Visible Minorities in the Newsroom

In the same way that Canadian news reporting does not reflect Canada’s multiculturalism, racial diversity ‘behind the scenes’ of news media is similarly disproportionate. In 2006, fewer than 6 per cent of CBC employees were visible minorities. [1] A 2000 study from the University of Laval suggests that more than 97 per cent of Canadian journalists are White. [2]

Why are visible minorities so underrepresented in the newsroom?

  • Some news agencies have stated that individuals from visible minority backgrounds tend not to choose occupations in journalism. [3]
  • Networking barriers often exist for minority populations.
  • Hiring referrals are provided by producers, writers and editors already working in the industry, who are usually White.
  • There is a lack of official recognition in Canadian media for credentials and qualifications gained outside of Canada.
  • There is a lack of employment and training for people of colour, due largely to biases in hiring. No Canadian news agencies report having programs that train minorities to take leadership roles. [4]
  • There is reluctance on the part of visible minorities to apply for newsroom jobs due to fears of harassment by co-workers or affiliates such as police. [5] Many people also hesitate applying for newsroom jobs because they fear having their status as members of a visible minority becoming the defining aspect of who they are and why they are a journalist. [6]

When visible minorities are hired to work in newsrooms, they often face challenges that are not necessarily encountered by White journalists. Cecil Foster, an African Canadian journalist who has worked for The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and the CBC, shares the difficulty of being a visible minority in a field dominated by those who are White: “I have been working in mainstream media in Canada for about 12 years and I am still an outsider. I can count on two fingers or less the number of people I can count as friends that I have made in the media. … You get a sense of being invisible, of your presence being tolerated, but not expected” [7]. Foster stresses that he isn’t the only visible minority who has received this sort of treatment. “There are so few minority reporters in the mainstream media that they are almost unnoticeable,” he says. “Although they do some very good work, it is almost impossible for them to break the barriers that would allow others to follow”. [8]

Although visible minorities are hugely underrepresented in news media, Canadian media has made a concentrated effort since 1990 to increase the number of journalists who represent visible minorities. News media in Quebec has set a leading example for diversity initiatives both on-screen and in the newsroom. In 2004, Télé-Québec partnered with the Québec Week of Intercultural Relations as well as the Young Scriptwriters’ Contest in an attempt to ensure that “all Québécois may recognize themselves” in broadcasted media. The TVA Group has similarly implemented a programming content guide that requires television productions to fairly represent visible minorities and accurately reflect the multi-ethnic Canadian reality. [9]


[1] Conseil des Relations Interculturelles. (2009). A Fair Representation and Treatment of Ethno-Cultural Diversity in Media and Advertising: Quebec.
[2] Pritchard, David and Florian Sauvageau (2000). Racist Discourse in Canada’s English Print Media. Laval: The Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
[3] Conseil des Relations Interculturelles, 2009.
[4] Diversity Watch. (2004). Diversity Watch - Ryerson University School of Journalism. Retrieved March 4, 2011, from
[5] Chronicle World. Teen-age Black Journalists Target UK Racism . (2011). - Changing Black Britain. Retrieved March 4, 2011, from
[6] Evans, D. (2005, June 26). Journalism - Homing Instinct. Diana Evans Official Website. Retrieved March 4, 2011, from
[7] Joynt, L. (1995). Too White. Ryerson Review of Journalism (Spring).
[8] Ibid.
[9] Conseil des Relations Interculturelles, 2009.

Diversity in Media Toolbox

The Diversity and Media Toolbox is a comprehensive suite of resources that explores issues relating to stereotyping, bias and hate in mainstream media and on the Internet. The program includes professional development tutorials, lesson plans, interactive student modules and background articles.

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