TORONTO, March 29, 2000 - A truly democratic society in Canada requires a more inclusive, impartial and responsible media, say the authors of a new research study on racism in the print media funded by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
"Our study clearly shows that many journalists, editors and publishers are not free of bias, and that racism continues to exist in the print media," say researchers, Dr. Frances Henry and Carol Tator, who undertook the study, Racist Discourse in Canada's English Print Media. "The print media are strongly influenced by racialized assumptions, beliefs and practices and continue to construct and present people of colour as social problems and outsiders that undermine our Canadian way of life."
"I am deeply troubled by the findings of this report, because the print media play an influential role in shaping public opinion," says the Honourable Lincoln Alexander, chair of the Foundation. "The elimination of racism in the print media must become a top priority for publishers, editors and reporters across the country."
The Foundation funded the research study after identifying an urgent need to examine the portrayal of racial minorities and Aboriginal peoples in the media. The study examines two decades of research on racism in the print media and shows how media practitioners continue to misrepresent and reinforce negative stereotypes of people of colour and Aboriginal peoples.
Henry and Tator's findings include both recent and historical cases of racism in Canada's English print media. They present four case studies in which a racist discourse can be identified: these include employment equity; cultural events (Show Boat, Into the Heart of Africa, Writing Thru Race); Aboriginal issues (the trial of Reform MP Jack Ramsay); and crime (Just Desserts). Their analysis demonstrates that unconscious bias exists in the everyday talk and text of journalists and editors.
In their analysis of hundreds of columns, features and editorials, the authors found that despite the media's claims of objectivity and neutrality, racism finds its way into the language, images and ideas that are presented in English Canadian newspapers on a dismayingly regular basis.
The researchers released their findings at a news conference today. They were joined by Mr. Alexander; Moy Tam, executive director of the Foundation; and Hamlin Grange, president of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (www.crr.ca) opened its doors in November, 1997. It operates at arm's length from the federal government and works at the forefront of efforts to combat racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canada.