Muslimedia sheds light on the darkness of media’s coverage of Muslim Americans

As tensions have heated to a rapid boil this election season, one group of Americans being unfairly targeted by others is Muslim Americans. Since the election ended, Muslim women have admitted they are terrified to wear their hijabs in public, fearing for their lives (although this kind of discrimination isn’t exactly new).

But what are we, as media, doing to contribute to this? Or, if you’re scoffing at that sentence, what are we doing to prevent it?

The SPJ Florida Pro chapter is putting on Muslimedia this Sunday, and organizer Kathleen Devaney — the chapter’s VP of programs — wants you to go. Here’s what she has to say about the most important discussion you may ever be in.


Muslimedia

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably offended Muslim-Americans in your coverage. Yes, it’s true, sometimes even journalists don’t get the facts straight. For example, the term “Islamic terrorism,” which we in mainstream media have adopted so easily, isn’t exactly accurate or representative of the world’s second largest religion. In fact, it’s offensive.

That’s why SPJ Florida is hosting Muslimedia, an eye-opening panel between South Florida journalists and local Muslim leaders, where each group will have the opportunity to discuss how and why the media covers them the way we do. And in exchange, each side might learn something new from each other.

The panel will consist of staple topics like what are the basics of Islam, ISIS in the media and the looming future of what a Trump presidency looks like for Muslim-Americans. But perhaps the most provocative topic will be a local one: the fact that the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, the location of our event, was once determined to be an election polling site but was then revoked because the surrounding community did not feel comfortable voting in a mosque. Local and national outlets were buzzing when this news broke, and at Muslimedia, we’re going to analyze the differences in reporting to see which outlets were culturally sensitive.

In addition to the back and forth conversations, attendees will indulge in a halal lunch buffet and also get the chance to observe an afternoon prayer session.

We hope SPJ chapters nationwide adopt our concept and try Muslimedia locally. When I signed up to plan this event a couple months ago, I had no idea how little I knew about the Muslim community. Even now, I realize that what I’ve learned is only the tip of the iceberg and I am hopeful to see that same ah-ha moment in the faces of my journalism friends at the event.

Want to go? Help us make sure we’ve got enough food and RSVP on Facebook.

 

Kathleen Devaney is a social media producer for the Palm Beach Post and the Vice President of Programs for SPJ Florida Pro.

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University pays high honor to Pulitzer-winning journalist George Ramos

I didn’t expect to need a tissue but I did. The moment I saw the display I got emotional. It was beautiful. There was George Ramos’ life encased in glass.

Ramos

George Ramos (Courtesy Doug Swanson)

There was a photo of George smiling when he was a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and it smiled through the display. It’s appropriate outside the Mustang News newsroom. News was George’s love and he shared his passion with students. I met him when I was a student years ago. I was inspired by his success, tenacity, and roots from East Los Angeles. Dedicating this hallway to him was befitting.

Longtime friend and Cal Poly alumna Nina Zacuto knew George when they were students in the Journalism Department and worked together on the school paper. She says he really embraced his culture, and loved sports. During his time at Cal Poly, he was Editor-in-Chief, of then, Mustang Daily.

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“He wanted to give his community a voice, and then there was the sports. Sports just never went away. His vacations were going from city to city to watch baseball games,” Zacuto said.

George Ramos was part of a team of more than a dozen Latino journalists in 1983, chronicling the life and culture of Latinos in Southern California for the Los Angeles Times. It was a 27-part series. He would also be part of Pulitzer Prize winning teams covering the Los Angeles riots, and the Northridge earthquake.

Earlier in his career, while reporting for the San Diego Union Tribune, George went to Mexico and crossed the border with a group of migrants being smuggled into the country. “I remember him showing up at my house in Los Angeles wearing old baggy clothes and telling a chilling first person account of the experience,” recounts Zacuto.

In the display case, mementos were carefully selected to represent his life, including the Pulitzers, George’s tape recorder, a notepad; and anyone who knew George would understand the humor behind a green shovel labeled “Keeper of the Bull.”

ramos-pulitzer

Dozens of alumni, staff members, students, and friends were there in the hallway for the special dedication in memory of George, who died in 2011 from diabetes complications.

“George was not only tough, but a fabulous reporter, he was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He was a professor. He was our department chair, but he was a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Tracy Jackson Campbell, former Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Journalism Department Advisory Committee Chairman.

The tribute to George was prompted after his death, when journalist Elizabeth Aguilera inquired about money that had been collected when George died. Cecilia Alvear, former President of NAHJ who knew George through his Latino news organizations, contacted the school and soon thereafter, George’s friends, Cecilia Alvear, George Lewis and Nina Zacuto were on campus selecting items from his office for this special honor. It was decided that the funds would go into a scholarship fund that George had established at Cal Poly to promote diversity.

ramos-display

During the hallway ceremony, the most recent George Ramos Scholarship recipient, Mustang News Editor in Chief Celina Oseguera wanted to share her pride in this award.

“I feel very happy to carry that legacy of diversity,” said the student from Stockton, California, “The fact that someone of my heritage was able to be at this position of power, so early on, just makes me very inspired.”

But the tribute to George Ramos did not end there. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo also inducted George into its very first Cal Poly Student Press Hall of Fame, along with three other recipients. This event culminated with its 100-year anniversary of delivering the news.

A video explaining George’s impact and even showing an interview with him was played during the anniversary celebration.  On the video, George reflected on his life.

ramos-hof

“Then is always now. You always remember your roots. Remember who you are, where you’ve come from, what motivated you, the sacrifices your parents and grandparents made for you. I made sacrifices too for the next generation of reporters. that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m the way I am,” George said on video as waves from Morro Bay rolled in the background.

Accepting the award on his behalf, Los Angeles Times Digital Editor, Brian De Los Santos, who is also a board member for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. George was a founding member of NAHJ, as well as the California Chicano News Media Association. De Los Santos, proudly pointed out that he, just like George, is part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team from the L.A. Times that won an award for its San Bernardino terrorist attack coverage.

De Los Santos said he read some of George’s news stories.

“It made me feel passionate about journalism. It made me feel like I had a face in journalism. Whether I knew George or not, he still impacted my life,” De Los Santos said.

To remember and honor George, donate to the George Ramos Scholarship for Journalism Excellence Endowment.

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October is LGBT History Month

lgbt-history

October marks LGBT History Month, started in 1994 by a Missouri high school teacher. Rodney Wilson sought out other teachers and community leaders for his effort and they chose October because school was in session and it coincided with National Coming Out Day on October 11. 

“The LGBT community is the only minority worldwide that is not taught its history at home, in public schools or religious institutions,” said Malcolm Lazin, the founder of LGBTHistoryMonth.com, which celebrates a different LGBT icon each day in October. “We have a powerful civil rights legacy filled with so many inspiring pioneers and narratives. Equality Forum is grateful to [those] who embrace teaching our history and celebrating LGBT History Month.”

Since launching the project in 2006 they’ve profiled more than 300 people. Some of the LGBT journalists they’ve featured include CNN anchor Anderson Cooper; CNN Tonight host Don Lemon; a founding editor of The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald; and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Some of the lesser-known journalists include: 

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon – editors of The Ladder, the first lesbian magazine in the U.S.

Jack Nichols – Nichols wrote the first LGBT column, “The Homosexual Citizen,” in a mainstream publication in 1969. He, along with his partner, would later launch GAY, the first weekly gay newspaper in New York City. 

Randy Shilts the first openly gay journalist to cover LGBT issues in the mainstream press. He worked for The Advocate, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

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First-Ever Diversity Summit for College Students and Advisors Deserves The Weekend It’s Getting

When Jackie Alexander, an assistant director for student media at Clemson University, led a workshop on identity at the College Media Convention in New York City this past spring, Candace Baltz was inspired.

“I had been looking for affordable educational opportunities around inclusion and diversity that we could send our professional and student staff to attend, but kept coming up dry,” Baltz, the director of Orange Media Network at Oregon State University, says.

Alexander, Baltz, and Rachele Kanigel — an associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University — talked throughout the conference about how to tackle diversity and inclusion in college media. That’s how the Diversity Summit was born.

From Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, College Media Association and Orange Media Network at Oregon State University will host a weekend college media summit on diversity and inclusion. Organizers Alexander, Baltz, and Kanigel answer some questions about the summit and how those who can’t make it can catch up.

Why did you decide on creating your own summit rather than joining another college media convention?

Baltz: This summit will allow us to commit a substantial amount of time to examine multiple facets of a single topic. We couldn’t do that in a single 50-minute time slot, or half or full day pre-con. And even if we could fold each of the summit’s sessions over a four-day conference, we would be putting attendees in the difficult spot of picking whether to learn about removing barriers to inclusion or skills for doing their jobs. This is heavy stuff that deserves full attention without a competing schedule of other sessions in the same time slot.

Kanigel: Jackie Alexander and I and others have led diversity sessions at CMA and ACP (Associated Collegiate Press) conventions, but the issues often get lost in a big convention where we are talking about technology, careers, ethics, visual storytelling and other topics. These can be hard issues to discuss and we wanted to create a special space for processing the intense emotions that often arise when people talk about race, class, gender, identity, and others.

Alexander: It speaks to how important this issue is for our industry. Research has long shown that there is disparity in journalism and it hasn’t gotten much better over that time. It is such a pressing problem for our industry and society, that it deserved full attention in a single event.

What do you think is one of the biggest challenges facing college journalists when it comes to covering diverse issues?

Alexander: Fear. Students are afraid — to fail, to misspeak, to be rejected. Fear of others and fear of failure are the biggest challenges, but we believe that with the summit, we can help them confront and conquer that fear.

Kanigel: From what I’ve seen on my campus and heard from other campuses, a lot of student activists and organization leaders distrust college media and some won’t talk to reporters. It used to be that student activists wanted media coverage; now they sometimes block reporters from covering their events. They want to control the message and they have their own channels — social media, blogs, etc. — to get that message out. Some see college media outlets as part of the system of institutional racism, oppression, etc. (This Atlantic article has more about that.)

What do you feel is one way for college students to better serve diverse communities?

Kanigel: Reporters need to build trust with sources from different communities before they go out to report a story. My staff this semester is embarking on an outreach campaign where reporters and editors will approach different campus groups (including ones that often won’t talk to the campus newspaper) just to talk and find out what’s going on, what kind of coverage these groups would like to see, what’s missing from our coverage. Journalists need to listen and reach out before they need a quote on deadline.

Baltz: Get out and meet your community members where they are, and make a habit of checking in and building relationships with people from all parts of the community. Stop expecting people to come to you. That’s lazy and doesn’t work.

What about diverse college newsrooms and media outlets? How can schools get a variety of different students involved in journalism and media?

Alexander: Targeted recruiting from diverse groups is a start. It’s the easiest way to recruit, but students must stop recruiting just their friends. We use a program with our career center that provides paid on-campus internships where the department is only responsible for half of the students salary (less if they have certain financial aid packages). We intentionally hire diverse students for those internship positions.

Baltz: The first is to identify and remove barriers: Is your newsroom open to students from all majors and backgrounds? Are you sure about that? For example, is there an expectation that students provide their own equipment? Or already have experience? Or work for free? Or pay their own travel to conferences? All of these are fairly typical ways of operating within the tight budgets of college media, but these expectations are problematic when it comes to recruiting and retaining a diverse staff. Some of our best staff members are students who have no professional interest in media, but join because they see the value in sharpening skills that will help them in other professions. And that helps broaden the diversity within the newsroom and its coverage when the staff is made up of students from all majors and interests.

Why should students and advisers alike attend? Who are you hoping shows up?

Baltz: College media and professional media struggle to accurately cover historically underrepresented communities. And we struggle to adequately cover the social unrest around race, gender, class, and religion. We owe our communities informed, educated, and prepared journalists covering these issues, with newsrooms that reflect (and personally know) the diversity of the communities they serve. There will continue to be gaps at the professional level until we fix it at the college level. It starts with us.

Kanigel: We’re planning to touch on issues that haven’t been explored in-depth at any convention or conference before this. I think it will be a rich learning event for both students and advisers. I look forward to having people of different generations there because that’s another aspect of diversity. I think younger people and older people have somewhat different views on diversity issues and it will be great to see students, who are mostly in the millennial generation, and advisers, who tend to be older, share their experiences and perspectives.

How can people follow along if they aren’t in attendance? Will materials be available during or after the summit?

Baltz: Follow along with our hashtag on twitter #CMADiversity. We will be rolling video on the entire summit. We haven’t yet decided how to make that available later on.

Can a summit like this be done on a professional level? What steps need to be taken to get this done?

Kanigel: I’d love to see professional media really take on the issue of diversity in the newsroom. Currently, only 12 to 13 percent of newsroom jobs are held by people of color, according to ASNE, while people of color make up about 37 percent of the population. (Radio and TV are somewhat more diverse, according to RTDNA. I haven’t seen numbers for online media but lack of diversity is obviously a big problem in the tech sector.) I’ve talked to countless editors who say their staff is not as diverse as they’d like but I don’t see them making a concerted effort to change that.

Baltz: A summit like this needs to be done on a professional level. It starts with identifying what gaps we have in coverage, in staffing, and who the experts are in providing context, tools, ideas, and solutions. [We] prioritize newsroom convenience over accurately capturing the importance of the moment. So yes, our professional industry needs a summit, a hard look in the mirror, and an ongoing conversation on how we can do better.

…so give me a call, I’ll be happy to help.

The Diversity Summit is Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 at Oregon State University. For more information, visit cmadiversity.com or follow the hashtag: #CMADiversity

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We need to talk about the atrocious media coverage at the Rio Olympics

The day after gymnast Simone Biles won a gold medal in Rio, the front-page headline in my local newspaper celebrated her as “Superlative Simone.” But I did a double-take when I saw a column headline underneath that read, “ ‘I don’t think she’s human,’ rival says of dominant Texas gymnast.” Read the rest of this entry »

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NABJ/NAHJ16: It was epic!

I’m still coming down from the clouds as I write. The recent NABJ/NAHJ16 joint conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month was the first of its kind, bringing the nation’s two largest minority journalism organizations: National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists together under one roof. It was epic!

Mekahlo.Sarah

I was blessed to be part of this historic undertaking, representing NAHJ as Programming Co-Chair. The conference was legendary, bringing national newsmakers, decision makers, and journalists of color together to tackle many of the tough discussions in our newsrooms and in our communities. We dealt with the friction in our nation’s numerous deadly shootings from Orlando to Dallas, the mountainous task of immigration reform, and the intense divide as the presidential election day nears.

Hillary

Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was our guest at our first-time joint convention, briefly laying out the highlights of her economic plan for becoming president, including a plan for a path for citizenship for those undocumented in the United States and vowing not to break up families. Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump was also invited.

Escalator

An estimated 3,000-plus African-American and Latino journalists not only benefited from a plethora of sessions and workshops, the exhibit hall was packed. Major media companies were among the corporations, agencies and universities represented from across the country. It was electrifying! A colleague of mine there to recruit told me we need to do this again. Other conference leaders say they’ve heard the same thing.

Personally, I love the reunions, the opportunities to meet leaders from so many media organizations face to face, and education, especially about technology.

Claudia.Maria

This kind of collaboration is a smart model, one that news organizations continue to adopt and as our industry’s economy continues to remain tight. It seemed to work well the last few years, when Excellence in Journalism partnered with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists., SPJ will so again in 2017.

NewboardNAHJ

Our Executive Director of NAHJ Alberto Mendoza is focusing on scholarships, training, leadership, and partnership. And a new President Brandon Benavides and a new board has been elected ready to move NAHJ into the future and forward with Excellence in Journalism in 2017.

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How can journalists cover Voter ID laws this election?

VoteA major federal voting rights case in North Carolina, in which state legislation required voters to produce photo identification and follow other rules disproportionately affecting minority groups, was blocked by a federal appeals court on July 29.

The decision by the Richmond, Va.-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals also reinstates an additional week of voting and appears to pave the way for more groups to vote in this year’s presidential contest.

It was the third ruling in less than two weeks against voter ID laws with the court decisions affecting Texas and Wisconsin.

These rulings give journalists an opportunity to determine whether their states have similar laws, which can be determined at the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Also, the Associated Press just released a story taking a look at why voting rights matters.

Since Republican-controlled legislatures passed the laws, journalists can ask Democrats if they are going to seek changes. Democrats in Tennessee recently did this with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville leading the charge.

The League of Women Voters is another resource.

At EIJ14 in Orlando, the Florida League was represented at a program put together by the SPJ Diversity Committee. The North Carolina law was one of several items. At the time, then-Diversity Chair April Bethea was at the Charlotte Observer and keeping abreast of the court fight. Sandra Gonzalez, a Diversity Committee member then at KSNV-TV in Las Vegas, was the moderator. There also was a local elections administrator.

This is speculative, but my guess some legislatures may try to figure out a way to continue to require some form of identification beyond registration.

At the EIJ14 meeting, Charley Williams of the Florida League provided a hand out with set of questions from the National League of Women Voters, that he said journalists should ask elected officials about photo ID.

These questions apply today and are repeated here:

  1. Election Day voter turnout has been historically low across the country—why introduce further restrictions on voting right now? How many eligible individuals in (STATE) do not currently possess the documentation that would be required under the law?
  2. What evidence do we have the individuals have shown fraudulent identification at the polls in this state? Why is this law necessary?
  3. What forms of ID will be accepted under the new law? For example, will student IDS be accepted? Will a voter have to show a photo ID, or can they use other forms of ID, such as a recent utility bill?

 

Georgiana Vines is a political columnist at the News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn. She is currently a member of the Diversity Committee as well as a member of the League of Women Voters of Knoxville-Knox County.

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Orlando: As we report on another crisis, let’s remember our ethics, our humanity and our health

I tossed and turned all night. Maybe it was that latte macchiato I ordered that was out of character at night for me, but on two hours of sleep, I just got out of bed early Sunday morning to deal with the restlessness. And like many journalists I reached for the phone that charged overnight.

My mouth dropped!

It happened again. Another mass shooting, but this was different. The number was so high. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that number: 50. Could that be right? I had to turn on my TV, and I was paralyzed in front of that screen all morning long.

I know this has become commonplace for our nation, but it shouldn’t, and this was the worst.

My experience with a mass shooting doesn’t compare in scope, but in 1999, only months after the Columbine shooting in Colorado, a gunman entered a church in Fort Worth, Texas and took the lives of seven people, then killed himself. I covered that story for days on end, as a radio reporter. I was even filing reports for the BBC.

Honoring the shooting victims from September 1999 in Fort Worth, TX (Sandra Gonzalez)

Honoring the shooting victims from September 1999 in Fort Worth, TX
(Sandra Gonzalez)

17 years later, feels like yesterday, as I see reporters reflect their thoughts, now on social media.

I am proud of so many of my colleagues for their compassion, humanity and professionalism as they are thrust into this chaos.

Hate is hate, whether it is directed at religion, or at sexual orientation. Now so many lives are lost, and a city is devastated. Our nation is devastated.

In fact, I’m devastated. Not only do I belong to the Society of the Professional Journalists, I am a member of the National Association Hispanic Journalists. NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina released news that one of our members, Jonathan Camuy, was one of the many victims killed in the shooting spree inside the Pulse nightclub. Our organization mourns his death.

NAHJ Mourns Loss of One of its Own

It has been a rough to hear the stories, see the tears, and it hits home to me. It was ‘Latin night’ at the club. Many of these young murder victims were Latinos. Their names and faces have been grouped together on internet, scrolled down on the television screen, and my heart has just stopped while seeing the names, hearing the names, and seeing their faces.

As journalists, we will meet the families, the friends, and we will tell incredible stories, and cover so many angles from heroism, to funerals, to gun control, to terrorism, and the list will grow.

Let’s remember our ethics, our humanity, and our health as we throw our lives into another major crisis.

Here are some things to consider while covering the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando:
-Covering the LGBT community: an open letter from NLGJA, the Association of LGBT Journalists.

Tips for Journalists Covering Trauma by Kristen Hare

The Diversity Style Guide from the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee and President of the SPJ Las Vegas Chapter.

Sandra has been reporter for 26 years, currently based in Las Vegas, NV
@SandraGonzalez2  sandragonzalezthereporter@gmail.com

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Diverse averse

What’s black and white and white all over?


Answer: Most college newsrooms.

Here’s how some silly censors accidentally raised a serious issue…

Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts school in central Connecticut, located about halfway between Hartford and New Haven. Its 3,300 students seldom make national headlines, but that changed last month.

Some or many students (it’s hard to tell) were furious when the campus newspaper printed an opinion column criticizing Black Lives Matter. The story spread when those students demanded the school defund the paper.

Instead, I offered to help those students launch their own newspaper if they’d stop attacking the one that’s been on campus for nearly 150 years. Alas, I never heard back.

Because Wesleyan activists are calling for censorship – and getting hammered for it even in liberally leaning media – they’ve already lost a much more subtle yet powerful argument…

College media suffers from diversity adversity. 

I’ve advised a student newspaper for 16 years and visited more than a dozen others, some for a day and others for a week. Here are four big reasons – there are many smaller ones – why Wesleyan protesters are wrong about the solution but right about the problem…

No other extra-curricular activity pays less per hour than the campus newspaper.

You work long and late hours on stressful deadlines – even longer and later if there’s breaking news. So it’s common for college journalists to lie on their time sheets, because most schools now cap student work hours to save money.

Meanwhile, tuition is skyrocketing. So the first diversity casualty is the least obvious to the untrained eye: class.

I’ve watched many talented writers, designers, and photographers reluctantly leave the newsroom so they can work in malls and restaurants. Those who stay rely on their well-off families to chip in more, or they simply decide to go deeper into debt.

Either way, you’ve instantly lost diversity.

Diversity in college media sucks, and it’s pro media’s fault.

Why burn all those hours and cash in a college newsroom when the likelihood of working in a professional newsroom dims by the day?

Legacy media are still laying off employees right now. Even if you land an entry-level journalism job, the salary will likely rival what you made working retail in college.

So it’s hard enough recruiting anyone to work at your campus newspaper, much less a representative sample of your student body.

Deadlines are the enemy of diversity.

College newspaper staffs not only have to publish a print edition, they also have to feed a website with fresh content. Ask student editors why they aren’t visiting classes or recruiting from campus organizations, and they usually answer, “When do I have time for that?”

College newspapers today are fretting about tactics and forgetting about strategy.

College journalists don’t write what they want to read.

When I critique campus newspapers, as I will next month at a college media convention in Austin, I ask the staffs if they enjoy and understand their own stories. Mostly, they say no – they’re bored with their own work.

So why do they cover boring Student Senate meetings with boring writing and boring photos? “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” they tell me. “That’s what we’re taught.”

When I suggest they skip a meeting to tackle big topics like race, they say they don’t want to sacrifice their incremental coverage. But if you want to recruit a diverse staff, you have to cover diverse topics.

Smarter journalists than me have contemplated newsroom diversity.

But I have two simple suggestions for college newspaper staffs.

First, fearlessly report on race and class.

I live in South Florida, where middle-class white people don’t dominate like in other places. Yet our student newspaper rarely delves into these topics. On our campus, Haitian students often complain that African-American students disrespect them, while Puerto Rican students say the same about Cuban students (and even professors). Why? It’s a fascinating story that’s never been written.

I’ve visited private universities with a mix of wealthy and impoverished students – and sometimes they end up dating. Those relationships seldom last. Why? Another fascinating tale to tell.

If you peer into the sociology of your peers, you’ll signal to your readers that you see more than yourselves in your stories.

These aren’t multi-cultural puff pieces, either. So you might screw up the reporting. If so, you’ll publish all the critical letters to the editor and meet with all the pissed-off readers – because that’s what the best pro media outlets do.

“That sounds dangerous,” a college journalist once told me. I replied: It certainly is. But it’s safer than ignoring those topics. When your coverage of race and class consists of nothing but hastily written op-ed pieces, well, that’s a perilous way to live.

And that leads to this…

Second, make journalism fun again.

SPJ’s most diverse training program over the past decade isn’t a diversity program at all.

wwff2

It’s called Will Write For Food. We recruit college journalists from around the country to visit a Florida homeless shelter that runs the nation’s second-largest shelter newspaper. Over Labor Day weekend, those 20-25 students take it over, working nonstop to publish a paper that’s sold on street corners around the state.

Because it’s stressful and chaotic, sturdy students apply from as far away as Alaska. We never know their race, sexual orientation, or economic status. Yet historically, straight white men represent only 2-5 members of each class.

Here’s an example from 2013: Out of 21 students, three were African American, three were Hispanic, two were Asian American, and two were white guys.

Why? Because as a boring white guy myself, I don’t choose the staff. The alumni from previous classes do. And since Will Write For Food is enticing to edgy students, they choose successors with the same values they possess. They seldom know anything about the applicants’ personal traits (although some mention wisps of it in their cover letters).

College editors don’t need to send their staffs into homeless shelters, they just need to make their papers a little more challenging. If they do that, they might attract more challenging staffers.

wwff1

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Announcing the Reginald Stuart Diversity Management fellows

When I joined SPJ’s diversity committee last August, one of the first things I learned about was an idea from committee member Walter Middlebrook: He wanted SPJ to help provide training for minority journalists who are managers in their newsroom or who want to move into a leadership role. Right away, I knew it would be a good project for us to take on, though also knew we had a lot of work ahead to make it a reality.

It’s amazing to think that almost a year later, we’re announcing our first two Reginald Stuart Diversity Management fellows: Alexandria Alejandro, sports editor at the Victoria Advocate in Texas; and Kris Vera-Phillips, senior news producer at KPBS in San Diego.

Alejandro and Vera-Phillips will receive an all-expenses paid trip to attend Poynter’s weeklong Leadership Academy in October for coaching and other sessions on how to become better leaders. Both say they think the training will be very valuable in their current roles, but we’re also asking them to help ‘pay it forward’ and help with a future SPJ training on management.

Their applications were impressive:

Alexandria Alejandro

Alejandro/Photo: VictoriaAdvocate.com

Alejandro is the first female sports editor in the 169-year history of the Victoria Advocate. She joined the paper in 2014 after more than a decade as a sports reporter and assistant in New York. She was promoted to assistant sports editor within her first nine months in Victoria, and was named sports editor a short time later.

But she recalled in her application that she was told early in her career that she lacked the skills to be in sports. In response, she focused on learning everything about the job, she wrote. ‘I worked my way up eventually because I was driven to succeed, but I still had to prove otherwise,” she wrote. “It doesn’t matter that I’m a rare breed, or that I’m a female sports journalist who’s part of a tiny percentage represented by women in sports media. What matters is how I’m able to handle leadership, and this fellowship will help guide me in that direction.”

Kris Vera-Phillips

Vera-Phillips/Photo: kpbs.org

Vera-Phillips has been a senior producer at KPBS since February, which she described as her first management role after working as a line producer at stations in California and Kansas. She described how she’s used her background — she’s Filipino-American — to help reporters add more context to stories to show how an issue may relate to another part of the community.

‘Diversity is critical for newsroom leadership because it helps journalists understand the different people behind news events and issues,” she wrote. “Diversity helps newsroom managers guide reporters, hosts and producers to see more angles of news stories, from the perspective of the interview subject to the viewer on the other end of the television screen.”

As discussions continue about the importance of diversity in newsrooms, it is clear that hiring and retaining managers who are representative of our many communities must be part of that solution. But it’s not enough to simply stick people in management positions and hope they’ll succeed. We must also offer support, training and other resources to help current and potential leaders be effective in their job.

There have been many initiatives to help address this need over the years. I’m excited to add our fellowship to the mix and look forward to seeing the program and our first two fellows grow.

Reginald Stuart

Reginald Stuart

This wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of our diversity committee, including Walter Middlebrook who sparked the idea. We’re also grateful for the generosity of the the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation in funding the fellowship, and to SPJ’s board for their support. And we’re especially honored to be able to name the fellowship in honor of Reggie Stuart, a longtime champion of diversity and a past president of SPJ.

Congratulations, Alexandria and Kris!

April Bethea,
SPJ Diversity Committee chair
News producer and social media manager, The Charlotte Observer

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