September 10th, 2012
Membership drive guest blog: And now a word from SPJ Diversity Committee chair Bonnie Davis Newman
By Holly Edgell
The 2012 Society of Professional Journalists Membership Drive runs Sept. 4 to Oct. 4.
I met Bonnie when we were both members of the first SPJ Diversity Leadership Fellows Program in 2005 (see more in this post). Since then, we’ve both maintained our involvement with the Society, especially through committee work. I think Bonnie would agree that one of the best ways make a difference as an SPJ member—and network with other journalists around the country–is to get involved with one of the society’s many committees.
As we enter the second week of the 2012 Membership Drive, Bonnie provides a timely look at what the SPJ Diversity Committee does.
By Bonnie Newman Davis
When a former Duluth, Minn. news director referred to a Native American as an “animal” on his Facebook page, Rebecca Tallent denounced the incident on SPJ’s Diversity Blog.
“Just when so many of my students claim there are no more race problems in America, we see issues such as this on the rise again,” wrote Tallent, an associate journalism professor at the University of Idaho. “This isn’t the first attack against Native American images in the past few years; it is only one of the latest.”
The disappointment doesn’t stop there. Ever wonder why women tend to exit newsrooms at a greater rate than men? Pick up the latest issue of Quill or peruse it online and see what Tracy Everbach’s research reveals, including this reality: “Young women and young men start out working in journalism in approximately the same numbers. But women are much more likely to leave the profession after five years, research shows.” Everbach is an associate professor of journalism at the University of North Texas.
Oh, and if you didn’t get a chance to attend Unity, multimedia reporter Sandra Gonzalez provides an update on the organization’s first convention sans NABJ on SPJ’s Diversity Blog.
Watching the watchdogs
Name-calling, unwelcome women and Unity minus NABJ are just a few of the issues that have been tackled by SPJ’s Diversity Committee in the past year. Other blog topics include the sometimes biased coverage of NBA player Jeremy Lin. George Daniels, the committee’s former chairman, and Rebecca Aguilar, a Dallas-based freelance television journalist, wrote how Lin’s sudden fame was subsequently met with racial slurs.
Sally Lehrman, another frequent blog contributor, wrote about the media’s treatment of the Trayvon Martin shooting death at the height of its coverage last April, as well as a post regarding the media’s tendency to focus on the negative when covering Native Americans. Lehrman, who served as national chair of SPJ’s Diversity Committee for 10 years, is the Knight Ridder/San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest and professor at Santa Clara University.
Aguilar is the forceful engine behind much of the diversity committee’s increased content. Aguilar pokes, prods and pushes our committee to do more and be more. We are fortunate to have her on our team as we continue to shed light on a news industry that can do more and should do more to ensure that our nation’s newsrooms reach the racial parity originally sought by ASNE some 40 years ago. While waiting for that parity to be achieved, our goal is to ensure that media coverage of diverse communities is accurate, fair and relevant.
Mind on the mission
The Diversity Committee doesn’t just talk the talk. During EIJ 2011, our committee was instrumental in helping to pass a resolution that 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. Diversity committee member Leo Laurence initiated the effort, and Aguilar helped galvanize the resolution’s passage. Our committee continues to monitor such language throughout the news industry.
Our committee continues also to pay attention to The Hiring Gap Resolution, another initiative passed during last year’s convention. The resolution was triggered by a study that showed increased numbers of racial and ethnic minorities graduating from journalism programs, yet having substantial difficulty finding work. Daniels, an associate professor of journalism at The University of Alabama, recently reported improved hiring among minorities, and currently is writing an article for Quill about the latest Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Enrollment’s findings.
SPJ has made it clear that diversity is part of its core mission and values. To that extent, the Diversity Committee has spent 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. Created in 2005, the program enables members to learn about the inner workings of SPJ through an immersion into teaching of the Society’s missions, culture and operations. The educational process begins at the SPJ national convention and as a result, the program includes a complimentary registration and paid travel for the event. Fellows are also involved in many aspect of the conference. This program is funded by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. We are excited about the six newest fellows, and the awesome list of mentors who have volunteered to work with the fellows.
And there’s more
Diversity committee members make vast contributions to regional conferences, serve as judges for SPJ’s New America and other awards programs, and advise campus chapters. Continuing plans include greater involvement in national convention planning, more frequent and more interactive content on our diversity blog, an updated diversity sourcebook, and participation in research-oriented projects.
“Like” The SPJ Diversity Committee Facebook page: SPJ Diversity Now.
More about the SPJ Membership Drive: Toolkit and Calendar included!