Thursday, November 16, 2017

Diversity in the Newsroom

Molly Zunski

The newsroom is a place where ideas and inspiration come alive.  These ideas become stories, entering the eyes and ears of all of a station or publication's audience members.  Journalists in a newsroom are responsible for creating content that the audience wants and needs throughout the week, making it an essential job for the initial ideas to be fruitful seeds rather than weeds.  In order to accomplish this task, the newsroom needs people of any race, gender, and background who are capable and willing to bring their ideas to the table.

When it comes to diversity, everyone has an opinion.  But what are the ethical duties of journalists in the newsroom when diversity is (or, perhaps, is not) being upheld?  Diversity, as its definition suggests, comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, etc.  The common misconception surrounding the topic is that as long as a population consists of people who are more than just white, it is a diverse group.  But this is simply not the case.

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Before a news outlet can even consider labeling itself "diverse," it must first acknowledge where it may be lacking in diversity.  This includes considering outsider perspectives, in addition to those of the staff. If a lack of diversity is discovered or there are areas in which the organization could grow, it is the responsibility of the management team to own up to and address these issues.

In a Columbia Journalism Review article from 2016 on the topic of diversity in the newsroom, the CJR editors discuss the importance of diversity when hiring journalists.  They note that it is "easy to hire young journalists with better access to higher education, the means to take on unpaid internships, and far-reaching social networks. And those journalists are typically white."


In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review in 2016, Betsy Wade, the first female copy editor at The New York Times, said that companies must "put in the work to close the gaps in skills and groom individuals of color who have potential."

While many might be put off by the work they must put into extinguishing a lack of diversity, newsrooms that strive for success and excellence ought to make authentic diversity a primary goal.  By widening its parameters and welcoming in a broader range of journalists, any newsroom can be well on its way to success in diversity.

In a 2015 article for The Public Editor's Journal in The New York Times, writer Margaret Sullivan writes about a Nieman Reports study that says, "diverse editorial leadership results in good things for coverage and readers alike. So does a focus on racial issues."  Sullivan believes, in a popular opinion, that diversity begins to take real shape from the top of the ladder.  Once leadership gets involved, the newsroom is on the road to the creation of diverse and rounded content.

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By bringing in different people with new perspectives on old topics, brand new ideas and stories can be formed.  The benefits of such perspectives are countless, and the effect the new stories can have are beneficial not only to the consumers, but also to news outlets themselves.

In the 2016 CJR article, ASNE Executive Editor Teri Hayt said, "diversity for me means your ability to capture and engage all of the communities that you are covering."

It is essential for newsrooms to not only know their audiences, but reflect and relate to the people they represent on a regular basis.  It will not suffice for a community of people of any number of races, genders, ages, etc. to gather only the news that a team of white men deems necessary on a daily basis.

As diversity becomes more and more of an oppressed topic today, it is more important than ever to bring fresh ideas to the table.  With diversity, we can create bigger and brighter things for the future.

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