It’s the role of a journalist to identify and bring attention to issues in our society. However, in his recent article “Newfoundlanders perpetuate their own stereotypes,” which addressed the dozens of delayed passengers at Pearson Airport who joined in a kitchen party-style sing-along, Robin Short is creating a problem where there isn’t one.
Newfoundlanders have a reputation for certain tastes and behaviours. Occasionally, evidence that this reputation is well-founded makes national news. In this case, it’s hardly worth getting upset about. Would Short have had those travellers sit quietly in their seats for fear that should they break out a tune, the country would have proof that yes, as suspected, Newfoundlanders are a people who make the best of a bad situation, are quick with a song, give talented youth an opportunity to shine and value togetherness? God forbid…
Trying to fabricate fault in a moment of shared joy is hardly as productive.
The correlation between what unfolded at Pearson last Monday night and our province’s ability to manage resources is non-existent. There’s no question that the Muskrat Falls project is an absolute catastrophe, but it would be ridiculous for anyone, Newfoundlander or otherwise, to suggest that a willingness to sing folk songs in an airport shows how we got ourselves in that mess, or to suggest that because most of us cherish our traditions and like to have a good time, Newfoundlanders can’t be taken seriously. Short’s article may speak much more loudly about his own insecurities than the video of the passengers speaks to Newfoundland’s ability to manage its economy.
There might be Canadians who see Newfoundlanders as twinkly-eyed simpletons, capable with an accordion but hopeless with resource management, however those people are tragically shortsighted (and I would argue, dwindling in number). Sweeping generalizations are of little value, and those who make them are rarely seen to be revealing some truth inherent to a whole group of people, but rather their own ignorance and narrow-mindedness. However, more than that, Newfoundlanders on the island and across the country are making valuable contributions to society and accomplishing incredible things. It’s only a matter of time until those who hold negative stereotypes are shown how incorrect their perceptions are by one of the (likely many) Newfoundlanders living in their community.
If a journalist is concerned about the perpetuation of a stereotype of incompetence among Newfoundlanders, they would best serve their cause by focusing their journalistic efforts on exposing corruption, hasty decision-making, mismanagement, and barriers to education in our province. This would help to equip Newfoundlanders to make wise, informed choices, to know what’s best for us and demand it from those in power — it would give our population the tools to take actions that would demonstrate the contrary to those negative stereotypes. Trying to fabricate fault in a moment of shared joy is hardly as productive.
Whether we like it or not, “making the best of a bad situation” is basically the defining narrative of our people and Newfoundlanders will continue to do so in the ways we know how. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hannah Dean is a Newfoundlander living in Montreal, where she is a B.C.L./LL.B. candidate at McGill University’s Faculty of Law.