Archive for the ‘Diversity committee’ Category


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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New Reginald Stuart Diversity Management Fellowship to offer access to training

The Society of Professional Journalists, with funding support from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, is announcing the creation of a fellowship to cover management training for SPJ members who are journalists of color, those who identify as LGBTQ or have disabilities.

The 2015 Reginald Stuart Diversity Management Fellowship will cover the expenses for two SPJ members to attend the Poynter Institute’s Leadership Academy, a weeklong training for managers held each October in St. Petersburg, Fla. Applications are due July 15.

“Being a good journalist and being a good manager are two different things,” said Robert Leger, president of the the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. “The Foundation is excited to underwrite this training to prepare diverse journalists to make that jump, to their benefit and for the benefit of communities that should receive more inclusive coverage as a result.”

Reginald Stuart

Reginald Stuart

The fellowship, created by the SPJ Diversity Committee, aims to help identify potential newsroom managers from diverse backgrounds and offer them access to training that helps them to develop or strengthen skills that could help them be more successful in their jobs. It is named in honor of Reginald Stuart, a longtime diversity champion and the first African-American president of SPJ.

“Having newsroom staffs, especially managers, that reflect the communities they serve is an important way to help ensure that coverage accurately and fairly reflects what is happening in a community,” said April Bethea, chair of the SPJ Diversity Committee and an online producer at The Charlotte Observer. “These fellowships are but one way to expand the pool of future news leaders.”

Stuart has been a reporter, correspondent, bureau chief and assistant news editor for several media companies as well as a corporate recruiter for Knight Ridder and The McClatchy Company. In addition to serving as SPJ president, he has been a recipient of the Society’s Wells Memorial Key for outstanding service.

“Too many people with high potential were lured into management with unclear guidance and kept on the job with insufficient mentoring. That’s why so few people succeed in management,”Stuart said. “Here’s hoping this fellowship provides the guidance and mentoring that will help more aspiring managers master their career challenges so they and those who work with them reach their goals.”

In addition to attending the Poynter training, selected fellows will be expected to “pay it forward” by serving as speakers on leadership, diversity or other topics for SPJ.

More information about the fellowship and application procedures can be found here. The deadline to apply is July 15.

The fellowship joins other initiatives from SPJ to increase diversity in its membership and to address issues related to news coverage in diverse communities. Other efforts have included:

  • The newly-renamed Dori Maynard Diversity Leadership Program, which sends up to six journalists to SPJ’s annual conference. At the convention, program participants will learn more about the organization and how its programs affects journalists from a variety of backgrounds. Fifty fellows have participated in the program since 2005.
  • The Rainbow Diversity Sourcebook, a guide to help journalists expand the voices quoted in news articles. It is available online or as a mobile app.

For more information about the fellowship, contact Chris Vachon at cvachon@spj.org or 317-920-4781.

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A Tribute to Dori Maynard

Dori Maynard, a journalist and champion for diversity in media died this week, and journalists across the country are mourning. They are mourning the loss of a woman who devoted her life to ensuring all voices were heard.

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

Maynard was the president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, named after her father, Robert C. Maynard, who was former publisher of the Oakland Tribune. He and his wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, Tribune co-publisher, were the first African Americans to own a major metropolitan daily in the United States.

Journalism seemed to be in her blood. On her mother Liz Rosen’s side of the family, Maynard’s grandfather, Edward Patrick Flynn, was executive editor of the New York Post. Beyond telling stories, Maynard advocated better stories be told by reaching out to underserved communities. She pushed for journalists to make stronger efforts to include more diverse voices in their news coverage.

Maynard was also actively involved in the Society of Professional Journalists, and served on the board for the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Her friends and colleagues throughout SPJ and SDX are deeply saddened by her death.

“This news comes as a complete shock. How can Dori be gone? What a loss for our profession,” said SDX President Robert Leger.

“She accomplished a lot in a too-short lifetime. I admired her and was proud to serve with her on the SDX board,” said Irwin Gratz, former SPJ President and SDX board Vice President.

“Dori was one of those people who showed up and by showing up made a difference. When I thought she might be too busy, or too involved, or too far away to attend a Foundation board meeting, Dori showed up. I will remember Dori for her passion for diversity in our profession, for her diligence in making a difference, for her advocacy as a human being,” said Steve Geimann, also a former SPJ President and current SDX board member.

George Daniels, Assistant Dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama, met Dori when he was a SPJ Diversity Fellow. Later while serving as the SPJ Diversity Committee Chairman he would invite Dori to be part of the many discussions that came before the committee.

“Though she was based in California, it was nothing for her to get on a plane and fly all the way across the country to engage in an important diversity-related meeting and she gave tirelessly to the efforts to ensure that our media outlets were true to their pledges to make their newsroom staff look like the communities that are becoming more and more diverse,” Daniels said.

Longtime friend Sally Lehrman, a SDX board member, former SPJ Board Member and SPJ Diversity committee member and former chair, admired Dori’s commitment to change.

“Dori’s warmth and passion for her work blended so beautifully in a woman who knew how to talk straight and press for change — and at the same time, listen carefully and thoughtfully to others who had a completely different perspective. She had such a big heart,” Lehrman said.

Rebecca Tallent, journalism professor and SPJ Diversity committee member says Dori left quite an impression on her.

“Dori taught me what it meant to really be tenacious, and how to use that trait in the difficult art of diversity,” Tallent said.

“Whenever I would see her, I would mentally paraphrase the line from the end of the trial in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Stand up children, a great person is passing by,” Tallent said, ”Lord Almighty – how that woman will be missed.”

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez is former SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, and is a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV in Las Vegas.

@SandraGonzalez2

sandragonzalezthereporter@gmail.com

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Diversity Committee: Looking ahead to the coming year

It was nice to meet many of you in Nashville and I look forward to working with everyone in the upcoming year. I wanted to follow-up on a few items that came up during and after the EIJ conference.

First off, I’d like to again extend big thank you to Sandra Gonzalez for her work in leading the committee the past two years, especially for mentoring the Diversity Leadership Fellows during the conference. And thank you also to Georgiana Vines for agreeing to be vice-chair of the committee this year.

Diversity Chair April Bethea and past Chair Sandra Gonzalez and the President's Installation Banquet. Photo by Walter Middlebrook

Diversity Chair April Bethea and past Chair Sandra Gonzalez. Photo by Walter Middlebrook

In case you haven’t seen it, President Dana Neuts recently wrote a blog post on SPJ’s need to improve diversity within the organization. Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky also wrote on the issue, and I understand the membership committee also is looking at diversity in its efforts for the coming year. I hope to share more with you in the future.

Below is a recap of some of the things discussed at the committee meeting in Nashville. I hope you’ll find a project (or two) that you’ll want to help with this year.

1) MANAGEMENT TRAINING: One of our major goals for the year is to launch a project to help train journalists from diverse backgrounds who want to be managers. One idea is to sponsor someone to attend the Executive Leadership Program held by the AAJA. Walter Middlebrook has been taking the lead on this. This would require funding from SDX, and we’d need to first submit a proposal to the SPJ executive committee by January.

2) RAINBOW SOURCEBOOK: We’d like to make another run at updating the sourcebook, including reaching out to journalism schools or other educators to help with the work. If you are interested in helping with or leading this effort, please email me at adbethea@gmail.com

3) CATCHING UP WITH DIVERSITY LEADERSHIP FELLOWS: There have been eight classes of fellows since 2005, and we’re looking for 1-2 people to reach out to alumni to learn what they are doing now and if they are still involved with SPJ. This year’s fellows also suggested creating a Facebook group to help alumni stay in touch. If you’re interested in helping with this project, please contact me.

4) PROGRAMMING AT FUTURE CONFERENCES: There was a lot of concern about the lack of diversity in much of the programming at EIJ and a desire to push for change. I’ve shared those concerns with Dana Neuts, and Sandra and I both shared it with Chris Vachon during a debriefing on the fellows program. Athima Chansanchai, one of this year’s fellows, has expressed interest in helping with programming for EIJ15 and I also shared that with Dana. In the meantime, the request for EIJ15 proposals should be going out within the next month. I encourage you all to submit proposals and let me know if you have other thoughts on this issue.

5) WRITERS NEEDED: Finally, we’re looking for volunteers to help update our blog and social media accounts, as well as write for Quill on diversity-related topics. I’d like to see the blog updated at least twice a month, including a roundup of articles or other posts on diversity in journalism. Please contact Sandra Gonzalez (E-mail) if you’re interested.

Thank you all for your ideas and discussion at the committee meeting. Again, I look forward to working with you all.

 

April Bethea,
SPJ Diversity Committee Chair
Online Producer, The Charlotte Observer
adbethea@gmail.com | Twitter: @AprilBethea

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Historic Journalism Conference With Addition of NAHJ

This is going to be one mega-journalism conference! It’s nothing new for journalism organizations to join together for one big convention, but this year history is being made with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists joining forces with the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association. NAHJ has never joined forces with SPJ and RTDNA before, for a mega-conference but this year they are all part of the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, California.

Journalists learning investigative techniques at NAHJ Conference

Financially speaking, this is a dream come true for me. I am a long time member of NAHJ, but a newer member of SPJ and devoted to both. Since I’m on a budget and in a new job where it’s also not easy to get time off to attend both, this year I get to be at both, all under the same roof along with about 1,400 other journalists. Even better, a journalism conference being held in Orange County, where I was raised and went to college.

As SPJ’s Diversity Chairman, I’m really impressed because three major journalism organizations will be together where diversity can’t be missed, and journalists will be able to see what an important role it plays in our communities and in our coverage.

Learning lighting at NAHJ Conference 2011

 

While I will be spending time with the 2013 SPJ Diversity Fellows, I can’t help but think what a great opportunity this conference will offer them. They’ll be networking with great journalists from all over the country in all kinds of positions whether it’s in management, news-gathering, or independent freelancing; and be absorbing diversity and journalism before their eyes.

“It’s my hope that during this event there will be an interest on SPJ from NAHJ members, and other Latino journalists that are also in SPJ, will see the benefit of such a partnership and the importance of diversity of its own organizations relevant for future growth,” said NAHJ President Hugo Balta.

Members from RTDNA, SPJ, and NAHJ will be intermingled and able to attend sessions and workshops, and still hold their individual award banquets and events.

“We’re just looking forward to what we think is going to be a really successful event,” said RTDNA Chairman Vincent Duffy.

Linda Ellerbee speaking to crowds at Excellence In Journalism/New Orleans 2011

 

“I think that it’s excellent that we’re having this in the western part of the country because the Hispanic population is so significant there,” Duffy said, “Bringing NAHJ in to participate in the creation of the program and at the creation of events, it sort of keeps the diversity issue front and center throughout the whole planning process and I think it will just add to the convention.”

NAHJ is dedicated to the recognition and the professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry, as well as fostering and promoting fair treatment of Hispanics by the media.

RTDNA serves the electronic news profession and is dedicated to setting standards for news gathering and reporting. SPJ promotes the free flow of information and works to protect the guarantees of freedom of speech and press. These two organizations have been working together in recent years to bring the Excellence in Journalism Conference to their memberships.

SPJ President Sonny Albarado is very supportive of this year’s addition of NAHJ to EIJ.

“Mentoring SPJ Diversity Leadership participants reconnected me to my own Hispanic roots and strengthened my commitment to improve the diversity of SPJ’s membership and leadership pool. It seems a natural evolution, then, for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to partner with SPJ and RTDNA at EIJ13 in Anaheim,” Albarado said.

The workshops and sessions are well planned and are tailored for all career levels which is very important to NAHJ President Hugo Balta.

“…training newsroom leaders, behind the camera. decision makers, journalists who are in charge of molding the content, and I think that will help us in expanding the breadth of our programming,” Balta said.

All three organizations are not only looking forward to this new venture but perhaps what the future holds.

The Excellence in Journalism Conference is August 24-26 in Anaheim, CA.

Sandra Gonzalez is SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, Las Vegas SPJ Chapter Secretary, NAHJ member and reporter for KSNV-TV Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Journalists visit UNLV: say embrace our own diversity

(Guest Blog by Pashtana Usufzy/UNLV SPJ President)

As president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Society of Professional Journalists, I find myself in charge of planning quite a few events. When the time came to hold our first member meeting of the spring semester, I desperately needed ideas. While clicking on every link on the SPJ website, I ran across a copy of the organization’s mission.

Hoping for ideas, I read through it.

We’d held a meeting on service a few weeks earlier, and a First Amendment discussion seemed a little intense for the first meeting. (“Here’s your pizza and soda. Now, quick, which freedoms are guaranteed by the First Amendment?) I kept scrolling down — “foster excellence … inspire successive generations … encourage diversity in journalism.”

Diversity — now that I could work with.

The topic stood out. UNLV has consistently been ranked as one of the most diverse college campuses in the country. We have students from every walk of life. We represent numerous countries, religions, ethnicities — different genders and sexual orientations. It made sense for our chapter to ask: Where’s the diversity in the local journalism field? What role does that play in the politics of the newsroom, and is our news as inclusive as it should be?

Our board members went to work. We began planning and advertising a discussion on the diversity of our community and our local news market. I invited Antonio Planas of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Chris Saldaña, a local broadcast news personality, to be our speakers.

On the day of, I was nervous. Our meeting didn’t have a huge turnout; I blamed myself for picking a Friday morning meeting date and expecting college kids to be awake. The members who were there, however, wanted to get the meeting going, and our speakers said the students deserved their attention.

We didn’t draw in a classroom full of students, but our speakers made such a tremendous impact upon the students who did attend.

Planas and Saldaña played off of each other so well. They discussed their own experiences as Hispanic journalists covering the news. They talked about missteps by reporters in covering our city’s diverse population, and they told us to embrace our own diversity and bring it to our reporting.

UNLV's SPJ Chapter had broadcast news journalist Chris Saldaña and reporter Antonio Planas visit to discuss diversity in the news.

UNLV’s SPJ Chapter had broadcast news journalist Chris Saldaña and reporter Antonio Planas visit to discuss diversity in the news.

They described efforts to make colleagues aware of potentially offensive characterizations of minorities, but they also described how important it is for all groups to participate in the discussion on diversity.

They asked each student: Who are you, and what kind of diversity do you bring to the table?

I’ll admit it: I sometimes have a hard time speaking up in a newsroom full of much more experienced writers. Saldaña and Planas assured me that my opinion could help shed light on an overlooked group. It’s better to speak up, they said, than to be embarrassed by an inaccurate story or have your news organization appear out of touch.

They emphasized that we as journalists must examine the diversity of our environment, especially in a state with such an increasingly diverse population.

As student SPJ leaders, we try to bring the lessons SPJ emphasizes to the attention of our campus. We want members to get a taste of the professional world, but we also hope they’ll discover a bit of the kind of journalist they’d like to be. Our speakers that day helped us accomplish our goal.

Our attendees stayed afterward to discuss how they felt about the panel. Our small group of students could now raise questions, share its views with others.

Most importantly, the discussion could keep going, and that meant more to us than anything.

(Pashtana Usufzy/UNLV SPJ President organized this event earlier this Spring)

 

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SPJ Diversity pleased with AP decision on “illegal immigrant” term usage

The SPJ Diversity Committee is pleased with The Associated Press’ decision to change the use of the term “illegal immigrant.”

However, the Diversity Committee has been behind the issue of dropping the term “illegal” for the past few years, spearheaded by former committee member Leo Laurence. And it was in New Orleans at the Excellence in Journalism Conference 2011 when I witnessed former Diversity Fellow and Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Aguilar address the SPJ board about her mother, who came to the United States from Mexico, and the pain it caused when she saw the term “illegal alien” used in the newspaper.

Rebecca Aguilar addresses SPJ Board about using term "illegal alien". Photo by Sandra Gonzalez

Rebecca Aguilar addresses SPJ Board about using term “illegal alien”.
Photo by Sandra Gonzalez

After hearing Aguilar’s impassioned speech, the voting convention delegates passed this resolution on voice vote:

WHEREAS, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics urges all journalists to be “honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information” and;

WHEREAS, mainstream news reports are increasingly using the politically charged phrase “illegal immigrant” and the more offensive and bureaucratic “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants, particularly Latinos and;

WHEREAS, a fundamental principle embedded in our U.S. Constitution is that everyone (including non-citizens) is considered innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law and;

WHEREAS, this constitutional doctrine, often described as “innocent-until-proven-guilty,” applies not just to U.S. Citizens but to everyone in the United States and;

WHEREAS, only the court system, not reporters and editors, can decide when a person has committed an “illegal” act and;

WHEREAS, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the increasing use of pejorative and potentially inaccurate terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists convention of delegates: urges journalists and style guide editors to stop the use of illegal alien and encourage continuous discussion and re-evaluation of the use of illegal immigrant in news stories.

Prior to this, it had been rejected by the Resolutions Committee.

The AP is now changing how it will describe people as journalists report stories involving the current immigration issue. According to Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, here is what is behind the decision:

The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.

“Journalists and others can argue that the new style recommendation is less precise than ‘illegal alien’ or ‘illegal immigrant,’ but it’s important to note that a significant portion of country’s population regards those terms as offensive.  It wasn’t that long ago that keepers of journalism style, including The AP, fought dropping ‘Negro’ as a term for black or African-American people,” says SPJ President Sonny Albarado.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists also says these terms can be dehumanizing  and demeaning.

“AP is right to note that the English language evolves and that our everyday usage contributes to that evolution. I hope journalists and others continue this conversation about immigration and people who come here legally or illegally until we arrive at terminology most of us can agree on,” Albarado says.

We on the SPJ Diversity Committee agree and hope journalists will eliminate these types of terms from their copy as immigration is a huge issue we will be reporting on this year.

Sandra Gonzalez
SPJ Diversity Committee Chairman
KSNV Reporter
Las Vegas

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The 2012 SPJ Diversity Leadership Fellows

From left: Malik Singleton, Nigel Duara, Britney Tabor, Sandra Gonzalez, Sherri Williams, Tony Hernandez.

The idea to establish a program for fellows to learn about the inner workings of SPJ through an immersion into teaching of the Society’s missions, culture and operations came to fruition seven years ago in a Las Vegas hotel that no longer exists. The Diversity Leadership Fellows Program would be an educational process starting at the beginning of the  SPJ national convention.  Selected fellows, who would be involved in many aspects of the conference, would receive complimentary registration and paid travel for the event.

Today, unlike the Vegas hotel where the first group of fellows met, the DLFP still exists.

Why?

SPJ has made it clear that diversity is part of its core mission and values, which is why SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi Foundation continues to fund the successful program. To that extent, the diversity committee has spent the past several weeks working with Lauren Rochester, SPJ’s awards coordinator, and Chris Vachon, SPJ’s associate executive director,  in selecting participants for the 2012 Diversity Leadership Fellows Program.

We are excited about the six newest fellows, and the awesome list of mentors who have volunteered to work with the fellows.  This year’s fellows include: 

  • Nigel Duara, The Associated Press, Oregon/S.W. Washington Chapter, SPJ
  • Malik Singleton, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Deadline Club Chapter, SPJ
  • Sandra Gonzalez, Freelance Digital Journalist, New Orleans Chapter, SPJ
  • Sherri Williams, Adjunct Faculty, Syracuse University, Freelance Writer, Former Board Member of the Central Ohio Chapter, SPJ
  •  Tony Hernandez, Northwest Arkansas Times, Northwest Arkansas Pro Chapter, SPJ
  • Britney Tabor, Denton Record-Chronicle, Fort Worth Chapter, SPJ

Bonnie Newman Davis

SPJ Diversity Committee Chair – 2011-2012

 

 

 

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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.

Resources:
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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Trayvon Martin Shooting Death: Evaluating and Improving Crime Reporting

Photo Courtesy: Paul Weiskel

Once again we find ourselves caught short. Why did it take news media across the country a couple of weeks to notice that a black teenager had been shot by a vigilante in a gated community? In our sometimes clumsy efforts to catch up (see NBC’s hideous editing error), some accuse the media of hyping the racial element.

That’s absurd, and here’s why. When three-quarters of black people surveyed consider racial bias a factor in the killing and in the non-arrest of the shooter, you’d better believe race is important to this story. It’s no secret that black parents fear for their children, knowing that suspicion routinely follows young males with black skin, wherever they are.  In a study of unconscious racial reactions, experimental psychologists found people of all backgrounds more likely to “see” a weapon in a black person’s hand when it’s actually a harmless object like a can of soda.

Distressingly, our own work is part of the reason why.  Decades ago, communication theorist George Gerbner first described the “Mean World Syndrome.” In his studies, he discovered that people exposed to heavy doses of violence on television developed an overblown sense of danger and fear about the world around them. Despite our best intentions, we’re part of that picture.

In the crime stories so favored by the local news, multiple studies have found that race plays a predictable but inaccurate role. White people disproportionately play the victim. People with darker skin disproportionately flash on the screen as suspects. News audiences have become so conditioned that even when no suspect is shown at all, viewers assume one — and he is black.

In one influential study, Frank Gilliam of UCLA and Shanto Iyengar of Stanford University altered the suspect’s race in crime news clips that they showed to about 2,300 participants. In the test group whose clip included no suspect at all, 44 percent recalled seeing a black perpetrator. Regular news watching also increased audiences’ support for punitive remedies to crime.

Separately, researcher Travis Dixon, now also at UCLA, found that African Americans are consistently overrepresented as perpetrators in local crime news. Not surprisingly, he also found that regular crime news watchers tended to perceive black people as violent.

Photo Courtesy: Paul Weiskel

In this moment, it’s important for the news media to step up to our responsibility to cover and spur conversation about America’s racial climate. Let’s also use this moment to consider hard questions about how we help to create it.

Digging Deeper into a Story

Some things you can do, based on experimental psychology research and other sources:

  • Avoid snap judgments in your reporting; that’s when reactive biases are most likely to emerge.
  • Form anti-bias strategies, like consciously pursuing stories about young African American men who are heroes or protectors of safety.
  • Evaluate crime stories by the level of community impact, and place them in social context of root causes and potential solutions.
  • Cross-check victim/perpetrator ratios by race within your own news reports. Do they reflect actual police statistics?
  • Check your sources. Are you including perspectives across the fault lines of race, gender and age? Who is the affected community? Is there more than one?

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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