‘Muslim Project’ confronts a challenged news media

Members of some of Canada’s major news gathering organizations, the CBC, Toronto Star and National Post, spoke at Ryerson University about the press’ coverage of Muslim and Islamic issues.

The roundtable discussion was part of the nationwide project, ‘Muslim Project’ initiated by the Centre for Faith and Media and funded by the Canadian Heritage Foundation for improving media coverage of Muslims in Canada.

Jonathan Kay, managing editor at the National Post was on the panel and said sometimes reporters are unable to do an accurate story about the Muslims because of many reasons.

Language barriers, lack of media-friendly Muslim organizations and ‘leaders’ claim to speak for the majority of Muslims, when in fact they don’t, are some of complications Kay listed.

Stuart Laidlaw, the Toronto Star’s faith and ethics reporter, said journalists trying to be objective sometimes end up portraying an inaccurate image of the majority of Muslims. Laidlaw said it is because the reporters strive to present opposing views, yet sometimes ignore the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are moderates.

Senior producer of current affairs at CBC said although journalists try to educate themselves as much as possible, it is almost impossible for them to distinguish between those who represent mainstream Muslims and those who don’t.

“It is hard for someone who is not involved [in the community] to distinguish between majority and minority, senior producer,” Peter Kavanagh said.

According to the Centre for Faith and Media’s website, in order to confront these challenges it is planning to develop a comprehensive media directory of Canadian Muslim organizations, mosques, schools, key contacts, and other information which will assist the media in seeking out a wider range of voices.

Kay said it is on the shoulders of the Muslim individuals, as well as the community, to voice their concerns publically. Traditional media channels, such as a simple letter to the editor, go a long way in bridging the communications gap.

The Centre for Faith and Media Discussions plans to take their workshop nationwide with forums scheduled for Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.