TORONTO – Ginella Massa has made history to become the first television anchor to wear a hijab while reading the news at one of Canada’s major broadcasters.
The 29-year-old, who became the country’s first hijab-wearing television news reporter in 2015, was asked to fill in on the anchor desk at Toronto’s CityNews during the 11pm broadcast last week.
She created a buzz after the broadcast ended and she tweeted: “That’s a wrap! Tonight wasn’t just important for me. I don’t think a woman in hijab has ever anchored a newscast in Canada.”
Massa first started reporting on television in 2015 in Kitchener, Ontario. She moved back to Toronto in February this year to take a reporting job at CityNews.
Although she recognized that moving onto the anchor desk was a step up in her career, she said it took her editor to point out the larger significance. “It wasn’t until my editor said, “Hey, great job! Was that a first for Canada? A woman in a hijab?” And I said yes. And so I tweeted about it,” she said.
Her achievement comes amid heightened concerns about anti-Muslim sentiment in the US and Europe. During the US presidential election campaign, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out” what is going on.
Photo Courtesy: Biliana Gortchova
“I’ve talked to many women who are journalists in the US who work behind the scenes and they’ve told me that they face multiple challenges trying to get on air,” said Massa. “They’ve been told because of their hijab, that’s not going to happen. That makes me really sad because they’re being held back by someone else’s idea of what the public can or cannot handle.”
Although the reaction to Massa’s anchor stint and reporting role has been mostly positive in Canada, she said she has received a handful of negative comments and Tweets.
“But this is all the more reason in today’s climate to see positive images of Muslim women,” she said. “They are a symbol of Islam when they wear the hijab and that carries a powerful image. It’s so important to see positive images of us in the media.”
Photos by Biliana Gortchova.