Assessing our past and committing to change and accountability
Photo C/O Cindy Cui
On June 2, we posted a short message in solidarity with the protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism, and your comments challenged us to do more. Posting a ‘simple’ sentence without a more substantive commitment to provide an inclusive and representative paper was short-sighted. The message just created the appearance of empty promises, and we are sorry for the harm that it caused.
The Silhouette should represent the diverse voices of the McMaster student and Hamilton community. We have regularly reported on key issues that affect oppressed communities.
However, we have also fallen short in many respects. There is a serious lack of representation throughout Canadian newsrooms, and the Silhouette has not been immune to this. In the past, we have failed as a newspaper to truly reflect the diversity of our communities. This inevitably impacted our coverage.
The media is one of many institutions that often normalizes and perpetuates racism. For example, ignoring stories that centre Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, only reporting on them in negative contexts, framing the perspectives of people in positions of power as being the most credible and failing to report on racism and hate crimes statistics are just some of the ways that the Canadian media commonly reinforces white supremacy. We have to be cognizant of these forces within our own newsroom.
While we are a service of the McMaster Students Union, we do have the editorial autonomy that allows us to deliver on our responsibility to report about everything McMaster — from art shows and football games to investigative articles on the institutions that have an active hand in shaping our community. This autonomy allows us to ensure all student voices are being protected and amplified when demanding accountability from our leaders on campus. You can voice concerns, criticism, or give feedback to the MSU or administration through the Silhouette.
As a platform to uplift student voices and an active agent in shaping our community narrative, we have not always honoured that responsibility. If you have been ignored, disenfranchised, turned away or had a negative experience with us, we want to know about it. While we can’t make up for the wrong-doings of the past, we will strive to ensure that it does not happen in the future. We have created an anonymous Google Form for you to voice your concerns. Through the feedback we receive, we will be able to listen and learn from those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, helping to implement new policies and restructure our way of operating. We want to address our mistakes so that moving into Volume 91, we can continue building on our progress thus far.
We hope to deliver on our position of being a student-newspaper that represents the McMaster and Hamilton community. We have developed initial goals on how we can improve, but more importantly, how the McMaster community can hold us accountable.
- Reviewing and changing hiring practices to be truly representative of the diversity within the McMaster community. This process will include reviewing our hiring and interview processes to create more points of entry for students of colour to get paid positions on staff. We will reassess our outreach efforts and the inherent ways they can be exclusionary. We will also be reviewing our job descriptions and interview questions to remove any discriminatory coded language.
- Better community engagement so we can learn and work with a wider audience and give voice to clubs and organizations at McMaster that represent oppressed communities. We will review our editorial training practices to ensure that the oncoming Volume 91 team prioritizes anti-oppression training and community building within the McMaster and Hamilton communities. We want to stress that the Silhouette is an open-platform for all students at McMaster to have their voices amplified, so we are creating a standardized process through which any member of the McMaster community can pitch articles or submit tips to the team. We are not a tool that is solely available to our staff writers or people within the MSU, rather a platform that is available for all students to utilize.
- Creating new documented policies to allow the McMaster and Hamilton communities to hold the Silhouette accountable. While we operate based on informal and outdated guidelines carried on from past staff, and are required to abide by journalistic ethics standards from the Canadian University Press and Canadian Press styles, currently the Silhouette’s publicly available guidelines do not feature formalized internal policies and best practices that do not allow a platform for white supremacy and other forms of hate. From June through August, the Volume 91 Management team will work with the Volume 90 team and peers prioritizing resources from social justice educators, anti-oppressive practice consultants, and anti-racist activists, along with the work of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour journalists and storytellers in the local and national community to compile these policies in one document and post it publically to our website, allowing for transparency. This will ensure that anybody can see how we as a newspaper operate from anti-racist journalistic practices to article guidelines. Making these reporting standards accessible will allow you to know where we stand as a paper and to hold the Silhouette accountable.
- Creating a policy for anti-racist reporting practices and language guides, which will be released publicly. We have already implemented many of these practices informally, but we still lack an official established policy. By making this policy available to the public, you will be able to know where we stand as a publication and how to hold us to account. We want more in-depth fearless coverage of our community and the institutions in control that must be held accountable for their actions. We want to cover topics that need to be covered, even if they haven’t in the past, or if it makes people uncomfortable. A formal policy with established standards will help us ensure our coverage meets our expectations and yours.
The ways we can accomplish these goals are not as simple as writing bullet points in an editorial, or making statements, and we are not publishing this as a pat on the back or a way to check off a box. We also want to stress that this is by no means an exhaustive list of goals that we have for the upcoming year, rather this is our acknowledgement of the serious internal shortcomings within our newspaper. There are still a lot of conversations and learning ahead, which will take a lot of follow up on the commitments listed here, in addition to listening and doing our own research. For now, we wanted to communicate these commitments to you, to let the student community know we hear you.
This full commitment, with more details, will be available on our website once we have had time to have the proper conversations that need to be had and listen to the feedback we receive from you, the student population.
The Silhouette has been standing for equity, accountability, honesty, and clarity for a long time. We hope we can continue to deliver on that promise. If you have any feedback, questions, concerns, or any ideas of how we can do better, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below, we have provided a list of many local organizations that help support Black communities in Hamilton and the GTA: Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, Black Lives Matter - Toronto, Black Legal Action Centre, Afro Canadian Caribbean Association Hamilton, Black Students Association McMaster.