Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Diversity in Journalism: A Conscious Effort

Lindsay Shirk
Diversity in Journalism: A Conscious Effort

Diversity and specifically the issue of race has and still is a controversial issue. We are constantly encouraged to embrace diversity in our workplaces, news stories, personal lives and more. We are also constantly reminded not to fall into the habit of racial and ethnic stereotypes that tend to come along with the conversation of diversity.

In the basic principles of journalism and spelled out clearly in the SPJ's Codes of Ethics, we are told to tell the stories of all the diverse and varying people in our world. SPJ says journalists should "Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly." Of course many think this is an easy task. But realistically, journalists fall into the habit of using sources, interviewees, and subjects that are "safe" and maybe less controversial. Some may not make an effort to use people of other races, cultures and ethnicities because they feel those people may not be as "appealing" to a wider audience. These practices are examples of falling into the negative habits that set foundation for race issues, prejudice and believing racial/ethnic stereotypes. I would like to address to two points on diversity after recognizing the importance of of this issue in journalism.

Diversity in the Subjects of our News Stories
It's very important to diversify the subjects of the news stories we are producing in the newsrooms, PR office or advertising agency we are working for. Subjects could be topics, featured people, interviewees and much more. Stacy Owen of KCRN-TV in San Francisco says "Covering diversity is like covering your neighborhood." We should strive to make the news representative of all the people living in our neighborhood, city or world.

Writing about other cultures, ethnicities and races not your own can broaden not only your own viewpoint, but can influence and broaden that of your readers. This may in turn make your story all the more appealing, interesting and creative. In Tim Porter's blog, he shines light on this point and says:

"Race is an uncomfortable subject and at times I, as a editor and as a person, felt discomfort being reminded of my own limited perceptions, but it challenged me and forced my way of thinking, that of my peers and that of those minority journalists to undergo scrutiny and debate. From that consideration came better decisions and, at times, better journalism."

Sharon O'Malley, in the reading "Covering Diversity," explains that we should look to people of minorities or diverse backgrounds more than when the topic at hand is specified towards their background. I agree that in making an effort to represent the diverse people that we live with, we should make a conscious effort to include all types of people in the everyday conversations and stories we are producing.

Diversity & Stereotypes
As we try to include diversity into our news stories, we need to be aware of stereotypes. Going off of what Martin Gilens wrote about in "Poor People in the News," the following could be topics of stereotyped stories:
Blacks--criminal, the poor
Whites-- govt officials, businessman
Hispanic--immigration, poverty
We need to keep ourselves aware of stereotypes because our audiences are typically broad and include varying people. We wouldn't be representing our diverse audience if all of our stories fell victim to racial or ethnic stereotypes.

This is true not only in news stories but in advertising as well. Duncan Hines found themselves using racial stereotypes in their advertising for one of their products. They depicted cupcakes in blackface and deemed them "hip hop cupcakes." This offended many viewers and Duncan Hines pulled the video.

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