Newsroom Diversity is a Daily Fight

photo-23Posted by Bianca Olvera Lopez

Monday, March 4, 2013—Karen Mitchell, assistant professor of convergence journalism at Missouri, and Drake alum, presented “Living the Struggle for Newsroom Diversity” for E.T. Meredith Magazine Center‘s visiting professional event.

Mitchell walked through the history of newsroom diversity, and shared some of her personal experiences and beliefs. I wasn’t surprised to hear about her struggles—I expected that—but I was surprised to hear her say that diversity in the newsroom is not getting better. According to ASNE there are 40,600 employees at daily newspapers. The minority population makes up 12%. The 4th Estate also broke down the numbers in this infographic. I’m Hispanic and this worries me. Why do we have this problem? Will it ever get better? Should it get better?

Mitchell was able to answer these questions, and said that she expects improvement (by 2050), but I’m still feeling nervous. I worry that like Mitchell, I too will always be a minority hire. I’m also concerned about where the problem starts. Does it start in journalism schools? High schools? Also, I don’t know if seeing an increase in the amount of minorities in newsrooms will help journalists work outside their own comfort zones. I read Beyond Newsroom Diversity: Should who covers what matter?, and it got me thinking about why I decide to work on certain stories.

We could go on and on about this topic, but I think Mitchell is right. Newsroom diversity is a daily fight, and we have to keep on fighting for inclusion if we want to get better. What are your thoughts?

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6 responses to “Newsroom Diversity is a Daily Fight

  1. Before Karen Mitchell mentioned minority hires in our J70 class in reference to her presentation the night before I hadn’t really thought much about hiring practices.

    I suppose up until now I had been naïve enough to believe that the most qualified person would be hired to fill an open position. My lack of concern regarding diversity in the news room is a great example how as a white female I am less aware of my race than women of other races because society does not place additional emphasis on my “whiteness.”

    I think it is unfortunate other people have this additional strain on their job search. I’d like to see hiring done for based on applicant merit and I believe that people in the newsroom should support this.

    Karen made which I feel exemplified the “positive” aspects of hiring someone based on their race. I like when she explained that she could offer a different point of view than her colleagues which may allow newsrooms to reach a broader audience. Mitchell made it pretty clear she retained her jobs because of her effort and talent even if she was initially hired to diversify the staff.

    I think inclusion is important but I also think teaching all journalism students to strive to be the best candidate, regardless of race, will make the professional field far superior in the coming years.

  2. This is a really great, topical post, Bianca, especially considering Professor’s Mitchell’s appearance in our class. As Monica brings up in her comment, there is a delicate balance between striving for a diverse balance in the newsroom and making sure the most qualified person gets the job. This challenge has created a debate over affirmative action principles in journalism, signifying that this issue is not just relegated to the media industries, but represents a broader social challenge in America. Yet, I think the issue of geography also heavily plays into this discussion. The lack of newsroom diversity is especially heightened here in Iowa. As Professor Van Wyke has said, The Register’s staff is far from representative of the Des Moines population. While this is sad, it shouldn’t be surprising considering the demographic makeup of Drake. We too suffer from a horrible lack of diversity on campus and in the journalism school. While this isn’t necessarily the case nationwide, newsroom diversity is an issue that needs to be addressed on a national, societal level.

  3. I am Hispanic as well and I have thought about this issue before but no really too in depth. I see my ethnicity as a positive in the work place. Yes, maybe I’ll get hired because I bring in diversity to the work place but they wouldn’t have even looked at my resume if it didn’t meet the qualifications or catch the employers eye. My parents always stressed to put on my resume that I speak fluent spanish because that gives you an ‘up’ on the competition, companies like to have people that bring something new to the table.
    I do think it is different for African Americans. I have not heard as many issues with Hispanics as African Americans. I think it is an issue that there is not as many minorities in the J-world but can we blame that on the companies that supposedly are not hiring these people or only hiring as many as they need to be considered ‘a diverse workplace’?
    Or is it that there are not as many minorities are perusing a Journalism degree?

  4. This is something I’ve worried about as well; I don’t want to be the token Mexican, queer in a news room and I don’t want all of my story assignments to be on these topics (not to say I don’t like them, but like any writer I like diversity in topics).

    To me the issue starts from where ever a person enters the world, unless they move up a class. In high school I was in mostly AP courses and my high school was 60% hispanic. Yet, my AP courses were 60% white people. That is to say at even the educational level this difference exists and there are literally hundreds of reasons this is the case (poor economy so maybe the student works a lot, ESL students have a difficult time in English based courses, etc.) So in the long run, this leads to lack of newsroom diversity because many of these students don’t go to college and end up in a professional career as such. In reality fixing this issue might take even longer than Mitchell suggested, requiring better educational system overall. And at this point where educational cuts are happening, I doubt it will happen soon.

  5. I would like to start by saying, that by Drake JSchool inviting Karen Mitchell to campus it speaks volumes about how the university has acknowledged that there is a diversity deficit and is displaying an interest in having educated discussions about promoting the importance of diversity.

    But I too like Raquel have viewed my diverse back ground in predominately white experiences as a positive. And being a minority hire doesn’t necessarily bother especially when I know I would be qualified regardless of my ethnicity. But when it comes to covering stories, I find that I carry the weight of the diverse world on my shoulders. I often times feel responsible for bring ideas to the table and pitching stories that promote the discussion of diverse issues and topics. But I ask myself, If I don’t who will?

    I see myself sometimes as the diversity ambassador of the classroom, simply because I represent an ethnically under represented identity. And I feel as if that is limiting to other writers who don’t identify with being diverse.

    Where the issue starts, I don’t know but I should end with open minded professionals who crave the passion to tell all stories, not just the ones they are most comfortable with.

  6. I have to say that I feel old. I definitely see a connection between age and the way of thinking about this topic. One of the things Karen Mitchell mentioned at the Newsroom Diversity presentation was how new generations are more accepting than her generation. She said this means hope, and I’m thinking she’s right. I’m glad that most of you embrace your diversity. I’m interested to see how and if diversity in the newsroom evolves.

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