Thursday, November 16, 2017

Facing Journalism's Diversity Problem

Ryan Severance

Of all the problems facing America's news rooms today, few are more insidious and readily reparable than the total lack of diversity. From editorial boards down to part time reporters on local beats, there is all but a complete lack of people of color, and frequently women as well, from the primary sources where most citizens get their news and information. The repercussions of this are startling and widespread, so what's to be done about the lack of diversity in today's media?

It's well documented that there's a dearth of non-white, non-male journalist. Indeed, more evidence seems to pile up to support the "whitewashing" of American journalism each day. While small progress has been made in limited sectors, it's clear from the consistent patterns of prejudice in hiring that structural forces are at play.

The truth of the matter is, a lack of diversity in America's newsrooms results in major stories being missed, critical perspectives being ignored, and stereotypes being projected into every living room in the nation. If journalism is to survive the modern onslaught it's facing, including charges of biased coverage, it needs to retrofit its news teams to provide better, more equal coverage that can be more widely appreciated by a diverse audience.

America's demographics are rapidly changing - the previously white-majority country will likely be a white-minority country in our lifetimes - though this is seldom reflected in hiring figures. Time and time again, it seems that those in charge of hiring America's future journalistic stars are ignoring the evidence of the boon diversity provides to newsrooms.

Source: Tufts University 

The solution to our problem is altogether easy to understand, if not hard to implement due to structural resistance. A new ethics guideline, one that stressed the importance of diverse viewpoints being present in newsrooms, is desperately needed. Only after a new model of ethics that guides us to make better informed decisions on the basis of diversity has become ubiquitous can many of today's greatest news and information dilemmas be solved.

This strategy necessitates fair pay protocols, too. What's the purpose of making newsrooms diverse, if the payment for workers of color or women is still unequal? In such a situation as that, no real progress would be made - we'd only be paying lip service to diversity, without recognizing it's legitimate moral necessity. It's not even about ethics, either; from a business standpoint, journalism cannot survive as an industry if it's not able to meet the needs of its audience, which is clearly demanding more diverse newsrooms.

Until men and women currently in power stand up to speak up about the dearth of diversity in today's field of journalism, the problem won't change. We need a new generation of ethical warriors, equipped with a strong moral code and ready to crusade for their cause, if journalism is to be saved from the demons currently haunting it at every turn.

Will it be easy? Certainly not - but matters such as this never are. With time, dedication, and sacrifice, America's newsrooms may yet be saved from the total lack of racial and ideological divergence that currently plagues them.

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