Journalism students gain new perspective at Community Listening event

First-year Journalism – Mass Media students had a valuable opportunity for experiential learning at Durham College (DC) earlier this month.

The ‘Community Listening’ event, held at the new Centre for Innovation and Research, was part of the Voices in Durham project, a partnership between the Regional Municipality of Durham and DC. The theme of the event was ‘reporting on fair and equitable stories in the diverse region of Durham.’

“We’re talking to key leaders in the Region of Durham about how journalists can approach them, how they can tell stories, how to gain trust in their communities, and how to really build rapport and to look for stories that the students wouldn’t normally know about,” explained Journalism faculty member Joanne MacDonald.  

By simulating a press conference, the event allowed students to experience the work of a professional journalist, and each of them had a unique role to play, from moderating the discussion to taking notes and snapping photographs.

One of the guest speakers was Dr. Vidal Chavannes, Director of Strategy, Research and Organizational Performance at Durham Regional Police Service. He saw the event as an ideal opportunity to speak to the future reporters who will shed light on important news and issues.

“I’m happy to participate in any opportunity to connect with young people who are interested in telling the stories of the residents of Durham,” he said. “Any time you’re able to hear other people’s life stories, I think it helps you understand just how different that we are, but also how much we have in common.”

First-year students Bryson Betts and Sunmeet Kour served as the event hosts, leading the discussion before turning the microphone over to their assembled classmates. The panelists touched on a variety of topics, from the importance of inclusive local news to the best way for reporters to approach their communities.

DC’s young journalists will benefit greatly from the experience, according to professor Teresa Goff.

“When you’re working in journalism, you need to know your audience. We want them to feel comfortable going out into the community and doing interviews, but we also want them to understand the diversity of Durham,” she said. “We want to get the students thinking about amplifying voices that we don’t often hear.”

Fittingly, the guest speakers for the event were six community members who are working hard to create change, including;

  • Wosen Beyene, Manager of the Ajax Welcome Centre and Immigrant Services (Community Development Council Durham)
  • Vidal Chavannes, Director of Strategy, Research and Organizational Performance at Durham Regional Police Service
  • Jon Colwell, Visual Artist, Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation
  • Akuah Frempong, Clinical Services Coordinator at Inner City Health Associates, Member of Congress of Black Women of Canada (Oshawa/Whitby Chapter), and Member of Durham Region Anti-Racism Taskforce
  • Lisa McIntosh, Director, Income, Employment and Homelessness Support
  • Raveena Rajasingham, President, Canadian Tamil Congress, Board of Directors