Many southern journalists come to the North to cut their teeth in the news business. Some later move on to larger centres and larger roles in the industry, while others stay and make their lives in the North.
What happens less frequently is northerners finding their way into journalism to report on and cover their own land, drawing on their own experiences of growing up northern.
Now several current and former journalists — some northern by birth, some by choice — head up a program to help increase northern representation in journalism in the Northwest Territories.
The Northern Journalism Training Initiative, in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights and the Google News Initiative, is offering a four-week training program in Inuvik, N.W.T., starting March 27 for residents of the territory who are 18 years old or older, and who want to develop or gain journalistic storytelling skills.
“We really just want to see more northerners — more Indigenous northerners — telling their own stories, in their own communities, from their own communities, about their own communities,” said Kaila Jefferd-Moore, a Haida journalist and professional communications consultant who grew up in Inuvik. She’s also the program lead for the project.
We really just want to see more northerners — more Indigenous northerners — telling their own stories.” – Kaila Jefferd-Moore, Northern Journalism Training Initiative project lead
She said her experience of northern newsrooms after returning from her journalism program at the University of King’s College came as a surprise, and formed part of the impetus for the initiative.
“I thought there were more of us,” she said of the lack of Indigenous reporters in northern newsrooms.
There are very few Indigenous reporters in the Northwest Territories. About half the population is Indigenous, but that diversity is not reflected on the editorial end of newsrooms in the territory.
Jefferd-Moore told Marc Winkler, a CBC North radio host, that it’s people living in their communities who have the best grasp on what’s happening and what’s important, but they are not necessarily connected to newsrooms to tell those stories.
And that’s where the Northern Journalism Training Initiative comes in. Jefferd-Moore described the four-week training as a boot camp for journalists or those who want to be. They’ll get hands-on experience with the tools and workflow of the trade, and they’ll be matched up with mentors.
“It’s valuable for anyone and everyone to have these skills and tools to share their stories … in the different ways they want to be heard,” she said.
There’s also an optional work placement at the end of the program.
“If folks really wanna pursue this as a career, we’re offering a connection to get them in the door with local newsrooms.”
And getting in the door is sometimes all that it takes, says one northern journalist looking back over his own career in the industry.
It’s for anyone who wants to tell our story. ” – Louie Goose, lifelong northern journalist and NJTI member
Louie Goose is lifelong Inuvialuit journalist, singer-songwriter and story teller from the Beaufort Delta region. He’s worked for the CBC across Canada and in Toronto on its flagship current affairs program As It Happens, and with N.W.T.-based Indigenous broadcaster CKLB radio. He’s also a member and advisor for the Northern Journalism Training Initiative.
He told CBC Northwind host Wanda McLeod that he hopes northerners interested in journalism will simply apply for the training and not worry about their qualifications. He said that’s been the northern way into journalism all along.
“A lot of us learnt on the job — I did, and ended up in the CBC,” he said. “It’s for anyone who wants to tell our story.”
For more information about the Northern Journalism Training Initiative, and to apply for the upcoming 4-week workshop in Inuvik, visit their website here.
Written by Walter Strong with files from Marc Winkler and Wanda McLeod
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