these programs?’” Todorova adds.

Changing academia

“I have never encountered a non-white professor in journalism,” says 20-year-old Hannah Wondmeneh, a  fourth year journalism student at Carleton University who self-identifies as Ethiopian-Canadian.

Wondmeneh’s observation is not uncommon it seems.

Of all the students New Canadian Media spoke with in writing this article, the only one who said he saw his ethnicity represented amongst the faculty was a Caucasian male from Alberta.

Dvorkin thinks that balancing conflicting forces is the key to solving issues of diversity in journalism. Dvorkin admits that academia can be rigid when it comes to accepting new ideas, but he’s confident there is a way to “make them compatible.”

But for Wondmeneh, what’s troubling is that she feels as if nothing is being done about it.

“We don’t talk about,” she says. “It’s as if it’s a non-issue, not anything that would need to be addressed, and I find that frustrating.”



Beaches-East York incumbent prepares for elections

Published in the East York Observer.

“He’s a hearty looking guy,” remarked Toronto-Danforth’s Peter Tabuns of his fellow New Democratic Party member, Matthew Kellway. “He’s the kind of guy who wants to make history,” Tabuns added.

Kellway, 50, is the incumbent MP of the Beaches-East York riding after snatching it away from Liberal MP Maria Minna in the 2011 federal election. Kellway received 41.6 per cent of the votes — 5,309 more votes than Minna. Minna held the seat for nearly twenty years, a period in which the riding was “lost in the wilderness” according to Kellway.

The Beaches has been home to Kellway for nearly twenty years after growing up in Kingston. Kellway is married to Donna Kellway, a crown attorney, the couple have three children. Kellway believes that he could not do the work he does in Ottawa without the support of his family who he said “bring him the most joy.”

Kellway served as the Military Procurement critic under Jack Layton and is currently the NDP’s critic of both urban affairs and infrastructure.

At Kellway’s official campaign office opening party he acknowledged the accomplishments of his campaign team and the NDP but says that more work is needed.

“Canada won’t go orange if Beaches-East York doesn’t go orange,” Kellway stated.

In the 2011 federal election the NDPs won 103 seats in caucus–it’s highest-ever total– and Kellway believes that the NDP’s rise in popularity is proof Canadians are eager for change. Kellway criticized Stephen Harper and the Conservatives for passing bill’s c-51 and c-24, accusing the Torries of being an “alien government.”

“They (voters) don’t see themselves reflected in this government,” Kellway said.

Kellway listed the mission in Iraq and Syria, refugees, supplemental income for seniors and affordable childcare as his top priorities. It takes a lot of passion and leadership to fight for change according to Kellway and he believes the NDPs have that.

“Each and every one of us running under the NDP banner has great ambitions but these are ambitions for others and not for themselves,” Kellway elaborated.

Karibu Thrift Store: A Second Chance Place

The original article was published in full by ByBlacks.com
Former housing manager Vivian Keels, opened a social enterprise businesses called “Karibu Thrift Store” to provide work and work experience for people with mental and developmental disabilities.

Before opening Karibu, Vivian had 25 years of managerial experience working with this community as a residential manager until one day in March of 2013 when she was handed a severance package. Vivian has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Ottawa and a diploma from Algonquin College but was still unable to find work for 18 months.

In order to find work for herself and stay within the field of Developmental Services, Vivian decided she was going to open her own store and hire people who also struggled to find employment. Vivian has partnered with organizations such as Corbrook, JVS and Ontario March of Dimes to focus on the developmentally disabled community.

The Karibu Thrift Store team is made up of 6 paid employees and 2 volunteers, all of whom have some disability.

Karibu means “welcome” in Swahili and Vivian says she wants that word to apply to everyone, “I want this to be a welcoming place people want to come in.”

Karibu certainly does give off a welcoming vibe with its bright walls of teal, orange and fuchsia, European-themed decorations accompanied by the smooth sounds of ’80s R&B. Customers liken the Scarborough shop to the boutiques of Queen West in Toronto’s downtown.

What are some of the benefits of having such an inclusive store?
“It provides work for a person, that’s the big thing. I was unemployed for 18 months so I know the depression that goes along with being unemployed. I have a degree and a diploma and I couldn’t find work. People that have just their high school equivalency, people with a disability, they go through the same stages that I went through. It’s horrible. It’s horrible being at home with no purpose to getting up in the morning. I was determined to change that. The mission was to create work, and work experience because a lot of times people can’t even get volunteer opportunities because of unions or employers not being knowledgeable or just not wanting people there.”

With your employees and volunteers, what are the most important skills they gain by working here?
They learn work skills, responsibilities like being on time, having to focus. They’re not only building self-confidence but they’re also learning pre-vocational skills and personal development skills, that’s really what they’re gaining here. They have fun. And they’ve all grown. Their decision making, their confidence; it’s just fantastic. Some of them are even initiating conversations, which is a big deal. Especially for someone who has autism; to see them interacting or initiating conversations is huge.”

Karibu Thrift Store is located on St. Clair Ave. close to Kennedy Rd. in Scarborough.

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