Media conference aims to improve coverage on Indigenous issues
- Angela Hill | September 14, 2016
Planning is well underway for a conference that wants to change how news organizations cover Indigenous issues.
The Reconciliation and the Media Conference is designed to answer the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“People will leave inspired to make change,” said Betty Ann Adam, journalist and one of the committee’s co-chairs.
Adam, alongside the other co-chair, and editor of Treaty 4 News, Mervin Brass, took part in the Decolonizing Media panel at the University of Regina in November 2015.
“I left feeling that it was a pretty good discussion, but I left feeling that more should be done,” Brass said. So he reached out to his media counterparts in Saskatoon and together they started planning the conference that will take place at the University of Saskatchewan on Oct. 4 and 5.
The end goal is to have reporting that has greater understanding of Indigenous people and how history, including residential schools, has had a lasting legacy in the Aboriginal community.
“I do feel in Saskatchewan, at this time, there is still a lot of ignorance to the underlying causes, underlying influences of what’s been happening,” Adam said.
“It’s important to have a good understanding of the background.”
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Along with reporters, the conference targets editors, news directors, managers and media owners in the province.
“The people deciding how the resources of the newsroom will be used,” Adam said.
By targeting the people at the top, the committee hopes to create lasting change within news organizations.
“So they can buy into it and they’ll push it,” Brass said.
Now is a good time for a conference like this, said Adam. She said when she talked to her editor, the feedback was positive; the editor said to Adam, “‘I am so hungry for this.’”
The program will meet the needs of their target attendees, Brass said. Eugene Arcand is set to be the morning keynote, and will speak about what it was like in residential school and what it has been like talking to Canadians about that experience.
Commissioner Marie Wilson, from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will speak as the afternoon keynote.
“Any person with compassion will be moved by these speakers,” Adam said.
There will also be conversations about financial gains through better Indigenous coverage, said Brass, as well as how to access Indigenous contacts to be able to better write stories.
Brass founded Treaty 4 News because he saw there was a need that wasn’t being met.
“I want to be in the communities and telling their stories because their stories are not being told by the mainstream media,” he said.
It’s more than just the stories that are missing. Both Adam and Brass said they want to see more Indigenous representation in news, from reporters to managers to sales.
“The voices of these people that perspective needs to be reflected in the staff … the people gathering the information,” Adam said.
If all goes according to plan, Brass sees this conference as being the first of many – with other regions being able to adapt their model and content.