What Jonathan Kay Has Wrong About Diversity in Journalism

On diversity (lack thereof) within the media:

In a recent appearance on Jesse Brown’s Canadaland podcast, newly installed Walrus editor Jonathan Kay discussed with Brown the homogeneity of the people writing for that magazine (and other mainstream outlets) in the country. Most of the young writers he meets, Kay said, are “people who grew up in privileged households.” The typical pattern, he added, is that writing is something young people do on their way to law school.

Increasing diversity in workplaces will require leadership, risk-taking and time. It will require creating opportunities for younger, less proven journalists to take on assignments more challenging than what they’ve done before.

Kay or anyone else in a management position who just throws up his hands when confronted with the diversity conundrum should come visit the Etobicoke college campus where I teach—or just about any other journalism school in the country.

Canada’s journalism schools, not to mention independent campus newspapers and radio stations, are filled with people from almost every imaginable background—people trying to enter a field where job opportunities seem to be dwindling and salaries are stagnating. This is not because they don’t understand the situation but because they are passionate about what journalism, at its best, can and should do.

There is no reliable data specific to Canada that I’m aware of to support or refute this—there doesn’t seem to be much after former Ryerson professor John Miller’s Diversity Watch project which hasn’t been updated in 10 years—but a perception exists that there is a disparity in who gets jobs. “Journalism schools are pumping out so many visible minorities and plenty of women, and they do not get jobs the way white kids do,” Hazlitt managing editor Scaachi Koul was quoted by J-Source as saying at a recent Massey College Press Club event in Toronto on the generational gap in Canadian journalism.

…If Kay’s assertion that there are very few good essayists in the country is true, then why not use his position, resources and experience to develop new voices? Instead, when Brown asked Kay to name some people he would like to add to the Walrus’s roster, two of the three people he mentioned were Conrad Black and Rex Murphy—both of whom are exemplars of the status quo. (Not to mention bad writers.)

Kay’s comments are a perfect example of what Don Heider was writing about: someone who is not necessarily opposed to change but has no good reason, personally, professionally or politically, to act.

To give credit where credit is due, The Walrus, with Jon Kay’s support, has been particularly helpful in providing advice to New Canadian Media.

What Jonathan Kay Has Wrong About Diversity in Journalism – New Canadian Media – NCM.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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