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Manjot Bains - A look at University Writing and Diversity in Media

Manjot Bains, SFU Communication Alumna and editor-in-chief of Jugni Style Magazine

Interviewed by: Lisa Keenan and Kate Campbell

December 13, 2018

Manjot Bains - SFU School of Communication Alumna. Photography Credits: Brittany Gill

What made you decide that you wanted to study communication? When you were in school did you see yourself in the position you are now?

During my first year at SFU, I took a variety of social sciences and arts courses to understand what I wanted to study. I was (and still am) most interested in the role media has in shaping our opinions on a variety of subjects. I’m also interested in the cultural studies side of Communication, in particular the intersections of gender, race, class and performance. I also have a minor in Sociology where I focused on race and gender issues in Canada. 

During my academic career at SFU, I pictured myself working in corporate communications and eventually finding my way to an executive position somewhere in the private or government sector. In reality, my experiences and passions shifted as I grew, and post-graduation was when I began developing my craft as a writer. I still work in the field of communication, consulting on projects related to issues management, web content strategy, and intercultural outreach, but I also freelance write and produce The Nameless Collective Podcast.  

What is the value of university writing courses? How has it benefited you and your career? 

I was fortunate to take a couple of non-traditional university writing courses. One was called Effective Communication where we learned the basics of crafting a press release, backgrounders, key messages, brochure copy, and a communication plan. This helped me as a co-op student and in my career in corporate communications. The other course was a special offering on Non-Fiction Narrative Writing taught by then Editor-in-Chief of Geist Magazine, Stephen Osbourne. I found my voice as a creative writer here, which was invaluable as a communication strategist, editor and writer. It’s also important to note the deep foundation in critical and analytical thinking that I gained through researching and writing academic papers. These are transferable skills that allow me to think more strategically in my work and approach news media with a critical lens.

Have you seen a positive shift in diversity in Canadian media over the years?

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a real shift in diversity in Canadian media over the years. This lack of diversity was one of the reasons why I co-founded jugnistyle.com, an online magazine covering South Asian arts, culture, fashion and life, because I could not find Canadian content that was relevant to my experiences. Canadian media doesn’t represent people of colour well in their storytelling. Two recent articles in Medium by former Globe & Mail journalist Sunny Dhillon sum up the state of diversity in Canadian media. It’s deeply problematic and disappointing, and a lot of times, people of colour are unable to speak out in fear of the negative repercussions and the possibility of losing their job. The racial microaggressions we face in the workplace can be exhausting and infuriating. What Sunny did is extremely brave and inspiring; I encourage you to read this article:

What do you hope for the future in terms of diversity in communication and media?

I hope for better representation at levels of power and influence. We need more people of colour and women of colour in executive positions. Having offices, newsrooms, and media outlets that are representative of the actual population is a smart thing to do. I think all organizations can benefit from training and discussion around the Truth & Reconciliation Commission recommendations and apply this to their everyday work.  

 

How is your management style reflective of your experiences in the field? 

My management style is always evolving. I learned a lot from a few fantastic women who managed me earlier in my career, as well as the mentors I’ve been fortunate to work with. It’s important to recognize that the people who report to you are there to learn and grow in their career and as individuals, and I am always trying to learn new ways to support the people around me. I’ve also grown to understand that it’s important to be firm, to give critical feedback with empathy, and to let go when someone isn’t a good fit.