Monday, April 25, 2011

Diversity is a Necessity for Newsrooms

Lauren McGrath

Recent technological innovations have changed the way journalists operate. Years ago, people waited until morning to see the front page of a newspaper in order to read the latest news. Now people can log-on to social media websites and blogs to see what happened minutes, sometimes even seconds, before.

While these changes have paved the way for new forms of journalism, Robert Hernandez encourages journalists to focus on diversity. Diversity is important to not only our individual stories but also to our newsrooms. If a newspaper hired a staff that consisted entirely of women who were only concerned with shopping, other aspects of the paper would begin to suffer. That example may be extreme but it makes one think a little harder about the “face” of a print organization.

A television network in Tucson, Arizona is capitalizing on their location while training staff members accordingly. KGUN-TV is an hour from the Mexican border and has a staff of reporters with varied backgrounds. The combination of languages spoken comes in handy when stories arise with sources that do not speak English. One reporter was covering a story about an inflatable device that blew away and injured two children in the process. Even though the parents of the children only spoke Arabic, the interview was broadcast with subtitles that another producer translated. Without that kind of knowledge, the news station would not have been able to run that story.

It's not enough for only one station to incorporate diversity. Every media outlet should strive to be diverse in every aspect. Sadly, that is not the case and hasn't been the case for some time. According to Journalism in the Americas blog, American newsrooms have been lagging behind in diversity for at least three years. More than 441 newspapers that are part of the American Society of Newspaper Editors have no full-time minority employees.

Until newsrooms can be filled with people from different walks of life, every newspaper, magazine, and blog will be missing out on unique perspectives. Not only will different types of people provide fresh angles on stories but the employees will bring their arsenal of knowledge to the table.

A great option for employers is to implement diversity workshops. The simple act of creating dialogue with employees about diversity opens more doors than people typically think. Once issues are continually bought up, practices like finding varied sources and reporting on issues in communities that are often ignored, becomes second nature for reporters.

Here is a video that briefly discusses the importance of diversity training and the idea that diversity goes beyond just race.

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