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Meet an alumna working to boost diversity in the Canadian media
We need to see Black journalists in these key leadership positions in this industry because I truly believe that’s the only time we’ll see some change."
Photo courtesy of Nadia Stewart/©2018 Erich Saide
University of Guelph-Humber Media Studies alumna Nadia Stewart has thrived in TV newsrooms across the country, and it largely started when she took a risk and jumped at the opportunity to move to St. John’s, N.L., for an eight-week stint as reporter/host on CBC-TV back in 2010.
Born and raised in Toronto, Stewart knew nothing about the maritime province when her plane first landed in the densest fog she’d ever seen. Over the two-month stint, she would prove herself a versatile and dedicated talent, who could fill in on the anchor desk on a moment’s notice, provide smart provincial election coverage, and cover all sorts of other breaking news stories. It was the springboard to a career that has taken Stewart – now a videojournalist with Global BC – through major networks in big cities across Canada.
Stewart, however, can’t look back on that short stint on the East Coast without one disturbing incident still looming in her memory. She was walking to work one day when two women looked at her and called her a racist slur.
“That was the first time that had ever happened to me,” Stewart said. “I thought, 'OK, I'm definitely going to need some support out here. This is not what I expected to happen as part of my journalism job.'”
In the aftermath, Stewart reached out to the Canadian Association of Black Journalists, an organization founded in 1996 to advocate for diversity in media. But there was a problem: the organization had fallen dormant.
“It was in my heart to see it relaunched,” said Stewart.
It took a while, but after Stewart finally managed to track down the phone number of the organization’s last president and secure her blessing, she began pulling together a team.
In 2018, the Canadian Association of Black Journalists officially relaunched with Stewart as the organization’s Executive Director.
“Our mission is for Black journalists to rise to the top and achieve their highest level of success,” said Stewart, whose organization offers a range of programming and mentorship to Black journalists and aspiring journalists of all experience levels.
“Being a Black journalist is not a simple thing. That’s why we celebrate the success of every Black journalist but also know that their success has come as a result of a hard-fought victory. It is not easy to be Black in this industry, to be the only one in your newsroom. We talk to a lot of Black journalists – the stories we hear are unbelievable and the things that have happened to them are frustrating and upsetting, to say the least.
“I see our organization really as standing by them and behind them and advocating for them on every level we can because it isn’t easy. For any newsroom leaders who are reading this, there really is one message we push: we need to see change at the top. We need to see Black journalists in these key leadership positions in this industry because I truly believe that’s the only time we’ll see some change.”
In fact, advocacy was one of the reasons Stewart wanted to be a journalist in the first place.
Having recently completed a master’s degree in leadership from Trinity Western University, Stewart looks back and recalls that to a large degree, her leadership journey began while she was a student at the University of Guelph-Humber and decided to get involved in student government as a program representative for Media Studies.
“I’m so amazed at how my experience at the CABJ draws on all of my experience. I think my first leadership position was that student government position at UofGH,” she reflected.
“Going from a program rep to this role here is a huge leap. But it’s funny how those small foundational opportunities lead many years down the road to the kind of work we do later on.”
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