My interest in newsroom diversity began as a selfish one. I grew up in a very small, rural town of less than 300 people with a very cynical view of local media. When reporters from the two city papers in Columbia, Mo., would venture out from city limits to cover us, they always seemed to get facts wrong or misunderstand what made a story so important.
I attended journalism school 30 minutes away from my hometown. Personal experiences showed me that the poor reporting could be because some student reporters producing the local media thought of the rural population surrounding the college town as peripheral and backwards, if they considered it at all.
I realized that if I, a heterosexual, cisgender, middle-class white girl, can feel alienated in a newsroom, people from marginalized backgrounds probably feel much worse. I want to be a part of a solution, and to help newsroom leaders understand practical ways to improve through inclusion.
Black and brown friends of mine in newsrooms have told me what it’s like being the only brown face in a white space. They constantly have to educate their newsrooms about blind spots in reporting. Complaints to management are noted and editors commiserate; but nothing changes.
We know that attrition for journalists of color and women is high. Journalists who come from working class backgrounds or identify with the LGBTQ community also see their newsrooms struggling to connect with their communities. We might infer from that how unlikely they are to remain in a newsroom as well.
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Register for the five-part email series on newsroom diversity
As an API summer fellow, I’m working on a project that I hope will make a more inclusive culture in newsrooms. I’m just starting my journalism career, but I hope those with more experience can benefit from what I’m learning from this project.
With API’s help, I’m crafting a small email newsletter series to offer small, actionable ways editors and managers can be more inclusive day-to-day. I’ll send you practical tips from industry leaders and insights from conversations I’ve had with current and former journalists who’ve tackled diversity issues in their career. Anyone can sign up at any time, and the newsletters will arrive in-sequence, each building on the last.
Each of the five editions will also point to resources and opportunities from people and organizations such as the Maynard Institute, Poynter, the Emma Bowen Foundation, journalism affinity groups, and many more that have been working on this problem for a long time. My goal is to offer a few practical lessons I’ve learned and to ask you to go deeper with folks like these.
I’m early in the research process, reaching out to people who are already making a difference. How has newsroom diversity (or lack thereof) affected your management experiences? I want to hear about it. Email me here. If you’d like to sign up for the newsletter ahead of time, you can do so here.