This week, Ryerson University’s journalism school played host to a teach-in catered to its students.
Cancelling classes and instead inviting students to attend the day-long event called “Making Sense When the World Doesn’t,” the school’s administration and faculty convened for a day of industry expert, guest speaker and panel discussions addressing the role of the media in today’s world.
This comes amidst growing criticism and distrust of the media between news reporters, government officials and the public. But it is this official recognition from educational institutions like Ryerson that come at such a crucial time to remind us that journalism is a form of public service.
The fight for freedom of the press is something that’s been well-documented, with reporters historically facing hostility from those who are enraged at them — or at the very least, disagree with the work they have done.
From the harassment and degradation of women in the media, the attacks on our values of multiculturalism and the attempted normalization of hateful and divisive rhetoric, those in the news media are under daily scrutiny for just doing their jobs.
This scrutiny is something that people like the Ryersonian’s Jessica Vomiero are constantly facing. Vomiero is a female reporting in the technology industry, one sector that, as she writes in our Voices section this week, is dominated by male reporters.
It’s also something the university’s journalism school hopes to address with the teach-in. In addition to bringing in a number of guest speakers, the faculty invited university psychologist and professor Diana Brecher to speak on how to survive and thrive in uncertain times. Brecher spoke about the significance of remaining optimistic and not losing sight of what motivates reporters, adding that “there’s a lot of research to suggest that if you’re happy, you’ll be successful.”
It’s something that VICE Canada senior reporter Manisha Krishnan has faced on a regular basis. As reporter Emily Srebotnjak writes this week in the News section, Krishnan has been on the receiving end of online hate comments — but instead of avoiding it, she urges us to cope with it, even embrace it.
This is easier said than done. But it reminds us of another one of the principles of journalism — that it must act as a forum for public discourse.
While we must not tolerate hateful comments and speech, we can respect the institution that allows such discourse, or any discourse, to exist in the public domain.
As journalists we must, as Michelle Obama said, go high when they go low.
This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on March 16, 2017.