By Rebecca Aguilar | November 20th, 2011
I was asked to sit on the SPJ Diversity Committee at the SPJ convention in New Orleans. I met many of the members and was inspired by their determination to improve diversity in newsrooms and news coverage.
Each one of the committee members has the goal of diversity in common, but they all bring different experiences and journalism passions to the table. Though they are all very busy individuals; I wondered why volunteering to be on this committee was important. There is much to learn from what they have to say.
WHY SERVE ON THE SPJ DIVERSITY COMMITTEE?
Curtis Lawrence is the chairman of the SPJ Diversity Committee and a professor of journalism at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois:
“Back in the 1980s shortly after I graduated from college, I remember reading how the American Society of Newspaper Editors vowed to make newsrooms reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of their communities by 2000. A lot has changed since then. For example, ASNE is now the American Society of News Editors, reflecting the national decline of newspapers. And a lot has stayed the same.
Many of the faces in our newsrooms still do not reflect the communities they serve. That’s why I feel keeping the diversity issue at the forefront of discussions about our changing media landscape is crucial.Aside from my work with SPJ, I also am involved with encouraging and training young journalist of color in the Chicago area.
I co-founded an organization at Columbia called Columbia Links. We reach out to students in the Chicago Public Schools and train them in the basics of journalism. That’s where it will have to begin if we’re going to continue to change the face of journalism.”
Justin Chenette is an assistant morning producer and weekend web producer at WPFO-Fox 23 in Portland, Maine.
“It is important that stories are told about people from all walks of life, not just the ones that are the easiest to source or the ones most prominent in our society. This ideology is the basis for my continued interest and participation in the SPJ Diversity Committee.
Only through the incorporation of diversity training or diversifying newsrooms, with highly qualified individuals with a dynamic range of backgrounds, can news operations truly report a cross section of the entire community in which they serve.
Our country is facing some tough issues many of which are very controversial social dilemmas. We have the issue of illegal immigration, gay rights/marriage equality, equal pay amongst the sexes; the list goes on and on. With each issue comes their own set of unique challenges for the journalists that cover them.
Do you use the phrase illegal immigrant or undocumented worker? Do you use the term gay or homosexual? Opening the dialogue about these topics can spur an awareness of how the media portrays, correctly or incorrectly, millions of people.”
MEET MORE COMMITTEE MEMBERS
We currently have 17 members on our committee. Find out who they are in upcoming blogs.
Thanks for stopping by!
Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning reporter based in Dallas, TX. She has 30 years of experience, with 28 in television news. She’s also a board member with the SPJ-Fort Worth Chapter and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.