Media companies would do well to hire for talent with an eye toward diversity rather than wait for positions to open through attrition, according to a panel discussion Tuesday at the News Leaders Conference.
Findings from the 2019 ASNE Newsroom Diversity Survey show that journalists of color make up about a third of jobs in online news organizations, an increase year-over-year. The survey also found a higher participation rate in 2019.
Panelists included Evelyn Hsu, co-executive director, external affairs and funding, at the Maynard institute; Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of the USA Today Network, and Stan Wischnowski, executive editor and senior vice president at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“We’ve been talking about diversity in this country in newsrooms for more than 30 years,” said Hollis Towns, northeast regional editor and vice president for news at the USA Today Network/Gannett. “It seems like we keep doing the same old song.”
The conversation revolved around some best practices followed in newsrooms when it comes to practicing diversity.
Hsu spoke about the work done at the Maynard Institute and the training it does with fault lines — differences across race, gender, class, generation, geography and sexual orientation — that affects framing of stories, sourcing and a news outlet’s audience.
“Diversity is not a project, it’s a continuous process,” she said. “Just as everyday we strive to make the report better, it is daily work, not something that’s off to the side.”
Other topics discussed included whether budget cuts at media outlets affect diversity, the implications of metric-based decisions on coverage of minority communities and making connections when covering minority communities with fewer reporters on staff.
Toward the end of the Q&A session that followed, Hollis asked the panelists about ways to help get people from diverse backgrounds appointed to management ranks in news organizations.
“Recruit for talent versus gain,” is an approach that Wischnowski said should be pursued, instead of waiting for a person to retire or step down to offer another skilled person the position.
“Do it. It is really not that hard at the end of the day,” said Wadsworth about getting people from diverse backgrounds into management ranks in news organization.
She said four of eight regional editors at the USA Today Network are people of color and the network’s top two leaders are both women — Nicole Carroll, editor in chief of the newsroom leadership, and Amalie Nash, vice president of local news.
“It is true that we need to give people opportunities … but at the end of the day, we choose and for us, we choose to make sure that our top leadership ranks are women and people of color and diversity of other kinds as well,” she said. “It is a choice at the end of the day and it’s not as hard we sometimes suggest.”
Rohith Rao is a senior journalism major at Ball State University. Contact Rohith Rao with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RaoReports.
Photographer, Eric Pritchett is a senior at Ball State University in Muncie, IN, majoring in Photojournalism and minoring in scuba. He graduates in December 2019 and can be reached at email@example.com or on his website http://ericpritchett.com/