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Arts & Culture

Hijab-Wearing News Anchor Makes History In Canada

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Canadians tuning into the nightly news in Toronto recently saw something new.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GINELLA MASSA: Good evening. Most of us dream our entire lives of making history. Well, one young politician did just that tonight.

INSKEEP: That's Ginella Massa, a reporter for Toronto's City News who made history herself, in a way. She is believed to be the first person to wear the hijab - the traditional head covering worn by some Muslim women - while anchoring a major nightly newscast in Canada.

MASSA: It's really exciting to be recognized as the first. It's also pretty sad that it's taken this long, especially in a city as diverse as Toronto and a country as multicultural as Canada. And it's not reflected in our newsroom, on our newscast. You wouldn't think that we are as diverse as we are if you were to look at our nightly newscast.

INSKEEP: She was born in Panama and grew up in Toronto. Her family converted to Islam when she was a child.

MASSA: It was a risk to put me on TV because it hadn't been done before. You know, I had a colleague tell me, you know, I don't think a woman in hijab will ever be hired on air because it's just too distracting.

INSKEEP: Now, since her anchoring debut, Massa says she has received some negative comments but contends the response has been, quote, "overwhelmingly positive."

MASSA: It's more important than ever for Muslim women, especially, who are often the symbol for Islam because we're so visible with our hijabs, to be seen as important and contributing members of our society.

INSKEEP: That's Ginella Massa, a reporter for Toronto's City News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.