When you think of the appearance of a newspaper editor, what type of person comes to mind? This is the question Lauren Gustus, former executive editor at the Coloradoan, once asked a room full of potential future journalists during a 2016 panel on diversity in media. The answer most gave? They pictured an older, white male — and they’d be correct. As of November 2018, 77 percent of newsroom employees were white.
As reported by NPR, “Women and journalists of color remain a sliver of those producing and reporting stories … gender and ethnic diversity in newsrooms have hardly improved in the last decade despite increasing demand for more inclusive journalism in the current round-the-clock news cycle.” Statistics such as these fail to make it seem as though progress is happening, but it’s the conversation that is occurring that can start to create a difference.
During the panel, Michael de Yoanna, investigative reporter for KUNC radio said, “I will actively change the diversity equation at my station.” Other presenters nodded their heads in agreement that they, too, planned to make a difference. Yoanna continued, “I am really looking for individuals, regardless of their backgrounds.”
But even on the panel, the lack of diversity was clear, aside from the equal ratio of men to women — each speaker was a non-hispanic white person. The conversation happening within the panel, though, is what is going to make a difference in the move towards a more diverse newsroom. It is the behind-the-scenes journalists, like the ones mentioned above, who can help make a change in the industry, as long as they’re truly committed to doing so.
These discussions are incredibly important in journalism, especially in the current social and political climate. When newsrooms are primarily white, the same types of stories get told and representation in media becomes stagnant. Creating a more inclusive space in newsrooms will lead to more inclusive publications and better representation across the board.
I’m never surprised when I come across statistics like the ones you shared because it seems to be the case in a lot of different professions, it’s disheartening to hear that in yet another sphere white people are dominant. Thank you for presenting a glimmer of hope in the field of journalism and shedding light on what conversations need to be had (and with who) in order to work towards a more inclusive future.
I feel like this conversation happens all the time but nothing is ever done to change it. Until we see more visibly diverse people in newsroom there will never be change. Hidden diversity is an important factor but if you keep seeing the same group of people in jobs you want you’ll never be able to see yourself in those positions.
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