CBC Manitoba is looking for individuals who can help add context and perspective to the way it covers the province.
In a new pilot for CBC — but following a model adopted by other newsrooms around the world — CBC Manitoba is establishing a 15-member community advisory board to help inform the way it covers the province and reflects the communities the public broadcaster serves.
Board members will hold their positions for up to two years and are asked to provide general guidance to the Winnipeg newsroom.
The pilot project comes after a series of projects across the country aimed at deepening relationships between Canadians and their public broadcaster.
While the board won’t have editorial control over individual stories on radio, TV or online, it is being set up to help capture the broad range of lived experiences in the province, including voices that are underrepresented in mainstream media.
“Deepening the public broadcaster’s connection at the heart of neighbourhoods and communities is essential to our mandate and our goal to reflect contemporary Canada,” said John Bertrand, CBC’s Prairies region senior managing director.
“It’s critical for CBC to be as relevant as possible to Manitobans and Canadians, and the advisory board is one important way to help with that.”
The community advisory board is the latest in a series of initiatives that put listening to citizens at the start of local news gathering. Incorporating ways of taking feedback is another critical component as well that improves the lines of communication between CBC Manitoba journalists and the people who live in the province.
CBC Manitoba set up a temporary bureau in Morden and Winkler during the fall of 2019, collaborated with Winnipeg’s Filipino community on a makeshift newsroom at Garden City Shopping Centre in March 2020 and connected emerging female entrepreneurs with trail-blazing women to shine a light on the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“Our community is so diverse, so dynamic and constantly changing,” said Bertrand. “It is critical for us to find every way possible to listen closely about what matters to Manitobans. It is part of our long-standing commitment as the public broadcaster.”
Advisory boards around the world
While this is a pilot for CBC Manitoba, it’s something newsrooms across the globe have adopted, including BBC, National Public Radio in the United States and ABC, the Australian public broadcaster. Privately owned U.S. companies such as McClatchy Newspapers, the San Diego Union-Tribune and Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO either have boards or are starting them.
The advisory board model can have positive effects for newsrooms, says Stephanie Castellano, editorial manager for the American Press Institute — a U.S.-based journalism research institute.
She has spoken with several newsrooms with advisory boards, including some in place for years and others just starting up.
“Everyone I spoke with commented on how the boards allowed them to hear ideas, insights and perspectives that they never would have gotten otherwise,” said Castellano.
“Editors typically provide the boards with an agenda in advance of meetings, yet give the floor to board members to speak at those meetings.”
Specific points raised during the meetings are followed up on, such as one board’s vote to change the language it used in immigration stories.
“That kind of follow-through and accountability to a community advisory board is very meaningful,” Castellano said.
The boards can also serve newsrooms well when flashpoints occur involving specific ethnic or racialized groups.
“Historically, newsrooms haven’t really engaged with communities who have been marginalized and so when there’s been a terrible act of violence or something awful has happened that’s when they see journalists,” said Andrea Wenzel, an associate professor at Temple University and the author of Community-Centred Journalism: Engaging People, Exploring Solutions and Building Trust.
She says the value in community boards is “offering input and suggestions to keep the project on mission — for instance, ‘if you’re trying this story, here’s what you might be missing,’ or ‘here’s why you may not be connecting with people at this time of day,’ or highlight blindspots that reporters might have.”
How it comes together
CBC Manitoba is inviting the public to apply for the 15 positions on the new community advisory board. The board will be chosen to reflect the ethnocultural, socio-economic, geographic and political diversity of the province, but will not oversee editorial decisions.
Applicants will be interviewed by a committee of seven journalists who work for CBC Manitoba.
Board members will sit for two-year terms and meet once every two months. Board members will be paid an honorarium of $75 for each meeting.
The board’s tasks will include:
- Providing advice about specific reporting projects and long-term editorial outlooks.
- Offering general feedback on programming.
- May be called upon to serve as a sounding board during breaking news events.
- Form smaller boards for specific coverage needs.
If you’re interested in being part of the board, fill out the form below.