Journalists of Tomorrow: Emilee Gilpin

Every year, I speak to winners of Concordia’s journalism school awards as they’re presented at the Montreal Gazette offices. Today, the 2016 winner of the Susan Carson bursary, Emilee Gilpin.

Emilee Gilpin, shortly after receiving her award in 2016.

Emilee Gilpin’s face has been hidden inside one of my browser tabs for almost two years now, as a reminder that I should write these bloody interviews up. Concordia’s website did a brief article about the 2016 award winners, and she was one of the winners quoted.

So, one browser tab closed, 25 more to go. Anyway, how can I make this blog post more about me?

OK, fine, let’s talk about Emilee. She’s 27 (or 25 when she won the award), she’s from London, Ontario, and she has an undergrad degree in philosophy and Spanish from McMaster University. She mentions off the bat her love of travelling, including teaching English as a second language in China before doing Concordia’s journalism diploma program.

As you can see from her answers below, she’s one of those activist journalists that white guys get so riled up about, focusing particularly on Indigenous issues. Susan Carson, the Gazette journalist after whom the award she received was named, was similar in her own way, seeking out stories of injustice and shining a light on them in the hope that doing so would spark change.

Here’s what Gilpin had to say when I caught up with her by email.

Why did you decide to study journalism?

I saw a few documentaries featuring some badass investigative journalists and I saw myself in them. I have a passion for justice and a strong intolerance for injustice and I believe in doing what we can during our cycle on earth to nurture positive change. One of the important roles of a journalist is holding truth to power and I liked that. I also noticed a gap in coverage of Indigenous communities in Canada, and wanted to see what I could do to help fill it in a good way.

What does journalism mean to you?

There have always been forms of journalism — news sharing, story-telling — they are ancient practices. When settlers first arrived, communities had scouts to inform them on information, there were runners between communities and nations, stories shared in potlatches and law lodges. Western journalism was built to protect democracy, so it involves holding truth to power, but it is also an institution and a corporation, created by white men, so it is also full of space for adaptation and diversification. Journalism for me means sharing stories in a good way — fleshing out the black and white, including all voices, being accountable to those whose stories we share, building relationships to ensure trust and accountability, being on the front lives of important events, documenting history and more.

What kind of journalism would you like to do?

I work now for National Observer, leading a series ‘First Nations Forward,’ emphasizing stories of success and sovereignty of First Nations in B.C. I’d like to continue to write about stories that have been historically made invisible or misrepresented, to diversify out media coverage and tell a more wholesome and accurate picture.

I give workshops on decolonizing or indigenizing journalism, but it really involves basic anti-oppressive techniques to ensure a level of ethical behaviour and accountability in our relationships and professional duties. It involves learning about and including historical and cultural contextualization of events, fact-checking and culture-checking, being accountable and objective, addressing assumptions, stereotypes and internalized racism, and some.

What have you been up to since receiving your award?

After graduating from Concordia, I received Journalists for Human Rights’ ‘Emerging Indigenous Journalist’ internship, with the Tyee in Vancouver. After that internship, I was hired by National Observer to lead their ‘First Nations Forward’ series. I have been working full-time with National Observer since.

How can people follow your work?

You can see my work with National Observer here, work with the Tyee here, and my personal website here.

Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram: emileeguevara

One thought on “Journalists of Tomorrow: Emilee Gilpin

  1. Michael Black

    Except, by pursuing these things, isn’t she taking a job that could have gone to a native person? I’m not talking in terms of earning money, but simply by having natives out writing it changes things. They help make people visible, they give a different vantage point, and no natter how gung ho someone is, the subject matters more to native people.

    People don’t need saving, they need a rebalance. That won’t come with the status quo, someone else writing about them, it comes when they can write about themselves, telling their own stories, telling stories from their viewpoint. Most of the stories have been told by others, so all those westerns with natives speaking broken English reinforce the notion of inferior.

    Europeans get excited about blankets infected with smallpox, I saw an opinion piece about this in a McGill paper last year, but just about everyone lost family to smallpox, which is a bigger story. By the time people came to settle, the populations were diminished, which gave a skewed view if things.

    Too many want to blame “the government”, yet the government comes from the people, and racism isn’t just a government thing, and everyone benefitted. Sometines it seems like some people are really just anti-government, rather than pro-native.

    People can’t be presented as living in the past, or impoverished and suicidal, those stories may be important, but not as important as the good stories about native people.

    Segregation in the US was broken when black people decided they wanted a different world, and decided it was better than being afraid of the consequences of standing up. Yes, white people helped, but the real change came black people spoke for themselves. It’s 49 years since the Occupation of Alcatraz, yet native people haven’t seen as much change as black people.

    It’s the cousins who need to speak.



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