In “Rethinking the Race Beat” by Barry Yeoman, the question of whether or not a specialist is needed in the newsroom to cover ethnic minorities is critically examined throughout the piece.
In a newsroom, is it better to have one person focus on ethnic or racial stories or have every reporter cover racial angles in his or her own stories? It is a hard question to answer because, in the end, the newsroom wants to do whatever produces the best stories. However, which one is better?
I think a quote by Rod Prince, executive producer for the weekend editions of NBC Nightly News, answers the questions stated above. In the article, he says, “Doing stories about racial issues doesn’t require that you have the race beat. It’s an awareness that should find its way into all reporting.”
If a newsroom has a race beat, then the reporters are forced to find stories that deal with racial or ethnic issues even if they are not newsworthy. It is their job to fill a quota in order to make the news seem more diverse, which could hurt the credibility of the news outlet if the stories are not worth publishing.
To ensure better ethnic and racial reporting, it is important that news agencies hire a diverse group of journalists. If the journalists represent a wide range of races and ethnicities, then there will be resources in the newsroom that understand the beliefs, values, customs and trends of the different ethnic groups, which will help prevent journalists shying away from racial issues because they feel uncomfortable.
However, minorities in newsrooms are hard to recruit and retain. According to an article called “Investigating Newsroom Diversity-decline of minority journalists” by Ronald Roach, the newspaper industry hired 600 journalists of color in 2000 and lost 698 journalists. A study found that 67 percent of black journalists felt that their managers did not try to promote or retain the black journalists.
If having a diverse newsroom is so crucial to the quality of news produced, then the managers and editors of news companies need to find ways to accommodate the needs and wants of ethnic journalists in order to recruit and retain them.
Below is a video that features interviews with participants at the Media Management Center’s Advanced Executive Program in 2008 about diversity in the newsroom.