On most days the Toronto Star falls short of producing a newspaper and website that look like the Toronto we see when we walk our streets, says public editor Kathy English.

By Kathy English, public editor of the Toronto Star

Does the Toronto Star reflect the rich diversity of your Toronto?

It is a fact worth boasting about that Toronto is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the world. And Statistics Canada tells us that 49.1 per cent of Toronto households — almost half — are visible minorities. That’s higher still outside the city, in the Greater Toronto communities: 72.3 per cent in Markham, 53.7 per cent in Mississauga.

While I have no doubt the Star is long past the era when its daily news file depicted the world of the white male, the reality remains that on most days the Star still falls short of producing a newspaper and website that looks like the Toronto we see when we walk our city streets, play in our parks, shop, dine out, ride transit.

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The Star, which has long positioned itself as “the paper for the people” can do better at being the news platform for all the people. And it is committed to doing so.

In recent months, at the request of publisher John Cruickshank, who regards this as a priority for the Star, I have been working with managing editor Jane Davenport to examine what steps are needed to ensure the Star more fully reflects the diversity of the greater Toronto community it serves.

We have met with all newsroom managers to set goals and determine targets and measures with a primary goal of tracking our coverage on an ongoing basis.

“We will be focusing as a newsroom on dramatically improving representation of Toronto’s ethnic diversity in our coverage in all areas, on all platforms,” Davenport said in a recent memo to the newsroom. “Our goal is for our photos, videos and stories to reflect at every possible opportunity the makeup of the city in which we live.

“We are doing this because it’s the right thing to do.”

I think most everyone in the newsroom understands the importance of the Toronto Star taking further steps to truly reflect the Toronto of 2014. City editor Irene Gentle envisions nothing less than a Star that reflects “the soul of the city.” She had begun tracking coverage of visible minorities in the Greater Toronto section even before the publisher asked me to hold the newsroom to account for how it depicts Toronto’s multicultural rainbow.

Undoubtedly, the Star now does a better job of reflecting the diversity of its community than most any other newspaper in Canada and has for some 25 years. Throughout the 1990s, the Star was a leader within North American journalism for its commitment to equal and fair coverage for all citizens and every group.

Still, we can do better. There remains a gap between talking about diversity and achieving a daily news file that fully and fairly depicts the lives and concerns of the visible “minorities” who make up half of Toronto’s population.

To continue reading this column, please visit thestar.com, where it was originally published.

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