Just over a year after its founding, New Canadian Media’s Collective is picking up steam in its effort to champion the immigrant perspective.
The Collective, convened by Vancouver-based NCM contributor Alireza Ahmadian, aims to provide a platform for journalists who have immigrated to Canada, offering them journalism training, writing opportunities and the chance to network with established reporters and editors.
“We are trying to give voice to people whose voices are missing in the more established media,” Ahmadian says of the organization’s goals. “We’re providing support in terms of mentorship—there is a network for ethnic journalists who can talk to each other, learn about challenges and how they beat those challenges.”
While NCM works with some who are new to the industry, the Collective’s efforts are grounded in the understanding that there’s a substantial untapped pool of experienced reporters within the immigrant community.
“(Many Collective members) were prominent journalists in their own country—some of them are renowned, award-winning journalists, but when they come to Canada there are not many opportunities for them,” Ahmadian says. “They lack the network that can help them get to where they deserve to be.
“We decided to launch this initiative to, first of all, create a network for ethnic journalists to be able to help each other.”
So, too, will Canadian journalism in general be helped, Ahmadian says, since there remain gaps in the coverage and perspectives offered by the country’s top outlets.
This was crucial to the creation of NCM, according to founder and publisher George Abraham, a veteran of nearly three decades of reporting and editing in Mumbai, Qatar and more recently, Toronto and Ottawa.
“When I founded the organization, I thought there was a gap in terms of representing what I loosely call the ‘immigrant perspective,’” Abraham says. “Obviously, one in five Canadians is foreign-born, and I thought their point of view, their perspective, could lend itself to a substantial body of editorial work.
“I’m glad that we’ve come quite a way since then, and I don’t think there’s any mistaking the fact that this is a badly wanted niche in the overall journalistic space in Canada.”
Originally founded with funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the federal government’s Inter-Action: Multiculturalism Funding Program, NCM moved on to launch the Collective in March 2017, charging members a one-time $10 fee to take part in the organization’s training and mentorship program. Aside from working with members one-on-one, Ahmadian says they recently held sessions with the CBC and the National NewsMedia Council, connecting members with established reporters, editors, and those who could speak to the industry’s needs.
Tazeen Inam was among the members who participated in those sessions. Trained in Pakistan and the Netherlands—a master’s degree in media studies from the former and television broadcast training from the latter—Inam came to Canada with 15 years of experience in the industry abroad.
However, facing the systematic obstacles sitting before all those who immigrate to Canada, Inam connected with Abraham via LinkedIn eight months after her move.
“I started off with reporting on the Federal Elections in 2015,” she says in an e-mail. “It was a time when Islamophobic ideas emerged, and I reported the views of prominent Muslims from Toronto.”
She’s put in more than three years with NCM since, and now leads the organization’s Greater Toronto Area Collective. Doing so allowed her to contribute an arguably more informed perspective on some subjects that earned national coverage—like her coverage of Syrian refugees coming to Canada, which “ranged from arrival to housing and funding of the refugees, from the camps in Lebanon to successfully settled Syrians in Canada”—and granted her the chance to break into the industry with more established outlets.
“I reported on the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto and was picked up by iPolitics in Ottawa,” Inam says. “Similarly, I worked on a series with TVO on multicultural marriages in Ontario, in collaboration with NCM.”
It’s a testament to the fact that those who come to Canada from other parts of the world are often better equipped to discuss the issues pertaining to their countries—issues that receive regular coverage from reporters with much less familiarity with the cultures and people at the centre of these stories.
“These are the people who know their environment, their country, better than anyone else. But when they move to Canada, they can’t find a job,” Ahmadian says. “On the other hand, we have people who are totally unqualified to write on certain topics, but because they are mainstream they can publish anything.
“But we have highly qualified ethnic journalists who are in Canada, who are available to contribute to our understanding of the world.”