Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Representing Diversity

Carolyn Nachman

We are living in an increasingly diverse world, as I'm sure many of you have been told numerous times. Times are changing, and along with it, so is the cultural nature of our country. Politics are slow to adapt to these changes and many social communities are slow to accept these changes as well. That leaves the responsibility of fairly and accurately covering diversity a major responsibility of the news media.

Covering Gender Sensitive Topics

Photo Courtesy of dailytech.com
In a New York Times article titled "'He'? She'? News Media Are Encouraged to Change," The New York Times explores the issues of transgender relations and what it means to be labeled as male or female. Does the use of 'he' or 'she' really have a meaning when addressing someone? When Private Bradley Manning announced that he would now be associated with the female race many people did not know how to react, including the news media. Many organizations and publications continued to refer to Manning as "he," while some, more liberal outlets such as The Huffington Post, began to refer to Manning as "she." In literature as early as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet humans have questioned what value to put on names and titles. In one of Shakespeare's most famous lines, "What's in a name?" he questions how much value we should put into a simple name. It is not the name that makes up the person, but the person who defines the name. Today people can change their names and titles all the time. For example, artist Sean Combs has gone through quite a few identity changes. He started his career as Puff Daddy, which then changed to P. Diddy and evolved into Diddy. When Combs asked people to call him by a new title, they obliged with no objection. Yet, when Manning wished to be referred to as a "she," suddenly people were not so inclined to oblige to another's wishes.

Representing Ethnic Diversity

The U.S. is becoming rapidly more diverse at faster rates than ever before seen. It is believed that by 2017, more than 50 percent of U.S. children under 18 will be a minority, yet minorities are still unfairly represented in society and by the media. Often times the only time minority groups get any sort of news coverage is when they're associated with violent crimes or negative acts. So what will it take for us, as a culture and a profession, to change these negative stigmas?

For starters it is important for a journalist to represent all viewpoints when collecting information for a story. RTDNA (the Radio Television Digital News Association) makes it a point to diversify their news coverage. They even have awards to honor journalists who excel in expanding their news coverage. They emphasize the need to take a few minutes to step back and make sure all angles are covered. Despite deadlines it is important to take an extra few minutes and interview all people involved in a story, not just the people who are easily accessible.

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