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Journalism Innovation

Journalism and geography: Discourse Media talks changing media space on Sense of Place

Roundhouse Radio interview tackles decolonizing media, creating new narratives in journalism

What are the options for journalists in a changing media landscape? While traditional business models supporting public interest journalism are in decline, there is a growing need for better reporting on complex issues. On March 11, 2016, Minelle Mahtani, host of Sense of Place on Vancouver’s Roundhouse Radio, spoke with Discourse Media’s co-founder and CEO Erin Millar about how Discourse is providing a space to address these challenges.

Roundhouse Radio host Minelle Mahtani and Discourse Media co-founder and CEO Erin Millar at the Roundhouse Radio station in Vancouver
Roundhouse Radio host Minelle Mahtani and Discourse Media co-founder and CEO Erin Millar at the Roundhouse Radio station in Vancouver.

As a professor of human geography and journalism at the University of Toronto, Mahtani brought a valuable perspective to this conversation. I am a recent human geography graduate myself, and I’ve often questioned how I’d be able to really “use my degree” in my work. Since joining the Discourse team, I’ve been so heartened by the projects we’re working on, and the ways they’ve connected with my original research passions. While listening to Mahtani and Millar, the connection between geography and the kind of journalism we produce at Discourse was made even more clear.

Broadly (sometimes maddeningly so), human geography involves place and space, and the way we interact with them as people in terms of culture, environment and more. How do we interact with space legally and socially? How do we regulate movement and action? How does this impact our identity? Place and space are an important part of our reconciliation journalism work at Discourse Media, from land rights and resource development in the north to how Indigenous people are policed in public spaces. We’re also launching a platform in mid-April for journalists and others to tell stories of energy poverty and access around the world.

Mahtani teaches her journalism students about decolonizing media and changing the way we think and talk about indigeneity in Canada, so our long-term reconciliation project was particularly close to her heart. Millar shared how through our reconciliation work we hope to change the narrative around this profound topic — or create it in the first place. In collaboration with our media partners, we are producing sustained coverage on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s calls to action. We want to represent the shift in power to grassroots voices, emphasizing the words of people from affected communities.

We were grateful to connect with Roundhouse Radio, a fellow media outlet committed to decolonizing journalism and representing community voices. Sense of Place is starting a new series called Reporting on Race, which will focus on journalists’ successes and challenges in covering race and indigeneity in new ways. Mahtani wants to continue this important conversation with Discourse, and we look forward to doing so.

Click here to listen to the full interview.