UNITY 12 audience says online news must add color, offers structural remedies

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

The train has left the station – and the good ol’ boy network is recreating itself. That was the call to action voiced by a disgruntled audience member at Digital & Diversity, a town hall at UNITY ‘12 on what diversity means in the digital age. Despite new tools, technologies, and business models, newsrooms are nearly as monochrome and male-dominated as a quarter century ago, participants said.

White male entrepreneurs seem to enjoy implicit favor in venture funding and grants, they observed. Worse yet, the high-speed, high-volume news environment is prone to offensive slips like ESPN’s infamous headline, “Chink in the Armor” — a reference to NBA star Jeremy Lin and an uneven stretch of games for his New York Knicks. Merely through inattention to inclusion, old hierarchies and habits have come right back.

The troubled digital space, though, still holds great opportunity for creating more honest, inclusive coverage, some speakers pointed out. Groups who feel shut out from the news can tell their own stories. Identity-specific news outlets and blogs such as Latina Lista, Native News Network and Pam’s House Blend can quickly hold other journalists accountable, improving the quality of the context we all offer. Partnerships across race, gender and sexual orientation bring stronger, more interesting ideas into everyone’s content.

There’s still time to reshape the news, some speakers proposed, by weaving inclusion right into the structure of news gathering and delivery. Audience members identified six key areas for attention:

• Build inclusive coverage into journalism programs from introductory courses on up.
• Ensure that journalism education and internships are available across the demographic spectrum, through grants and fair application processes.
• Press funders and venture capitalists to reinvent applications and decision-making processes so that entrepreneurs from all backgrounds get an equal chance.
• Encourage other types of support for journalists of color, LGBT entrepreneurs and women to own their own news outlets.
• Obtain a commitment by existing news outlets – whether online only or legacy – to an inclusive management and staff, and track their progress.
• Insist on ethical coverage that pays attention to inclusivity and fairness, and ask hard questions about representation and accuracy.

Focus on a broken system, the audience insisted, not piecemeal problem-solving. About 100 attendees raised concerns and proposed solutions at the session, which was opened by Bill Celis, associate director and associate professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. I helped guide the conversation with Dori Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland, Calif., and Evelyn Hsu, the Maynard Institute’s senior director of programs and operations.

UNITY/McCormick Foundation Electronic Clearinghouse for News Diversity
ASNE Newsroom Census (See online category)
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Digital Journalism Ethics Resources
The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
Santa Clara University Journalism Program
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Code


Sally Lehrman is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. She holds Santa Clara University’s Knight Ridder — San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest. Sally is also an author and independent journalist who specializes in covering identity, race relations and gender within the context of medicine and science.

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  • Brian Grant

    Perhaps but other news sources outside the gaming industry have also looked into this story, and all basically came to the same conclusions.

    The talk of journalists potential conflicts of interests is a valid discussion because, if anything, the perception is there. But the way gaming media is presented hurts the gaming industry more than it hurts gamers.

    Like nobody gives a crap if a film critic reviewed a movie on their webpage but has advertisement from same movie company on the site or if a film critic is sleeping with a actress or director.

    On the flip side the threats against Quinn and others (who are not in gaming media) by people of gamergate (or at least people who use the movement to harass) is very real and has real life impact.

  • Frank M

    I am more than happy to be out and proud as a #GamerGate supporter. I have videos here: http://www.dailymotion.com/forgottenforgegames which cover a range of topics as a group.

    You will notice that I do a series to camera which I have continued on Youtube here:


    You can see that the earliest ‘Shooting Straight’ videos are in the wake of the blow-up of Gamergate, with the Forgotten Forge Games Project in existence for about 18 months beforehand.

    I do not identify with any of the outrageous epithets added to Gamer Culture, but I am a gamer to the core – from video through to board, card and miniature games, which can be seen on other Daily Motion videos.

    I am more than happy to discuss things with anyone in a calm and civil manner.

  • Ned Burner

    I’m not a part of this Gamergate discussion or anything but I wanted to chime in and say that as an outsider, you guys look like total crackpots. You want people to lose their job because of an opinion they have?

    You’re trying to police people’s thoughts, so I’m not surprised you’ve had zero success.

  • ArsVampyre

    I’m not going to take a side in this, but did any of you consider that asking ‘what games do you play’ is an attempt at finding common ground to relate, talk about something they mutually enjoy, and welcome the person into the group? Like a golfer asking which courses someone enjoys, I don’t think it’s as nefarious as you make it out to be.

    If you go into the group expecting hostility, you’ll see it even if it’s not there. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  • ArsVampyre

    If they were it wouldn’t be provably false, now would it? Someone would follow up on the facts and it would show that indeed, no one was run from their home, or that no party took place on the night in question, etc.

    It’s important when someone says they are harassed, but it’s more important that when they say it, if you report on it, you’ve checked to see if it’s true. Do no harm? You do far more harm by lying to the public and making them suspicious of their news than you do by fact-checking someone and making them think that you didn’t just take them at their word.

  • ArsVampyre

    I speak for me. I don’t speak for you. The difference is, I didn’t make up a lie about you to spread around to silence your dissent; I listened to it.

  • ArsVampyre

    Apologies, but it’s the other side trying to get people fired for having an opinion. Example: Ben Kuchera, a ‘journalist’ who sought to have a man fired for having a disagreement with him on twitter. A disagreement on TWITTER. He contacted this man’s employer and attempted to have him fired, for conduct that had nothing to do with the man’s employment.

    This is SOP for many; they contact your employer, tell them you’re a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, and that they’ll tell the news that the whole company is if they don’t fire you, and because the journalists are either in agreement with the tactic (See Mr. Adam Sessler and his support for doxxing, or Mr. Bob Chipman and his statement that there are no bad tactics, only bad targets, with regard to doxxing, harassment, etc).

    You are woefully uninformed. When a bomb threat was called in recently on a Gamergate meeting, the FBI and the local police took it seriously, believing it to be a real and credible threat. When Ms. Sarkeesian canceled her talk, the police said there wasn’t a credible threat (I don’t quite agree with them myself, the letter was extremely threatening and has no place in civil society for any reason).

    You might look at the evidence before you make claims over who’s trying to silence who, and how. This doesn’t even go into the overarching culture-war stuff I’m thankfully not interested in fighting in, where an advertisement gets a company bomb and arson threats, and the UK government makes the company take it down because it’s demeaning to fat people rather than investigating actual threats of violence. Is this the way you want our country to be? Is that to be what we call a ‘free society’ now? Have the right opinion, and you can attack anyone in any way as long as they’re more ‘privileged’ than you, all because politicians fear being labeled some hateful name? Because right now, many journalists and news sites are marching lock-step with this facism. And that is what it is; facism.

    Call me a crackpot-I’ve been called worse for less worthy reasons. Take the time to look into things yourself. It’s far worse than it appears to be. These game journalists are not unique; they’re just arrogant and were easily caught. The SPJ has their work cut out for them, and as a concerned citizen, I’d like to lend what support I can, because I want my children to grow up in a free society where they can make their own thoughts, believe their own beliefs, and not be forced to pretend to be something else in order to hold a job, buy a house, or not be imprisoned.

    P.S. We’ve had a lot of success. Strangely enough, disclaimers of possible conflicts of interest are much more common, the FCC changed their rules regarding affiliate links, and we’re still here, talking about ethics in the face of stories about harassment that have no evidence other than someone’s word, and a lot of evidence otherwise.

    Good day to you, Mr. Burner.

  • Brian Grant

    “omeone would follow up on the facts and it would show that indeed, no one was run from their home, or that no party took place on the night in question, etc.” – Wait where are these “facts”?

  • Point Less

    So they’re just never going to use their own #SPJEthicsWeek hashtag again? It’s not like they can make another one and GamerGate won’t pile on it again; the problems in gaming journalism isn’t restricted to gaming, but really I’m not sure how to stem the flow of trolls that love hanging on the popular hashtag.

  • http://escapednotice.blogspot.com/ Stephen Rynkiewicz

    Any journalism ethics discussion these days can turn into a lecture on video games. That’s fine if everyone holds to their ethical responsibility to let the voiceless speak. http://ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org/2014/10/28/gamergate-ethics/

  • Brian Grant

    I practice martial arts and I compete. We do not care about your skill level. As long as you’re willing to learn and treat others well we accept you.

    Earning respect is not inherent to all competitive activities. Gamers don’t have to be that way they’re choosing to be.

  • Hedger

    Who said earning respect was based on skill level?

    In fact i gave several different methods that respect is earned. Emphasis on earned. Earning respect is inherent to everything, respecting each other is the basis of society. Unfortunately “being respected” is not the default position, and rightfully so.

    Dont misunderstand though, being respected and being liked are completely separate ideas

    No one is stopping anyone from playing games, dont make it sound like there are groups going around throwing people out of arcades or game shops or tournaments, because that simply isnt the case.

    I think its funny you see it as a choice. I see it as the result of decades of a demographic being socially outcast. Its not the gamers who have changed…

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