Nana aba Duncan, associate professor at Carleton University and founder of Media Girlfriends, says there needs to be a more welcoming environment for young journalists of colour in newsrooms. Photo curtesy of Nana aba Duncan.

New data from the Canadian Association of Journalists validates what journalists of colour have been saying in recent years – that Canada’s newsrooms are overwhelmingly white.

The association released the first-ever Canadian Newsroom Diversity Survey on Thursday, providing data on 3,873 journalists across 209 newsrooms across Canada.

The report showed that about 75 per cent of the surveyed journalists identify as white, while about 19 per cent identify as a visible minority. Six per cent identify as Indigenous.

“Almost half of all newsrooms exclusively employ white journalists,” said Zane Schwartz, who is a member of the association’s board of directors and survey lead.

“This gives us a snapshot for the first time in Canadian history of the race and gender of the people who are telling Canadian stories and reporting on what’s going on in local communities all across Canada.”

According to the report, representation of visible minorities is currently the highest among part-timers and interns. White journalists make up roughly 76 per cent of full-time staff and 53 per cent of interns.

For Raisa Patel, a national politics reporter for the Toronto Star, these statistics are not surprising.

“We’ve been discussing that racialized women and Indigenous women occupy a very different part of this industry than their white colleagues, and we’ve been speaking for many years about how representation in this industry is lacking,” Patel said.

Almost 80 per cent of the newsrooms surveyed reported having no journalists of colour in their top three leadership positions.

Nana aba Duncan, an associate professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication and founder of the podcast production company Media Girlfriends, said there needs to be more of an emphasis on promoting the journalists of colour who are already in newsrooms to higher-level positions.

“Often when there is talk of increasing diversity at companies, people begin with filling lower-level positions,” Duncan said. “This is important, but our news organizations must recognize the leadership that already exists within their ranks and promote them as soon as they can.”

Patel said she believes the report will help others understand the issues at hand and help newsrooms take steps toward focusing on their hiring practices to recruit more journalists of colour.

“It all comes back to hiring at the end of the day, and who are the people that we are seeking out?” she said. “How are we seeking them out? Are we making sure that they feel comfortable and welcome in this industry?”

Duncan sees a welcoming environment as essential to retaining young journalists of colour in newsrooms.

“We must see that they are members of communities that need to be reflected in our news, and that what they have to offer is an expertise some of us will never have,” Duncan said.

According to Schwartz, the next step for the association involves collecting more data from more newsrooms. The professional organization plans to conduct the survey annually. 

As for the future, Patel cautions newsroom managers from stopping the work of improving newsroom environments for journalists of colour.

“I would just really, really encourage anyone in a position of leadership in this industry to move away from that sense of complacency,” Patel said. “There is still so much work to do.”