Update–Sept. 11, 2014, 8:28 a.m. PT–Since posting this yesterday, I have received an amazing amount of support. Folks are having confabs, but more importantly, they are discussing this openly. People are sharing their stories and volunteering to help improve diversity in SPJ and journalism. I even had one journalist join as a direct result of SPJ having this conversation now. We have much work to do, but it is encouraging to see there are many hands to do it. If you want to join the effort, contact me directly or reach out to April Bethea, our diversity committee chair. You have my heartfelt thanks.
This morning SPJ regional director Michael Koretzky wrote a post about SPJ’s awards programs and diversity. The board has directed the executive committee to make recommendations regarding changes to the awards nomination and selection process, so I won’t address that here, but it prompted some good discussion about SPJ’s lack of diversity. SPJ needs to improve diversity throughout the organization.
This was something I mentioned in my speech at the president’s installation banquet on Saturday. We have a diverse membership across the country, serving as chapter leaders and serving on committees at the national level, but that’s not enough. We need diversity in all areas, including the SPJ board, committee chair positions and future leadership roles.
To look at me, you might not think I’m diverse and maybe I’m not, but I do care about diversity. I am a 47-year-old, white female. I was born in Gary, Indiana and grew up in a community that’s a close cousin to Chicago. I live in Kent, Washington now, a community that is 53% nonwhite. There are dozens if not hundreds of cultures in Kent, and there are 118 languages spoken in Kent schools. I have family and friends who are gay and transgendered. I prefer to look past color, race, age, gender, sexual orientation and religious affiliation to look at an individual’s values instead.
Admittedly, SPJ has a long way to go, but the organization recognizes it needs to improve diversity across the board. Here are a few ways SPJ is addressing diversity:
– Last Friday, SPJ helped organize a Leadership Summit at EIJ, which included 17 journalism organizations including ACES, ONA, UNITY, NABJ, NAHJ and others. The group discussed individual challenges as well as how they could work together.
– We plan to invite members of diverse journalism organizations to join our committees and serve as advisors to help us address diversity issues journalists face.
– I will direct the nominating chair or committee, not yet named, to actively recruit candidates from all backgrounds.
Is this enough? No, not even close. Is it a start? Absolutely.
It will take time and a village to make this happen though. We need your help! If you have an interest in diversity issues or have suggestions or ideas, please reach out to me or contact April Bethea, our diversity committee chair.