Elghawaby: Racial diversity is good for business but CTV, Bell Media got it horribly wrong

Of note. One of the good aspects of the CAJ surveys is that we will start being able to track trends, just as government has been able to do with respect to the public service and the federally-regulated sectors.

Haven’t looked at j-school diversity trends but hopefully will be able to do so in the 2021 census:

Angry reactions to the sudden ousting of decorated broadcaster Lisa LaFlamme from her job as CTV’s chief news anchor and senior editor haven’t abated. 

In fact, a new Dove Canada campaign encouraging people to turn social filters grey in solidarity with women “being edged out of the workplace” has added renewed energy to online chatter. That’s due to speculation that LaFlamme’s decision to keep her silver locks was among the possible reasons for her sudden dismissal.

Whether it was her hair, her strength, or her salary, what most people agree is that LaFlamme’s firing reeks of discrimination rooted in sexism and ageism.

What has been largely lost amidst the justified uproar is a full embrace of the channel’s first-ever racialized male national news anchor. 

As Global News reporter Ahmar Khan tweeted: “Omar Sachedina is very much deserving of the role and is well-respected amongst journalists, but Bell Media’s treatment of Lisa LaFlamme overshadows it all. A Muslim man helming the biggest National news program — history. But, diversity doesn’t cover the gaps of mistreatment.”

Khan was reacting to the instant blowback Sachedina received to his poorly timed tweet announcing his new role. 

For racialized communities, who are too often missing from Canada’s newsrooms, particularly in leadership positions, it feels impossible to celebrate this historic moment. 

Yet, it’s critical to remember how far behind the nation’s newsrooms are when it comes to representation and inclusion. A lack of diversity hurts both their bottom lines and our democracy.

A 2021 paper from the World Economic Forum titled,“Tackling Diversity and Inclusion in the Newsroom,” explored how racial diversity is crucial to the success of the media industry.

“The Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism education and research organization, reports that trust in the media is particularly low in communities that have long felt ignored or misrepresented by mainstream news outlets. News outlets cannot expect to hold or grow the attention of a diverse group of readers without accounting for their diversity in the newsgathering and news reporting process,” reads the paper. 

It goes on to point to a 2018 study from the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which shows how diverse companies outperform those that aren’t as diverse, leading to a 36 per cent increase of profitability. This is often attributed to healthier work environments, which foster growth and innovation.

In Canada, we’re barely even catching up to the racial realities of our newsrooms, as the Canadian Association of Journalists pointed out last year in one of the most comprehensive analyses of newsroom diversity ever published (in which Bell Media’s CTV refused to participate).

That survey collected race-based data on 3,783 journalists in 209 newsrooms and the results were disheartening. It found that almost half of all Canadian newsrooms exclusively employed white journalists, and that about nine in 10 newsrooms have no Latin, Middle Eastern or mixed race journalists on staff. 

About eight in 10 newsrooms have no Black or Indigenous journalists; two-thirds have no Asian people on staff. Eighty per cent of newsrooms have no visible minority journalists in any of the top-three editorial positions: editor-in-chief, executive producer, or deputy editor.

This impacts the quality of political news we receive, with racialized candidates viewed as “outsiders.” This biased lens means they receive more negative coverage than white candidates, according to Erin Tolley, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, and author of the 2016 book, “Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics.”

So, for communities sometimes underserved or stereotyped by mainstream media, it’s a good day when a racialized journalist steps into a leadership role.

Except when it happens under circumstances like the one both Sachedina and LaFlamme found themselves in. That’s on Bell Media.

Source: Racial diversity is good for business but CTV, Bell Media got it horribly wrong

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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