As a newspaper editor, I get to do lots of fun stuff. I’m always being invited to interesting events and asked to do cool things.
But I’m also asked to do important things, things that make a difference and further the true mission of the news media to reflect the community back to itself.
Hamilton Community News, along with the city’s other major media, is part of an organization called the Hamilton Media Advisory Council which was set-up in the wake of the post-September 11th attacks on the Hindu Samaj Temple and the Hamilton Mountain Mosque. Its goal is to help provide a truer picture of the city’s diverse communities in the media. The media members, joined by members of the public who volunteer their time, discuss how issues of diversity and fairness are represented in both the local and broader media.
I’d love to give you some examples of the excellent discussions we’ve had around the table this past year, but, in order to keep the discussions as open and honest as possible, all meetings are off-the-record.
While I can’t tell you what was said, I can tell you the impact it has had on me and my journalism.
I’d like to believe that throughout my career I’ve been sensitive to those whose backgrounds and life experiences are different than mine. (In journalism school I had a series of nightmares after reading a textbook that talked, in part, about bias in reporting. I dreamt that I was reading my clippings only to discover in horror that my writing had been biased against a specific group. After falling asleep again, the dream would repeat itself, only with a different group.) But, in truth, it’s easy to fall back on your own world view if you’re not careful.
The group’s discussions also forced me to think about why I, and by extension Hamilton Community News, does certain things the way we do. Sometimes, it was a matter of educating the community members as to both journalistic practise and the legal framework under which we operate. Other times there was significant discussion and healthy disagreement between what the media does, and what members think it should do. And there were many times where the life experiences of non-media folks educated me about the reality of what’s happening on the ground in their communities in a very personal way.
And it’s the community members who give of their time and experiences to help make the media better that are the key to the success of the council. They’re the ones who bring the stories and aren’t afraid to take us to task if they see problems with what we’re doing. We’ve been quite blessed to have a strong group and in particular I’d like to thank those members who have completed their two-year term: Nicole Virgin, Yvonne Maracle, Fatima Minhas and Shane Pennells. Your thoughts and experiences have helped make me a better journalist and make Hamilton Community News’ newspapers better.
— Gordon Cameron is Group Managing
Editor for Hamilton Community News