Community bureau project hopes to serve underrepresented communities
Starting next week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will be bringing its community bureaus initiative to Park Extension with the stated objective of telling the stories of underserved communities.
CBC will be setting up an office at Park Ex Library at the William-Hingston Centre and is welcoming community groups and residents alike to come and discuss the stories important to them.
The goal of these bureaus is to “build and sustain relationships with people in underserved, underrepresented areas, to strengthen our journalism by making it more reflective of all Quebecers,” said the CBC.
Running from Apr. 26 to May 14, the bureau will be led by CBC Montreal journalist Jennifer Yoon, who hopes to make connections with people in the neighbourhood and better tell the stories important to Park Extension.
The initiative has already stopped off in three other locations, including Brossard, Lévis and the Laurentians.
“These are communities that are underrepresented by our journalism and on top of that part of the public has lost trust in the media,” said CBC Producer Cassandra Leader.
“We’re also including trust as part of our goals and mandate. So the bureau itself is an initiative to build the bridge and close the gap between these communities and CBC,” she added.
Communications Officer Rana Liu said that to accomplish this they would concentrate on taking the time to listen to peoples’ stories. “That makes a difference to your community journalism and it really builds relationships with people,” she added.
Although the bureaus are looking to cover local stories, all those involved highlighted that they wanted to listen to people and properly understand the issues affecting the neighbourhood before interviewing people and producing stories.
Instead of conducting formal interviews, CBC is taking a slower approach by asking residents to join them for informal ‘coffee chats’ to discuss the background of issues in Park Ex.
“This is the beginning of a long-term relationship, the bureau is the first step where we are slowly introducing ourselves and getting to know people,” explained Leader, highlighting that they hoped to foster these relationships even after the bureau leaves.
“We’re used to parachuting in and then we come out and then we never come back until something happens in that area,” remarked Leader, underscoring that “for that reason, when we approached the bureau, we really focus first on building those relationships and not worrying about content.”
Leaving behind preconceived notions
Having grown up in the diverse suburb of Surrey, B.C. and herself an immigrant, journalist Jennifer Yoon hopes to leverage her lived experience to better tell the stories relevant to people in Park Ex.
“The whole idea of me coming in and making genuine connections is that I don’t come in with my own preconceived notions,” explained Yoon, adding that she is participating in the project to listen to residents.
“I don’t want to come in with any ideas of like, this is the story and this is the focus that I’ve already decided on,” added Yoon.
Yoon added that she wanted to make CBC more personable and approachable to people in the neighbourhood.
“We’re made up of people and we want to make those people-to-people connections so that we have a better relationship and that we are serving the neighbourhoods better than we are now,” she said.
Telling Park Ex stories
So far the public broadcaster has received support from residents and organizations on this new initiative. Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros voiced her support for the community bureau, remarking that it would bring more visibility to critical local issues.
“The more interest, the more things will take place,” said Deros. “The more interest and the more citizen input that will be publicly worked on, then obviously the city center and our administrators in the borough will be listening,” she explained
“It’s going to be more people, especially the media, that will be bringing up all the necessary means. So yes, I always welcome that, because it won’t be just my voice anymore,” added councillor Deros.
Change in strategy
According to Leader, this marks a significant shift in strategy in how the public broadcaster hopes to serve underrepresented communities in the future, both in Montreal and across the province.
“This is the first time we’re doing this, we’ve never had community bureaus in Quebec,” said Leader, adding that she hoped that slowing down the process of reporting news and issues could bring more accurate and empowering coverage.
“Slow down the journalism, don’t worry about the journalism, let’s get to know the people first and then the journalism will come,” she said.
Anyone interested in participating can contact the community bureau by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to book a ‘coffee chat’ with journalists.