Saskatoon

Saskatoon hosting Reconciliation and the Media conference Wednesday

In response to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, newsroom leaders, reporters and Indigenous journalists are gathering for a one-day conference next week focused on improving news coverage of Indigenous people, issues and events.

Newsroom leaders, Indigenous journalists convene to discuss First Nations' representation in the media

Commissioner Justice Murray Sinclair shakes hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission is released, Tuesday December 15, 2015 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

This week journalists from across Saskatchewan are coming together to analyze how Indigenous people are represented in the media.

In response to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued in June 2015, newsroom leaders, reporters and Indigenous journalists are gathering for a one-day conference on Wednesday, Oct. 5, focused on improving news coverage of Indigenous people, issues and events.

Betty Ann Adam, an Indigenous journalist in Saskatoon and one of the conference organizers, said it's is an opportunity to inform media players about the issues facing Indigenous people and foster better relations.

"Our hope is it will improve the coverage of Indigenous issues in Saskatchewan," Adam said.

In Adam's opinion, there's a wide range of responses on how media outlets cover Indigenous issues and events. On one hand she sees some positive news coverage, but at the same time she sees a lack of coverage or sometimes coverage lacking adequate background.

"Often times there are long-standing issues at play and unless those are explained to the public, there's a distorted sense that Indigenous people are just complaining again for who knows why," she said.

Often, Adam adds, the pressures of tight deadlines in the daily news grind are reasons why these deeper, historical issues aren't included in a story.

"In many cases that's the reason for lack of information. Sometimes the story will happen and the media reports that there's an issue, a conflict, and all of the attention is on the fact of the conflict. Whereas, a more informed journalist will look deeper to find what's behind the conflict."

Dedicated Indigenous news outlets

In her almost three decades of reporting, Adam said she's seen improvement in how mainstream media cover Indigenous issues, as well as the addition of aboriginal-focused organizations such as CBC's Indigenous unit and Aboriginal People's Television Network.

But there's still room for improvement, and Adam said that comes from strengthening relationships between First Nations and Métis communities with their local news outlets. She said that's how Indigenous communities can start to feel more included in the news and it may lead to First Nations having a more positive representation in the news.

Wednesday's conference will also educate journalists about the history of Indigenous people in Canada in an effort to help them understand the stories they are asked to cover.
CBC Reporter Connie Walker is joining a Reconciliation and the Media conference in Saskatoon. (CBC)

"Obviously there's a lot of Indigenous people, a lot of First Nations and Mé​tis communities. But it's incumbent on professional journalists to learn the history. That's why, in this conference, part of what we're doing is pointing to history. We're having excellent people talk about this history and providing resources to help people learn more about the history so that reporters who come to stories need to bring with them some understanding of the impact of Indian residential schools on communities that are still felt today," Adam said.

Among the speakers is Dr. Marie Wilson, a commissioner for the TRC, Eugene Arcand and Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson.

Among the journalists attending the conference to speak include the CBC's Connie Walker, John Lagimodiere from Eagle Feather News and Jason Warick.

A reception at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Centre at the University of Saskatchewan is planned for Tuesday night to welcome the conference's guests and presenters.

The Reconciliation and the Media conference begins at 9 a.m. the following day at Marquis Hall at the U of S.

For more information and a full agenda click here.

With files from CBC Radio's BlueSky

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