Monday, September 24, 2007

Professional immigrants

A Big Spelling Mistake
Originally uploaded by Hard2Handle
A while back an organisation in Finland contacted me to ask what I feel are the big issues related to immigrants and the media. One of the issues that I listed in my bullet points was professional access to media: staff of printed media in particular is still exceptionally white. And if they do employ immigrants, they usually are assigned to report immigrant issues. A typical act in underdeveloped multicultural policy: an idea that an immigrant can only be addressed through the difference, the minority status.

Last week a friend of mine sent me a copy of her unedited column for a mainstream Finnish newspaper. My friend was not born in Finland and even if her Finnish after a number of years is understandable, she makes grammatical mistakes in every single sentence.

I found the column fascinating. Her take on an acute domestic political question was something that I think I could seldom hear from a native Finn. She addressed the issue - in a witty manner - by balancing on the insider/outsider fence. And above all, even if with a lot of mistakes, it was of supreme unique quality. I would estimate that it would have taken me 30 minutes or so to polish it for printing. And I must say with some expertise of editing, that a half an hour is a short time compared to a grammatically correct but structurally twisted article.

I am a language fanatic and always will be. I think anyone who works for a media outlet consumed easily by some one million citizens should be a good editor. But we need to broaden our concepts of quality. Hiring professional immigrants to act as multiculturality journalists is the wrong kind of positive discrimination. Hiring good writers who still need to work on their grammar is a far more sustainable route. I mean just look it on commercial/capitalist terms: they are able to enrich the final product which generated more consumer potential.

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