Where’s all the color in the newsroom?

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm

The editor for the Herald Times in Bloomington came to class today to discuss gender issues and the like in class today. We had a very valuable discussion on the myths and stereotypes of women and men within the newspaper and I learned a lot about how things were and how they have changed since then. I also learned a great deal on how different (and possibly rewarding) it is to work for a small town newspaper. The conversation was overall a great help towards my own wonderings about newspaper media. However, there was an obvious part of the conversation that seemed to be missing: the topic of race in the newsroom. There were a lot of different reasons that could be named true for why there was not much talk about the absence of different races within print media, but I think mostly the issue was that no one really knew why minorities are so under represented. So while we were in class I came up with a couple reasons.

Reason One: We’re not being introduced

At my high school (in Gary, IN) there was very little to almost no conversation about journalism. We did have newspaper and yearbook courses, but I am not even particularly sure if my classmates understood that you could go to college to do those same things (or at least do them again in college). And even more so, our academic and attendance records were (and still are) so low that our school system has created a very special and very serious curriculum to help us master the state required tests. Though at Munster, Merrillville, and Calumet (a.k.a. heavily populated White schools) high schools it was more likely that the students had time for journalism courses or clubs because their curriculum was not so tightly scheduled. This would help spawn the idea of possibly pursuing journalism in college because it was practiced in high school.

Reason Two: Nobody is seeking us out

Of all my years as a high school and middle school student in Gary, IN, I have never EVER not once seen a recruiter for the IU School of Journalism or any other journalism institute for that matter. I have seen recruiters for IU and other different schools as far as general admission is concerned, but when you discuss schools within the college, the most have heard about as far as recruitment is the Kelly School of Business (and that goes for all Indiana colleges). There is, of course, a heavy recruitment from Indiana colleges for sports, but that isn’t surprising at all. I could understand how funding would play a huge role in being able to recruit minority students, but if you ask me, I think half the battle would be just showing the rest of the world that minority students exists within the SOJ (and if they kinda don’t, showing that too). If you check the IU SOJ website, I would argue that there are not many examples of minority students studying there (which is not totally anyone’s fault for reasons I will discuss later). If the SOJ wants more minority students enrolled in their program, they have to show how we relate to it, and part of that way is showing that we are already there succeeding.

Reason Three: A lack of us shows no future for us

As I was saying before, if you want minority students in your school (and that is any school) part of what you should do to advertise is show that we can succeed in the major. That is also a big issue in why we as a whole are not represented in the journalism world. Pick up any one general magazine. How many white reporters can you name? Now how many latino ones can you name? Black? Arabic? Exactly. As a student, unless they have a die-hard desire to write (or produce, or photograph, etc.) it is very hard to see an actual career in journalism because we do not have strong examples of it. Just a token here and there that is needed to save face so-to-speak. There absolutely needs to be a greater initiative  to put more minorities in positions within print journalism so that there can later be more opportunities for minorities to hold leadership positions.

Reason Four: We’re going where the money is

It’s no surprise that students are picking majors that more or less promise a secure financial future and to be completely honest, if anyone told me they were going into journalism for the money I would think they were crazy. Certainly there are people within the journalism profession who make a great deal of money doing it, but in salaries, the ratio of journalists and doctors just do not equal out. So it is even less of a surprise to find out that minority students, who are more prone to a less financially successful career future would seek out jobs that bring in the bigger bucks.

And lastly, Reason Five: We don’t see the bigger picture

Anytime I go back to my hometown and someone asks me what am I studying in school, my answer is always followed by the “You wanna work in the newspaper?” question. For whatever reason, it is very hard for people to see past being a reporter for a newspaper as a journalistic job. There are graphic designers, public relations workers, photographers, and etc. within the print industry that to not necessarily require a scholarly writer as well. So minorities who aren’t thinking that far are limited to whether they can write or not. This is possibly the biggest problem that we are having in getting into the career of journalism. Perhaps if more students new of the different options they had within journalism, they would not be so hesitant to look into the possibilities of pursuing it.

Fortunately, I also learned about organizations like the Diversity Institute who help tackle some of these issues and make it more accessible for minorities to participate within journalism. But there is so much more that minorities who are already involved within journalism need to do to help add more color to the newsroom. As soon as we figure that out you’ll be seeing the media get darker and darker, but in a good way. 🙂


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