For Diverse Media to Work, It Has to be Genuine

A Sip of Canadian History with Dr. Don Livermore
June 19, 2017

Diversity, diversity, diversity. You can’t get half way down your social media feed without seeing this word splattered in multiple headlines or littered in general conversation. It’s become an inescapable hot button issue fueled by a variety of factors that we couldn’t possibly cover in one article.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t try. We may not be able to dissect every angle, but we can focus on one; namely, the media. I mean, the media is how we receive these messages. It’s where we trust (some of us) that these messages are accurate. And with the proliferation of social media, we’ve become our own producers and commentators reflecting and discussing on issues such as diversity.

But is media doing its job when it comes to accurately depicting diverse opinions? Are we getting the broad scope of opinions needed to tell a fair story?

To get a better grasp of media and its role in creating, communicating, and portraying diversity, we turn to Canadian award winning writer Kayla Greaves.  A former voice at HuffPost, Buzzfeed, and Blavity, Kayla was picked as one of the top 100 Women to Watch in Canada. With her notable achievements, we asked Kayla what her take is on the whole diversity thing and her view on media’s role in this realm.

 

  1. I don’t know if I get angry or excited when I hear the word diversity. How do you feel when you hear that word?

    I feel like it’s kind of a “buzz word.” Everyone’s so into “diversity” right now, everyone wants to be “diverse,” but not everyone is practicing what they preach — especially at the workplace. Having a team at work that represents a multitude of experiences, ages, cultures, sexual orientations, genders and everything in between is just the smart and right thing to do. The fact that there’s a term for this shows it’s still not the norm. And as a society, we clearly have a long way to go.
  2. You’ve been a strong voice in the media writing for publications like HuffPost and BuzzFeed. What’s your interpretation of how the media handles diversity?

    It’s one thing to be reporting on natural hair, LGBT rights and Hindu weddings, but it’s another to actually have people from those communities writing them. You want these stories and these experiences to be as genuine as possible. And when it’s coming from someone on the outside looking in, especially those who clearly have no connection to these communities — it can be a disaster.If media outlets are writing these stories just for the sake of writing them, then don’t bother. If you really care, then pay someone, or better yet, hire someone who’s walked the walk to write and edit these pieces. Of course, they’re going to do a better job and, again, it’s just the right thing to do.
  3. I think when people hear the word diversity, they think “let’s just hire POC.” How can we broaden that discussion and show the public it’s about much more than that?

    Throwing in someone of colour just for the sake of it isn’t going to accomplish much. Then that person becomes to go-to PoC in the office for everyone’s inquiries, which just adds another level of pressure and awkwardness.The small scope people generally have when it comes to diversity is proof that we have such a long way to go. The best way to think of it, I think, is to reflect on each of our world views. For example, I am a young, black, straight, Canadian woman who is the child of Jamaican immigrants. I’ve never been married and I don’t have children. I’ve never had a serious illness and I’m lucky enough to say I’ve generally been quite healthy all my life. With that being said, I have no idea what it’s like to go through divorce, I don’t know what it’s like to have a life partner of 30+ years yet, I don’t know what it’s like to have kids and be a parent, or to feel othered by society for loving someone of the same sex. I don’t know what it’s like to only have a Canadian heritage, and the list goes on. But there are people out there who know what it’s like to experience each of those things and more — and that’s what’s missing.
  1. What’s next for you? You’ve seemed to accomplish a lot in your career. What excites you looking forward?

    I love what I do. I’ve definitely found my purpose, so I’ll probably keep writing until the day I die. What excites me looking forward is seeing more people from all areas of life share their story. And the day when we no longer have to use the words “diverse” and “inclusive.” I’m hoping sooner than later it’s just what’s normal.