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Losing focus: Diversity in newsrooms, news coverage


Troy Turner, right, editor of the Farmington Daily Times, describes his paper's coverage of the Navajo community in Farmington, Ariz.

By Sarah D. Wire
Photo by Jim Buell

Diversity cannot be forgotten just because money is tight, panelists for the Losing Focus session said.

This means what we cover, who we represent and how we create our staffs.

Newspapers need to take stock now of how they’ll cover the 2010 census and immigration reform. Gilbert Bailon, editorial page editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said he thinks the country will address immigration reform within the next year.

“These two things need to be looked at now,” he said. “We have to get past this shift that my market isn’t going to be touched by immigration.”

By 2042 the country will be “majority minority,” Bailon said. One in five children in the U.S. is Hispanic. “It’s something we as newspaper editors need to be aware of,” he said.

Newsrooms can’t ignore internal diversity either, Wanda Lloyd, executive editor of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser said.

Lloyd said when the money crisis started the diversity conversation ended. The number of minorities in the newsroom is half of the national average.

“We’re not getting close at all,” she said.

Lloyd said papers should think about whether they are prepared to have conversations about race and we can’t rely only on minorities to have that conversation.

Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president/news of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle outlined what her paper has done to increase diversity.

A group of reporters made sure the initiative were actually implemented, she said.

Their focus was on recruitment, retention and honest reporting of the community.

Outside of an initial reader panel, she suggests continuous outreach such as a social media workshop for young, black leaders in the community.

“I can’t emphasize how important it is to have a group of people to help the executive editor execute,” she said. “It doesn’t cost anything to start out with a diversity committee of passionate people.”

For retention, it’s about giving people opportunity and putting together a pathway of professional development, Magnuson said.

The diversity committee at the Democrat and Chronicle created a multimedia academy for high school students in the inner-city.

Troy Turner, editor of the Farmington Daily Times said being aware of the actual diversity of your coverage area, including religious and cultural diversity, is important.

His suggestions include: be comfortable and proud of who you are, you’ve got to get out into the community, know the cultural and racial issues in your community, understand the value of earned respect, hire good journalists first and foremost, grow your own diverse staff through interns and high school students, recruit minorities based on staff success stories.

The panel only got to one question which is: My staff is shrinking, my people of color are leaving… what strategy do you recommend to build a diverse staff?

Lloyd suggested bringing the community into the conversation and having them help with story ideas and writing.

Magnuson said cultivate your staff to believing in the mission of diversity.

“It’s really all about genuinely conversing with people.. about the core value you hold dear and eventually they believe your sincerity,” she said.


Filed under: Economic issues, , , , , ,

Losing Focus: Has the Economy Sapped Efforts to Build Diverse Staffs?

Watch it live on UStream. Or keep track of the discussion on Twitter @APME2009

3:15 APME Session

Through buyouts, layoffs and attrition, most newsrooms have lost staff. What is the state of efforts to build diversity in newsrooms, and what are strategies for trying to fix things in an uncertain economic time?

Moderator: Alan D. Miller, managing editor-news, The Columbus Dispatch.

Panelists: Wanda Lloyd, executive editor, Montgomery Advertiser, Troy Turner, editor, Farmington Daily Times, Gilbert Bailon, editorial page editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Karen Magnuson, editor and vice-president/news Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Filed under: Discussions, Diversity, , , , , , ,

Flickr Photos


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