JHR’s Indigenous Reporters Program wins Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation

February 28, 2018

Toronto – Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) is proud to receive a 2017 Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards, administered by the Ontario Heritage Trust, are prestigious awards that recognize exceptional contributions to heritage conservation, environmental sustainability and biodiversity, and cultural and natural heritage.

The award recognized the success of JHR’s Indigenous Reporters Program, which aims to improve the quality and number of Indigenous voices in Canadian media.

The Indigenous Reporters Program aims to increase the number of Indigenous journalists and stories in media. It does this by offering in-community training, sending a journalism trainer to a First Nations community. The program further alleviates some of the financial burden of Indigenous journalism students by offering scholarships and provides hands-on experience for emerging Indigenous journalists by offering internships at mainstream and Indigenous newsrooms.

The program also aims to educate non-Indigenous journalists and journalism students on best practices for reporting on Indigenous communities.

Since 2013, the program has:

Worked in 16 First Nations communities in Ontario, and one in Manitoba, engaging more than 245 community members who have produced over 650 stories for local microsites and national news outlets, reaching an audience of up to 2.2 million Canadians.

Networked 18 emerging journalists from remote First Nations communities with professional Indigenous journalists in the first ever Indigenous Reporters Conference, named Mookitaakosi, held in July 2017 in Frenchmen’s Head, Lac Seul First Nation. Eighty-five per cent of attendees were youth.

Coordinated 27 scholarships for emerging Indigenous reporters.

Coordinated 27 internships with major newsrooms across Canada for emerging Indigenous reporters. Of participating interns, 20 now have jobs in the media industry.

Trained more than 1,450 non-Indigenous journalists and journalism students on best practices on reporting on Indigenous stories.

Developed curriculum on the same topic for adaptation to journalism schools.

Released two media monitoring studies that examined representational and tonal media coverage of Indigenous stories in Ontario. A third study examining coverage nationally is set to be released later in 2018.

In 2017, the program worked with editorial teams to update the style guides of the Toronto Star and Canadian Press, ensuring journalists use respectful and accurate terminology in describing Indigenous people in news stories. JHR also released its own guide.

JHR is continuing to work in 12 northern Ontario communities for the next three years thanks to funding by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. JHR also has plans to expand the training program to other provinces in the coming years. Recently, JHR completed a pilot project in Hollow Water First Nation in Manitoba, supported by the Winnipeg Foundation.

Program manager Lenny Carpenter said the success of the program would not be possible without the Indigenous people who have taken part in the program.

“As a First Nations person who grew up in the north, I can tell you it is initially intimidating to approach strangers for an interview, speak on the radio, or be on-camera,” said Carpenter, who is a member of Attawapiskat First Nation and previously worked as a journalist. “But many participants stepped out of their comfort zones and have now realized and embraced their storytelling abilities. Whether they are a past intern now working full-time as a journalist in a newsroom, or a community member starting a radio program within their community, it’s a testament to the untapped potential in Indigenous communities.”

JHR Executive Director Rachel Pulfer said that the program had intrinsic value in ensuring public conversations on Indigenous stories in Canada are more balanced, fair, and informed by Indigenous perspective. “Awards like this recognize the significant contribution such a program makes,” she said.

JHR thanks the communities that have hosted program, including the First Nations of Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, Moose Cree, Constance Lake, Fort Severn, Weenusk, Kitchenumaykoosib Inninuwug, Sachigo Lake, Sandy Lake, Eabametoong, Kasabonika Lake, North Spirit Lake, Webequie, Marten Falls, Wabigoon Lake and Hollow Water.

The success of the program would also not be possible without our partners, including Wawatay Native Communications Society and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network; and our funders, including the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Donner Canadian Family Foundation, the RBC Foundation, the Winnipeg Foundation, and CC UNESCO; as well as a number of individual donors.

JHR was among 22 recipients of the 2017 Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards, which included individuals, organizations, communities and projects. The awards were presented at a ceremony on Feb. 23.

JHR is currently looking for community journalism trainers to work in communities in northwestern Ontario. Details can be found here.

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For more information, please contact:
Lenny Carpenter, Indigenous Reporters Program manager
[email protected] or 416-413-0240 Ext. 209


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