Newsroom diversity is about more than race

Much has been said over the years, and quite rightly so, about the fact that if journalism exists to serve the public, then it makes sense that the demographic makeup of journalists should look like the public. Recognizing the many facets of diversity is essential for providing fair and accurate coverage of people, events, and issues. But the American Society of News Editors, which performs an annual census of U.S. newsrooms, found that in 2016 minority journalists comprised just 17 percent of the workforce.

The most prominent and oft-discussed facet of diversity is, of course, race— and the industry still has a long way to go in terms of ensuring fair representation. Pew Research Center projected last year that by 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority, and over the next five decades the majority of U.S. population growth will be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration.

When it comes down to it, what does “diversifying” as a verb actually mean? To me it means recognizing the need for greater representation and keeping that need in mind when hiring and also throughout the journalistic process. It helps to reflect constantly on the sources you’re using for a story to make sure they are representative of the issues being discussed. This may sometimes mean privileging minority voices over others— one of a journalist’s most important jobs is to give voice to the voiceless, after all— but this is not always the case.

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