Camille Dundas is a veteran of the media industry and current Editor-in-Chief of the online magazine ByBlacks.com. She’s previously worked as a news writer and producer for major news programs including CBC’s National, CP24’s Breaking News, CITYTV News, and CTV’s Canada AM. She and her husband Roger co-founded ByBlacks with the aim of bringing focus to black-owned enterprises and ventures in Canada and promoting positive stories about black people to the community and beyond. She also co-founded 404 Media Group with Roger and is a consultant for Hootsuite. She was featured in the Winners’ Circle section of a recent issue of The Edge, where she shared some of her knowledge and insight.
What does it mean to be a woman of colour in the media? What were your biggest challenges, and how did you deal with them?
It means that you will most likely be the only black person at a story meeting, and not only will you have to fight for equal coverage and stories from your community that are also worthy of coverage, but you will also be looked at as the resident “race expert” and be expected to know everything about it. You also have the burden of having to explain why using certain words or phrases when covering stories is not acceptable. Basically, you must do a lot of teaching, all the time. It can get exhausting. I dealt with it like I deal with everything else: pick my battles, one day at a time.
Do you hear a lot from young people today wanting to enter the media field? What are they telling you?
Yes, young people think media is glamourous and exciting, and it is. I’m also hearing that they are finding it extremely difficult to get an interview or to get in, and they were not expecting that.
I would say, whatever you want to do, do it. Do it yourself first. Whether you want to be a photographer, videographer, host, or writer. If you want to be a writer, then write. That means you should have a blog and you should be getting published. If you want to be a photographer, your Instagram page should be amazing. You should have beautiful pictures on there that people would want to share. Change up the way you apply to these jobs. If you’re already doing these things, you’re making yourself more attractive to an employer.
At 404 Media Group, what challenges did you face while trying to carve a niche taking small business owners to the big stage of mainstream media?
The challenge with any small business is getting them to own their story and getting them to understand what it takes to be on television. People don’t realize anyone can be on television if they have the right story. The main challenge is making them unafraid of wanting to share their personal story, because that’s what gets media people’s attention. Most of the challenges I had were asking them to tell me more, and asking, “can we talk about this in public?” Most of the time, the answer was no. The challenge was pushing them to own their own story and being able to share it.
You say anyone can be on TV with the right pitch. Can you elaborate on that?
Media people care about stories. Their job is to share and amplify stories. If you have a compelling story – compelling in the right way – you can get media coverage, if that’s what you want.
How do you ensure your work/life balance?
That’s a tough one. I don’t think I have achieved work/life balance yet. But what I’m trying to do is give all my attention to one thing at a time. When I’m with my kids, just be with them and not check work emails. (I haven’t been successful at this all the time.) But it’s great that I also now work for a company, Hootsuite, that prioritizes work/life balance. I think the key is to build your career around your life, and not your life around your career.
Laurette Kabongo | Contributing Writer