The journalism industry has a diversity problem. It’s an old problem, and a pervasive one. I write this as the only woman on a small editorial staff that is all White.
So begins Kristen Hare’s provocative Q&A with Jose Antonio Vargas for Poynter. You can and should read the whole thing.
I think she’s right. Again and again over my decades in the business, the powers that be have made progress toward diversifying our newsrooms only to lose ground each time. The problem is rooted in tradition – many people of color simply don’t see role models in our business and therefore don’t think about a career in newsgathering. It is exacerbated by pay and benefits that are sometimes insufficient to attract people of all colors who have opportunities elsewhere. And it is enshrined when we lose momentum toward diversity in a climate of layoffs, when we’re all concerned about our own jobs, let alone jobs for others. …
I know some, perhaps most of you, wonder why it should matter whether a white English-speaker covers, say, immigration issues. There are many white reporters who do a wonderful job of drawing out the issues of race in all sorts of stories. That is true. But it is also true that we all bring with us a particular background that informs everything we write. It’s why two columnists attend the same presidential speech and come away with wildly different takes. Because we need to be inclusive, it’s important to employ reporters that reflect society’s colors in a country that is increasingly diverse.
This is a matter of survival, by the way. Newspaper staffs in Cleveland, New York and Half Moon Bay don’t fully reflect the communities they seek to cover. That is a problem. Readers will seek out voices that speak to them. They are finding those voices on social media now. We lose our moral authority if we don’t seek to make this right.
So what do we do about it? The first step with any problem is to admit to having it. Be cognizant of the need to reflect your community when making hiring decisions. Be sensitive to your own cultural biases. Start the conversation.
Thanks for reading.