Jelena Adzic on fashion and feminism in the field of journalism
Originally Written: Feb. 12 - March 5, 2015

An Introduction

There is no better word to describe Jelena Adzic than fearless. As a mother of two young children and the arts reporter on CBC News Network, she is always on the go. CBC News considers her “the face of arts and entertainment”. Adzic is Serbian-born and moved with her family to Toronto when she was a young girl. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University and a degree in documentary film production at Humber College. She moved back to Canada after working abroad, and delved into the media relations job sector. Adzic’s first on-air job was as a host on the Toronto-based show DiverseCity. She continued to gain broadcast experience as a reporter of TechTV and the host of The Biography Channel Canada. Adzic joined the CBC team in 2002 as a TV personality and has gained more air-time over the past 13 years. Her interest in arts reporting stemmed from her personal passion of painting. A hobby she says has helped shape her overall understanding of arts and culture.

I was fortunate to chat with her over the phone before she went on air for her latest segment on CBC News Now. We talked about traveling and working abroad. While living in Finland, Jelena worked on film sets, was employed at a Korean newspaper, and produced the show “Suite & Simple” in the Caribbean Islands. The curiosity and uncertainty of traveling is what keeps her wanderlust alive. She explained how working abroad has influenced her journalism and perspective on life.

“The number one reason…is…simple and pure exposure to different ideas, ways of thinking, ways of living and existing,” Adzic said.

Jelena covers music, film, literature, art and more for CBC News Now on a regular basis, sharing her opinion and criticisms on current popular culture. For example, she recently shared her opinion on the program about Justin Bieber’s public apology video and what it really means for the pop-star. Jelena has done segments for the Arts and Entertainment portion of The National, seen in this clip of the death of Don Harron. Additionally, she is preparing pieces for the Juno Awards and the Oscars that are fast approaching.

“I am here on this planet to enjoy and relish every aspect of the arts,” Adzic said.

Her passion and love of all art forms is what drew me to her. Whether she is interviewing the A-listers on the Toronto International Film Festival red carpet or reporting for Arts and Entertainment, she captures your attention with her warmth and incredible insight on today’s current events. I chose to highlight Adzic for the blog assignment because she embodies the idea of the strong, engaging journalist. She goes deeper with her interviews to make a personal connection and discover what each individual strives for in life.

“I want to communicate that I am engaged with this world. I am a part of it and I want to be a part of it,” Adzic said.

I think her mindset is essential for today’s aspiring journalists to be successful.

An Analysis

The 87th Annual Academy Awards aired this Sunday, bringing the 2015 awards season to a close. Beneath all of the golden trophies and the sparkling gowns, the media exploded with speculation of a racial whitewash over this year’s Oscar nominees. Adzic reported for CBC News Now in the piece called “2015 Oscars the whitest in years” on Jan. 17. In the video, Adzic does not show any sign hesitation as she brings forth the issue of a lack of racial diversity among the nominees, specifically noted in both male and female categories of Best Actor/Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actor/Actress in a Supporting Role.

A sense of ease and confidence radiates from Adzic as she turns to face the camera. Her conversationalist approach to reporting makes the audience feel as if she is talking directly to them: a truly intimate experience for the viewers. Her opinion is prominent throughout her analysis of the Oscar nominations because her title allows her to do so: Arts Reporter and Film Critic. In a field of transparent reporting and objectivity, how much opinion is acceptable in Arts and Entertainment? In my opinion, Adzic strikes the perfect balance between providing the facts, and seamlessly interweaving her own take on the issue. The piece is an analysis, after all. There is no doubt that she is extremely clear and concise with her arguments. She emphasizes the “dominant white male character” repeatedly throughout the 2:45 minute video, leaving no room for any doubt that the biggest Oscar categories solely represented the Caucasian race. Adzic incorporates clips from the various Best Picture trailers like American Sniper and The Theory of Everything to enhance her reporting and provide visual context. She includes the Oscar president, Cheryl Boone’s response to the issue and even emphasized that Boone was an African American female, which is an essential part of the story. Concluding the video, she reconnects the story back to social media because of the hashtag #Oscarssowhite, the prominence media has in society and how it influences discussion of controversy. Adzic’s approach to the story is simplistic, direct, and expressive which makes her journalism accessible to a wide-range of people.

On the other hand, the piece was only the beginning of a bigger analysis. I felt as if she did not reach the topic’s full potential. To take her analysis one step further, she could have included some historical context of racial diversity in previous Oscars. The use of statistics on the issue in past years, like the number of coloured nominees in the major categories would have been helpful. Adzic is extremely insightful and intelligent and I would have loved to see more of her interpretation of the racial issue: why is there a lack of diversity, what does this mean on a broader spectrum? The video could have been longer to accommodate a more in-depth, detailed analysis.

Aside from my suggestions, Adzic has an undeniable on-screen presence that captures the attention of the viewer. Her approach to storytelling is engaging, insightful and straightforward, making her execute her stories with ease. Whether she is reporting on the lack of racial representation at the Oscars or simply critiquing the next box-office hit, Adzic’s observation and seemingly effortless execution of her ideas leaves a lasting impression.

The Correlation Between Fashion, Feminism, and Journalism

Women feel a continual pressure to fulfill the role of mother, wife and successful employee simultaneously. The need to prove oneself to her male colleagues can be crippling to a woman's career, family life and mental health. Adzic knows exactly what this situation is like. As a mother of two with a high-profile career as an on-air reporter and on-air personality, she constantly feels the pressure to be all of her roles at once.

"I definitely have experienced the frustration of...wanting to be...taken as seriously [as my male colleagues]," Adzic said.

While taking her promotional photos for CBC, she experienced this frustration first-hand. An outside photographer who was hired by the CBC to take these photos, kept encouraging Adzic to "smile really really big". She explains that she has never seen one of her male counterparts with a big smile for their headshot.

"I am not here to be pretty...I am here to communicate and to share ideas and express and exchange ideas," she told me.

Journalism has long been male territory. Before the technological revolution, Canadians had become so familiar with the "Grandfather figure" on television, the news anchor's familiar face displayed on one's TV screens every evening at 6 p.m., that not long ago a women anchor would have been unthinkable. The 20th century brought a new generation of journalists, some of whom were women, such as Adzic. Adzic represents today's modern journalist: informative and multifunctional. She is also a woman in a male-dominated field. The significance of her work is established through what she stands for as a journalist: someone who appreciates every form of art, searches for human connections within her reporting, and puts forth her knowledge of the world around her.

Her tool is fashion. Adzic believes that "it's impossible for anyone to not communicate a message with their outfit. Even if you don't want to, you're communicating something."

There is no denying her deep appreciation for fashion. She utilizes this medium for the benefits of communication and self-expression, not for materialistic purposes. Adzic considers fashion design a form of art, which she says can fall by the wayside for some people in Canada. When we discussed her love for Canadian designers and why she proudly wears their clothing, she said, "I just marvel at the attention to detail".

In the fall, Adzic reported from backstage at Toronto Fashion Week in a short segment called World MasterCard Fashion Week kicks off. Her knowledge of Canadian designers is apparent with the discussion of the various well-known and up-and-coming designers like Joe Fresh and Sid Neigum. Hervideo captures the growing support for emerging Canadian designers and how the country's multiculturalism benefits fashion design inside and outside of Canada. The same subject is presented in the piece by Tony Wong published by the Toronto Star just one day before Adzic's video for CBC. This article possessed the in-depth content that I was craving in Adzic's piece. Wong talked about the various designers and their specific brand/individual style. As well, he interviewed people who had first-hand experience with fashion week, for example, design assistants. Both pieces still got the point across, one in a thousand word article and one in a one-minute video. Adzic made the most of what she had to work with.

Adzic's appreciation for detail is visible in her journalistic style and work, specifically in her interviews and segments for CBC News Now. For example, the attention to detail is shown in this interview with Jennifer Aniston at the Toronto International Film Awards and in her latest piece of the new line-up of shows on CBC for the 2015-2016 season. She does an extensive amount of research, both online and offline, before she begins an interview or a broadcast. Her approach is very direct and simple, and she focuses on the issue or significance of the story right from the start. The little details in her work, like the specificity of information and examples, along with her undeniable confidence, makes for a very well-rounded story. Beauty in the details is important but it isn’t everything. There needs to be flexibility within your reporting to catch the unexpected moments that will elevate your story.

Adzic said this approach begins "by listening...You've got to able to shift and...pick a different angle or different approach," Adzic said. Adaptability is key.

After our 30 minute interview, my outlook on the role of women in journalism, and the industry as a whole, changed. I learned so much about what it means to be a women and a journalist. Adzic and I shared the same views on fashion, feminism and what is means to be a control freak in journalism. Adzic is a strong, humble and successful journalist who represents so much more than what is shown on television. She embodies the power of women in journalism who use fashion as a way to express their active participation in the world around them.

Photo printed with permission by Jelena Adzic