Does your college newspaper staff look similar to your campus? Does your staff represent a range of ethnic, racial and religious groups, as well as political perspectives?
It’s widely acknowledged that a diverse staff helps a newspaper cover a multicultural community. Good professional newspapers go to great lengths to ensure their staffs reflect their communities. And yet on many college campuses, the newspapers don’t adequately reflect the diversity of the campus communities they serve.
In a study of college newspapers in the Southeast Journalism Conference published in the Newspaper Research Journal in 2004, Kathleen Woodruff Wickham found that “student newspapers are overwhelmingly white with minority percentages falling below campus percentages.” She found that white editors and reporters accounted for 83.2 percent of staffers at the 41 student papers studied, compared to a campus-wide white population of 65.1 percent. Minority editors and reporters constituted 16.6 percent of newspaper staffers compared to a student population that was 34.9 percent minority. (Interestingly, the study found that the staffs of college newspapers were more diverse than the professional newspapers in the region.)
The American Society of Newspaper Editors has set a goal that the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide will equal the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025. Student newspapers should have a similar goal.
So what can you do to diversify your staff? Here are some suggestions:
• Form a diversity committee. Charge this committee with coming up with ideas to diversify the staff. The committee could also evaluate newspaper coverage and review the paper’s code of ethics. Make sure the committee itself is as diverse as possible.
• Target your recruiting. While you want to get staffers from all over campus, try to focus particularly on students of diverse backgrounds. That could mean posting fliers and sending out recruiting messages to ethnic and religious groups on campus and making announcements in particular classes (such as ethnic studies and gay and bisexual literature classes and classes specifically for foreign students).
• Reach out to minority groups on campus. Invite African-American, Latino, Asian-American, American Indian, Muslim, Jewish, LGBT and other student groups on campus to submit columns and op-ed pieces to the paper. Once you build strong relationships with campus groups, individuals in them might feel more comfortable joining the staff.
• Work with minority journalism programs. If your journalism or mass communications department has a high school minority journalism program or minority recruiting program, try to work with them to create a recruiting pipeline to your newspaper.
• Identify promising recruits. Keep an eye out for individual students with promise--the guy in your African American Studies class who wrote that moving essay, the photographer who shot those great photos of the Gay Pride Day celebration on display in the student union.
• Don’t forget political diversity. If your newspaper staff is overwhelmingly liberal, invite some political conservatives to get involved (and vice versa).
• Host inspiring speakers. Invite professional minority journalists to speak to your staff and open the events to other students on campus.
• Don’t pigeonhole people. Don’t assign all the stories about African Americans to the black reporters or expect the lesbian reporter to cover LGBT Pride Day. Spread stories around. However, minority students may well come up with stories about their ethnic groups that other students wouldn’t have thought of. If they want to cover such stories, they should.
• Train for diversity. Plan a staff workshop or even a series of workshops on covering different communities, including ethnic and racial minorities, people with disabilities, religious groups, etc. Invite leaders of ethnic, racial, religious, disability and political groups to offer advice on covering their communities.
Do you have other ideas? Has your newspaper succeeded in diversifying its staff? Post a comment below.
Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education --MIJE helps the nation's news media reflect America's diversity in staffing, content and business operations. The institute’s Web site has lots of great resources.
Good Ideas in Newspaper Diversity--A report from the Freedom Forum that compiles tips from winners of and nominees for the Robert G. McGruder Awards for Diversity Leadership.
Poynter Institute--The Poynter Institute Web site has a terrific collection of articles on diversity that you can use to train your staff and help diversify your newsroom.
News Watch Diversity Style Guide--This invaluable style guide, which is periodically updated, offers guidance on writing about people with disabilities and of different races, ethnicities and religions. It helps journalists avoid stereotypes and errors.
American Society of Newspaper Editors--The diversity section of the ASNE site includes the annual newsroom employment census for professional papers, as well as articles and reports on diversity.
Society for Professional Journalists --SPJ’s Diversity Toolbox offers essays and links to resources that will help you broaden the perspectives and voices in your work.
National Center on Disability and Journalism-- This journalism education organization offers tips for journalists on interviewing people with disabilities.
Asian American Journalists Association
National Association of Black Journalists
National Association of Hispanic Journalists
Native American Journalists Association
National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association
Unity: Journalists of Color