Rob Smith knew video journalism was his calling after only one year of labelling tapes and carrying tripods, but the profession has come with its challenges.
Covering Indigenous issues through major-media outlets have become increasingly controversial over the past few years. Smith mentioned the trials for Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine as two examples where the mainstream media was lacking an accurate Indigenous voice.
“It wasn’t their trials, they’re both dead. But in both cases the fact that they were drinking alcohol seemed to be a headline,” Smith says. “That was shocking to see, that in this day and age that would still be a headline.”
Smith has never viewed himself as the best role model for aspiring journalists because he didn’t take the traditional route of going to school. Flash forward 30 years from those days of busy work, and Smith is working for Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) as an investigative video journalist.
Smith says APTN has an unabashed mandate that sets them apart from other publications.
“It’s in the title…who our stories are for, who they’re by,” says Smith. “Our stuff is for our people, to see our people on screen, to have the stories reflect back at us.”
Although Indigenous people are represented in many levels of mainstream media, Smith believes there needs to be more in decision-making positions.
“We need people in management going, ‘Headlines, this is unacceptable, change it please,’ ” Smith says, “We need our people to tell our people’s stories to the rest of the world…it (also) holds our leaders to account. We should be exposing the corruption and the lack of digging deeper into the headline stories.”