Journalism While Brown and When to Walk Away

Sunny Dhillon
Published in
5 min readOct 29, 2018

Photo: Unsplash/G. Crescoli

I’ve thought about this piece, involving the experiences of journalists of colour, a lot the last few months.

The piece, republished by Poynter in June, spoke to the challenges journalists of colour can face in a lily-white industry. The unending fight to share other perspectives. The inner debate to stay or go. The exhaustion of it all.

I suppose the piece stuck with me because I’ve fought at least some of these same battles. If you leave it can feel like you’re letting other people of colour down, throwing in the towel on whatever change you had one day hoped to see. If you stay each instance in which your outlet drops the ball on a matter of race can feel like a body blow.

Last week I finally decided to leave. I cleaned out my desk and walked out of The Globe and Mail newsroom in Vancouver. I am today, this morning, formally resigning. My departure is the result of both a single incident and a continuing pattern. It’s unplanned but not out of the blue. I do not have another job lined up. I do not know what comes next.

I write this piece with the hope it will lead to meaningful reflection on the lack of diversity in Canadian journalism and the problems therein. But I have worked as a journalist in this country for the last decade and with the solutions as obvious as they are unacted upon — hire more people of colour, hear their voices, elevate them to positions of power or prominence — I cannot say I am particularly optimistic.

I was assigned my final Globe story — I did not pitch it — last Monday, on October 22. It was a follow to the Vancouver civic election, which had seen the city vote in a nearly all-white council. The assignment came after the bureau’s morning meeting in which the discussion of the new council centred heavily, if not entirely, on its ethnic makeup. The story folder and headline later emailed to me by the assistant editor confirmed this view. Another colleague kindly sent me the names of some people of colour to potentially interview.

I was given five-plus hours to write the story and I set out to speak with some of the people of colour who were on party slates but picked up thousands fewer votes than their white colleagues. The conversations were thoughtful and heartfelt. We discussed their pride…