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Feb13WedIn an age of fake news, award-winning TV host Molly Thomas fights to tell the truth. February 13, 2019 by Giselle Randall
In 2017, Somalia was on the brink of famine, with crops and cattle devastated by prolonged drought and more than six million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Molly Thomas was there to report on the crisis for Context With Lorna Dueck, a national, faith-based current affairs show. It was a story receiving little coverage in the mainstream media.
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As she interviewed a Muslim leader in a rural community, he asked, “Why are you here? Why do you care?” It’s a question she often hears in the field.
“I care because Jesus cares,” she replied.
A Heart for Social Justice
Molly grew up in a Christian family in Regina. Her parents, immigrants of Indian heritage, were intentional about exposing their three children to global issues. They had a heart for newcomers and opened their home to international students. “We lived in a tiny little house, but we always had people staying with us,” says Molly. “The world was in our home.”
They also travelled abroad, often accompanying her father, an evangelist with an international ministry, “We’d go to India and Malaysia, and my parents made a point of taking us to the slums,” says Molly. “They’d say, ‘The only difference between you and these kids is that you were born somewhere else. What are you going to do about it?’ ”
At the time, she didn’t realize the significance of these experiences. Athletic and smart, she was more interested in playing basketball and pursuing her dream of being a journalist.
“I was always Miss Chatterbox in the classroom,” she says. “I quickly learned that people and their stories are too interesting to pass up!” She imagined herself in a TV studio, behind an anchor desk. “I went into journalism to be on TV,” she laughs.
But in her first year of the journalism program at the University of Regina, this goal began to take a different shape. “I sensed God say, ‘You’re going to tell stories about vulnerable people around the world,’ ” she recalls. “I remember thinking, Did I hear that right? I’m in small-town Saskatchewan—I don’t even like being in the developing world!”
That was 10 years ago. Since then, Molly has honed her skills working for all three major Canadian news networks and the national news station in Rwanda. She’s been a reporter, videographer, producer, host and anchor, and has filed stories from Somalia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, among others.
In 2016, she completed her master’s degree in global affairs at the University of Toronto, and joined Context as a senior correspondent.
“God has taken me all over the world,” she says. “He’s given me such a heart for social justice.”
As a Christian and a freelance journalist, Molly moves between different worlds—the mainstream and faith-based media, headline news and feature-length pieces.
“I love the fast pace of breaking news, but I also love the beauty of telling a story that you need time to think about,” she says. “That’s what journalism is supposed to do—make people think. I want to help people understand the world, to bring awareness to vulnerable people and create compassion.”
She brings this passion and perspective to whatever role she’s in. “In any newsroom, we fight for stories,” she says. “We’re always pitching, always pushing our editors to focus on something. People will say, ‘No one cares about that.’ So you figure out a way to get on the ground and bring the stories back.”
In northern Somalia, where the people rely on agriculture, the fields were dryer than anything she’d ever seen in Saskatchewan. When she returned to Canada, Molly shared the story with Context viewers, and then—with the blessing of host and executive producer Lorna Dueck—with media outlets across the country.
“When I see suffering like that, I need to get the word out,” says Molly. “I didn’t do that for money—I did it because children are dying. Does that make me an advocate? Sure. But it’s something Jesus told me to do, so I’m going to do it.”
For Molly, giving people an opportunity to respond in the midst of tragedy is something faith-based media excels at.
“I’ve struggled to go to places, cover tragic incidents and then walk away,” she says. “When I covered the Syrian refugee crisis for Context, we told viewers how they could partner with an organization to sponsor people—and we were able to bring Syrian refugees into Canada directly through our programming.” Molly also recently met another refugee in Yorkton, Sask., whose Canadian sponsorship was inspired by her storytelling.
“I want to help people through journalism—to make content that actually changes people’s lives.”
Telling the Truth
As Molly goes beyond the headlines to share often unheard stories, it provokes honest wrestling with her faith.
“I remember talking to a father in Iraq whose son was gunned down in front of him by ISIS, and children in refugee camps who are traumatized,” she says. “When I come home, I yell at God, ‘Why would you let that happen?’ I’m mad! It’s an honest relationship—it’s not filtered. But God can handle that. And at the end of the day, I always go back to Him, because I know that He sees these kids before we do, and His heart breaks more than mine does.”
In a world in which we are constantly barraged with information, Molly is using her skills to raise awareness of injustice and suffering. She is using her voice to tell stories that matter—to tell the truth.