Friends, colleagues and others who knew Jody Porter shared memories and messages of love, gratitude and admiration for the longtime CBC reporter.
Porter’s remembrance messages reflect his life, his friendship and his commitment to speaking hard and necessary truths about residential schools and colonialism in Canada, and their ongoing impacts on the Indigenous peoples of Northern Ontario.
Porter, 50, died Tuesday after living with ovarian cancer for several years.
Michelle Derosier, Anishinaabe filmmaker and close friend of Porter, said she was drawn to her not only because of the stories she told through her journalism, but also the way she held and shared those stories.
“She became a safe place in the community very early on for me as a community member, as an Indigenous woman,” Derosier said.
“As a storyteller myself, I often went to see her early in our relationship with stories, whether it was something that was going to be part of a story, or if there was just a story that I wanted her to hold. She would, and she would do it with such grace and integrity and love.”
His early career
Raised in southern Ontario, Porter earned a journalism degree from Centennial College. She spent a brief period as a journalist in the Northwest Territories before moving to Sioux Lookout, Ontario in 1998.
In Sioux Lookout, she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Wawatay Native Communications Society, an independent, self-governing media organization dedicated to telling the stories of the 49 First Nations who make up the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northern Ontario.
Garnet Angeconeb, an Anishinaabe elder and former journalist, was acting executive director at the time. Angeconeb recalled hiring Porter for the job “within hours, even minutes” after his interview.
In a 2020 essay she wrote for Maisonneuve magazine, Porter said it was during this time that she began visiting First Nations in the area and “gained the education I so sorely lacked. “.
“I started covering stories from these communities: about homes without clean water, overcrowded homes full of disease, mold and grief. About reservations without proper schools. About the boarding schools, the last of which had only recently closed. she wrote in her essay.
It was a time when Wawatay News faced many challenges just trying to stay afloat, but Porter’s work helped make things better, Angeconeb said.
“She was a gifted storyteller. She was a professional journalist in every way: tough, determined, unapologetic, honest and sincere. She believed in what she was doing,” Angeconeb said in an email to CBC News. .
Started with CBC in 2000
Porter moved to Thunder Bay in 2000 to continue this work for CBC.
“She had a remarkable ability as a clairvoyant,” said Derosier, adding that she told stories that forced Canadians to confront their own history and the oppression of Indigenous peoples at a time when others either didn’t look or were afraid to. TO DO.
“As a settler and as a white woman in our communities, she wasn’t afraid of this. She got into this with courage, long before anyone else really did. I know me and many others have deep gratitude, respect and love for her to go to these places.”
Throughout her career, Porter has won numerous awards and accolades for her work on Indigenous issues and social justice in Northern Ontario.
In 2011, she won the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) for her series “Common Ground Café” which brought strangers together to cook a meal and discuss race relations in Thunder Bay. It was one of his many RTDNA accolades.
In 2013, the Anishinabek Nation awarded Porter the Debwewin Citation, one of the few non-Indigenous journalists to receive the honor for excellence in reporting on First Nations issues. The same year, she received a prestigious scholarship to Massey College.
His reporting has also been cited by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and two reports — the Broken Trust report to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and Murray Sinclair’s report to the Police Service Board of Thunder Bay — who found and documented detailed evidence of racism within the Thunder Bay Police Force and Board of Supervisors.
A statement from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Derek Fox added, “His exemplary reporting was highlighted during the 2015 inquest into the deaths of seven NAN youths, which was followed across Canada. . She presented complex and painful issues with truth and accuracy. and sympathy. His tireless work showcased the tragic circumstances surrounding these deaths and shed light on the challenges faced by First Nations youth while pursuing their education.
Michael D’Souza worked closely with Porter as national editor at CBC before his retirement in 2016. They also became close friends.
“His sources were impeccable,” D’Souza said. “Jody had a way of getting people to talk, like she was open and listening to them. She didn’t tell them what to say – she listened very carefully and was empathetic towards them.
“When people talk to you as a journalist, they tell you their life story and a lot of what she wrote was not nice. Frankly, it was downright diabolical. There were also happy things that she wrote about, but she always listened and then she took what they gave her, this precious possession, and weaved a story.
Regarding her journalism, D’Souza said, “She didn’t preach. She showed how it’s done, and in the end, she just showed how to do it better.”
Shared stories from his own life
Porter also used his journalistic toolkit to share parts of his own life and his own story. In 2004, she produced the award-winning radio documentary Between friendsabout her own experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by her father.
Neil Sandell co-produced the piece with Porter, whom he called “the bravest journalist” he’s ever known in a recent memoir published on Medium, due to his willingness to be vulnerable and go into situations. dark places that others wouldn’t go.
In her Third Coast Award acceptance speech in 2004, Porter shared what it was like to be on the other side of the microphone, Sandell said.
“She says, ‘It’s the humanity that you bring to the process at the beginning and then in the middle and at the end that counts. “”
Porter also spoke to the then-named Ryerson Review of Journalism about her own inner conversation — between mind and body — as she accepted a cancer diagnosis in 2017 that put her work on hold.
While focusing on healing and being with family and friends, Porter told the Journalism Review, “I think it, in a weird way, gave me an incredible opportunity that a lot of people in our business don’t, and that’s the pause. The pause to reflect on what we’re doing. If it makes sense. If it has value. If it’s a healthy thing to do. .
In recent interviews, essays and scholarly articles, Porter has criticized her own reporting as she probes questions about the purpose of journalism, how it has changed and how it can be improved.
Canada owes a great debt to the old @cbc journalist Jody Porter, who has now left this world. She fought to cover the investigation into the deaths of seven First Nations high school students. She was there, every day for 8 months. His voice has changed. Relax, my friend. https://t.co/9ct2DLL7Mq
Porter returned to work for CBC in July 2020 before learning a few months later that her cancer had returned.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Canadaland, Porter spoke about the limits of journalism. Speaking about her decades-long coverage of the lack of clean water among First Nations, she called for journalism to go beyond simply raising awareness of the issues.
“I just don’t see awareness being what we’re looking for here. It doesn’t work,” she said.
“Telling stories and writing stories is a kind of magic, and I believe that because they are so powerful and have the potential for healing, we need to improve.”
Porter died on her 50th birthday, July 19.
In her final months, Jody Porter worked on one last radio documentary. Listen to it here:
Superior Morning28:52Tribute to Jody Porter PART 2: “What You Believe In Will Go With You”