Jorge Barrera accepts the J-Source Newsperson of the Year award at The Canadian Journalism Foundation J-Talk in Toronto on Feb. 28, 2013. (Photos below: Chris Young/CJF)
Jorge Barrera, a reporter for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, has been named the winner of the 2012 J-Source Newsperson of the Year Award for his investigative work in First Nations communities and his outstanding, multi-platform reporting on the Idle No More movement.
“Jorge Barrera's multi-platform reporting on the Idle No More movement at the end of 2012 was thorough and deeply contextualized,” said Janice Neil, J-Source editor-in-chief and Newsperson jury chair. “And we're also applauding his investigative work into reports of smuggling of drugs and humans using First Nations territories."
Neil continued, further explaining the jury’s decision. "His pursuit of stories how criminal networks are trying to exploit Akwesasne's territory is notable. As well, his relentless coverage, along with the APTN team, on nightly newscasts, online news service and social media, of the Idle No More movement stands out for contextualizing issues for all Canadians."
Barrera was modest in accepting the award. “I’m simply a cog in the wheel,” he said in a brief speech to a sold-out crowd at The Canadian Journalism Foundation’s J-Talk in Toronto. “Thanks for singling me out, but I think APTN deserves it.”
In an interview with J-Source, Barrera said he was surprised to win, given calibre of the work produced by his colleagues on the shortlist. “I’m really honoured that I was chosen, but I think it’s a testament to what APTN’s been doing.” He continued, praising the content produced by small teams in bureaus across the country for a daily evening newscast as well as for online.“I do it for them. They give me the freedom to do it, they give me the resources to do it.”
In a Q&A in February, Barrera explained how APTN harnessed the power of social media that was driving the Idle No More movement to complement and, at times, drive the network’s coverage.“With rallies and events in dozens of locations across the country, APTN could not cover each and every one,” Barrera told J-Source. “However, we put a call out on Twitter and Facebook for people to send us photos and updates of the events.
“So, throughout the day, we were able to turn APTN's Facebook page as as a gathering spot for information about rallies across the country that was powered by APTN's viewers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers.”Though Idle No More picked up traction in the national mainstream media, Barrera told J-Source in that Q&A that the First Nations protest against perceived legislative abuses of indigenous treaty rights—and omnibus Bill C-45 in particular—was not his favourite story or project that he worked on in 2012.
Instead, his favourite story focused on more micro issues facing the community of Akwesasne, which straddles the Canada-U.S. border, as well as the borders of New York state, Ontario and Québec. “Many Mohawks here do not recognize the international border and say that it is all their land,” Barrera said. “This situation spawns many incredible stories about what goes across the river and its many tendrils.” Examples of the stories he worked on in Akwesasne can be found here, here, here and here.
Barrera was among five finalists for the J-Source Newsperson of the Year. Also shortlisted for the 2012 J-Source Newsperson of the year was Nahlah Ayed of CBC, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher of the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News respectively, Rachel Pulfer of Journalists for Human Rights and David Skok of GlobalNews.caThis is the fifth year J-Source has given out an award to honour outstanding journalism. Previous recipients of the J-Source award include OpenFile’s Wilf Dinnick, the Toronto Star, the staff at CHEK-TV News in Vancouver, B.C. and then-Maclean’s publisher Ken Whyte.
ALSO: Check out our interview with Barrera during which he chats with associate editor Belinda Alzner about the journalism he does, why APTN is important to Canadian discourse and what winning the J-Source Newsperson of the Year award means to him.
Related story: Idle No More and APTN