Francine Compton has watched the growth of Indigenous news from a front row seat.
The broadcast veteran has performed numerous roles over the past 25 years, including executive producer at APTN News and assignment producer at CBC Indigenous.
Her passion for news goes back even further than that, to roughly Kindergarten when she would watch and emulate her father, Jim Compton – one of the first Indigenous journalists at CBC in Winnipeg.
Her father would go on to become one of the founders of APTN.
“The creation of APTN has changed the game. Period,” Compton tells Host Dennis Ward on the latest episode of Face to Face.
“Now, the landscape is that our stories are being done by everyone.”
Upon graduating from TecVoc high school in Winnipeg in 1999, where she studied broadcasting, Compton went straight to work at newly launched APTN.
She started as a researcher, then began gathering stories in the field as a camera operator and reporter, before moving behind the lens to direct news, special and live events. She then became the producer of APTN Investigates and later at APTN National News.
As her skills developed so did her public profile. Compton is the first, three-term president of the 40-year-old Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), which advocates for fair and accurate reporting of Indigenous issues on both sides of the Canada-U.S. boundary.
She recently stepped aside from producing news to take on the role of Associate Director of NAJA. She noted NAJA has chosen Winnipeg for its first out-of-country National Native Media Conference in August 2023.
One of the ongoing topics is the need for more Indigenous journalists.
“I went to high school, I got my training here at APTN, and I didn’t go the traditional university or (journalism) school route. For me, that’s really what I want to be able to do (for others)…,” she says.
“We want to see Indigenous people in leadership positions in major networks across Canada and the U.S.”
At both APTN and CBC, Compton says the industry is facing a supply and demand issue.
“There are demands on us to be everywhere, to cover everything and there aren’t enough of us. And so, that needs to change.”
Compton would like to see networks fully support First Nations, Inuit and Métis people looking to become storytellers.
“Let’s get behind the press releases and out of the inbox pitches and let’s get to the communities and draw out those stories, because when I’m seeing all the networks doing the same story off the press release, it just concerns me that there’s not enough of that connecting to the communities.”
According to Compton, the most under-reported issue right now is the states of emergencies on First Nations.
“They’re so under reported that they’re not making national news, every time they occur. These are communities in Canada under states of emergencies for various reasons and that’s all we’re hearing about. We don’t hear why, we don’t get to learn about the people in the community and that’s what’s missing and that’s what we need to be covering,” says Compton.