To modernize Canadian journalism, we must first modernize Canadian j-schools
In my last newsletter of this year, I reveal my latest teaching gig at a top-notch journalism school in Toronto.
Hey y’all! Anita here. I’m taking a brief hiatus from The Other Wave for the holidays, so I’ll see everyone in 2021 (fingers crossed it’ll be far better than 2020 a.k.a. The Year of Sweatpants). In the meantime, until we connect again on Jan. 10, please make sure you get some festive R&R with your loved ones 🎅🎄🕎 🎁
My insider’s approach
As the year draws to a close, I’ve been in the thick of marking end-of-semester assignments for a Centennial College capsule I’m teaching that’s focused on community-driven journalism and covering underrepresented communities. Until I was asked to teach my very first course in late 2019, I’d never planned on becoming an educator, so falling in love with the craft took me by surprise.
Throughout the fall, I’ve been meeting with my classes of early 20-something students almost every week over Zoom. Having worked at both Centennial in Toronto and Durham College in Oshawa, one of the things I miss most about teaching in-person are the casual side conversations I have with students about their hobbies, their stressors, their interests, their dreams.
It hasn’t been that long since I graduated from j-school, specifically with a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University, in 2011. Just a decade ago, the Canadian media landscape was still quite homogeneous and traditional, but things have changed radically since then. At the time, my profs often implicitly and sometimes explicitly told students that there was only one respectable path forward: working in legacy newsrooms.
But it’s different today. Now, there’s a rapidly growing independent digital media ecosystem that’s challenging status quo best practices in Canadian journalism. The rise of the “passion economy” and niche publications mean more young journalists are taking the less-beaten path, and launching their own media products. And COVID-19 has kickstarted a global shift to remote work, which means Canadian journalists will more frequently seek employment at non-Canadian publications.
Young journalists’ mindsets about (1) what’s considered a prestigious place to work, (2) what they prioritize in a work environment and even (3) what’s considered good journalism, also seem to have evolved considerably since I was their age. Last month, I virtually attended two Ryerson University School of Journalism networking events as an industry expert. Both times, half a dozen students peppered me with questions about my experience as news director at Complex, a New York-based media company that covers urban youth culture. Far fewer asked me about my time at CBC, The Globe and Mail, CTV and The Toronto Star.
In just over a year of teaching journalism, I’ve found students to be quite inspirational. They’re often kind, open-minded and empathetic, and very willing to listen to other perspectives (not to mention grounded enough to accept others’ differences). I see education as an opportunity to directly impact the future of Canadian journalism by influencing future generations of Canadian journalists. As Canadian Journalists of Colour and the Canadian Association of Black Journalists say in our joint Calls to Action, “Addressing the lack of representation in Canadian newsrooms starts with Canadian journalism schools. Our educational institutions serve as a talent pipeline for media outlets, and also teach current best practices in journalism.”
At the various j-schools for which I’ve worked and guest-lectured, I’ve taught alongside some dedicated educators who are deeply invested in the success of their students. That said, I’ve also occasionally heard “young people these days”-type complaints from those who have a hard time understanding and getting along with them.
I find that baffling. Students, like all people, deserve to be listened to with respect — and they’ll largely respond in kind if they sense that. Industry leaders could also stand to listen to younger journalists more often. Beyond their knowledge of new tech, they have a natural tendency towards collaboration and compassion, which will serve as the foundation of the future of journalism.
My outsider’s approach
In addition to teaching at Canadian j-schools, I’m also proud to be an instructor at the City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism because of its progressive and innovative approach to journalism education. Not only are my colleagues best in class, CUNY empowers me to incorporate my front-line knowledge and original research as an industry innovator into my lessons.
Case in point: I was most recently a core instructor for the school’s Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program. Topics I covered included: understanding lean startup methodologies, creating audience funnels, developing user personas, conducting market research and applying design thinking to news product development.
I also taught media executives at both emerging and establishment publications — including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Der Spiegel, Financial Times and ProPublica — about audience engagement and revenue trends in journalism industries around the world as part of CUNY’s Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership.
All this to say, I bring the knowledge and networks from my American teaching experiences to Canada, so journalists here can benefit from them, too.
It's time. It’s time for a journalism conference in Canada that’s focused on celebrating journalists of colour and reimagining an equitable future for the media industry. That’s why the Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ) and Canadian Journalists of Colour (CJOC) are excited to host our inaugural joint conference on May 1, 2021.
Interested in sponsoring or volunteering at RISE? Want to submit programming ideas? Click here to learn more.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching Journalism Innovation to grad students at Ryerson University in Toronto, starting in the New Year! There are so many rad editorial and business innovations coming out of Canadian media right now that I’d love to feature in my class. So, journos, please reply to this email and send me work you’re most proud of. Thanks in advance.
In my community
Press Forward, a new national association that aims to “unify, elevate and advocate for independent journalism organizations in Canada” announced its official launch earlier this month; it was previously known as the Independent Media Association of Canada, which grew out of a June 2019 gathering of 45 industry stakeholders, myself included
The Washington Post’s Zeus Technology is a media-monetization platform that claims to improve the “viewability” and performance of ads on a site; a company rep told the Press Gazette that Zeus can help clients challenge the market dominance of Google and Facebook (for more on that ongoing saga, read this newsletter from TOW’s archives)
The National Assembly of Quebec’s Committee on Culture and Education recently tabled its report on the future of news media, which looks at five major themes: financing of journalism organizations, media business models in the digital age, support for local news, independence of Quebec press and the public’s right to information
Cool stuff I like
I’m an avid reader of The.Ink, a thought-provoking newsletter by TIME editor-at-large and former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas that looks at the intersection of politics, culture, money and power; it also regularly features Q&As with incisive thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Michael Sandel
Joan Didion’s timeless 1961 essay “On Self-Respect” is my favourite piece of writing to re-read by a long shot; it gets to the heart of how to take responsibility for your decisions, how to live a life free from other people's expectations and how to do you
Even with the Trump cameo, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is the better Home Alone for holiday viewing — come @ me
Many thanks to Jodi Heimpel-Butts for becoming The Other Wave’s newest monthly paying supporter.
How you can support The Other Wave
My professional mission has always been to support the global movement towards more thoughtful, impactful news coverage, and all the ways that manifests. If The Other Wave gets you to think even a little differently about journalism, especially in Canada, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do. And if TOW gets you to take action and support Canadian media outlets — especially ones that strive to be innovative and inclusive — I will have exceeded my expectations.
The Other Wave is entirely reader-funded, so this holiday season, please consider donating to support fiercely independent media criticism and analysis that fills in gaps in coverage of the Canadian journalism landscape.
See ya in 4 weeks,