Engage the Ethnic Press
By Maria Saras Voutsinas | Discover Magazine | April 28,2021
Vaccine hesitancy was listed as one of the top 10 threats to global health by the World Health Organization (WHO) back in 2019 — but in 2021, it remains as threatening as ever.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues across Canada and the rest of the world, Canadian doctors have been calling for “culturally competent” campaigns to fight vaccine hesitancy. But the reality is that we need so much more than that.
We have seen the stories of vaccine hesitancy from those who work in healthcare, including personal support workers (PSWs) who work in high-risk facilities. Ekos Research published a survey in December that showed that over 30% of visible minorities are not willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 hotspots across Canada
This is truly problematic – data shows that some of the worst COVID-19 hotspots across Canada have been in areas with large populations of new immigrants.
Knowing this, you would expect that the federal government would be placing public health announcements in as many ethnic publications as possible to ensure that Canadians have access to critical information in their native language. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
The Government of Canada is only publishing public health announcements in 11 languages other than English and French. There are too many outlets who aren’t receiving any government information to share with their readership. In some cases, the outreach to ethnic outlets and communities has been nonexistent.
Ethnic Media asserts crucial role in combatting COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy
Ethnic media has been hard-hit by the pandemic. The majority of advertisers for ethnic newspapers, radio and TV shows are made up of small businesses, events and conventions – all sectors that have been suffering since the pandemic hit.
In some cases, members of the ethnic press received some degree of government assistance. Many outlets were not eligible for government assistance and were left in the cold. With the decrease in advertising, too many of these outlets reached a breaking point.
This means that outlets have had to close, gone to online publication only, had to cut their publication schedules, have been forced to lay off staff, decrease circulation or some combination.
The day-to-day impacts of this are great and the impacts are being felt across the country. This means there is less access to dependable and accurate news for new immigrants and non-English speakers.
Less staff at ethnic outlets means less news for the surviving organizations. We have tracked this and layoffs reach as high as 80%.
Information is critical to fight against COVID-19
Even more upsetting than the decrease in accessible news, is that for those who still have a physical paper being delivered, it isn’t guaranteed to contain accurate information from the Government of Canada. This information is critical as we fight against COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation.
There is no easy cure to vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. But engaging the ethnic press is a good step in communities that need it. It’s not just about funding – the government needs to send public health experts to ethnic shows, start translating press releases into as many languages as possible and hold regular government-led briefings for ethnic media.
And yes, we need to keep ethnic publications afloat and help them return to their pre-pandemic publishing schedules.
Canada’s Chinese language press isn’t just combating misinformation from Canada. It’s combatting misinformation from around the world. The same goes for outlets publishing in Portuguese, Polish, Spanish, Italian and every other language.
The only way to win the fight against fake news is with the truth.
“Canada’s ethnic press and our ethnic journalists are ready to work to spread the truth in as many languages as possible”.
Maria Saras Voutsinas
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