The Challenges of Diversity
The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity
Stephen E. Nancoo, Robert S. Nancoo, editors
Canadian Educators' Press, 1997
Reviewed by Kirsten Cowan
It has become something of a truism - a key distinction between
Canada and our southern neighbour being our belief in a cultural
mosaic rather than a melting pot. Of course cultural critics and
folks on the street have all used the past two decades to critique
the Canadian model of multiculturalism and its much touted success.
The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity is no different. It
holds Canadian media portrayals of visible and cultural minorities
up to scrutiny, and finds them much wanting.
In a collection of academic and sociological pieces, Nancoo and
Nancoo present disturbing historical portraits ("The Invisible
Mosaic: Women, Ethnicity and The Vancouver Press, 1905-1976, by
Doreen Indra) and close-up case studies of events such as the Kahnesetake
confrontations between First Nations and the Canadian and Quebec
governments ("Rights and Warriors: First Nations, Media and
Identity" by Gail Guthrie Valaskakis). Not every approach is
equally successful for the lay reader. Certainly Valaskakis insightful
assessment of the Mohawk Warrior phenomenon and its portrayal in
the media makes compelling reading. Pieces such as "Female
Stereotyping in Advertising" (Robert G. Wyckham) and "The
Distorted Mirror: Images of Visible Minority Women in Canadian Print
Advertising" (Robert M. MacGregor) feel stilted and top heavy
with data analysis to the reader hoping for a sexy cultural critique.
On the other hand, a clear eyed picture of exactly what is being
portrayed in the media is necessary for complete understanding.
In Part IV, the attention is turned to minority controlled media
and the vehicle for expression it provides. Again, the lay reader
is much more likely to be drawn in by the articles not based on
study results, as they contain far more profiles of specific instances
and success stories rather than statistical breakdowns of household
use of media outlets be language. J.B. Minore and M.E. Hill's "Native
Language Broadcasting: An Experiment in Empowerment" is particularly
able to capture the power which a self-directed media can have on
a disenfranchised group.
In the final section, the two editors take it upon themselves to
peer into the future of representations of diversity by the media.
They point to the increasing diversity of the media itself as a
key factor. As the monolithic media is splintered into thousands
of niche publications and outlets, representing diversity begins
to take on a whole new shape. Diversity is at once further celebrated
and further hidden.
All in all, The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity is an
excellent collections of very distinctly Canadian focused articles
- although the title is somewhat misleading. By examining not only
portrayals of minority populations in the mass media, but cultural
production emanating from within minority linguistic and cultural
groups, Nancoo and Nancoo have painted a portrait of a country at
once welcoming difference and distinctly uncomfortable with it.
Although most suitable for the student able to make sense of tables
of statistics, The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity has
a few gems worth reading by any Canadian.
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