In Conversation with Angela Sterritt

CBC reporter, Angela Serritt. Photo by Yannick Schieve.

How an Indigenous media star changed the way we look at reporting in B.C.

By Safoura Rigi-Ladiz

From the time she was young, Angela Sterritt says she born to tell stories. Born and raised in Vancouver, B.C., she got her start in journalism in the 1990s, working at Vancouver’s Co-op Radio before joining the CBC in 2003. While she covers a broad range of stories for the CBC—both radio and television—her reporting has allowed Sterritt to become an advocate for amplifying Indigenous voices, as well as creating dialogue around the importance of inclusion in newsrooms. 

What influenced your decision to go into journalism? 

My stepdad and mom always just say that it was in my DNA that I was a storyteller. They would come into my daycare and would see a gaggle of children around me and I’d be reading a book upside down. When I first got into journalism, I was actually a street youth. I was trying to get my Grade 12 and going to a learning centre called the Gathering Place. One of the teachers there, Donna Brock, mentioned “there’s this posting you should come check it out.” And I went and it was for Indigenous youth and people of colour. I interviewed all kinds of people—it was just always fun interviewing and learning about people. 

When you were starting out, did you know any other Indigenous journalists? 

At the very beginning, I was part of a magazine called Red Wire. That was critical for me as a native youth—to see people publishing and editing a magazine for you, by you. That was one of my anchors as well. A lot of the stuff I did early on was not mainstream, because I found there was not an appetite early on in my career. Mainstream just wasn’t interested in Indigenous stories. 

What more should newsrooms do to make sure Indigenous voices are being heard? 

For one, cultures need to shift. We need to stop using terms like “diversity hiring.” We need to reflect on why our newsrooms are 80 percent white. When we’re talking about diversity and inclusion, what does that look like? Sometimes it’s uncomfortable when you have a person who has a very different experience than a white man—and you need to be ready for that change. 

What changes have you seen in the field compared to when you first started? 

The Truth and Reconciliation act changed everything. Also, the RCMP report on murdered and missing Indigenous women also changed everything, because it validated the importance of stories about missing and murdered Indigenous women. Also, the inability for anti-Indigenous racist people to feel comfortable to constantly push indigenous people out. In mainstream media now, it’s not acceptable to be racist. A few years ago, it was okay. 

On a personal level, how do you manage covering heavier topics? 

We need to talk about this more as journalists, because almost any story we work on can be traumatizing. I think, as journalists, we don’t often take breaks—but you have to find a way to push yourself away from work for a while. What I’ve shared with BIPOC youth is that we need to make space in our lives to be joyful and celebrate. I heard a young Bella Bella man say, “It’s not just thinking of my intersections as oppressions, but my intersections as pieces of joy.” I’ve been trying to do that. 

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