Monday, September 30, 2013

Going the Distance for Diversity

Meredith McNelis

We have become all too comfortable with taking the easy way out. In a place where libraries were the main source of knowledge, Google now reigns supreme. Journalists should not cover what is convenient to them; they should cover what is suitable for their audience. Diversity is lacking from many news outlets because many are taking the easy way out. They have to get up from their desks, step away from their computer screens and dive into reality. They must step back and include everyone in their community and audience.

Step Outside the Box

Most of the time, when students are assigned with a research project that involves interviewing fellow students, they turn directly to their neighbor that lives down the hall or a friend. In doing so, their friends may not answer the questions in an appropriate manner. They might just answer them in a way that they know the interview wants to hear. This creates a sort of bias in the reporting. Going to an outside source or someone you do not know as well, allows the interviewer to gain a different perspective. If the interviewee does not know them that well, it allows them to be more candid with their answers.

This creates a sort of lazy foundation that could be carried on to an aspiring journalist in the professional world. While it does not seem as big of a deal from a high school or college perspective, continuing on this sentiment in a newsroom is detrimental.  For example, how can a community, or even the nation, gain a solid insight to an election if they only have a select demographic reporting and gathering information on it? The infographic below displays just this problem.

Most newsrooms that lack diversity, lack diverse reporting. Because of this, news stations may internalize worldwide issues and only report on them from their own perspectives. Why is this so? Because it is convenient. If a newsroom is run by predominantly Whites, their reporting directly reflects that because they often do not seek views outside their own. It is easy to report what you personally believe in and to interview people with similar view as your own, but it takes a determined and principled journalist to seek out other conflicting viewpoints. It should be second nature to do so, but for many it takes a conscious decision to step outside of the box.

Community Journalism as a Model for Success

Perhaps, major news stations should take a step back and look at community journalism. Yes, they do cover a smaller portion of the United States but what they do cover is all-inclusive. Smaller news publications and newsrooms look at their community under a microscope; they see everything that goes on, are involved in everything that goes on and feel that everything that goes on is important, vital information. The Tampa radio station WMNF does a great job in including their community in their news stories. They take people directly from their community and allow them to host shows about all different races, demographics and ethnicities. This creates such rich diversity in their broadcasts because they are allowing novice reporters to come in and talk on a more personal level.      

To report on an all inclusive, unbiased nature, journalists must create further diversity in their news coverage. Whether it is making a conscious decision to put personal ideals aside and incorporate a diverse range of information or including people directly from your community, diversity must be present. Without it, how can people paint a clear picture of the differences in a society?  

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