As Heidi mentioned this morning, a panel of local journalists assembled last night at the Rainier Arts Center to discuss diversity (or, really, the lack thereof) in journalism. The panelists: Yes! Magazine editor Yessenia Funes, The Seattle Globalist's Venice Buhain, news editor, and Christina Twu, community engagement editor; and the Seattle Times' Tyrone Beason, editor of their Pacific Northwest Magazine, and Jerry Large, columnist.
According to The Atlantic:
92 percent of journalists were white in 1992, and 92 percent of journalists were white in 2012.
Minorities made up 21.4 percent of graduates with degrees in journalism or communications between 2004 and 2014, but less than half of minority graduates found full-time jobs, while two-thirds of white graduates did.
Here was the conversation, in tweets.
And one of the first barriers for writers of color entering newsrooms is the hiring process.
Twu: hiring is only a start. once you're in a newsroom, pigeonholing is an act of marginalization
— Clayton Aldern (@compatibilism) April 13, 2016
On compensation for journalists trying to get started in their career:
The journalists on stage talked about how none of them got into this business for the money.
But there's a flip-side to that, too:
I pay $1,200 in rent & $800 in student debt every month. I cannot afford to be a full-time journalist. Which sucks because I fucking love it
— Hanna Brooks Olsen (@mshannabrooks) April 13, 2016
After all, making journalism a financially viable career for journalists of color is key to flipping tired narratives:
Beason: Better to be a fair and compassionate witness than to adhere to "objectivity," a lazy approach that masks white supremacy and bias
— Ansel (@Ansel) April 13, 2016
Recent debacles at the Seattle Times loomed large—e.g. its treatment of musician Hollis Wong-Wear, the way a columnist questioned Marshawn Lynch's classiness, and most recently, its callous, one-dimensional portrayal of Michael Flowers, a young man murdered in Renton—though none of those examples were named directly. Beason said he's feeling "tough love" for the paper these days.
Columnist Jerry Large gave the audience a glimpse into how that struggle has played out: He once told photo editors that their photos of the South end were one-dimensional and overly negative, while, at the same time, photos of the North end portrayed of mostly white people in a positive and multi-dimensional way. His complaint was dismissed, but a few years later, after the hiring of more people of color to the newsroom, more voices agreed with him. The editors finally agreed to keep a tally of negative and positive images from the areas printed in the paper, and sure enough, it proved the disparity was real.
But the proportion of people of color at the paper has gone down since then, not up, Large said. People of color made up 20.8 percent of the Times newsroom in 2015—a nearly two percent drop from 2004.
So when journalists and editors publish stories that are insensitive or damaging to people of color, what should we do?
As for The Stranger, our publisher, Tim Keck, made a promise earlier this year about disclosing our newsroom's gender and racial makeup, as Buzzfeed does. He told Ansel in February:
"I think it's a good idea and we'll start publishing that info this year," he said. "I'll work with the staff on the best way to collect and share the data."
We're still working on it.