Diversity Reporter: Sharing stories and connecting communities in Victoria and beyond

In late 2010, I attended a Diversity in the Workplace workshop, here in Victoria.  It was there that I met Mohsin Abbas, founder and editor of Diversity Reporter, a free, multi-lingual, bi-weekly newspaper, aimed at connecting communities in the Greater Victoria region.  Sufficiently impressed with Mohsin, and his collaborative ways, I wanted to learn more about him, and his work.  Last week we re-connected, over a coffee. Here’s what I discovered:

Mohsin Abbas

Mohsin (at left) is a journalist, filmmaker, blogger, and press freedom activist.  He is fluent in 5 languages.  His first journalism experience was in Pakistan, his home country, in the 1990s.  In 2002, he sought refuge in Canada, after harassment and torture in Pakistan, for his reportage on social and justice issues.

After settling in Southern Ontario, Mohsin worked 6 years as a journalist with the Toronto Star and Hamilton Spectator, prior to moving to Victoria in 2008.

For the last 10 years, he as also handled assignments, local and globally, as a journalist with the BBC World Services, New York Post, Frontline Media, and New Internationalist.  Diversity Reporter is a largely a brainchild of Mohsin’s experience working with BBC World Service, multi-language sections.

Diversity Reporter

Diversity Reporter targets the 35% of Victoria who have a mother tongue other than English.  It provides articles in 11 languages; English, Chinese, Punjabi, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Korean, Tagalog (Filipino), Polish, Spanish, and French.

Diversity Reporter is about inclusivity.  For Mohsin, objective one is to make readers feel welcome, in their language of choice.  Secondly, spark curiosity in the other; e.g., in English facilitating information sharing and culture exchanges; help people walk in the others shoes.  The outcome of all this sharing and caring for the other = Canada (an interesting definition for Canada, I’d say Mohsin has).

Diversity Reporter has a current circulation of 15,000 for Vancouver Island.  Delivery is done primarily by 20 volunteers.  There are four paid staff, no storefront, a shared warehouse/distribution centre, and printing services are outsourced.

It is the first multi-cultural paper on Vancouver Island, and first national (Canada) paper regularly covering more than 2 languages.  Increasingly, it is seen by other local media, as representing the multi-cultural community. And, if I think of what defines influence, Diversity Reporter will surely have its share.

Headquartered in Victoria, Diversity Reporter is part of the of the Frontline Media group, a group of 20+ publications across Canada that collaborate, on content, marketing, and infrastructure.  Diversity Reporter has recently expanded to Ontario and Saskatchewan.  Future plans include a new website, further integrating digital and print media, regular bloggers and maybe most important, reaching out and bringing people together, in community, on social issues; e.g., empowerment of girls.  Diversity Reporter represents grassroots journalism.

Bridging differences

Diversity Reporter is about living together, connecting, sharing, and building community. It’s through the accompanying conversations, people are changed.  It’s conversations that transform us, and sometimes in unexpected ways.  Hat’s off to Mohsin, and his team.

And whom do you tip your bridging differences hat to?

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