Why diversity in newsrooms matters, now more than ever

By | November 30, 2016

Leaves by Chris Lawton via Unsplash.com

Leaves by Chris Lawton via Unsplash.com

“[News] is the product of a bunch of people sitting in a room, using their own best judgment. Their own best judgment is shaped by their own lives. If you do not have people in that room who lived a very wide array of different types of lives, your publication will have holes.” —Hamilton Nolan, Deadspin.com

“Too often, the views of Trump’s followers—which is to say, the people who just elected our next president—were dismissed entirely by an establishment media whose worldview is so different, and so counter, to theirs that it became chic to belittle them and wave them off. Reporters’ personal views got in the way of their ability to hear what was happening around them.” —Kyle Pope, Columbia Journalism Review

“This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness…Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid. It’s a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing.” — Will Rahn, CBS News

“If I have a mea culpa for journalists and journalism, it’s that we’ve got to do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people than the people we talk to — especially if you happen to be a New York-based news organization — and remind ourselves that New York is not the real world.” –Dean Baquet, New York Times editor-in-chief

“If anyone is owed anything, the press owes the public diversified newsrooms that truly reflect America, to empathize with Trump supporters whom he calls the “forgotten,” but also to stand up, speak up, and protect the rights of those he threw under the bus while courting his base.” —Helen Ubinas, Philly.com

Katherine Miller, political editor at BuzzFeed News, told Poynter that lack of diversity in newsrooms has mattered in a year dominated by stories such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the rise of Latino voters and the blue-collar vote: “Anyone can report on these things, obviously,” Miller said, “but having people familiar with these things on a deeper level adds so much to coverage, reaches big parts of the country and opens up new stories for everyone on a political staff.”

“Twitter was home of the most incisive commentary about the clear and present danger posed by a presidential candidate who writes off every Black person in America as having nothing to lose by voting for him, floats the idea of a blanket ban on members of the fastest-growing religion on Earth, and threatens to deport more undocumented immigrants than actually exist,” wrote Meredith D. Clark on Poynter.org. “Beyond the reactionary headlines of such statements, there was little specific, sustained journalistic effort to dig deeper into such claims, and explore them through the lenses of the communities they impacted.”

“We also need to do a far better job of encouraging open communication among the journalists already in newsrooms, because if people are too afraid to point out our blind spots, even the pitiful diversity we already have can’t offer us much. I know far too many well-intentioned, brilliant white male editors who dismiss or fail to take seriously the concerns of their younger, more diverse staff members — and when it happens to my former students, it breaks my heart. And it does. Regularly.” – Carrie Brown, Social Journalism Director at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

“While newsrooms have begun to talk more about diversity, it is more often seen in terms of race and gender than class and geography. But if voters are making decisions based on identity and values, rather than facts, it becomes even more important for newsrooms to look and sound like their audiences.” – Helen Lewis, Deputy Editor, New Statesman

“We should focus on being more local, more networked, more diverse, and fiercely independent. This will improve community access to reliable information, rebuild trust in us, and strengthen democracy.” – Michael Oreskes, NPR’s senior vice president of news and editorial director.

“While we can go back and forth on the legitimacy of the media bias charges that have been flung at the industry for decades, you will never even begin to shake that impression without doing a better job of bringing different voices into your newsrooms. These voters aren’t listening to you, because they don’t think you are listening to them.” – Heather Bryant, Knight Fellow, Stanford University

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