Currently viewing the tag: "Jody Porter"

By LEAH HANSEN
Special to the RJRC

Journalist Jody Porter speaks at the Ryerson School of Journalism on Sept. 16 (Photo: Cait Martin Newnham)

Journalist Jody Porter speaks at the Ryerson School of Journalism on Sept. 16 (Photo: Cait Martin Newnham)

Students crowded into the Venn last week for CBC journalist Jody Porter’s talk on how indigenous issues are covered in Canadian media.

“Stories about indigenous people in this country rarely satisfy editors unless the main character is dead, drunk or drumming,” said Porter, who is based in Thunder Bay. “I’m not sure the newsrooms in this country are prepared to spend the necessary resources to get at the stories that Canadians have yet to hear from Indigenous peoples in this country.”

Porter’s presentation, which was organized by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre, focused on the four central components of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) summary report, including an awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm inflicted, atonement for the cause and action to change.

“For the day-to-day coverage of Indigenous issues, we as journalists should have a working knowledge of the Truth and Reconciliation report,” Porter said.

Even the simple terminology used by journalists is important in framing the tone of media coverage, Porter said, and suggested the journalists try to refer to groups of people as specifically as possible. “The way that we as journalists are introducing people frames our stories, and the way we introduce people to our readers, our audience, frames their perceptions,” she said.

Although the TRC report has made journalists more aware of the complexities and challenges of reporting on indigenous issues, there is still more educators can do to ensure that young journalists are prepared to cover Indigenous issues. Inciting honest curiosity about the issues in their students is one of the most important things, Porter said.

The first step in telling stories affecting indigenous peoples is knowing that those stories are layered, said Porter. Many reporters approach indigenous issues with the opinion that they “get it,” she said.

Porter’s experience in reporting on indigenous issues spans almost two decades, and began at community newspapers across Canada before she settled at CBC in Thunder Bay.

Porter, who is the editor of Strength and Struggle: Perspectives from First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Canada, has created social experiments on and off the air that take people out of their cultural comfort zones. CBC Thunder Bay’s Common Ground Café series, for example, brought strangers together to make a meal and discuss race relations in the city.

Even now, she is constantly discovering new ways to cover issues, she said.

“The best piece of advice I can offer you today is that you don’t know what you don’t know,” Porter said.

“Reporting on indigenous communities is very like being a foreign correspondent, except that there’s a reluctance in mainstream media in Canada to acknowledge that. I’m telling you right now, after 20 years at this, I’m surprised every day by what I do not know and do not understand.”

This story originally appeared on the Ryerson School of Journalism website (republished with permission).

Canada’s mainstream news outlets have covered stories from Idle No More to decades of missing and murdered indigenous women to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But what are the implications of the TRC for newsrooms? How can reporters do justice to these issues and where is the line between advocacy and journalism?

Join us as we continue our series on journalism and indigenous communities with a discussion on language and activism with CBC’s Jody Porter.

Jody Porter worked in community papers in small towns across the country for a decade before starting as a reporter at CBC Radio in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She is the editor of Strength and Struggle: Perspectives from First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Canada, published in 2011 by McGraw-Hill Ryerson and currently being used in high schools across the country. Jody is fond of creating radio/social experiments that take ordinary people out of their cultural comfort zones. This includes CBC Thunder Bay’s Common Ground Café series that brought strangers together to make a meal and discuss race relations in the city. She was given the 2011 Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award, RTDNA for her work on this series. She is also a Clarkson Laureate, having received the public service award from Massey College in 2015. Jody considers her highest honour an owl feather, received from the Anishnabek Nation as part of the 2013 Debwewin Citation for excellence in reporting on First Nations issues.

WHAT: Indigenous Issues and the Mainstream Media: can truth be reconciled?

DATE: September 16, 2015

TIME: Noon – 1 p.m.

WHERE: The Venn RCC-103, Rogers Communication Centre, 80 Gould Street, Toronto

View event poster here

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