Canadian media fail newcomers

I don’t believe in giving my hard earned cash to a company that makes no effort whatsoever to satisfy and keep me as a customer.

So I think I’m going to cancel my subscription to The Globe and Mail, the biggest Canadian paper.

But it’s unfair to single out The Globe. In my experience, Canadian outlets for the most part are failing a growing chunk of the country’s audience: immigrants and particularly newcomers.

I guess papers here simply don’t want to expand their audience. I guess they’re not interested in targeting, along with the majority, the very group which drives this country’s population growth: immigrants.

I’ve been in Canada for over a month and when I first started reading Canadian news, I had no idea what the hell the articles were talking about. Every story I went through left me feeling uninformed and stupid.

Why is that? Because the journalists writing and editing these articles assume that their audience is comprised of people who have either lived in Canada all their lives or at least have very detailed knowledge of the issues in The Land of the Maple Leaf.

No, dear Toronto Star and other Canadian media, I don’t know the history behind Idle No More, an ongoing protest movement organized by Canada’s aboriginal people. So when you publish articles that provide no context whatsoever about this movement, you’re really doing a bad job.

I’ve had to do a significant amount of online research to find out that the country’s indigenous people tend to be less educated than the rest of the population and overrepresented in the prison population. That a number of them struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. That many of them still live on reserves where basics like clean water and heating are lacking. I’ve enjoyed the research, but you could have provided some of that context.

Also, dear Canadian outlets, using an acronym without explaining what it stands for is a really shoddy practice. Because, believe it or not, Canada is not the centre of the world, so I don’t know what NDP is. Well, now I do because I Googled it – New Democratic Party, an opposition party.

Why does all of this matter? Because, first, as I mentioned, Canadian outlets are losing eye balls by alienating a growing portion of the country’s population. By failing to provide big-picture explanations, media are also ensuring that their stories have an incredibly short life span.

This kind of lazy journalism is also a disservice to immigrants themselves because staying informed is a crucial way for them, especially for newcomers, to integrate.

Finally, when you present the news in a way that assumes your audience already knows the issues, you’re breaking a fundamental journalism rule.

One of the very first things I learned in journalism school is that a reporter always has to assume that readers, listeners and viewers do not know the background and do not know what acronyms stand for. It’s the job of the journalist to provide all of that information.

If users have to Google things to figure out what’s going on – and not many people will; most will simply abandon the story, never to come back to that site – then the outlet has not done its job.

As one of my journalism instructors used to say, “you should craft your stories in a way that allows everyone to wander in and walk away with a good understanding of the subject.”

But just to be fair to Canadian media, I do have to acknowledge that because on a global level the news industry is struggling and journalists are chronically overworked and often underpaid, more and more news outlets around the world are failing to provide the proper context for the news.

Still, Canada, that’s hardly an excuse for taking a provincial approach to news in a globalized world.

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2 Responses to Canadian media fail newcomers

  1. David S. Appleton says:

    With your journalistic experience in both Eastern and Western Europe as well as the United States,, do you feel that the Canadian newspaper journalistic endeavors better, worse or about the same as those in those parts of the world mentioned? Is it a case of ignoring the “300 kilo gorilla” in the room?

    • sadakova says:

      Well, it’s hard to compare news outlets in parts of the world that are so different. Eastern Europe is certainly lagging behind North America when it comes to things like media freedom and independence. And most of the changes that I hope to see in Canadian media are changes of mindset – it doesn’t take long for a journalist to spell out NDP on first reference but I guess it’s not being done right now because the assumption is that surely the reader knows what the acronym stands for.

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