Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

Kenny Yum: Visionary journalist, age discriminator in hiring

Kenny Yum, a one-time colleague when I worked for Bell Globemedia Interactive in the early 2000s, recently got snapped up by CBC News to be its chief of staff.

“It is an understatement to say that I am thrilled to have a leader of Kenny’s experience and digital expertise added to the CBC News team,” Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor in chief of CBC News, wrote in a July 10 memo (J-Source republished the memo on its website).

And indeed, Yum has had some successes during his tenure at Huffington Post-AOL Canada, his home for the past six years.

My quarrel is with his attitude towards hiring (or not hiring) older journalists (disclosure: I applied for a position at HuffPo.ca and never made it to the interview stage).

It’s this statement in a J-Source article that poorly explained why Yum was a visionary:

Recently he wrote a blog discussing ‘The Proven Secret on Achieving Diversity in A Canadian Newsroom,’ in which he argued that the solution is simply “hire diversely.” Referencing the article, he said. “I actually get interviewed more often about diversity than any other topic.”

He acknowledged that differences are not just related to cultural backgrounds, but also on age. “I hire young,” he said, noting that HuffPost generally hires people graduating from journalism school in the last 10 years.

That explains a few things. The time I applied for a gig there was in the spring of 2011. That would have marked 25 years in the business — enough experience to guarantee falling to the bottom of the resume stack at HuffPo.*

*At least CBC granted me an interview in 2011 — even offered me a job, although it was a 12-month contract position (a staff opening went to a 20-something).

But one thing I wonder about is this: Isn’t age part of diversity? Do you truly have a diverse newsroom is everybody is of various hues and cultural backgrounds but they’re all 25 years old and who all went to j-school? Will they be less diverse when they’re all 35?

You won’t find any examination of that question in Yum’s diversity blog post, which essentially urges more hiring of diverse candidates.  Here is some of what the May 13 post has to say:

HuffPost Canada’s senior leadership, including my boss, are all minorities. More than 50 per cent of my newsroom of 35 are visible minorities. When we speak about coverage of the black experience, or the LGBTQ experience or Muslim experience or being a child of the immigrant, our newsroom only needs to look around and realize we at least have a jumpstart to the conversation.

Why? Because we are talking about ourselves.

What about seniors or even middle-aged people? Who spoke for them in the HuffPo story meetings of Kenny Yum’s tenure? Or did HuffPo’s strategists decided those peoples’ stories aren’t worth telling?

I’m not a diversity expert, but I think the topic is a bit more complex than Mr. Yum presents.

While diversity will be one of his files as chief of staff, Yum won’t be directly involved in hiring. I hope his notion of diversity expands to recognize the value that older, more experienced journalists can bring to the table.

Sun, July 16 2017 » Main Page, Media

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