Douglas Todd: The trouble with diversity journalism
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I’ve been covering ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and other so-called diversity issues most of my newspaper career.

I’ve always been curious about different people, world views and cultures, aiming to report on them with fairness, balance and respect; embracing pluralism, while also probing for that elusive journalistic objective known as truth.

Diversity journalism has now become a big thing. Along with it has come a cadre of people who make a living telling others how to handle difference and social exclusion. The goal is positive, but there is often a strong ideological component, with prefabricated morality.

The diversity industry has now made its way into journalism. Not only in North America. Last year, I took part in a conference of the International Association of Religion Journalists in Indonesia, where most students in attendance were taking courses in “diversity journalism.”

Diversity articles are common now. But, to my mind, they are often flawed.

I recently heard one archetypal example while listening to CBC morning radio and a piece titled: “The Adventure Gap: Why minorities are less likely to pursue outdoor recreation.” Created by outdoors columnist Ash Kelly, the radio feature asked, “Does the outdoors community have a diversity problem?” And the answer, to Kelly and the identity activists she interviewed, was definitely yes.

The range of outdoor activities in Canada is boggling. Surfing. Kayaking. Fishing. Hiking. Skiing. Cycling. Snowboarding. Archery. Climbing. Birdwatching. Scuba diving. Sailing. Hunting. Camping. Jogging. Mountain biking. Tai chi in the park. Nature photography. Target shooting. Swimming. Outdoor sports, like soccer, cricket, bocce and beach volleyball.

The assumption of the program, and of the diversity activists interviewed from an outdoors club and outdoors-supply business, was that people of colour, LGBQT people, women and Indigenous people are not proportionally represented in Canada’s outdoors. The program assumed those who enjoy outdoors recreation are largely “privileged” and are consciously or unconsciously denying marginalized groups access to the outdoors.

I’d suggest this representative illustration of diversity journalism contained a number of problems that are common to the emerging genre.

Source: Vancouver Sun, by Douglas Todd. Read full article