Corus announces diversity review as journalism associations call for action

Former Corus Entertainment social media strategist Joshua Grant is one of the former and current employees who have come forward with allegations of racism that's now led to a company review. (Twitter/@thejoshuagrant)

Corus Entertainment has announced it’s initiating a review of the experiences of current and former employees who have come forward with allegations of a culture of racism and microagressions.

Corus, the parent company of Global, Slice, W Network, Food Network Canada, and HGTV Canada, among other media properties, has hired an independent, external consultant.

Former Corus social media strategist Joshua Grant went public last week with his experiences at the company, including an incident in which he says he was asked to create a meme for Big Brother Canada based on civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick’s “Dream Crazy” NIKE ad. Grant alleges he was threatened with firing when he suggested it was inappropriate.

Freelancer Ika Wong also said last week that she would not return to ET Canada in the current climate.

“In recent days, individuals have shared on social media their personal employment experiences at Corus Entertainment that leave us deeply troubled,” said Corus in a statement issued Wednesday. “Our company is committed to a culture where we stand up for each other and actively work to challenge our biases and assumptions. This is clearly not the experience of these individuals. ”   

“We want to listen carefully, understand their lived experiences and make any necessary changes. In order to do so, we have retained an independent, external consultant from a company called DiversiPro, with expertise in workplace diversity and anti-Black racism. DiversiPro will undertake a thorough review of the concerns raised and the Corus employee experience.  The scope and extent will be shaped by the external evaluator, who will also have independent conversations with former and current employees. We are learning that a commitment to an inclusive workplace that is free from bias is not enough, and we are prepared to listen, learn and act.”

Racism “saturating” Canadian media: journalism associations

The Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ) and Canadian Journalists of Colour (CJOC) issued a joint statement this week saying they are especially concerned by the level of systemic racism “saturating” Canadian journalism and media.

This comes following widespread criticism of several statements issued by Canadian media organizations decrying racism in the wake of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. The associations say while necessary, these statements are a far cry from sufficient.

“Not only are there too few Black journalists in Canadian newsrooms, and a dismal number of Black managers at all levels, but the industry persistently refuses to report on itself,” said the CABJ. “Disaggregated demographic numbers are not released by Canadian media companies; while white-centered and biased coverage is disseminated to listeners, readers, and viewers, the industry resists even the barest measures of accountability. This alone is cause for alarm.”

CABJ and CJOC say they want the industry to make good on previously empty commitments to multiculturalism. On that note, they’ve released seven Calls to Action to improve equitability, accessibility, and representation, saying “there have been too many panels, too many town halls, and too many training sessions, all of which have ultimately led to on-air gaffes, unprofessional comments and columns, and a litany of incidents underscoring the work that remains to be done.”

As first reported by Canadaland this week, CBC anchor Wendy Mesley is under investigation for one such gaffe after using “a word that should never be used” last Thursday during a production meeting when quoting a journalist slated as an upcoming guest.

Non-disclosure of diverse hiring

Getting the big media players to change a longstanding pattern of non-disclosure of diverse hiring practices, however, may be a challenge.

Broadcast Dialogue reached out to Bell, Corus, Rogers, and CBC for diversity hiring stats within their respective media divisions this week.

Bell told us it doesn’t specifically break down its publicly-disclosed diversity report by divisions, including Bell Media. It directed us to BCE’s 2019 Corporate responsibility report which suggests visible minorities account for 21% of its total workforce, with three per cent Indigenous. Within senior management, those numbers fall to 10 and one per cent, respectively. As of publication, the others had not released a breakdown.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), meantime, has been working on implementing its own diversity survey to send out to newsrooms to gain a clearer picture.

In a June 8 blog post, Brodie Fenlon, CBC News editor-in-chief, acknowledged that current events have reaffirmed how much work the public broadcaster has ahead of it in this area.

“On the inside of CBC News, many of our staff were reeling. People of colour told us the Floyd story is personal and deeply felt. The pain is real. Our mistakes laid bare their long-held complaint that we aren’t moving fast enough to ensure our workforce — from entry level to leadership — looks like the country we serve. How can we ever deepen our awareness and understanding of race if more people of colour, more Indigenous people, more women, more people with disabilities, aren’t in positions of power and influence throughout our newsrooms?” wrote Fenlon.

Across CBC News, Local, and Current Affairs, the public broadcaster has pledged itself to a number of initiatives, including that half of all new hires come from underrepresented equity groups, mandatory unconscious bias training for journalists and managers, an expanded program for “emerging diverse leaders” and training editorial teams on how to think more inclusively when chasing interviews, guests and experts.


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