The local news anchor refuses to have his humanity debated
Adrian Harewood is the co-anchor of CBC Ottawa’s 6:00 news and host of the network’s Our Ottawa newsmagazine. He is also one of the few on-air journalists to have been consistently outspoken about the public broadcaster’s deep-rooted deficiencies with regard to race and representation, well prior to this month.
In 2016, he spoke to reporter Farnia Fekri for a Canadaland story about the overwhelming whiteness of the CBC’s workforce, explaining that the institution seemed in no rush to rectify the situation. Soon after, he led colleagues in a campaign to put pressure on the corporation’s senior leadership, whose “ongoing failure to effectively address matters of diversity in all aspects of CBC/Radio-Canada operations [was] eroding the integrity of our beloved institution.”
But his engagement with these issues both expands beyond and predates his affiliation with the CBC. Over a three-decade career that began in campus and community media, and included a stint as an anti-racist organizer, Harewood has spent a large chunk of his life thinking about — and actively challenging — anti-Black racism in Canadian media.
“I am a Black person and part of the Black community, and I’m familiar with the history of the Black community in this country,” he told the Ottawa Citizen in 2006, when CBC Ottawa hired him as its first permanent BIPOC radio host. “It’s a history that’s important to me and a history that has helped to shape me. But it isn’t the only thing that defines me. First and foremost, I’m a person.”
Late last week, Harewood spoke to CANADALAND’s Jesse Brown about how that history has informed both his journalism and his advocacy and why, after nearly 30 years at this, the current discussions feel quite familiar yet also very different. (A few days later, the CBC announced new measures to improve the diversity of its uppermost levels, with concrete targets and commitments.)