News anchor in hijab puts substance first

Ginella Massa's impressive achievement marred only by a small number of offensive comments

news anchor Ginella Massa hijab

TORONTO, Ont. Nov. 22, 2016/ Troy Media/ – On Nov. 17, a first occurred in the country’s news media.

Ginella Massa, a news reporter for Toronto’s CityNews, filled in as anchor for the 11 p.m. broadcast. She wrote on her Facebook page, “As far as I know, no woman in hijab has ever anchored a major newscast in Canada.”

While the video archive of every Canadian-based TV station in history isn’t available at our fingertips, I’m pretty sure she’s right.

“That’s a wrap! Thankful to have opportunities like this at a time when there is so much hate and vilifying of Muslims,” Massa wrote on Nov. 18. “Looking forward to the day when it’s no longer a big deal for someone who looks like me to be anchoring a newscast.”

It’s an impressive achievement, and she should be proud of what she’s accomplished.

Her decision to discuss this in public has been mostly positive. It’s led to feature articles in the Huffington Post (U.S. edition), Yahoo News, The New Arab and Al Arabiya English, and a radio interview with Newstalk 1010’s John Moore.

Unsurprisingly, a small slew of offensive comments has also turned up. Here’s a dandy that was posted on Newstalk 1010 host Jim Richards’s Facebook page on Nov. 19, “Great a religion based on hate is one step closer to taking over our media … .good job!”

If Massa’s critics knew more about her, maybe they would keep their traps shut.

The Panama-born Massa moved to Toronto when she was one year old. Born Catholic, she and her family converted to Islam – and her interest in becoming a hijab-wearing news anchor began to take a life of its own.

I met her in 2012, when she was working as a producer at CTV News Channel. She’s an intelligent, upbeat and kind-hearted individual who has worked hard to hone her craft.

Massa and I worked well together on political panel discussions and one-off TV specials. She was even nice enough to privately send me the e-mail addresses of senior CTV News Channel officials, which ultimately led to a weekly pundit’s role on the network for more than 2 1/2 years.

Yes, a hijab-wearing Muslim cracked open the door for a right-leaning, agnostic Jew. If that’s not distinctly Canadian, I don’t know what is.

This is another important point to her story.

Massa doesn’t worry about a person’s appearance, background or religious beliefs. She’s more interested in learning about his/her qualities, traits and thoughts about the world. It doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll agree with the individual, but she’ll have a better understanding of what he/she stands for.

This intense love affair with the news industry has been obvious to anyone who has ever crossed paths with her in radio and TV. It’s also translated into her working relationships, and personal friendships, with people from diverse backgrounds.

As much as the Muslim faith matters to her, and it does, there’s a whole world out there – and she wants to discover it.

Obviously, radical Islamic terrorism is a problem for the West. Barbaric groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda want to destroy our freedoms, and our way of life. We must combat them for however long it takes, and we must destroy them.

At the same time, you can’t paint every practising Muslim with the same broad brushstroke. The vast majority are hardworking, decent people who respect western values, are more than willing to assimilate in society, and want to live in peace.

Ginella Massa is, as has always been, one of them.

That’s why we should stop focusing on her appearance, and start admiring her success as an up-and-coming Canadian TV journalist. She may one day permanently fill an anchor’s chair.

Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Michael is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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