Native media to be offered at Loyalist
By Adrian Leung
People interested in native media studies will soon be able to enrol in a new aboriginal media program to be offered in September at Belleville's Loyalist College.
The two-year journalism program, run through the First Nations Technical Institute, a native-owned and operated training centre in Belleville, is the only program in eastern Canada that offers a diploma specifically for aboriginal media studies.
Maurice Switzer, one of the founders of the program and a retired journalist, said the venture is an attempt to generate knowledge among both the media and the general public about native issues.
"The mainstream media lack the understanding about aboriginal issues and most journalists are oblivious of them," he said.
Susan White, a co-ordinator for the institute said she agreed with Switzer. "Aboriginal stories are not being told very well and I see room for better work," she said. "Many people don't have accurate information about aboriginals. For example, most Canadians feel that aboriginals are [economically] better off that the rest of the population, which is not true."
Along with attempting to change the media stereotypes of natives in Canada, the program will also provide an opportunity for natives to gain journalism skills needed to enter the media field.
"Aboriginals can put their skills to work by editing newspapers and creating websites in their own native communities or even enter the mainstream media industry," White explained.
She also said the new program will not be traditional in the educational sense, with a set curriculum, but will cater to the needs of the students. "We have sent out a needs survey to the aboriginal community in order to build the program around the learner," White said. "We're also thinking of making it a travelling program where we travel to communities such as Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay to teach the course."
A program in journalism for native people had previously been offered at Western but closed in 1990 due to federal funding cuts.
"The program lasted about 10 years and was never a permanent program," said David Spencer, Western's acting dean of journalism. "In 1989 the Department of Indian Affairs decided to cut the funding to the aboriginal program."
Although the native journalism program has been closed since 1990, Spencer said there many soon be a decision to provide scholarships for aboriginal students at Western's journalism school.