Monday, November 13, 2017

Diversity in The Media

Earl Hopkins

In the media today, there’s a disconnect.

No, it’s not because of the transferring of information; the emergence of the social media era has made way for organizations to utilize several platforms for the purposes of sharing news. No, that’s not the concern. Instead, the issue is the reporters administering these stories, which, historically, have predominantly been white males in the journalism industry.

The Numbers:

In the newsroom, issues of diversity have been present for decades. Yet, not much has been done to increase the racial and gender imbalance in the journalism field. According to the American Society of News Editors’ (ASNE) 2016 data, Hispanic, Black and Asian women occupy less than five percent of the seats in the newsrooms of traditional print and online news publications. And, as of 2017, minorities make up 17 percent of the 700-plus publications.

Though these numbers have increased between the years 2002-2015, where the number of non-white journalists fluctuated between 12-14 percent, the absence of diversity in the media still remains. This lack of diversity has limited publication’s perspective and, in some cases, their ability to report on racial and gender-based stories.

The Need:

Newsrooms need journalists who are capable of discussing gender and racial-driven issues, as these stories inherently reflect the social and political climate in today’s world. Without minority reporters capable of covering these topics, it leaves a gap of stories and topics unseen by the masses.

For example, without a reporter entrenched in the struggles of Black males in America, like a Wes Lowery, the incidents that occurred in Baltimore, MD, and Ferguson, MZ, may have never been at the nation’s forefront or, even worse, never reported at all. So, it’s important we have journalists with different cultural backgrounds to tell these stories, as many of them may have experienced or witnessed certain happenings that make for detailed stories.

In addition to their ability to report on racial and gender-based stories, Black, Hispanic and Asian journalists also bring diverse political, educational and individualist thinking to the newsroom as well. Elizabeth Spayd, writer of the Public Editor’s Journal, notes how these differences make for better content. Not only can publications report on larger and more diverse stories, but they’re able to draw in a wider audience of readers with similar perspectives or experiences.

The Discussion:

However, rather than organizations solely focusing on hiring minorities in an effort to increase diversity, there needs to be more conversations about the issue’s effects. In my eyes, there’s not enough discussions, at least globally, about the importance of diversity and inclusion, resulting in the small assertion of minorities in the newsroom the last 15 years -- three-to-five percent. Upon these discussions, it will help change the culture of the newsroom and make the pursuit of non-white journalists a genuine initiative.   

The Online News Association (ONA) outlined the absence of these discussions through its video "Exploring Diversity in the Newsroom," which included necessary conversations about race, LGBTQ and gender equality that publications need to have in their newsrooms to help strengthen their efforts of diversity. ONA's correspondents also asked journalists to explain their experiences and discuss the next steps in changing the culture of the newsroom. 

The Resolve:

Once publications take the step to address issues of diversity, the establishment of professional programs can take shape. In doing so, publications would develop a professional pipeline for non-white journalists to have the opportunity to be inserted in major media-based organizations. And, in time, these programs will help broaden the world of news and allow journalists of all cultural backgrounds to reach a larger circulation of readers with similar perspectives and experiences.

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