As an early-career journalist and person of colour, Radiyah has first-hand experience as well as invaluable insights into the challenges awaiting people like her as they make their way in Canada's media industry. Her essay gained national attention, further amplifying conversations on the urgent need for better diversity and equity in newsrooms, particularly for historically marginalized communities. We asked Radiyah to share some thoughts on writing the essay and what's happened since she won the award.
FRIENDS: Writing an essay critiquing Canadian journalism must not have been easy for you as a working journalist of colour. What was it like making that decision—first to write it and then to submit it where it will be widely read by a national audience?
Radiyah: When I first came across the contest and read that the essay had to be about media and democracy, my immediate thought was, "Okay, what does democracy really mean?" I was taught in school that a free press is crucial to an effective and accurate democracy, which means they are always linked. But if this free press doesn't actually reflect the people who live in this democracy, are we really upholding that notion? I definitely considered other topics because it wasn't lost on me that I was taking a risk, writing this piece and also being an early career journalist. But my essay opens with a truth: this dilemma I've had about leaving the field. And then the essay is meant to explain how that dilemma came about in the first place. I could have written about something else, but this felt like the most honest route—and if I was going to spend time writing something, I wanted it to be genuine. Also, I didn't think I'd win, so that helped reduce any stress associated with submitting it.