Thursday, April 28, 2011

The importance of covering diversity

Matt Schuldt
As journalists, it is important for all of us to seek the truth and report in an unbiased manner. Covering diversity is so important, especially today, because covering all angles and obtaining all perspectives of a story is so essential to getting the bigger picture.
In the article, Covering Diversity by Sharon O’Malley, she brings up a very good point on why broadcasters sometimes lack coverage of diversity.

“Sometimes broadcasters need to take the extra step, drive the 15 miles, stay a little while longer in order to hear all the voices and show all the faces of the news,” she writes. “But too often, [Richard] Harris notes, deadline pressures and habit lead them to point their cameras at the most convenient targets—the white male lawyers, doctors, professors, bookstore owners—who can serve as expert sources for their sources.”

I agree with O’Malley and Harris in the sense that I do believe that sometimes journalists shy away from covering diversity as a matter of convenience. But if we, as journalists, report on topics and issues as a matter of convenience, we aren’t doing our jobs and we are also doing a disservice to our readers who deserve to hear all sides to a story.

The School of Journalism and Public Relations (SJPR) released a “Diversity Reporting” handbook just last month.  The author of the handbook, Marina Tuneva, a lecturer at SJPR, says that the intentions of the handbook are “not to offer a comprehensive review of professional and ethical standards on reporting diversity, but to provide a general framework of rules that are accepted in professional journalism.”

In my opinion, it’s a great idea to have a handbook or set of guidelines for covering diversity. Furthermore, I believe that all Ethics Codes should include areas on covering diversity. By putting guidelines in place for ethical reporting on diversity, hopefully it will allow reporters to move out of their comfort zones and begin to cover different groups of people.
As mentioned earlier, a huge reason why some reporters don’t cover diversity is because of convenience. Maybe they don’t want to step on anybody’s toes or feel uncomfortable doing so, but a set of guidelines could erase that mentality and allow more widespread coverage of other groups.
(Photo credit:
Covering all different groups of people is a key to unbiased reporting. Rather than skewing the news by only reporting on a select, “convenient” few, it is important that we cover those different from us because we interact with different groups of people everyday. It also will help society in erasing negative perceptions of certain groups of people because unfortunately, negative perceptions and stereotypes are often caused by a lack of diversity coverage and unbiased reporting.
This is very evident in schools, and many high school newspapers are emphasizing diversity coverage in an effort to prepare not only their writers, but to encourage differences among the student community.
In Covering Diversity, O’Malley gets a great quote from Stacy Owen, the acting news director and managing editor at KRON-TV in San Francisco, which pretty much sums it up.

“Look at the community in which you live,” she said, “Covering diversity is no different than covering our neighborhood.”

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