How Canadian Journalists of Colour grew from a grassroots Facebook group into a major force for change
The definitive history of CJOC’s beginnings from 2018 to 2021.
Hey y’all! Anita here. I’m feeling invigorated after getting together with my fellow Online News Association board members for our first meetings of 2022 late last week. It’s inspiring to see such great humans leading change in our industry with compassion, nimbleness and groundedness. 💖
That’s why, for this edition of The Other Wave, I felt compelled to share the story of how I came to co-found Canadian Journalists of Colour, a support and resource-sharing network for racialized media-makers across Canada. Despite starting off as little more than a grassroots Facebook group in 2018, CJOC went on to make a broad impact in Canadian journalism through its community-building and advocacy for greater equity in the industry. The group was a huge labour of love for me, so I put a lot of time and a bit of money into getting it off the ground.
My intention, in sharing this journey, is to provide a change-agent roadmap. Of course, what worked for us might not work for you, but hopefully you’ll find valuable insights below. I’m someone who keeps meticulous records of my work and correspondence, so those of you who are interested in getting more insight into CJOC’s founding for your own organizing purposes, feel free to contact me directly. It’s also been nearly a year since I stepped down from CJOC’s executive committee in February 2021, so what better time than now for a retrospective?
CJOC originated with two co-founders, myself and fellow journalist Sadiya Ansari. We are working together at The Discourse, and begin talking about forming some sort of group for journalists of colour in Canada.
Before we come up with a name for the group, in early October, Sadiya and I invite over two dozen journalists to attend a kickoff event on the evening of Oct. 18 at a bar in Toronto’s west end.
In an email to Sadiya, I write, “I'm still committed to our idea to start this off as a general meetup plus Facebook group, while also giving members opportunities to co-create activities/events if that's what they want.”
Sadiya and I add this blurb to our group’s About page, which remains there today: “Through this group, our goal is to build a network of BIPOC journalists in Canada because it's something that's been missing from the Canadian media landscape for far too long, and is sorely needed. We want to create a supportive community and safe environment for us to talk about whatever — whether that's working through story ideas, sharing links to resources, posting job opportunities, offering mentorship to younger journos or just kvetching about the industry. We also encourage members to co-create and collaborate with us. This group is what you make of it.”
We start receiving messages from enthusiastic journalists of colour across Canada who want to get involved with CJOC.
From here on out, I maintain our private Facebook group on a daily basis for nearly three years. With the support of the executive committee, I review and admit members, share job opportunities, respond to member posts and more.
Our group is officially named “Canadian Journalists of Colour” after it receives the most votes from members.
Lela Savić joins CJOC’s executive committee, and launches CJOC Montréal after merging her existing diversity-focused journalism Facebook group with CJOC.
Anya Zoledziowski joins CJOC’s executive committee, and begins planning events in Edmonton.
CJOC hosts a mixer at Vice headquarters in Toronto on Nov. 22.
CJOC Montréal hosts a meetup on Dec. 3.
CJOC members in Edmonton host a meetup on Dec. 12.
Cherise Seucharan, who joined CJOC’s executive committee when our Facebook group was formed, launches CJOC Vancouver.
CJOC members in Edmonton host a meetup on Feb. 7.
CJOC Vancouver hosts a meetup on Feb. 19.
CJOC hosts a panel event about job interviews and pitching stories at HuffPost Canada headquarters in Toronto on Feb. 13. The panel features journalism leaders Seema Patel, Andree Lau, Eternity Martis and Jason A. Chiu.
I invite the Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ) to join our Facebook group, and to collaborate with CJOC.
Natasha Grzincic, who attended our October 2018 kickoff event and has been integral to organizing CJOC activities as a member of our executive committee since our Facebook group was formed, is officially recognized as Founding Member of CJOC.
CJOC Vancouver hosts its Skillshare Series: Social Media Edition event on April 3.
CJOC hosts a mixer at The Globe and Mail headquarters in Toronto on April 29.
CJOC Montréal hosts a meetup on May 30.
Celina Gallardo designs CJOC’s official logo and branding. (Bye, SpongeBob!)
CJOC Vancouver hosts a meetup on June 20.
I have my first of many meetings with CABJ executive director Nadia Stewart.
CJOC groups start forming at postsecondary schools across Canada that have journalism programs and campus papers.
CJOC partners with University of Toronto at Scarborough Prof. Sherry Yu on a study that explores newsroom diversity with journalists of colour in Canada.
CJOC hosts a mixer at Vice headquarters in Toronto on Nov. 6.
CJOC members in Edmonton host a meetup on Nov. 14.
CJOC and DiversifyCBC co-host a mixer at a restaurant in Toronto’s downtown core on Jan. 21.
CJOC and CABJ co-release Canadian Media Diversity: Calls to Action on Jan. 28. My announcement tweet attracts hundreds of retweets and likes from high-profile journalists, media unions, journalism educators, as well as members of the news-consuming public in Canada and around the world. Media requests from smaller news outlets start to come in.
CABJ approaches CJOC about co-organizing a conference for journalists of colour in Canada. Planning begins after we secure initial funding from CWA Canada. (I won’t write out the timeline for our conference since it involved a lot of planning, such as creating the vision, hiring a conference organizer, enlisting volunteers, planning programming, securing sponsorship and more, but I’m happy to answer any questions.)
Peggy Lam launches CJOC Winnipeg.
I open an account with C4C Canada in order to accept donations to CJOC.
After the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020, CJOC and CABJ resurface our Calls to Action. Media requests from major news outlets start to come in, and establishment Canadian journalism outlets begin contacting our organizations to set up consultation meetings to discuss how to implement the CTAs in their newsrooms (initial consultations and check-in meetings continue throughout the rest of the year).
CJOC and CABJ co-release a statement, “The statements are good, but not enough.”
Sadiya hosts “Navigating the newsroom when covering racial injustice,” a virtual panel event featuring top journalists Andray Domise, Nana aba Duncan, Adrian Harewood and Kathleen Newman-Bremang.
CJOC Winnipeg hosts a meetup on July 23.
CJOC signs an editorial titled “The clear and present danger of blanket impartiality,” alongside six other journalism groups under the newly formed Canadian Journalists Anti-Racism Coalition.
I step down from CJOC’s executive committee, which I announce in this edition of The Other Wave, and transfer administrative ownership over all CJOC’s properties to the remaining members. I continue to remain an active member of the group.
April to May 2021
CJOC and CABJ host RISE, our inaugural joint conference for and by racialized journalists, from April 30 to May 1.
Creating CJOC was an essential part of my development as a news entrepreneur since much of the work I did as co-founder informs my approach to The Green Line. It was a heck of a ride that taught me so much about myself as a journalist, organizer, leader and human being — one that I’ll never forget. Thanks to everyone who was part of this incredible journey. I’m forever grateful, and also excited to see how CJOC continues to evolve and serve its community, going forward.
RSA Canada’s Changemaker Series: Meet the speakers
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, the Royal Society of Arts is launching a Changemaker Series for Canada! Register here for our free virtual kickoff event, “Building Trust in Communities,” which takes place this Thursday, Jan. 27.
Paid opportunities: TGL Fellows and feature reporters
The Green Line is currently looking for a talented investigative and/or feature reporter based in Toronto who specializes in labour issues. We offer competitive freelance rates, and are interested in long-form pitches that tackle a systemic labour issue in the city through a solutions lens.
The Green Line is also hiring Business Development Innovation Fellows, as well as News Innovation Fellows who are interested in reporting on digital communities, e/sports and sneakers, especially through a Toronto lens. I’m prioritizing applicants who identify as being from underrepresented communities in Toronto, which in this context means people who don’t see themselves reflected in legacy local media.
If you want to learn more about either of these opportunities, feel free to contact me for more information. Or if you’re interested, please send me your resume, cover letter and links to three clips (multimedia is preferred for Fellows applicants and longform is preferred for labour-reporter applicants).
In my community
I’m excited to share that I’ll be speaking on two panels at the International Journalism Festival in Italy this April: “How local news can empower civic engagement and the fight against misinformation” and “How North American newsrooms are operationalizing diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Fellow Canadian journalists Martha Troian and David Weisz are hiring a mid-career journalist for their fantastic collaborative journalism project Surviving Hate, which seeks to fill the data gap on hate crimes in Canada.
David Grant, manager of the Meta Journalism Project Accelerator Program, asked me to share this job posting for a Program Manager “to manage training programs that guide and inspire news organizations of all sizes from all over the world to grow their businesses and reach sustainability.”
Read “Building a team where engineers work side by side with journalists” by my industry peer and kindred spirit Tassos Morfis, who’s developing an audience engagement platform that enables journalists to “listen” better to the communities they serve. Then check out “Local newsrooms are pillars of a local community, they should act more like that” by Tassos’ co-founder Spyros Tzortzis.
Cool stuff I like
Listen to this Ontario Nonprofit Network podcast episode titled “Reimagining Governance.” It features my dear friend and all-around badass Erin Kang who’s also the ONN’s manager of networks and special projects.
The latest edition of No Mercy / No Malice — another one of my favourite newsletters — is so good, so provocative that I’ll just leave you with an excerpt: “The line between vision and fraud is only drawn in hindsight. We set arbitrary deadlines for entrepreneurs to deliver on their vision, and their vision only becomes fraud when we say time’s up. What if [Theranos’ Elizabeth] Holmes, with five more years and another billion dollars, shipped a working product?”
I highly recommend reading Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, the latest pick for my book club focused on Indigenous authors. It’s an iconic, visceral and thought-provoking play by Tomson Highway that was first produced in 1989.
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.
If my values and goals resonate with you, please consider supporting fiercely independent media analysis that fills in gaps in coverage of the Canadian journalism landscape. How? Feel free to provide feedback, pass along resources, donate money or simply share this newsletter with your friends.