On Tuesday night, a crowd of journalists, students, and other concerned Seattleites gathered at Town Hall to continue the critical discussion. The panelists: Venice Buhain, news editor of The Seattle Globalist; Reagan Jackson, columnist for The Seattle Globalist and editor of The South Seattle Emerald; Mónica Guzman, 2016 Nieman Fellow and founder of the newly launched newsletter, The Evergrey; Andrew Simon, fellowship director at Grist; and Tyrone Beason, editor of The Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest Magazine. The conversation was moderated by Enrique Cerna of KCTS9.
Marcus Harrison Green, editor-in-chief of the South Seattle Emerald, kicked off the evening by reminding the audience of why it's critical to have diverse perspectives in the newsroom. After Michael Flowers was killed by police officers in Renton, said Green, The Seattle Times described him unfairly: just as a felon, rather than a father and someone's son. Green later wrote a humanizing story about Flowers' life in response to the Times' story.
A reminder of why this conversation is still relevant: In 1992, 92 percent of journalists were white. As of 2012, newsrooms around the country were still 92 percent white, The Atlantic reported.
Still not convinced? Here's what the panelists had to say:
Some panelists argued that the word "diversity" doesn't mean much anymore.
So how can we encourage writers of color to become journalists? It's starts by changing the system of who is chosen for the job.
When the conversation shifted to an audience Q&A, we were derailed by infamous City Hall heckler Alex Tsimerman.
Thankfully, Cerna quickly shut down Tsimerman's rant and he left soon after. The conversation then shifted to address an important question:
Some important things to keep in mind:
On race, on feminism, you might have a conversation, you can agree on things, but you aren't inherently dropping nuggets of wisdom.
— Jesse Kennemer (@JesseKenn) October 26, 2016
Noticeably missing from last night's conversation was an honest discussion about money.
And these are fair criticisms. A report from the Poynter Institute compared the salaries of journalists to people working in public relations, which they describe as a similar field. They found that, in 2015, "journalists earned significantly less ($35,600 versus $54,940) and that in the past decade, this pay gap has widened. During the past 10 years, the salaries of journalists haven't even kept up with inflation."
Journalists in Washington earned 20 percent less than the statewide median salary or lower. The report identified Washington as one of the worst places for journalists to work. High costs of living in Washington, among other states, compound this issue. As a result, "journalists in these states are presumably struggling the most," Poynter reported.