Opinions on opinions

What I’ve learned from my time as an Opinions Editor.

My first year at Concordia did not go according to plan. In September, I had the idea that I would lay low and scope out all the clubs and committees before I joined anything—a semester to get settled, and then I could think about where I wanted to get involved. However, within the first few weeks of school, I wandered into the club fair and had a conversation with The Concordian’s lovely Graphics Editor (shoutout to Carleen). The team was looking for an Opinions Editor, and I thought, Excellent—I love editing, and I have opinions. 

Eight months later, this is the last opinions piece I will write as the Opinions Editor, so it only made sense to reflect on the experience and (dare I say) share my opinion. I’ve learned so much, and this whole experience has left me with a lot to think about, both as an editor and as a writer.

Though writing has always been one of the most important parts of my life, I have always found it nerve-wracking. A piece of writing is a piece of yourself on display for people to scrutinize. I have sometimes compared writing to stripping down and announcing, Here I am! Point out all my flaws! What if people disagree? What if they misunderstand? What if they don’t like it? Writing opinions pieces is especially tough because they display your own thoughts and values.

This is particularly true because opinions evolve, sometimes so drastically and so quickly. We might receive more information, situations might develop, or we might simply grow as people. I’m sure we’ve all looked back on something we said a few years ago (maybe even a few weeks ago) and thought to ourselves, Did I really think that? Sometimes we become strangers to ourselves. With writing, however, these past versions of ourselves exist in a physical form, words frozen in the moment they were published. It’s difficult to fight the urge to double back and scrutinize every word, to agonize over what should have been worded better or what could have been said instead. It’s a constant act of moving forward. 

Editing other people’s opinions is a unique experience as well. I’m grateful for every contributor to the opinions section, and it has been interesting to engage with such a variety of perspectives. I’ve experienced the learning curve of figuring out how much to interfere in editing. To what extent do I let my own ideas influence my editing? How do I address the opinions that I disagree with? Is it even my place to decide what opinions are valid? For the most part, I try to step back and let opinions remain untampered with. 

Another question that always arises in this job is what to write about. There’s great value in light reads and fluffy articles, and I had such a fun time writing them—but everytime I did, I wondered whether I should be directing my energy toward speaking about something more important. Yet when I did try to tackle more serious issues, I went in circles wondering if I was doing the issue justice, if I was getting facts right, and if I was in a position to write what I was writing. 

Sometimes the answers only come in hindsight. I’m sure all summer I’ll jolt awake in a cold sweat with an article idea, only to remember that the days of weekly article writing are over. Mistakes, too, are only apparent when it’s too late. (A small example: Catching typos after publication, the cause of many sleepless nights.) 

Working in a position like this, it’s inevitable that there will be misunderstandings, miscommunications, and mishaps. I can only hope that I have handled these with grace, while knowing that all I can do now is learn from them. If I could start from the beginning, there are many things I would have done differently, but I’m grateful for the learning experiences I’ve gained. 

Beyond learning experiences, working at The Concordian has been a great experience in general. I couldn’t wait to pick up the paper every other Tuesday—there’s a unique joy that comes from being part of something, especially with such a dedicated team. This is why I’ll definitely try to stay a part of The Concordian in one way or another for the rest of my time at this university. I know there are more lessons to be learned, and I’ve also just had a lot of fun. I genuinely loved my treks to Loyola (the campus is so much prettier than SGW) and there’s something about the weekly pitch meetings that just kind of hit—especially when Keven brought cookies. 


An ode to student media

As my time with The Concordian comes to a close, I can’t help but think back on the journey that got me here.

In the corner of my kitchen, on the wall next to my fridge, hangs a white board that I use to keep track of my chores and deadlines. But over this last semester, I have been using that white board to countdown the days until my mandate with The Concordian ends.

If you have ever worked for a student newspaper or a campus radio station, you’ve probably heard the joke that student media is a gaping black hole that consumes all of those who cross its path. Everyone who I know  has worked for a student paper has admitted getting overwhelmed by the seemingly unending demands of the profession. As someone who has been at the centre of this black hole for the past two years, the prospect of stepping out comes as a much needed relief.

But as that countdown on my whiteboard gets smaller and smaller and I think back on what I’m leaving behind, the sense of satisfaction has slowly started to fade away.

I started writing for The Concordian in September 2020, back when I was still an English literature major and was beginning to consider pursuing a career in journalism. I still remember the night my first article, an opinion piece about the 2020 American presidential elections, was published. That article encapsulated so many firsts: my first byline, my first brush with controversy, my first missed deadline, and the first time I felt like a real journalist. 

Nearly every journalist I know started off with contributing to student media. For those of us coming from outside the tightly interconnected journalism world, student media is an important avenue to establish our presence in this daunting media landscape.

The Concordian has opened more doors for me than my lackluster GPA ever could. It was my portfolio with The Concordian that got me into the journalism department. Being on masthead has, directly and indirectly, provided me with some of the best experiences of my life, such as attending NASH 85 and the Thessaloniki International Summer Media Academy. I owe so much to this paper that I don’t think I could ever repay it, even in over a hundred years.

And yet for all the good this has brought me, any picture I paint would be incomplete without  acknowledging the bad. The stress from this job has taken a tremendous toll on my mental health and strained many important relationships. At this point, my trash folder contains more resignation letters than I could possibly count. The only thing that kept me from walking away has been the amazing support of my team. I sometimes wonder if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, both the good and the bad, would I still have gone on this journey?

As the Managing Editor, I followed in the footsteps of many great student journalists before me. Over the last year, I’ve had to grapple with so many questions: Where is my place in all of this? How will I be remembered? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Am I doing a good job?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I have made more mistakes than I can possibly count. But it’s comforting to know that I’m just a small link in a much larger chain, a tradition far greater than myself. I know that my memory will quickly fade compared to the accomplishments of the greats who have come before me and the promise of those who will come after. In the face of overwhelming adversity, I was able to preserve and hand off the torch to the next generation. 

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to savour this journey. I would tell myself that the stakes aren’t as high as you think they are, the mistakes you will make along the way are to be learned from, and that you can do this work without getting sucked into that black hole because once it’s over, you have to be ready to move on. And yet, I’ve dedicated so much of myself to this paper that it’s hard to picture what my life might look like without it. 

Scientists aren’t quite sure what lies beyond a black hole, and neither am I. As I approach the threshold, I can’t help but stand back in awe of all the beautiful memories that encompass me. 


Ethical dilemmas of “both sides” journalism

Should journalists always strive for neutrality?

The Society of Professional Journalists states in its Code of Ethics that journalists should make sure to report information that is accurate, fair, and ethical. To do so, one of the traditional methods can be to seek both sides of a story to cover each point of view equally. However, despite being efficient in certain cases, 55 per cent of American journalists believe that this method has limitations that may not always make it the best approach to follow, according to recent Pew Research Center data.

This reflection started to make full sense to me after I encountered my first ethical challenge as a newcomer in journalism. As part of two distinct photojournalism projects, I coincidentally ended up photographing two individuals involved in a juridical conflict. The way I learned about this situation was when the first person I worked with attempted to influence me to support their side after I posted the photos I took of the second person. 

I learned that the first person who was trying to involve me in this situation was being accused by the other party of infractions that were at the opposite of my values, such as harassment. Consequently, I started to feel torn up by the following dilemma: Should I publish both projects, potentially giving equal weight to conflicting perspectives, or should I cease collaboration with the individual whose values diverge from mine? This dilemma led me to confront the tension between maintaining journalistic objectivity, and whether or not it should be a prerequisite for truth-seeking and upholding personal values.

According to a PBS Standards article, one issue with reporting both sides is that it can lead to the creation of false equivalences. This term refers to when a person portrays two sides of an argument as equivalent even when one relies on factual evidence and the other does not. For instance, despite the consensus among a majority of scientists that human activity impacts climate change, some individuals still attempt to balance this research with arguments from climate change skeptics.

Ironically, doing “both-sided” journalism can also lead to the creation of biases in the newsrooms, by questioning the ability of some journalists to cover topics about their own communities. Journalists from marginalized communities are often not considered able to share opinions about a controversial topic they might have an intimate knowledge of. 

In an interview, Dr. Crittenden gave the example of a Black journalist who hadn’t been allowed to cover an issue related to racism, because of a tweet she had posted about the topic—something that her editor perceived as a bias.

In other cases, newsrooms can view journalists from underrepresented groups as token “resource persons” who should exclusively cover topics about their communities, which sometimes pushes reporters into sensitive situations when it comes to covering “both sides.”

In an article, journalist and president of the board of directors for NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists Ken Miguel qualified an interview he had to conduct with a lawmaker opposed to same-sex marriage. This experience, apart from affecting his mental health, pushed Miguel to question the fairness of reporting the arguments of this lawmaker, which sometimes contradicted statements made by the medical community in debates such as gender-affirming care for trans youth. Instead, Ken Miguel suggests focusing on the importance of grounding reports in facts, rather than automatically giving too much credit to the opposing point of view.

These ethical questions led me to think of a more nuanced approach that prioritizes accuracy while reporting the news, with emphasis on contextualizing each piece of information and being transparent. It also encourages a diversity of storytelling by including more underrepresented groups in the newsrooms. There isn’t a universal solution to make journalism more ethical, but the work methods and conditions of the people making the news is a good place to start. People shouldn’t be forced to cover what they don’t feel comfortable reporting about. 

Coming back to my initial photojournalistic ethical dilemma, I decided to stop working on the project that included that first person who was pushing me to take their side while they were being accused of harassment by the other person I had published the photos of. After torturing myself for days with the dilemma, I concluded that it was the best option.

 I realized that it wouldn’t have felt right to keep working on these two projects and remain neutral and objective when it was challenging my ethics so much. I believe that it would’ve not only negatively impacted my work, but also my mental health, which probably wouldn’t have led to the newsworthy project of the year. This is why: I don’t want to do “both-sides” journalism (at least, not always).


The future of journalism is in your pocket

A slower and more niche medium, podcasting is reshaping the way news is consumed.  

In the years following the pandemic, the landscape of podcasting has undergone a seismic shift. A study conducted by the Nieman Lab found the number of new podcasts launched dropped precipitously, falling by nearly 80 per cent between 2020 and 2022. This startling decline in new podcast creations has left many questioning the state of the medium, wondering if it has transitioned from a gold rush into a more mature market. While the surge in podcasting during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic was substantial, the subsequent drop in new shows and episodes suggests a market favoring ongoing, long-term content rather than limited-run productions. 

Precisely because we are in an era of endless scrolling and perpetually refreshed newsfeeds where the estimated reading time written under headlines determines the worthiness of your read, I believe the future of journalism is in audio—more specifically podcasting.   

Audio journalism refers to journalism that is done via the recording or transmission of voice on the radio, television or internet. Audio has been an important component in journalism since the invention of the radio. I think audio journalism, in particular podcasting, is a  medium that will grow as essential sources of news, storytelling and opportunity within local communities, even if the frenzy of our daily lives and the rapid flow of information has made it difficult for the ordinary citizen to keep up. 

In my opinion, podcasting embodies democratic media creation and consumption. In his work, Silvio Waisbord explains that in the digital age of journalism, we’ve witnessed a profound shift in the dynamics of news dissemination. Historically, news resembled a top-down pyramid controlled by a select few. Today, it has evolved into an egalitarian landscape where anyone can participate in sharing information. I think this transition from vertical control to horizontal openness and equality is embodied by podcasting, and will lead to more sustainable journalism.

Podcasting will thrive because audiences want content on a smaller scale that resonates with their communities. Katerina Eva Matsa, the director of news and information research at the Pew Research Center, highlighted that people are now making deliberate choices in their selection of social media platforms for news consumption, often driven by their personal identities. This shift indicates that individuals are not only seeking factual information, but also a sense of community through their news sources.

I feel that podcasting offers a more immersive and detailed approach to understanding current events and issues. Often readers don’t delve deeper than headlines, which can contribute to the spread of fake news and misinformation. Recent data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism shows that only 51 per cent of consumers who “read” an online news story actually read the whole article, while 26 per cent read part of it and 22 per cent only looked at the headline or a few lines. 

In our hectic daily lives, where we’re always on the move and easily distracted, podcasts are becoming the go-to way for people to stay informed while doing their everyday tasks like commuting, working out, or doing chores. It’s like having a personal news companion, making news consumption more personal and accessible. 

As trust in local news rises and the focus shifts from reaching large audiences to nurturing communities, I believe podcasting stands as a vital and enduring medium shaping the future of journalism.

Hear me out Opinions

Hear Me Out: With the rise of fake news, has the public lost faith in journalism?

With more people getting their news from social media, journalists are at risk of losing credibility

In 2020, former US President Donald Trump was accused of influencing an insurrection at Capitol Hill by allegedly spreading false information that the presidential election was stolen.

Thousands of people showed up to riot and hundreds stormed the building. Although Trump was acquitted of all charges of inciting the insurrection, journalists were left to clean up the mess by having to prove the reality of what took place that day. 

Being a journalist during the modern era of social media comes with many challenges, but the main issue is the growing concern of fake news. With more and more people getting their news from social media, the credibility of journalists is at stake. 

According to a survey conducted by polling group Maru Public Opinion, 26 per cent of Canadians aged 18-54 get their daily news from social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, while 23 per cent of Canadians aged 18-34 get their news from Twitter, and 20 per cent consume news through TikTok.

Additionally, with the rapid rise of TikTok, this has led to more users getting their news from other social media platforms rather than through traditional mediums such as television, print or radio.

Journalists have more work to do now because after having done the research, interviews, and gathering facts, there are still people who won’t believe them because of their personal or political biases.

Pew Research Center concluded that 65 per cent of Republicans trust Fox News as a legitimate source, while 39 per cent of them distrust CNN. Meanwhile, 67 per cent of Democratic-leaning people polled trust CNN as a news source.

According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 59 per cent of people believe “journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.” Additionally, 59 per cent of people also believe “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position rather than informing the public.” 

With so much mistrust between the public and journalists, it’s easier to spread fake news and conspiracies because the regulations on social media to fight against propaganda and misinformation aren’t strong enough to stop it all.

Leaked documents cited by the New York Times showed that on Facebook, views of posts stating that the 2020 US presidential election was fraudulent made up 10 per cent of the views of all political content on the site. However, Facebook didn’t take steps to reduce the spread of this misinformation, fearing backlash. 

This means that Facebook was aware of fake news being spread at an alarming rate, but did nothing to stop it and two months later, an insurrection occurred.

Throughout Trump’s presidential campaigns and time in office, he targeted anyone who disagreed with him, including journalists, and he did this at campaign rallies, on TV, at White House conferences, and most importantly on Twitter. 

Trump was officially banned on Twitter in 2021 because he violated the site’s policy against the glorification of violence, but the damage had already been done. 

With the ownership of Twitter recently falling into Elon Musk’s hands, the site now allows anyone willing to pay a monthly fee to be verified with the famous blue checkmark. Musk tweeted that “widespread verification will democratize journalism & empower the voice of the people.” This isn’t true. In fact, he has given power to the people who want to spread propaganda, fake news, and conspiracy theories because he allows anyone to have a blue checkmark as long as they pay a monthly fee of $7.99. 

Musk responded to all the controversy of the new policy saying that Twitter will suspend any accounts attempting impersonations. However, with the massive layoffs that took place recently, I’m doubtful that Twitter will be able to monitor every fake account that pops up. 

Over the course of the pandemic, it was difficult to decipher fact from fiction about COVID-19, especially on social media. According to Pew Research Center, 48 per cent of American adults were exposed to false information about COVID-19, which could’ve delayed people from taking the virus seriously. 

If you watch the news, there aren’t many stories or segments where journalists, anchors or reporters debunk lies and misinformation. If journalists and news networks were more direct when reporting on fake news, perhaps it would change a viewer’s perspective because they are considering new information that they hadn’t heard before. 

I think that fake news can be reduced if journalists use social media to their advantage and report on misinformation on a weekly basis. If journalists want to earn the trust of the public, they have to be willing to call out people in high positions of power and public figures who feed into the conspiracies, lies and propaganda.


The Check-In Podcast by Emily Pasquarelli #1 – “It wasn’t your fault”

Welcome to the Check-In Podcast, hosted by Emily Pasquarelli, a first year journalism student and a huge advocate for mental health. The Check-in Podcast will be a special series produced by The Concordian where Emily displays the importance of checking in with your close ones.

On this episode, Emily talks with Tyrelle Anasara-Diab about his experience with Quebec’s foster care system, and the effect it had on his mental health. He shares how he got through it, and the important people that helped him along the way…

Artwork by James Fay


Tackling worldwide issues requires a new definition of proximity

COVID-19 tested our ability to care for strangers, and this test will only continue as we face climate change

I scoured the internet for the name of the first man to die of COVID-19. I learned that he was a 61-year-old man from Wuhan, China. I learned that he was a regular at the live animal market, he had previously been diagnosed with abdominal tumours and chronic liver disease, but I couldn’t find his name. He’s a number; he was patient zero. His heart failed on Jan. 9, 2020, and since then, there have been over 5.5 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide.

As consumers of news, there is always a disconnect when reading about events happening overseas.

These stories lack one of the seven ideals in newsworthy journalism: proximity. If you want people to read your articles, you need to report on issues that affect your reader or their communities directly. A man died of a virus in China, why should I care?

At this point, the answer to that question should be clear.

After that first death in Wuhan, it only took three weeks for the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency, on Jan. 30, 2020.

Every single person on the planet was affected by COVID-19 in one way or another, and as the world becomes more globalized, there will be more of these worldwide issues that affect all of us. What we thought of as “proximate” is no longer relevant.

The problem we’re facing is that these new types of global issues are blurring geographical borders, but we are all still inclined to care more about issues directly affecting our family, friends, and neighbours. It’s hard to care about strangers overseas.

In international news reporting, we need to be connecting readers to issues by fabricating a sense of proximity. This would lead to better global awareness and a deeper understanding of events that will inevitably affect us all.

Personal narratives can be used to “reduce” distance and diminish the disconnected feeling we get from reading about foreign issues.

Having journalists report on people’s lives in a more intimate way can make it easier for audiences to empathize with the subjects — even those from far away, and even when they are not directly affected.

About two months into the pandemic, NBC News published a story about 60 lives in 60 days, which told the stories of some of the first American victims of COVID-19. They outlined other hardships the victims overcame in their lives and provided testimonies from loved ones. While this project didn’t receive an overwhelming number of likes on social media, the comments posted in response were genuine. Strangers were mourning these deaths.

However, in some cases, cultural or political barriers don’t allow us to gain the insight we need to make these connections.

Obviously, reporting operates differently in China.

Whether the country was trying to downplay the virus in January 2020 as they did with SARS in 2003, or whether the government’s official statements were delayed due to its complex, rigid system, it is possible that patient zero’s name purposely wasn’t shared. But not sharing his name was a disservice to the rest of the world.

If you had told me he left behind a wife or kids, it would’ve made me think of deaths that occurred in my own family. It would’ve brought about a fleeting wave of sadness, and it would’ve sparked an emotional connection.

Award-winning writer Walt Harrington wrote that more intimate journalism stories open “windows on our universal human struggle,” — and death and mourning are inevitable for all of us; it’s relatable. Sure, patient zero’s personal details wouldn’t have been all that relevant in reporting the spread of the virus, but readers abroad would’ve been able to connect.

COVID-19 isn’t the only ongoing global issue. Climate change is creeping up on all of us. And I mean all of us.

Developing countries have been suffering for decades from earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters as a result of global warming. And if that’s not enough to make you care, the recent floods in British Columbia are an indicator that these problems are not as far away as they may seem.

Sound familiar? The virus once felt far away too.

COP26, the most recent UN climate change summit, is one example of a collaborative effort — however flawed it may be. After 26 gatherings, the Earth should be in better shape, but what we do benefit from is the exposure to those people affected by climate change.

James Cadet, the Minister of Environment of Haiti, spoke in French about how their lives are “intimately linked” and their economies are “interdependent.” It doesn’t matter how far away Haiti may seem; COVID-19 wasn’t bothered by geographical borders, and climate change won’t be either.

Haiti is a vulnerable country and undoubtedly feels the intense consequences of climate change. Hearing first-hand about the hardships faced from a Haitian native creates a new type of proximity in which listeners feel closer to and empathize with the speaker.

Some journalists have turned to different forms of media to fabricate this sense of proximity.

Mia Lindgren, Professor and Dean at Swinburne University of Technology, discusses the effectiveness of audio media in storytelling. Mediums like radio and podcasts create proximity with the human voice. Hearing the warmth in the voices of strangers makes it easier to relate and sympathize than it would be through a piece of text.

Ear Hustle, a podcast which is recorded and posted by current prison inmates, is a perfect example of how technology has made it much easier to keep up with people beyond our own geographical and social borders.

Listeners can feel the pain, sadness, or guilt in the voices of the podcast host and guests. Audio storytelling achieves the element of proximity outlined in the principles of successful, newsworthy journalism.

Not knowing the name of COVID-19’s patient zero created even more distance in a situation where it was already difficult to connect. What if he wasn’t just a faceless victim? What if we had the opportunity to feel for him more deeply, 11,000 kilometers away?

If Wuhan wasn’t reported on, the situation could’ve been very different once COVID-19 reached North America. If there wasn’t communication across various nations, it’s possible that vaccines would not have been developed as quickly as they were. People need to be aware of events happening internationally – that’s how solutions are found.

This lesson learned from our pandemic response can be applied to every sort of global issue. Solutions will require worldwide collaboration, so again geographical proximity becomes irrelevant.

The Montreal Protocol is the most impressive example of this much needed communication and collaboration, as it is the only UN treaty to ever be ratified by all 197 UN-recognized countries. This collective agreement to protect the ozone layer came into effect in 1989. Among its notable achievements, it has led to the phaseout of the production and consumption of 98 per cent of ozone depleting substances. Global cooperation led to fixing global-scale problems — weird!

The traditional definition of proximity is no longer relevant in deciding what is “newsworthy.” As our problems get bigger, we have to widen the scope of our concern accordingly. Journalists have the power to create a feeling of proximity through their storytelling and make us care — something the world desperately needs as we face unprecedented, worldwide issues. The stories of those already affected by climate change must be shared, because we saw what happened when the world couldn’t sympathize with patient zero.


Graphics by James Fay

Subjectivity in journalism

Subjectivity reinforces objective stances of journalists

Journalists are asked to remain objective in their reporting, at risk of losing credibility and blurring the truth. But if journalists are to tell the truth, how can they deliver truthful stories if they are required to remain detached from the issue they are covering?

Journalism has evolved, while still upholding a dichotomy between objectivity and subjectivity. Either the story is fair, balanced, and neutral; or engaged, one-sided and biased. There is no grey area when it comes to news reporting. There is no room for an in-between.

Newscasting would gain integrity considering subjective stances to complement objectivity. Journalistic standards of neutrality can coexist along with personal insights.

Iowa State University professor of journalism Michael Bugeja said, “Objectivity is seeing the world as it is, not how you wish it were.”

Objectivity is essential in news making. However, it has its limitations, which subjectivity can help make up for.

Hence, journalism has to rethink objectivity to make it possible for journalists to elaborate their expertise beyond detached reporting: journalists must be encouraged to embrace their biases.

In their book Reckoning: Journalism’s Limits and Possibilities, Candis Callison and Mary Lynn Young explain how objectivity has roots in social order and relations of power that privilege some conventions over others. When journalists situate themselves from within the story, they have a stronger capacity to recognize what is “really” happening.

Objectivity reinforces dominant ideals and hides marginalized realities. When journalists seek neutrality and fairness, they sometimes censure and leave out aspects of a story. It empowers specific perspectives and excludes many potential paths to explore.

Journalists’ experiences strengthen the accuracy of their stories. Carol Linnitt, co-founder of The Narwhal, interviewed Callison for the article “Who tells the story of the present”. Callison explains how facts have a history and tie with different ethics. Objective stances sometimes fail to dig deeper into those multiple truths. Journalists must look beyond the statement itself to understand its meaning. In other words, when journalists personally commit to an issue, they gain the capacity to acknowledge which perspectives to scrutinize and whose voices to uplift.

When it comes to sources, subjective awareness also reinforces journalistic language. News stories are impersonal when journalists stick to the facts for the sake of detachment and fairness. Journalists even maintain a distance from their sources to deliver “neutral” portrayals, dehumanizing the sources themselves. For news to be representative and truthful, they must engage with sources, especially when they are marginalized.

As journalists prefer the role of the observer over the participant, they fail to humanize their subjects. Andrew Sayer, social sciences scholar from Lancaster University, explains how emotions, values, and the rationale make sense only when they come together. The subjective defines an integral part of our identity and how we understand the world. Journalists can only truly depict someone or something if they associate them with other’s truths. There is an immersive element that is crucial here and does not compromise objectivity but rather complements it.

Subjectivity allows journalists to extend their stories beyond factual events, exploring various angles of a particular issue and allowing them to be more grounded in reality. News has multiple truths, and biases enable us to navigate across those various languages.

Going back to Linnitt’s piece, the interviewee, Callison, shared how claims of objectivity normalize one singular truth by using the example of the Wet’suwet’en people mobilizing against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Mainstream media outlets would name the Wet’suwet’en community “protesters.” But if they have never ceded their lands, is it fair to refer to them as such? Is it neutral to assume their behaviours? Sometimes, what we think to be objective is far from being the truth for others. Considering external realities contributes to deconstructing standardized perceptions. And yet, it requires concerns of subjectivity.

Stories need to be personified and less frigid. It is no coincidence that podcasts are so prominent these days: personal narratives contribute to connecting the audience with more emotions and agency. Storytelling enables journalists to share experiences and connect with people so they can make sense of ongoing events. In the article “Personal narrative journalism and podcasting,” Mia Lindgren, professor at Swinburne University of technology and editor for the Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media, suggests how subjective discourses allow the audience to witness experiences and relate to stories. It facilitates understanding and enforces empathy.

Journalistic institutions have the power over headlines; they decide how stories will be told and whose voices will be included. Journalism shapes the way society perceives the world. Hence, journalism must revisit objective narratives to include subjective stances, so subjectivity could coexist along with impartiality among news reporting. That being said, we still have ways to go in rethinking objectivity.

Initially, objective stances were proposed to deliver quick and concise facts to the audience. It is still predominant in journalistic practices as an efficient method to get to the point easily. As Brent Cunningham, managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, suggests in “Re-thinking Objectivity,” the concept also excuses “lazy reporting,” facilitates short deadlines, and protects journalists from the related consequences of stories.

But the truth is, stories are much more complex than facts and numbers. They involve multiple parties with various motives and tie back to messy backgrounds. And subjectivity enables us to dig deeper into those structures.


Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Decolonizing Canadian journalism

How Canadian journalism fails missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit, and trans women

Gabby Petito’s case has received national spotlight in the United States, and deservedly so. It is important as a society to be aware of cases involving missing and murdered people.

However, her case has also received national spotlight in Canada, and this country has its own pressing issues with the news coverage of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit, and trans women (MMIWGTSTW).

Indigenous women account for only 2 per cent of Canada’s population but are overrepresented as victims of physical and sexual violence and murder. In fact, Indigenous women aged 25–44 are “five times more likely to experience a violent death than any other [group of] Canadian women,” wrote researcher and community organizer Kristen Gilchrist-Salles in her research paper. Indigenous women and girls also represent 50 per cent of all sex trafficking victims in Canada. On top of this, there is a lack of statistics for Indigenous two-spirit and trans women, but that is another issue.

Despite these harrowing statistics, MMIWGTSTW receive disproportionately low news coverage in Canada compared to missing or murdered white women in terms of the amount and ways in which the coverage is formulated.. This speaks to how Canadian journalism fails Indigenous people and why the industry must be decolonized.

Unnewsworthy victims

Gilchrist’s 2010 study, “Newsworthy’ victims?,”  drew upon three cases each of missing and murdered Indigenous women and white women, and compared their coverage in Canadian news media.

In the sample of white women, they were referred to as victims 170 times on average, had 62 articles written on their cases on average, and the articles were an average of 713 words long.

Indigenous women were referred to as victims 27 times on average, had 18 articles written about their cases on average, and the articles were an average of 518 words long.

In addition, the articles that were written about Indigenous women tended to be hidden amongst advertisements and soft news.

The numbers for MMIWGTSTW are partly rooted in the searchlight phenomenon, where there is brief intensive coverage followed by a reporting void. This void exists because they are not newsworthy victims — they’re not white.

Anti-Indigenous framing

Dr. Yasmin Jiwani, a Communication Studies Professor at Concordia University, found in her 2008 study about gendered violence in Vancouver’s DTES that victims who were poor, sex workers, Indigenous, or some combination of the three were labeled by news media as ‘high-risk’ for experiencing violence.

This label implied that Indigenous women were experiencing violence because of their own ‘bad’ decisions, “rather than that they were put at risk by the social conditions and societal factors governing and shaping their lives,” wrote Dr. Jiwani in the study.

Conversely, Kwagu’ł scholar Dr. Sarah Hunt raises a point in an article she wrote for rabble, “Why are we so hesitant to name white male violence as a root cause, yet so comfortable naming all the ‘risk factors’ associated with the lives of Indigenous girls who have died? Why are we not looking more closely at the ‘risk factors’ that lead to violence in the lives of perpetrators?

According to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, “negative sexist and racist representations of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people are part of Canada’s colonial history.” Indigenous womanhood being conflated with sex work (which should not be taboo) creates a harmful stereotype, normalizing the physical and sexual violence against them.

In practice, this is what framing theory looks like: intentionally presenting Indigenous women as less newsworthy victims than white women in order to cause non-Indigenous readers to have a lack of empathy for them.

Calls to action

The first step to decolonizing Canadian journalism is following through with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) calls to action focusing on media and reconciliation. Calls to action 84-86 speak to the lack of Indigenous representation in the industry and its schools.

The specifics of this include, “ii. [i]ncreasing equitable access… to jobs, leadership positions, and professional development opportunities…” and, “iii. [providing] news coverage and online public information resources on issues of concern to Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians.”

When the TRC’s report was published in 2015, Indigenous peoples comprised only 1.5% of CBC’s employees. According to the 2016 Canadian census, Indigenous peoples comprised 4.9% of the population.”

CBC’s diversity and inclusion plan for 2015-18 aimed to address the lack of Indigenous peoples employed by the corporation by creating paid internships for Indigenous reporters at Radio-Canada and in television production (among other actions).

In 2018, Indigenous representation in the CBC workforce increased to 2.1 per cent, 2.3 per cent in 2019, and decreased to 2.2 per cent in 2020. The increase was minimal at best and there is still no CBC executive that identifies as Indigenous.

Indigenous peoples are underrepresented in an industry that is critical for their public perception. News media that reduces Indigenous peoples to a set of fixed attributes to define and frame them by is not ethical journalism.

Canadian journalists owe it to themselves, to the non-Indigenous Canadian public, and Indigenous peoples to provide MMIWGTSTW just news coverage due to the power they yield in shaping what people think.

Most importantly, however, coverage of Indigenous peoples should focus on the elements that make them human rather than solely victims. However, for issues such as MMIWGTSTW, the coverage that does occur must refrain from anti-Indigenous framing and must be given the same level of prioritization that white women receive in terms of the length of articles, its placement in a newspaper or website, and more.

Call to action 86 would help with this as it calls for Canadian journalism programs to incorporate mandatory education for all students about the country’s colonial past, present, and future. This could help create generations of journalists that would cover Indigenous with the same journalistic rigor and integrity white women are provided.

Decolonization in Canadian journalism begins with establishing Indigenous education frameworks in journalism schools and having proportionate representation in the workplace. It will be achieved when factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality do not result in disproportionate and skewed news coverage.


Feature graphic by James Fay


Shaping the war in Afghanistan

How does the Canadian perspective of Afghanistan relate to reality?

Afghanistan was at the forefront of media coverage in August and September as the Taliban seized Kabul. Yet only three months later — with the country on the verge of collapse — we see few headlines devoted to the humanitarian crisis exacerbated by decades of foreign invasion.

In September 2020, I had the opportunity to visit Afghanistan. While I could not ignore the risks associated with an active war zone, I wanted to see the country for myself, beyond the death and destruction central to Canadian media coverage. When I arrived in Kabul, my western perspective was immediately challenged. As someone who grew up in Canada, I relied on the news to relay information from overseas. So, I asked myself, why was I so surprised to see bustling markets and colourful homes rather than buildings reduced to rubble? It made me think — what do we Canadians really know about Afghanistan?

Canadian media coverage of Afghanistan is focused almost entirely on politics and military developments, rarely depicting civilian life. In part, this kind of reporting is fuelled by the sources used by journalists and the stories that come out of them. In a meta analysis of news articles published during the intervention in the country, nearly half the stories cited military and government officials as primary sources, and over 40 per cent did not include a secondary source.

Overlooking Kabul, September 2020. KATHLEEN GANNON/THE CONCORDIAN

The Canadian military has a vested interest in selling its success to the Canadian people. The easiest way to do so is by framing the information given to the media in a way that justifies the military’s operations in Afghanistan. While journalists do fact-check and challenge officials, this preferred narrative remains key to coverage of the conflict.

One way to get close is through embeds — journalists attached to military units. The process is far from impartial, as any reports from within an embed must be signed off by commanding officers.

Naturally, no incriminating information would be allowed to leak. Graeme Smith, once a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan for The Globe and Mail, recounted how the military soon became concerned with spin, sending out supervisors to accompany the journalists. Given this element of censorship, embedded journalists seem to serve solely as a military mouthpiece.

The majority of stories reported from Afghanistan favoured a top-down outlook. The problem is that there needed to be a variety of information that went beyond the military and political elite, in order to challenge the propaganda that promoted Canada’s presence in Afghanistan.

With the declared “War on Terror,” perceptions of the Islamic world began to shift. Afghans were vilified and the country was referred to as a failed state. In 2001, the National Post published an article by Mark Steyn titled “What the Afghans need is colonizing.” Alienating Afghanistan served to bolster Canadians’ support for the war and the atrocities that awaited. Inciting fear among Canadians — perpetuated by the media — permitted the government to disregard Afghans’ safety in the name of our own security.

Canadian reporting about Afghanistan is often episodic. It recounts a specific incident, usually involving death tolls and insurgency attacks. Canadian media lacked the context necessary to provide readers with an in-depth understanding of a conflict dating back to the ‘80s.

At the peak of the conflict in the late 2000s, with millions of dollars being poured into the country, why was only one Canadian journalist stationed there full-time? Smith was the only permanent reporter through 2006 to 2009, spending most of his time in the southern Taliban stronghold Kandahar. There is a revolving door of journalists covering the war in Afghanistan, yet few have the longevity to truly understand its implications.

Politicians portray themselves to be the only sources of correct information, leaving Canadians with a misrepresented understanding of Afghanistan. Readers are forced to assume the responsibility of piecing together fragments of a much bigger story.

Despite best interests to accurately portray the conflict, the country has long been ostracized by both politicians and the media. An overwhelming majority of stories reported in the 2000s were rooted in negativity, focused on the volatility and chaos of Afghanistan. A small portion was considered neutral, the positive stories nearly negligible.

News coverage has to do with proximity. When compassion only extends so far, journalists must seek out ways to connect readers to Afghanistan. Any human interest pieces coming out of the country must connect back to Canada in some way — refugees landing in Toronto, a translator to the Canadian Forces — and, usually, mentions the military.

In the end, people are drawn to disaster. Suicide bombings and military advancements are far more likely to captivate readers than a feature on an Afghan school for young girls. But playing into shock value inevitably slants coverage. While focusing on violent incidents may increase engagement with Afghanistan, it reinforces the narrative that the country is no more than a dangerous terrorist den.

When media coverage strips away humanity, it further alienates Afghanistan and its people from the international community. The stories told from Afghanistan favoured the Canadian perspective, failing to paint the bigger picture — 13 years of war and bloodshed. The Taliban’s road to reclaiming Afghanistan was paved by foreign intervention and its failures. Now, Afghans are left to fend for themselves and Canada has already turned the page.


Photos by Kathleen Gannon


Exploring the role of arts journalists as cultural mediators

Arts journalism should make cultural productions more accessible to the public

Commonly included at the end of a newscast or in the last pages of a newspaper, readers will often find arts journalism, a hybrid creature whose significance is, at times, forgotten. However, the capability of arts journalists to present new perspectives on societal issues makes them important mediators of culture and ideas.

Arts journalists stand between two different fields: the realm of arts and entertainment productions and the media. They can be described as intermediaries who relay information about art productions from the artist to the public. From this perspective, one could consider them to be producers of cultural meaning. Their responsibility could be defined as a mediator role, as described by scholars Thomas Hanitzsch and Tim P. Vos in their study of the different roles taken on by journalists. According to the authors, the mediators use their journalistic interventions to share ideas that are useful in creating social unity.

In the arts field, cultural mediators take on a role that can complement the idea of the mediating journalist. A cultural mediator builds bridges between pieces of art and the audience through different strategies such as guided tours or creative workshops. They also explore the social themes evoked by the artwork. Cultural mediation offers an all-inclusive approach to art, one that invites all members of the cultural field to participate in discussions and ideas related to artwork.

Arts journalists embracing this aspect of their practice is one step towards a better democratization of art. Enhanced accessibility is a good way to fight elitism within the arts field and to encourage more audience members to engage with a diversity of artistic practices.

However, not all arts journalism practices correspond to this model. Art critique writing, which has been central to arts journalism since its creation, can cultivate an inaccessibility of art. In fact, critics have often been considered as “gatekeepers,” especially when it comes to differentiating high art from low art, as defined by Finnish scholar Maarit Jaakkola.

While it is productive for those in the field to critique art productions amongst themselves in order to improve and evolve, it might not be the best approach when it comes to reaching a large audience. In fact, this approach enhances elitism and excludes certain visions and opinions.

Therefore, in order for arts journalism to play an important part in a democratization of arts and to become more accessible to the public, descriptive and analytic texts should take up more space than art critique. Since art productions are often open to interpretation, the vision of one single critique on a piece restricts the variety of meanings available to the public.

In a study by Andreas Widholm, Kristina Riegert and Anna Roosvall, the authors described an increased tendency amongst arts journalists to move towards more descriptive articles, ones that resemble typical news pieces. While an article with a deeper analysis offers broader information on the artist’s inspiration for a work of art, a shorter descriptive piece is more accessible for individuals who may be not as well versed in the arts.

Raymond Bertin, editor-in-chief for the JEU live arts magazine, explained that his publication produces long format articles for their printed publication that provide background information and analysis on complex debates. They also propose critiques that are available on their website two days after the premier of a show.

Analyses, like those proposed in JEU’s printed publications, can arguably provide new perspectives on societal issues. Scholar Chantal Mouffe argues that all artistic productions are political in the context of an agonistic democracy. This term refers to productive conflicts in the political sphere that question the current power structures in place. Arts journalists are embedded in this process as they bring forth these artistic ideas through mass media with the prospect of inciting productive discussions.

Riegert, Roosvall, and Widholm conducted a study in Sweden amongst veteran arts journalism editors from different media platforms. They interviewed them on their impressions regarding the political value of arts journalism. Their research compiled various visions which all explored arts journalism as a necessary complement to daily news. The editors that were interviewed believed this type of journalism was necessary to analyze social and political issues more deeply. Thus, most of them embraced both the objective and subjective aspects of arts journalism as it would question assumed paradigms. These visions confirmed the important role that arts journalists play as educators and mediators.

Some observers consider there to be a crisis in the current state of arts journalism. Jaakkola analyzed the published literature on this subject and discovered five main problematic poles in the current practice of cultural journalism. One of them, commercialization, is defined by Jaakkola as the simple promotion of cultural products to support the entertainment industry. The author explains that scholars are concerned that, from this perspective, journalists would be used by publicists to promote blockbuster productions.

A cultural journalist acting as a mediator would instead intend to deconstruct a work of art to delineate its political and social implications, therefore surpassing its promotion, and  highlighting thoughts and debates related to the work.

Articles produced for outlets like JEU or in the literature magazine Lettres Québécoises, aim to develop a deeper understanding of art. Annabelle Moreau is the former editor-in-chief for Lettres Québécoises and the director of the Société de développement des périodiques culturels québécois, the organization that brings together arts magazines in Quebec.

According to Moreau, one of the most prominent issues these outlets face is distribution. The association developed a distribution network for these productions to promote them among bookstores and other retailers. Nevertheless, their reach remains limited, especially in a digital era which constantly sees new individuals entering the media sphere.

Therefore, cultural magazines can be considered as a media production parallel to arts journalism produced in mainstream media. They have the freedom to offer insight on specific artistic ideas and issues, which is not always the case in larger newsrooms. While the separation of cultural magazines from mainstream media protects their independence and freedom, it also perpetuates the elitist aura surrounding the arts sphere. A more inclusive approach to longer forms of arts journalism would be pertinent to reach a broader audience and fulfill the mediator role of arts journalists.

Collaboration between mainstream media and smaller magazines could serve as a solution towards a democratization of arts through media productions which would give greater visibility to arts journalism while also making room for political and social analyses.

There is a conversation to be had between arts journalists and scholars, one that needs to foster reflection and offer different strategies in order to allow arts journalism to reach its full potential.


Graphic courtesy James Fay


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

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