Monday, October 10, 2016

Diversity in the Newsroom: Not A Want, But A Need

Emma Schoonmaker

Newsrooms today are the beating heart of America. Citizens depend on newsrooms and their reporters to feed them all of the necessary information to keep up with our ever-changing society. Without newsrooms, the public would be left uninformed and senseless, unaware of both the successes and the misfortunes of our country.

My reason for saying this is that the newsroom can only truly be effective if it is representative of our nation as a whole. While we have been working for years toward more diverse reporting, we still have a very long way to go (this article by the Society of Professional Journalists provides insight into how our modern newsrooms have become this way).

According to Carlett Spike in her article, "Newsrooms getting more diverse," we have not yet been able to cultivate this kind of diverse culture. People of color now make up "17% of the newsroom," yet also make up "37% of the country." Here lies the disconnect.

Sure, journalists have made major improvements over the last decade in terms of getting more races, ethnicities, and genders in the newsrooms. However, there is a 20% deficit that illustrates minorities in America who are not represented in the newsroom.

This comic depicts the misunderstanding that we have achieved diversity in the newsroom.
Another huge misconception is that people think diversity in the newsroom can be achieved by adding a few people of color to the broadcasting staff, putting new and fresh faces on the air. We have to dig much deeper.

An article from, entitled "Why newsroom diversity works," points out that diversity has many different layers. Diversity not only brings familiar faces to TVs across the nation, but it also "helps editorial organizations avoid the bland and often false conventional wisdom held in a room full of people who come from familiar places."

Diversity gives organizations a chance to cover stories in many different lights. People of different races and ethnicities are likely to come from different backgrounds, which offers unforeseen perspectives on important stories. By putting 5 people in one room who all come from different places, newsrooms are much more likely to find the best angle for the story.

The video below is a TED Talk by Verna Meyers, a diversity advocate. She discusses diversity in the workplace, and her ideals translate directly to journalists in the newsroom.

Newsrooms today would benefit greatly by taking notes from modern classrooms. Journalism students are -- now, more than ever -- open to a diverse and multi-platform type of newsroom.

"Race, Ethnicity, and Student Sources: Minority Newsmakers in Student-Produced Versus Professional TV News Stories" discusses a study that is the first of its kind, conducted to examine differences in diversity between actual newsrooms and student newsrooms.

The findings of this study exemplify what I feel I am learning to do as a journalism student at Ohio University. The study found that modern journalism students are more likely than actual professional reporters to include diverse individuals and their voices in news stories.

Author Laura K. Smith writes, "By infusing the curriculum with discussions about race and social responsibility, professors can create a climate of inclusion that leads to greater source diversity."

The study reveals that educators need to work just as hard to create a diverse culture in the classroom as reporters and journalists do in the newsroom. More importantly, the study shows that professional journalists today may even be behind college students in terms of their ability to create diversity in the media.

With all of that being said, it is quite obvious that we have a long way to go before all of America feels represented when they tune in to the news. It is not something that happens overnight, it is something that our news organizations should be working toward for years and years.

As said, "Media diversity is not a progressive ideal... it is a journalistic imperative."

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