Monday, September 28, 2015

The Race for Diversity In Media

Ben Faith

The media is facing an issue that has affected almost every other aspect of society, and that is the issue of diversity. It's not all about race either, it's also an issue of seeing stories and issues in the lens of other cultures. According to a 2014 study, "A quarter of African Americans consider the portrayal of their community accurate, whereas a third of Hispanic adults say that the Hispanic community is accurately portrayed in the media". This is a clear indication to me that instead of focusing purely on hiring minorities in media, we should also be looking to educate existing and future journalists on strategies to accurately represent minority communities.

Black man drinking at white only fountain, ca 1964 (Cecil Williams source:)
I may look like the vast majority of journalists existing in the media today (white male, born in the Midwest) but I've had a lot of exposure to black culture since I was both born in the city and I'm a huge hip-hop head. The best thing for journalists to do when covering a certain group of people is actually understanding their culture and to do that is through the culture. One of the biggest reasons that newsrooms need to diversify now is the need for multiple perspectives in every story. If everyone sitting in the room is from the same background the story may lack that other perspective.

Another issue with a lack of diversity in media is often times it actually makes reporting much harder. If you were trying to talk to people in a Latino neighbor, and you don't speak Spanish, it can make certain sources inaccessible or not as reliable due to the language barrier. Having a more diverse staff may allow you to cover a larger variety of stories and will also make certain stories much easier to report on. A more diverse staff can both cover some stories with greater success and share their own experience with each other.

T.J. Holmes March 29, 2012  (Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images)

One of the issues with a lack of diversity in media might be with the lack of role models in the field. In a recent NYT article about the lack of African-Americans in Silicon Valley, Van Jones, a CNN political commentator said,  "A lot of African-Americans want to grow up to be LeBron James, Jay Z or Barack Obama. They don't hear about David Drummond at Google, who is at the center of one of the biggest companies in the world." (Drummond is an African-American who is currently Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer at Google). I believe there is a similar issue with the media, there isn't enough role models for minorities. When I decided I wanted to be a journalist, I was aiming to to be the next Anderson Cooper. I think more and more minorities will be more likely to become the next generation of journalists as long as we have role models like Fareed Zakaria, T.J. Holmes and Soledad O'Brien.

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