Panelists urge diversity in the newsroom

By Barry Sanders
Stanford University

In St. Louis, one African-American crime reporter made all the difference with the development of a police-involved shooting, said Gilbert Bailon, editor at St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“She went out there and spent time, because initially there was a lot of resistance. This was a community that was very closed off. They were suspicious of outsiders, but she was able to open some doors,” said Bailon.

Several panelists spoke at the ASNE-APME Conference at Stanford University on Saturday about the importance of a diverse newsroom when reporting on a minority community.

“The reality of it is, industry wide we aren’t making as much progress as we would like to, and there are many factors to that,” said Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of the Al Dia at The Dallas Morning News. “We feel that the more diverse leaders we have in our industry the better representation within the newsroom and also in coverage will result from that.”

Mizell Stewart, managing director of content at Journal Media Group, talked about how he is helping ASNE achieve its goals of becoming more diverse in the newsrooms.

“Our newsrooms are still working towards the ASNE goals of parity with the local population,” said Stewart, who  also is one of the highest ranking African Americans in the newspaper industry.

In Corpus Christi, Texas the goals of the Corpus Christi newsrooms are to reflect the community they serve in, said Tim Archuleta, editor at Corpus Christi Caller Times. According to the U.S. Census 59.7 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino.

“Diverse individuals can bring their life experiences, their background, and their skill,” Carbajal said. “Diverse coverage is all about accurate coverage. If we as news media are not accurately portraying reality and representing life of the many communities that we serve then we aren’t doing our job.”

At the end of the panel, the audience shared their ideas for how newsrooms can flip the paradigm on newsrooms coverage of diverse communities.

One suggestion was that journalists should cover communities they are representative of, said audience members.

It was an issue that the late Dori Maynard wrote about extensively. Maynard,president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, was awarded the Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership at the 2015 ASNE-APME conference.

“The result is that even in news organizations that have a diverse staff, the strengths of that diversity are often not reflected in either the content or the business practices. The reason: So many employees have been trained to say what they think they should say and not necessarily what they believe,” wrote Maynard in an article for NiemanReports.org.

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