Will I “make it” as a foreign journalist?

We need to talk more about representation and diversity in journalism

Any thoughts about this issue?” Professor Z asks in class on a Monday morning. I look around me and a few hands raise, but I think twice (maybe three times), if I should join the conversation or not. “What if I make a fool of myself? What if nobody understands me?” These doubts come to me immediately. I lock eyes with the professor for just a second, he knows I want to speak, but I look away and say nothing. The class continues once again with me fading into the background.

I am a graduate student in Digital Innovation in Journalism, so I’m best friends with anxiety, stress, and an imposter syndrome at its peak, which is something very relatable among newcomers to the discipline, according to Leila El Shennawy from The Pigeon. However, I am also a Mexican person of color, without a journalistic background, who hopes to communicate well enough in a foreign language to “make it” through the program. So, there are times when I can’t help but think, “Why did I do this to myself?” And in my head, I fear these “extra layers” will eventually affect my chances to practice journalism here in Canada.

Well, in class we are encouraged to call ourselves journalists even though we are also students, so I might be a rookie, but a journalist, nonetheless. Maybe as a foreigner, I will face different obstacles than my local peers, but instead of continuing to pity myself, I have decided to write about it. The question is, “Where do I begin? 21.4 % of Concordia University’s enrolled students come from abroad, so I decided to ask those in my master program how they see each other as international journalism students and if they feel confident about practicing journalism.

When I approached a Lebanon-born classmate, she expressed some concerns given her feelings of starting from scratch, as she does not know the rules of the industry well here nor does she have any professional contacts. I can relate to that because we are not only students but immigrants as well. We must overcome an adaptation process to a new life while also putting ourselves out there even though we must compete against more experienced, self-confident people for a place in an industry that is going through an identity crisis that jeopardizes its own existence. Is journalism still valuable?” Some wonder.

The clock is ticking, and sometimes even cultural changes play an important role in how we perceive our chance to succeed. Another classmate who comes from India mentioned to me that journalists should feel comfortable in their environment and have a sense of belonging, but she fears facing more obstacles when knocking on the doors of professional newsrooms to ask for a shot, given that her professional knowledge is only in Indian media. We all have insecurities, but my colleagues and I deal with this “not so invisible wall” that challenges us constantly. “Are we part of this society yet?” “Are we going to be able to practice journalism in Montreal, Quebec, or Canada in general?” “Is there something we could reflect on as students to address this issue?” Well, among the critical approaches to journalism that we have studied so far, there is one that resonates with me the most.

Scholar Irene Costera Meijer explores three types of experiences the audience needs to consider the work of a journalist “valuable”: a piece that makes them learn something new, that manages to acknowledge diversity within society, and that understands and portrays this diversity accurately. There is value when you can see a mutual conversation and understanding between the journalists and the public. 

I think this approach could also apply to the overall academic training of journalists, that is, throughout journalism programs, we could incentivize more conversations and studies about how diversity, inclusiveness, and representation among journalists themselves bring value to the discipline. This critical approach could allow the variable of “diversity” to play a much more important role in our training. How could we have more chances to make it as journalists when we are so different from each other? Some of us feel far behind from the rest due to certain circumstances that, in any case, shouldn’t matter that much in egalitarian conditions.

I am a foreign journalist going through a learning curve in Canadian media, for sure, but I know I could provide a third perspective or a different angle about current phenomena thanks to my international experiences. In the end, we are all valuable for journalism, and while I understand it is our responsibility to work on ourselves and, if applicable, overcome our imposter syndrome, I believe it would be very helpful to see more diverse and international people represented in the readings we learn from. There is valuable journalism all around the world, and this is an interdisciplinary profession, so it would be enriching to study contemporary journalists, scholars, and academics from Lebanon, India, Mexico, and any other country in a much more organic way throughout journalism programs. Feeling represented is important, and while I know we all can make it, an extra reminder does not hurt anyone, but it can make a difference. In the meantime, I will try to join the conversation next class. I will try to raise my hand too.


Feature graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Making theatre accessible for all

Autodidactic Concordia Theatre challenges typical structures of theatre through total inclusivity

How can the arts become more accessible? The Autodidacts Concordia Theatre (ACT) club works to remove hierarchy in theatre and prove that it is truly for everyone.

ACT was started in 2016, when a group of students arrived at Concordia, and couldn’t find anything doing what the club hoped to do—provide theatre for all, no experience needed. The founders, Alexander Luiz Cruz, Dexter John Lavery-Callender, Matias Rittatore, and Zoë Bujold, met at Dawson College, where they participated in a project similar to ACT. This provided a safe, comfortable and inclusive space for those who were interested in theatre, but not studying it.

The club provides a space for community and connection, promoting shared passions for theatre, regardless of background or experience. ACT provides an alternative space for people to be creative and perform theatrically, unlike more intensive, hierarchical performance environments. Here, the competitive nature sometimes found in the arts is removed, and everyone is given an equal opportunity to perform and participate.

ACT holds performance workshops the fall semester, and works on a production during winter semester. The group funds itself through CSU grants and by holding events like bake sales, to cover costs of location and materials. Participants, however, are not required to pay to take part in ACT—it is truly open to all. As for ticket sales during the run of the annual show, all proceeds go to the Theresa Foundation, a charity based in Montreal, that supports families of AIDS victims in Mnjale, Malawi.

In the workshops, participants practice a variety of styles and techniques, including improv, scene studies and monologues. In the winter production, auditions are open to the public, and not only for acting roles—the club also auditions for writers, directors and people working behind the scenes.

The club is currently working on their annual winter semester production, Only Human. This is ACT’s biggest production yet. Only Human centers around the character of a former child star, now grown up and hosting a talk show. The show is focused on demonic possession, with three guests sharing their respective, alleged experiences with possession. At its core, as Cruz and Rittatore shared, the play navigates themes of desire and how far one would go to get what they want. This production is more within the genre of horror, rather than the comedies and dramas that the club has presented in the past.

As the founding members and executive team graduate from Concordia in coming years, and move on from ACT, they have hopes for the future of the club. “Essentially, our goal is to create a space for people who don’t necessarily have any experience to try theatre. The club provides some sense of community and some experience,” explained Cruz and Rittatore. The founders want this to remain the core of the club, but also hope that in coming years, ACT will continue to grow, through innovating, pushing and challenging itself within the realm of theatre.

Only Human will be showing from May 1 to 4 at the Mainline Theatre, located at 3997 St. Laurent Blvd. The club is open to the public, and will be hosting workshops in fall 2019. Find out more about the club on their Facebook  group, The ACT Club.

Student Life

Students learn to act from ACT

The university’s student-run theatre club casts for their second production

Autodidacts Concordia Theatre (ACT) held three auditions from Jan. 23 to 26 for students interested in being part of this year’s student-run play. According to Zoë Bujold, ACT’s co-president, the purpose of the club is to allow students from a range of disciplines to take part in a theatre production. “[It’s] a means for students to express themselves,” she said. “People can act, write or work backstage.”

When the club was first founded in 2016, it primarily hosted weekly workshops “that focused on different aspects of the craft, such as acting, stage presence, voice, projection, improvisation and dance,” said Alexander Luiz Cruz, the club’s treasurer and assistant director.

Last year’s student-written and student-produced performance, titled Swimming Solo, combined comedy and drama, Bujold said. This year’s play, however, will be more serious, centred on life, death and moving on.

“Twelve different souls try to make their way to the afterlife or away from it while stuck in an otherworldly limbo,” Cruz explained. “It’s basically a meditation on the human experience, memory and the finite nature of life, with a dash of hilarity. It’s something that we’ve never done before, so we are really excited.”

According to Cruz, all the proceeds from the performances will go to the Theresa Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps grandmothers and orphaned children of AIDS victims in Malawi. This includes providing funds for school bursaries, wells, bedding and medicine, among other necessities, according to the organization’s website.

“It’s about giving back to the community, not only in Montreal by helping students acquire theatre skills but also a world-wide community,” Cruz said. Last year’s performance raised about $1,200 in ticket sales and donations, he added.

Matias Rittatore, the club’s secretary and assistant stage manager, said ACT is an opportunity for students to prepare themselves for the professional theatre world. “It’s one of those things where you need to get experience to get experience, so we offer people an opportunity to get that first step,” he said, adding that the club gives participants the chance to learn and make mistakes in a low-stakes environment.

“It’s more accessible,” added Dexter Lavery-Callender, the club’s co-president and assistant director. “We hold each other’s hands, and we guide you.”

The Autodidacts Concordia Theatre production will be performed from Wednesday, May 16 to Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m. at the Mainline Theatre.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari

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