Tackling diversity in student newsrooms
Newsrooms across the country are grappling with diversity problems. Reporters and editors are predominately male and white and have historically excluded marginalized communities. And student newsrooms are no exception.
While demographic data on student newspapers is scarce, some student papers have recognized that the makeup of their staffs do not always reflect their surrounding communities and have begun to wrestle with potential solutions. Here are the steps some student papers are taking toward improving the diversity of their staffs and coverage.
Explicitly acknowledging the newsroom lacks diversity, and publishing newsroom demographics:
The Daily Northwestern’s editorial board wrote in June that “It’s no secret that our newsroom’s lack of diversity has led — and continues to lead — to mistakes and poor reporting decisions. Just a few weeks ago, we mistook one woman of color in our coverage of an inequality panel for another woman completely uninvolved with the event.”
Student newsrooms including The Daily Northwestern, The Daily Californian and The Daily Pennsylvanian, among others, have published reports, editor’s notes, and staff editorials detailing the current state of the newsroom’s demographics, noting past mistakes, and describing a commitment to future efforts to improve hiring, retention, and coverage of people of color and other minority communities. Many of these papers have also created diversity committees or positions in the newsroom devoted solely to improving engagement with marginalized communities.
Creating sections specifically by and for people of color:
In 2014, The Michigan Daily launched “Michigan in Color,” or MiC, a platform publishing perspectives written exclusively by people of color. This year, The Daily Californian created a “race and diversity” beat within its news department. The underlying premise of sections like these is to ensure coverage is fair, equitable, and thorough for all communities newspapers aimto serve.
"Places like the Michigan Daily, a publication even whiter than U of M, made me especially uncomfortable, but I really believed in the necessity of a column where people of color could share their stories. I felt that my campus’s publication should make room for a space like this if it was going to claim to be representative of all students on campus," wrote Rima Fadlallah, one of the creators of MiC.
Partnering with groups such as NAHJ and NABJ to improve coverage of black and brown communities on campus:
This past semester, The Daily Texan collaborated with NAHJ and NABJ on two projects, “Negotiating Dreams” and “The Five Percent,” geared toward coverage of dreamers and what it means to be black on the University of Texas’ majority white campus, respectively. Both partnerships were semester-long, and journalism students in NABJ and NAHJ received bylines in The Daily Texan while writing stories, taking photos, and working on videos.
The goal of the collaboration was two-pronged: to improve the newspaper’s coverage of DACA, dreamers, and the black experience, and to help minority journalism students get the crucial training and experience they need to further their careers in the industry.