Daresay - Deb Meissner

Daresay - Deb Meissner

Panel helps navigation of reporting on racism issues

I attended a panel discussion this week with 57 of my Black Press colleagues on the topic of racism and how to cover the myriad of situations we are all living in, and as journalists, are reporting on.

It was a fascinating discussion from a panel that included people from different cultures, races, religions, and points of view. Most of the panel was from larger centres such as Toronto, and the panel did not include either rural representation or Indigenous panel members. I realize this was a “first step” on a huge topic that will require follow-up meetings and discussions, and many of our reporters are in larger cities and towns than ours.

I did get many ideas, a better understanding of the complex issues, and appreciated the dialogue. Knowing it is the first step is encouraging, but I felt this panel left out our more rural and regional challenges.

I got the sense from the panel members that they view most of Canada as being in larger, more culturally diverse metropolitan areas, and “we” (being rural areas) don’t have the same issues.

I beg to differ. The Bulkley Valley is rich in many cultures, religions, ethnic and sexually diverse backgrounds. I think for the most part we work together to find common ground and understand our differences, and do so with a fair amount of tolerance if nothing else.

No, we are not perfect, and yes, there is racism here. We need to acknowledge that fact. How we each think, evolves over time. With information, honest discussions, and respect, we understand issues better than we did the day before. We change.

My personal challenge is how to report and write fairly, be sensitive, culturally aware, objective, and interesting and to do that in a small town.

This industry (media) reminds me a lot of the Fast and Furious series of movies, each week the paper is published, with landmines going off, cars flying through the air, people chasing around, jumping off cliffs and it’s a death-defying gamble each week we put the paper out. Someone is always going to take to social media and eviscerate one of us, no matter how we cover the news.

That’s quite a stretch, I realize, but for a first-year journalist, this has been a tough one, and it is not getting any easier.

The general mistrust of the media over the last few years was heightened during COVID, and as most people were at home, events to cover were few. People took to keyboards, and social media to vent frustrations, and hate speech of all kinds.

Rural communities felt the effects as much as any other. I personally think in a small town, you feel the effects more, as you know who your neighbours are, and division between people’s views, beliefs and prejudices have ruined friendships and divided families over this past two years, especially.

It has also been a time of enlightenment or realization, of a whole host of abhorrent past behaviours and practices. At times, trying to report these issues has brought tears to my eyes, sorrow to my heart, and anger to my soul. To not write stories that show all that is very difficult.

That is why I hope the next panel will include rural reporting, and perhaps have an Indigenous panel or panel member. Our topics of coverage are multifaceted, complex, and oftentimes include our neighbours, friends, or, at the very least people, we know.

In our office, there are four of us in total, so city ideals of normal reporting don’t really apply. Thom is our editor and reports, I report, Grant is our multi-job titled publisher and Sabrina keeps us all going in the right direction as office manager.

(Marisca is on maternity leave and is our long-time reporter). We try to get it all right, to cover it all, and we know when we don’t, we will hear from you.