JHR’s Indigenous Reporters Program wraps an extraordinary year
I’m now a full-time reporter here at Aboriginal Peoples‘ Television Network and I am deeply grateful to JHR for providing me the internship opportunity that got me here.” — Jaydon Flett (APTN, Winnipeg)
Jaydon is a graduate from the National Screen Institute’s New Voices Program. As a journalist, she has reported for the morning news broadcast at Breakfast Television and was commissioned to co-produce a documentary for the National Screen Institute. Upon completing her three month internship at Aboriginal People’s Television Network, the organization hired the 19 year old Cree woman, making her one of the youngest reporters in the newsroom.
The link from school to job? Journalists for Human Rights’ Indigenous Reporting Program. And Flett is just one of our nation’s young Indigenous journalists who have received training, scholarship opportunities or a chance at a coveted media internship through JHR’s Indigenous media work.
This is the kind of change that JHR Senior Project Manager Robin Pierro had in mind when brainstorming ways to bring JHR’s award-winning method of media development home from Africa to work with Indigenous communities in Canada.
“It all started as an idea,” said Pierro. “How to ensure that Indigenous people in Canada are not just reported on, but are leading the conversation when it comes to their issues.”
Pierro worked with JHR youth coordinator Ken Zolotar, Joyce Hunter, then of Wawatay Native Communications Society, and JHR Executive Director Rachel Pulfer to launch a small pilot initiative to supply media training to remote reserve communities in Northern Ontario, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The goal was to give voice to Indigenous youth through media skills development, while building bridges between mainstream media and the Indigenous community in Thunder Bay.
The project has since scaled to a three-province initiative, supported by the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation, Ontario Trillium Foundation, RBC Foundation and CC UNESCO.
One key goal is to create a pathway of opportunity for Canadian Indigenous youth to pursue careers in media. The pathway takes would-be Indigenous reporters from remote reserve training through scholarships and educational opportunities to internships that, in Flett’s case, led directly to a job.
Another goal is training non-Indigenous journalists on how best to cover Indigenous issues. This aspect of the project responds directly to recent findings of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As indicated here in this excellent op-ed by Toronto Star Public Editor Kathy English, data from the TRC points the finger squarely at Canadian media for at best, ignoring Indigenous issues, and at worst, perpetuating stereotypes and racism in the Canadian press.
“I have been pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm we’ve seen [from mainstream Canadian journalists]” says Program Manager Miles Kenyon. “We’ve been welcomed into newsrooms from CTV Winnipeg to the Globe and Mail. It is really encouraging to see people recognize the need for change – and want to be at the forefront of it.”
In the past year, Kenyon and team have conducted 27 workshops and trained 235 non-Indigenous journalists on best practices in covering Indigenous issues. To date, journalists who attended these workshops have produced more than 50 stories on issues ranging from rising mercury levels on First Nations land to the growing need for better understanding on treaty rights.
JHR has, further, coordinated eight three-month internships for emerging Indigenous reporters at media outlets across Canada, awarded eight scholarships to attend post-secondary education in media and trained 150 non-Indigenous journalists in how to better report on Indigenous communities.
JHR worked with program consultants and professional journalists Duncan McCue and Angela Sterritt on vocational training documents, while developing university-level curriculum for a semester-long course on reporting on Indigenous communities for Trent University and course modules for the School of Journalism at Ryerson University. Training is supported by JHR’s online training portal, Dibaajimo.com, which was developed in partnership with Accenture’s Skills to Succeed program.
April Johnson grew up on and off reserve, splitting her time between the Muskoka First Nation Reserve in Northern Saskatchewan and communities in B.C. She’s also a graduate of Loyalist College’s intensive journalism program courtesy a JHR scholarship, and currently interning at Global Saskatoon.
“Indigenous peoples have always been storytellers,” Johnson says. “Our generation is fortunate to have new tools and technologies to share our unique perspective to the world — on our own terms! What better time than now to make a splash?”