Diversity in Journalism: More thanThe struggle with diversity spans nations, communities, and organizations, but, it is felt more on the interpersonal levels of gender, race, creed, and socio-economic classes. However, those who are looked upon to deliver the critical information the public relies on to form educated opinions on the issues that affect their lives are not immune to the same struggles that stem from diversity issues.
In a blog titled, “Why diverse newsrooms are important” by Rebecca Frank, published on News Media Alliance on February 9, 2018, a 2015 Nieman report explains, “Journalists often find it difficult to have open, honest conversations about race and ethnicity – even compared to other contentious newsroom issues, like gender imbalances – for fear of damaging relationships with editors or colleagues.”
These fears, however just, halt forward progress in open thought and mindedness which is a fundamental in journalism. If in the newsroom journalists, reporters, staffers, and editors cannot thoughtfully and openly speak on the issues of diversity without fear of reprimand or adverse action, then how can they cover the beat objectively and without bias? For example, editors may have to ask themselves what type of reporter to have cover the latest racially triggered riot, or to catch the highlights from the next LGBTQ Pride March based off how each will compose themselves and have the ability to create a balanced piece that encompasses all views of the event.
In an Editor’s Note titled, “Creating a more divers newsroom is a never-ending journey” published July 30, 2018, on St. Louis Public Radio, Shula Neuman discusses some of the implications of the afore mentioned examples faced during the 2014 Ferguson protest. Shula says, “It’s not that the white reporters are incapable of producing fair stories about communities different than their own. However, white reporters are bound to miss details, nuances and access to people in non-white communities. Put simply, a largely white newsroom might miss, or misunderstand, what many in our community are saying.”
To counter the lack of diversity Shula and her team began to post job openings in areas that “journalists of color” were more apt to notice the posting and made conscious efforts to hire more non-white journalists. As a result of this switch in staffing their newsroom took on a more diverse roster with “eight people of color in the newsroom, two of whom are editors. We also consider gender identity. We have 10 men, 15 women and one non-binary person in the newsroom. Three of our six editors are women.”
In addition to St. Louis Public Radio, other news outlets are taking proactive steps to generate diversity within their teams, such as: Buzz Feed, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Asbury Park Press, Rebecca Frank. As more and more newsrooms strive and achieve higher levels of diversity the level of reader and viewer trust is raised. Followership trust is increased through the amplified volumes of viewpoints and experiences published in the stories, which in turn provides the public with a well-rounded depiction of events and issues versus a version that merely examines a singular view. Simply put, the inclusion of diversity promotes the democratic society and promotes critical thinking to formulate educated opinions.