Journalism School Report on Progress Toward Greater Diversity & Inclusion

Journalism School Report on Progress Toward Greater Diversity & Inclusion

The following report contains an update to the Open Letter to Journalism Students & Alumni, published in July 2020, in response to calls to action issued by students and alumni and in relation to equity work underway at the University. The update, prepared by Director of the School of Journalism Tim Currie, on behalf of Faculty of the School of Journalism, outlines progress made during the 2020-21 academic year.

On June 15, 2020, students and alumni of the University of King’s College issued a call for the School of Journalism to develop an action plan for more diversity and inclusion in the School’s student population, curriculum, faculty makeup and support of students who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.

On July 6, 2020, the School published its Open Letter to Journalism Students & Alumni. This document was developed in response both to the calls to action and in relation to equity work underway at the University. It committed the School to a series of initiatives in the 2020-21 academic year, and beyond, and to report publicly on its progress in a year.

The following is the School’s report for 2020-21. (The content of the 2020 Open Letter is in black text. The School’s update on its response is outlined in blue.)

Concerning its curriculum the School will:

  • Initiate significant changes to the first year of the BJH, which introduces students to the role of journalists in society and their methods.
    • Immediate changes for 2020-21 will involve:
      • A deeper examination of journalism’s role in scrutinizing institutional power —particularly as it pertains to race and inequality.

        An additional learning objective was added to JOUR 1002 Foundations of Journalism 1 on journalism’s relationship to power structures. This was addressed at multiple points in the course, specifically in “Week 4: How journalism disrupts and upholds power systems.”

      • Broader consideration of the “big tent” of journalism—including different kinds of journalism and their intersections with opinion and advocacy.

        Instruction was expanded in JOUR 1002 and 1003 in the following classes:

        • Week 5: Journalism as fact and the myth of objectivity: What are facts? Who holds them and who tells truth?
        • Week 6: Balance or bias? Striving for equity in reporting: How our experiences and views shape our approach to telling stories and how we practice journalism.
        • Week 10: Balance — Whom to talk to for fairness and complete storytelling
        • Week 17 (JOUR 1003): What journalism isn’t Part 1: PR — what it is and why it matters to journalists
    • For 2021-22 and beyond, a curriculum review of the now-split first year BJH courses, JOUR 1002 and 1003, will examine their overall intent and approach toward exploring how issues such as race are covered by the news media.

      A review of these courses is occurring as part of a broader curriculum review in summer 2021.

  • Re-work ethics instruction in JOUR 3339 Ethics & Law for Journalists and JOUR 5701/6709 Journalism & Society with a more robust interrogation of objectivity and journalistic standards of fairness and accuracy, especially as they relate to reporting on race, equity and inclusion.

    These three courses were revised substantially in late summer 2020. A new instructor was hired, and a broader range of voices introduced. New topics added to JOUR 5701/6709 included:

    • Week 3: Race, Policing and Journalism — with guest Dalhousie sociology and social anthropology Professor Timothy Bryan
    • Week 4: Journalistic Freedom and Limits to Reporting; Journalist as Activist — with guest Halifax Examiner journalist Tim Bousquet
    • Week 5: Objectivity in Journalism, Ethical Responsibility, Confidentiality — with guest UBC journalism Professor Candis Callison
    • Week 6: Reporting in Indigenous Communities; Canadian Aboriginal Law — with guest Stephen Marshall, councillor with the Millbrook First Nation
    • Week 7: Court Reporting, Youth Court, Mental Health Court — with guest CBC journalist Imani Walker
    • Week 8: Libel Law, Defamation — with guest Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard
  • Work with Black part-time faculty to offer a new BJH elective related to reporting in African Nova Scotian communities for 2021-22. This course will complement the School’s offering of Reporting in Mi’kma’ki.

    With the successful launch of JOUR 3576 Reporting in Mi’kma’ki in spring 2021, the School will begin exploring possibilities for this course in 2021-22. (The initial launch of JOUR 3576 was cancelled in spring 2020 due to COVID-related disruptions.)

  • Inaugurate a recurring Carrie Best Symposium, in honour of the Black radio broadcaster and newspaper founder from Pictou County. The symposium will examine important issues pertaining to journalism, in concert with the School’s Joseph Howe Symposium. The School will invite Dr. Carrie Best scholars to guide the planning and delivery. The first lecture will be in relation to the international Universities Studying Slavery conference, set for fall 2021, hosted by King’s and Dalhousie.

    The University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, in consultation with Universities Studying Slavery, has postponed the International Universities Studying Slavery Conference to 2023.

    An alternative to the symposium in 2021-22 is being explored.

  • Re-cast JOUR 2701 Intermediate Reporting in the BJH to focus on reporting within Nova Scotia’s diverse communities.
    Changes will include involving non-journalists as guests to help students understand the issues and sensitivities of reporting in Black and Indigenous communities, among others.

    This course was re-focused to involve more guest speakers from outside journalism with the goal of offering important context about Nova Scotia’s communities. Guest speakers in 2020-21 included:

    • Lynn Jones — community and labour activist
    • Jarvis Googoo — Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat
    • Mike Sack — Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief
    • Kate Macdonald — community activist

    New faculty member Prof. Brian Daly (see below) will teach this course in 2021-22.

  • Offer learning modules on the history of Black and Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia. These modules will explore the history of the Mi’kmaq, and African Nova Scotian communities. They will be delivered either online or face-to-face, and be a requirement for students in the BJH, BJ and MJ. We intend these changes, and the others, to meet more fully the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action to journalism schools.

    With the return to in-person teaching planned for the 2021-22, new faculty member Trina Roache (see below) will deliver three classes in JOUR 1002 and JOUR 1003 Foundations of Journalism on the history of Indigenous communities in the Atlantic region, as it relates to the practice of journalism. As well, new faculty member Brian Daly (see below) will discuss reporting on diverse communities.

  • The Indigenous Blanket Exercise offered in September will be a mandatory requirement for fourth-year BJH, BJ and MJ students.

    This exercise was not available online through the Dalhousie Elders in Residence program during this COVID year. Its return is anticipated for 2021-22.

  • Review the Canadian content courses listed as possible fulfillments for the two electives in the BJH. The aim will be to highlight offerings related to Black and Indigenous studies.
    The Director encouraged BJH students in advising sessions this year to request any other courses that may fulfill this requirement. Changes to the listing have been prepared for the 2022-23 calendar.

Concerning Faculty, the School will:

  • Immediately resume the selection process for a new tenure-track hire in the School. That process, begun in December, was suspended at the interview stage in March due to disruptions related to the pandemic. A major goal of that hire is to further diversify the School’s faculty makeup.
    In spring 2021, the School hired Prof. Brian Daly, a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience in Canadian news media, including Canadian Press, CTV News Montreal, Québecor Media, and Global News Montreal. Prof. Daly is also Atlantic Director of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists and has been the driving force behind the launch of J-School Noire, a mentoring program supporting Black secondary school students interested in journalism. Prof. Daly’s position is a full-time, tenure-track one in the School. He will teach core reporting courses in all three programs this year, and the JOUR 3550 Copy Editing elective.
  • Commit to hiring additional BIPOC journalists into tenure-track faculty positions in the future, in cooperation with the University.
    The University awarded the Journalism School a second tenure-track faculty position in spring 2021 to further the institution’s diversity objectives. This position will be advertised and filled by the School in 2021-22.
  • Immediately begin the process to fill the Rogers Communications Chair with a BIPOC instructor.

    The School filled the Rogers Chair with the full-time hire of Prof. Trina Roache, an accomplished journalist who comes to King’s from a long career at APTN & CBC. As a (recent) part-time instructor at King’s, Prof. Roache was instrumental in the launch of JOUR 3676 Reporting in Mi’kma’ki and co-developed the syllabus for online delivery in 2021. She will teach core reporting courses in all three programs this year, with a focus on video.

  • Commit to increasing the roster of BIPOC part-time instructors—especially those teaching core courses. (The School will have six BIPOC part-time instructors teaching eight courses in 2020-21.)
    The School had seven faculty members of colour (of 17 total) teaching part–time in 2020-21. With the increase in full-time faculty in 2021-22, the School will have fewer part-time instructors, but aims for a comparable ratio.
  • Initiate an annual program of anti-racism education for Journalism faculty. These sessions will be oriented to inclusive teaching strategies and unconscious bias training to prevent and respond to racism in the classroom.

    In 2020-21, Journalism School Faculty participated in the following School-initiated sessions:

    • “Moving the Dial: How journalism schools can be more equitable and inclusive,” a workshop sponsored by J-Schools Canada, and delivered by educators Shenaz Kermalli and Jennifer Leask (May 20, 2021)
    • Anti-Racism Workshop for Journalism Faculty, led by King’s Equity Officer Tanisi Pooran (Nov. 5, 2020)
    • Trauma Informed Listening Workshop for Journalism Faculty, led by Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Officer Jordan Roberts (Nov. 18, 2020)
    • (Initially paused and soon to resume) Intercultural Development Inventory process through Dalhousie’s Centre for Learning and Teaching
    • Also:
      • Many faculty members participated in Trauma-informed Journalism, a workshop led by educator Matthew Pearson and hosted by J-Schools Canada (May 31, 2021)
      • Journalism School Director met with King’s Students’ Union representatives, along with other program directors, to discuss academic programs’ EDI efforts (March 18,2021)
  • Provide information to better describe the resources at the University to students, including the role of the Equity Officer, the Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Officer and related policies and procedures, including the code of conduct and grade appeals. Additionally, the School will provide information for filing a complaint or accessing support through the Equity Officer and the Policy & Procedures for the Prevention of Discrimination & Harassment. The School’s syllabi and handbooks will outline the pathways for students who have complaints about the learning environment, or concerns regarding racism and other forms of systemic oppression.
    The Journalism School’s syllabus template was updated in August 2020 with a new, comprehensive section: “Fair, Inclusive and Safe Conduct.” This section includes a range of steps available for students to initiate a discussion or a process about their learning environment. These resources were supported with the University’s hiring, in July 2021, of Rhema Ferguson to the full-time position of Equity Officer, previously a part-time position.
  • Involve journalism students of colour in regular discussions with the Director about their experiences in the School.

    This occurred informally with remote learning in 2020-21. More robust discussions are planned with the resumption of in-person learning in 2021-22.

  • Work with the University administration in their outreach efforts toward implementing a stronger recruitment strategy for attracting BIPOC students to the study of journalism.
    • The University announced the Sylvia D. Hamilton Awards, five new annual awards for Black students, in the name of the long-time journalism professor. Journalism and MFA students are given preference (October 2020).
    • The University awarded the first Global News Journalism Award, an entrance award to a King’s journalism student who is African Canadian. This award, announced in February 2020, is renewable for four years (September 2020).
    • The University and the Journalism School sponsored the session “Building Bridges” at the RISE Conference, hosted by the Canadian Association of Black Journalists and Canadian Journalists of Colour (May 1, 2021).
    • J-School Director Tim Currie spoke at the 2021 J-School Noire event (February 14, 2021).
  • Involve part-time instructors, esp. BIPOC ones, more fully in the life of the School.
    Ongoing. With more active involvement planned for the resumption of in-person learning in 2021-22.

Among other initiatives, individual faculty members made efforts this year to involve more journalists of colour as guests and collaborators in the classroom. For example, Prof. Fred Vallance-Jones invited Clifford Paul into his research-focused courses JOUR 3004 and JOUR 5151/6151 to talk about researching and reporting in Mi’kmaw communities. Other faculty members involved guests in similar roles.

The School acknowledges strengthening diversity and inclusion within its faculty and curriculum requires ongoing work. It pledges to build on these efforts in 2021-22 and report them publicly.

Tim Currie, Director
On behalf of Faculty of the School of Journalism

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