Engage the ethnic press to combat vaccine hesitancy

Star has been featuring a number of similar op-eds, this being the latest:

In recent days, doctors across Canada have been calling for “culturally competent” campaigns to fight vaccine hesitancy. But we need much more than that.

In long-term-care homes, there have been reports of personal support workers (PSWs) refusing to be vaccinated — despite the fact they work in high-risk environments. Many essential workers, including PSWs, are from highly racialized populations.

Some of the worst COVID-19 hot spots across the country have been in population centres with high counts of new Canadians and immigrants.

Knowing that, you might imagine that governments would be placing public health announcements in as many ethnic publications as possible. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

The Government of Canada only advertises in 11 languages aside from English and French. There are far too many outlets who aren’t receiving any government ads to share with their readership. As some doctors have reported from firsthand experience, the outreach to ethnic outlets has been, in some cases, non-existent.

When the pandemic hit, ethnic media was particularly affected. Most advertisers for ethnic newspapers, radio shows and TV shows are small businesses, hosts of events and conventions — all sectors hit particularly hard from the get-go.

Though some government assistance reached some members of the ethnic press, for far too many, the collapse of advertising was too much to bear. Many outlets weren’t eligible for any government assistance.

What that has meant is that outlets have closed, gone purely digital, cut their publication schedules, laid off staff, cut circulation or some combination thereof.

Day-to-day, this has meant less access to reliable and accurate news for new Canadians and immigrants. Non-English-speaking seniors, who relied on their printed ethnic newspaper to stay informed, have seen their access to news yanked away or reduced.

Even worse is that even if they are still getting a paper, it doesn’t necessarily contain accurate information from government sources — information that is going to be critical as we continue the fight against COVID-19 and misinformation about the vaccine.

While misinformation has spread, ethnic reporters have been laid off. We have tracked this — layoffs now reach as high as 80 per cent. Fewer staff means less news for the outlets who have managed to survive.

There is no magic bullet to fix vaccine hesitancy, but engaging the ethnic press will help in communities that need it. It’s not just about dollars — we need the government to send public health experts onto ethnic shows, press releases to be translated into as many languages as possible and regular government-led briefings for ethnic media.

And yes, we need to keep ethnic publications afloat and help them return to their pre-pandemic publishing schedules.

Canada’s Chinese language press isn’t just combating misinformation from Canada, it’s combating misinformation from around the world. The same goes for outlets publishing in Polish, Spanish and every other language under the sun.

The best way to fight fake news is with the truth. Ethnic journalists are ready to work to spread it in as many languages as possible.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/02/01/engage-the-ethnic-press-to-combat-vaccine-hesitancy.html

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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