Woke Culture and Journalism
Reflections on my interview with Canadian Journalist Tara Henley
My guest this week is Tara Henley. She is a Canadian journalist and the author of the national bestseller Lean Out: A Meditation on the Madness of Modern Life. Tara also publishes a popular Substack newsletter and podcast on heterodox thought called Lean Out with Tara Henley.
She first came onto my radar when I read her article ‘Why I quit the CBC’ in the National Post. There is a general feeling that news organizations are now trying to tell us how to think. That article acknowledged many concerns my peers have about current trends around microaggressions, racial profiling, and woke culture.
Tara has very nuanced perspectives when it comes to the CBC. In one vein, she talks about how much she admired the CBC as a young journalist, how honoured she was to work there, and how hard it was to leave. In another vein she believe the organization is embracing cognitive dissonance over journalistic integrity. I think Tara has hope that the organization could change course, and redeem itself. As she mentions, there is still great work going on in the building, and strong journalists fighting back against the woke ideology.
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In our conversation, we cover a wide array of topics from the role of journalism to new platforms like Substack, but we focus on woke ideology. Within the context of our discussion, we define woke as being an elite ideology that is extremely left leaning on cultural issues but right leaning on economic issues. She further points out that the woke culture is far more concerned with symbolic gestures than it is with the material conditions of peoples lives.
As an Indigenous person I encounter woke culture fairly regularly. Need an example?
Well, let’s talk about land acknowledgements. Personally, I am not a fan of how land acknowledgements are currently delivered. I’ve had professors read them off scrap pieces of paper and I’ve seen them in email signatures. Now, let me say that I think the goal of them is admirable. I would say that the widely held belief is that land acknowledgements raise awareness of the issues and keep it in the forefront of people’s mind.
However, after witnessing land acknowledgements countless of times, I noticed they were becoming nothing more than lip service. Land acknowledgements have not changed governments approach to negotiating on land, and it makes people feel like they’re apart of the solution - when they aren’t. To Tara’s point, land acknowledgements are currently more of a symbolic gesture than they are actually improving the material conditions of Indigenous Peoples lives.
This is not to say that we should scrap the idea in its entirety. In my view, if people want to conduct land acknowledgements - that’s great. But, I would say we should… acknowledge the land. I would recommend people learn about the rivers, mountains, and ecosystems in their area. If given the opportunity, they should seek to preserve and protect those areas when possible.
If you would like to listen to our full interview it is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube. Notably, after 84 episodes, Tara Henley is the first guest we interviewed through zoom. I would like to thank Tim McAlpine, the owner of Cowork Chilliwack/Studio C for graciously allowing me to use his incredible studio.
I would also like to thank Tara for taking the time. It was a true honour to sit down with a truly incredible journalist like Tara Henley. Journalists are a key part of our democracy, they keep us informed on the key issues and help inform the public discussion. Typically, journalists should report facts and avoid hyperbole. I believe Tara sets an amazing example in this regard. Throughout our conversation she remained balanced and continuously looked at complex issues like the CBC, or our criminal justice system from multiple different perspectives.
I believe we are lucky that she decided to share her voice on Substack. Now, she is able to interview individuals from a variety of backgrounds, with nuanced perspectives on hard problems in our society. She shares a weekly newsletter, as well as a fantastic podcast through the platform. Personally, I think she is a very important Canadian voice and I highly recommend you subscribe to her Substack below: