North Texas Daily

Diversity in newsrooms is not a guarantee

Diversity in newsrooms is not a guarantee

Diversity in newsrooms is not a guarantee
August 02
21:10 2020

The culture of newsrooms as I know it has evolved since writing news. When I look at the stories I’ve read and the lives I have been introduced to outside of my own, I see stories that exist in a profound way and can change the world. As time went on, this view has changed into something that saw this as troubling. 

So far, while learning how to become a stronger reporter, one thing that I have come to witness are the various elements of detachment that occur when certain stories are being discussed. Of course, objectivity is important in the field but this has been morphed into a scapegoat for Black and other reporters of color to not cover it. This detachment is counterproductive for the world but is disrespectful and neglectful because Black and reporters of color are forced to watch something that has to do with their livelihood be taken as another trending topic. 

Commonly, committing your organization to diversity could be a key fix to this issue. However, this is only a commitment to putting Black and other people of color in the room and not making sure that the respect and inclusivity that are seamlessly given to their white counterparts are extended to them. The lack of this exists in many forms. 

One imperative difference to understand during this article is that diversity and inclusivity in relation to culture are two different things. Diversity means meeting demands to have the image of confronting differences. Inclusivity means actually putting the work in to assure that the diversity that you have decided to partake in isn’t just a tactic used to keep up the image of the institution you are a part of. Just because a variety of cultures exist in the room around you, does not always mean that the active effort is being made to ensure that the work environment is comfortable and that those reporters are welcome. 

In June 2020, the New York Times published an op-ed piece written by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, a concern that arose in response to the piece was directed towards the Black reporters on the New York Times staff. When it comes to news, there are a lot of opportunities to tell stories in a meaningful and non-exploitive way. This only seems to be possible when the right voices and perspectives are put into the equation. 

Diversity in newsrooms is not a guarantee of inclusion because of the many ways a reporter can be taken advantage of solely for the sake of their identity and not for the talent or perspective that they can offer. When you partake in this, it becomes less about valuing the views of your colleagues and the world around you and more about contributing to the financial quota. In retrospect, this makes sense since journalism is being treated as a mere business model. In the long-term, this can cause a lot of harm because you’re ultimately objectifying serious issues. 

There is no denying that strong news organizations in the U.S. have produced groundbreaking stories, but at what point does this come at a cost for your reporters? What white reporters can do is realize that credentials do not equal full access.

 When former LA Times reporter Robert Richardson talked about his role in reporting the Watts Riots and being a part of the staff after the events, he stated that “he dreaded being called to work and worried about the high expectations of his white bosses and his Black neighbors.” His coverage was extensive and the LA Times received a Pulitzer Prize in 1966. According to an LA Times article documenting this time, “Richardson didn’t show up at the ceremony, saying he didn’t think he deserved the recognition.” 

As also stated in the article, “The Times had no African American reporters” prior to Richardson being there and by 2015, only 3.4% of the staff, including designers, were African American. It was reported in June 2020 that Black journalists made up 5.2% of the staff. 

Even with this representation present, there is still a great amount of exclusion that the staff could experience. This became apparent following the death of George Floyd when newsrooms were forced to evaluate their role in inclusivity and whether it was present in their workspace. 

What to consider here is not whether your skillset determines your ability to tell the story, but to what extent should you be allowed to be involved and what you can do to actively change the culture in the newsroom. 

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Jasmine Hicks

Jasmine Hicks

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