From Brielle's notebook
Hi <<First Name>>, As someone who hasn’t experienced foster care or had her kids taken away, but who still aims to report on the child welfare system, I sometimes feel like an imposter. I think: What right do I have to be digging for information? Who asked me to do this work? The truth is no one did — at first, anyway.
I’m also a white person reporting on a system that disproportionately impacts Indigenous people. This means I’m constantly asking Indigenous youth, parents, academics and social workers to spend time and energy teaching me — a descendant of settlers — about a system that’s caused their communities so much pain. But I can’t guarantee a return on this time investment.
At times, I feel like a phony, but this serves no one. So, I’ve developed a few ways to deal with my imposter syndrome:
1. 'Humbly try'
During a session of Simon Fraser University’s social innovation program, Cheryl Rose, a non-Indigenous educator based in Waterloo, offered this advice: “If it feels like a place you really need to be, humbly try.” Her words resonated with me, and I’ve since adopted them as a kind of mantra. But trying alone isn’t enough.
2. Invite guidance
I want to know how journalists who cover child welfare, like me, can do their jobs better. So far, more than 50 people have offered their suggestions through this (super short) survey, which you should also fill out. I’ll keep sharing these ideas with my fellow reporters.
3. Listen to tough feedback
Last week, a youth worker told me she heard that members of Alex Gervais' family are upset about all the recent media coverage about him. I thanked her. Then, a few days later, I asked if she could connect me with family members that might speak to how stories about Alex have impacted them.
Lately, I’ve been taking cues from Paulette Regan, former director of research for Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In her book, Unsettling the Settler Within, she lays out a roadmap for non-Indigenous people looking for ways to help decolonize this country. Like Rose, she emphasizes the need for humility: “We must risk interacting differently with Indigenous people — with vulnerability, humility and a willingness to stay in the decolonizing struggle of our own discomfort.”
5. Be clear with myself and others about my intentions/motivations
When planning a new reporting project at Discourse, we start by designing an impact strategy, which is framed by a mission statement. Here’s mine:
I believe journalists can play a role in realizing better outcomes for youth in and from care. I believe we have a responsibility to deepen public understanding around the impacts of colonization. And I’m curious to see if we can't chip away at the lack of trust that's hamstringing both the child welfare system and "the media" — through more collaborative, transparent work.
What readings, strategies and wisdoms do you rely on to ward off imposter syndrome? I’d love to find out, so email me, post on my Facebook page or send me a tweet. Also, kindly forward this newsletter to someone who'd like it, and ask them to subscribe.
Thanks for listening,